Tips for hiring a translator

When you decide you need a translator for a document or a website, you may find yourself wondering where to begin. As with most things, preparation is the key to success. Here are some hot tips to make your translation project a success.

When Hiring a Translator, Prepare Your Document in Advance

Use the word “WIN” to remember these key steps translators need to work with editable documents and you can simplify your project immensely by putting it into a simple format such as MS Word. If you have a website, take the content you want translated and paste it into a Word document. This will make it possible for the translation company to quickly review the content, do a word count and quote your project.

W – COUNT WORDS – Most translation companies charge by the number of words in your document before it is translated. This is called the “Source Word Count”. Prepare your document in a format which is easy to work with so that a word count can be determined and agreed upon.

I – IDENTIFY – While you may eventually want to translate your entire website or a series of documents, take the time to “Identify” the documents or web pages you need translated first or which will give you the best return on your investment and prioritize your project accordingly. Once you identify which document, PDF or web page you want to translate first, you can get that quoted and get a good feel for how the process works before moving on to larger volume/higher dollar projects.

N – NOTIFY – It is important to “Notify” bidders of exactly what you are looking for and what you want them to quote. Limit your specifications to a few key points and always include the following:


1.  SOURCE AND TARGET LANGUAGE – American English to Latin American Spanish (US and Int.l)

2.  QUOTE FORMAT – Price per Source Word in USD (i.e. $0.15 per source word)

3.  WORD COUNT – 1000 words

4.  LEAD TIME – Need document by 9/10/2014

5.  SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS – Document is text from our website and introduces our product line. We have specific terms we want to keep in English because they are registered trademarks. We have highlighted them in yellow on the source document so please do not include them in your word count.

* Tips for Websites – If you are planning to translate your website into one or more languages, prioritize by deciding which page would give you the most impact in your target language and start with that. Put text from menus and headers in an excel spreadsheet and have it translated once. You can then use the spreadsheet to update repeated text on different web pages rather than have it included in the word count total more than once.

Here’s a little more about each point:


Always be very clear about what language the document you are submitting is written in so that the translator or agency that is bidding can be sure that they have the right translator for the job. A translator that works with American English may not work with British English.  This can cause issues later in the process if it is not addressed up front. Accordingly, you should be certain what the target language is and who your target audience is. If your target audience is in Canada but you want your website to be in standard European French (France and International) so that more audiences can be reached, then ask for European French rather than Canadian French. If you aren’t sure what your target language should be, ask the translator for advice.  They will ask the right questions to help guide your decision. Make sure the translator being used is a native speaker of the target language. For example – If you are translating into European French, French should be their native language NOT English.


Ask for quotes to be submitted in the standard format of Price per Source Word and indicate what currency bidders should use (i.e. $0.15 USD per source word)


Translators will give you the word count of your document when they quote the project but you should go into the process with a good idea of what the word count is. If you are not including specific brand names, proper names etc. in your count be sure to let the translator know so they can subtract those items also.


Decide what the absolute final deadline is, then subtract about 10 business days and put that as your deadline. You will need to allow this extra time for questions to be answered and the translation to be updated as needed in the finalizing process. Indicate an exact date when setting a lead time such as “Need document by 12/31/2014” as opposed to in 3 weeks.

Special Instructions

Make sure you give the translator any specific instructions they may need in order to bid accordingly. Don’t assume you both think alike and don’t assume they understand what you are expecting to receive. Tell them everything they need to know and what you are wanting in the way of specific formatting, type of language, who your target audience is if it is a very specific group of people, etc. Working closely with the translator and project manager will ensure that the final product is a useful document. If you have an old Hebrew document from the 1940s WWII period and want it translated into American English but want it in modern Hebrew so that readers can understand it in today’s context, make sure that is clear. Be aware a specialized translator may be needed as other languages may be included in the old Hebrew such as Polish or German and they may also need to incorporate explanations of various terms and expressions.

The final thing to remember is how a translator or agency make you feel. Did they respond quickly? Did they answer all your questions? Was their message to you clear and concise or was it in broken English? What is your gut feeling telling you and what does the quote tell you?  Do you enjoy working with the project manager that quoted your project?

Once you select a translator, move forward with a short document so you see how the process works from start to finish, quote to delivery, invoicing and payment.  When your first project is done you will either feel confident that the translator or agency you have selected is who you want to move forward with or you’ll want to do another short project with a different translator and agency.

Remember, the key to WINNING  is PREPARATION!

 Before anything else, preparation is the key to success – Alexander Graham Bell


Feel free to write us and tell us about your experience with hiring translators or to ask us questions about ours. We’d be happy to give you our input.