The Definitive Guide to Picking a Translation Partner
Over the past couple of years, we’ve written a lot about various pieces of the process of choosing a translation partner. But we realized that we’ve never put it all together in one place for your reference!
So here it is: our definitive, comprehensive guide to picking the perfect translation partner. We’ve compiled our best advice into one place to make the process as easy as it can be.
Like any big decision, it’s important to do some research before deciding. The time you spend thinking about your needs and goals early on will pay dividends when selecting a translation partner. Doing a little of this legwork early on will help you find a partner who best fits your specific needs.
Your first question to ask yourself is, do I want a vendor or a partner? While vendors are best suited for shorter, one-and-done jobs, if you’re going to be doing a lot of translating over a longer period of time, a partner is a better choice. Our post on the difference between translation partners and vendors lays out some of the details, in particular, the project management and cost advantages.
Once you’ve decided that important question, you’ll then want to think about the contours of your translation project.
- What genres are you translating?
- Who, exactly, is your audience?
- What are your content style and brand voice?
- What types of services will you require?
- How do you envision your translation experience?
We elaborate on these questions and more in our post on picking a translation partner. Knowing the answers will help you find a translation partner whose strengths suit your project’s outline.
Once you pick a translation partner, you’ll want to ensure that your early work sets the tone for the remainder of your partnership. This stage of the process still involves a lot of question-asking as you and your translation partner get to know each other and learn about your working style, project needs, and expectations. (You’ll ask different questions at this stage, though!)
As you begin, it’s important to have conversations about the high-level reasons for your work, such as What are your goals/priorities? and What is your timeline? Having these conversations with your translation partner will help you create a project plan that suits your needs.
Then, you can also ask about the specifics of the translation partner’s work–whether they use automation, how they utilize in-country experts, what CMS integration options are available to you. This should be an early and crucial part of any project planning you do together.
We’ve compiled a full checklist of workflow questions for your translation partner, and you can adapt this list to your own project needs.
Starting the project takes a lot of focus and open communication, and keeping your translation projects efficient and affordable require the same thing.
Staying on-plan and on schedule are key to keeping your project costs low. But there are other ways to reduce costs, too.
We briefly mentioned it before but, when it makes sense for your project, picking a translation partner that automates can have huge benefits for your project as well. By making manual tasks (such as transferring files, referring to glossaries, and quote approvals) automatic, you and your partner save yourselves work, freeing up your time to focus on other things and keeping your costs lower.
The Perfect Match
So how do you know you’ve picked a good translation partner? At the end of the day, if the work is getting done to your standards, you’ve picked a good partner.
A good translation partner is one that engages collaboratively, works with transparency, and will be able to provide proactive suggestions and feedback to optimize your content and processes. But the best translation partners have strengths that perfectly complement your needs–such as a translation partner that uses highly specialized subject matter experts to translate documents with field-specific jargon such as law, security, or technology. If you’re doing very niche work, there’s a good chance that your best fit is a translation partner with these exact skills.
And if you’re having trouble finding it all in one partner, you don’t even need to stick to one partner. You can add translation partners to further strengthen your team, especially if your business is growing or going global. If one partner excels at Middle Eastern languages, you can select a second one who specializes in East Asian languages.
Extra: Translation Transition
Sometimes, your needs and your translation partner’s resources don’t match and you may need to switch translation partners. Switching often happens if your company is growing, or if you’re reevaluating your budget. If you decide to switch translation partners, the end of the relationship looks a lot like the beginning: spend some time thinking about your needs and reasons for switching. Our short guide details three easy steps for preparing to switch translation partners, and will help you make the switch.
So there you have it: the complete guide to picking the right translation partner. The process may take some time, but the time you invest in building a strong, productive relationship will pay dividends down the road as you’re able to produce translated work quickly!