How to choose a contractor?

Three defining characteristics of a translation are quality, cost, and timing. When choosing a contractor, everyone wants to get the best quality at a minimum price and appropriate timing. Of course, in different situations, preference will be given to different indicators.

Contractors are of the following categories: individual translators, intermediaries, and translation agencies. Also, there is a category that requires separate attention. It is self-translation. Each of the categories has its pros and cons so is better for certain types of translations.


There are two options: either you do know the language, or you don't. If you do know the language and are sure you're able to provide the desired quality of a translation, you need to decide what costs more - the time you spend on translation, or money you spend for its execution by third parties. If you do not know the language, then raises the question of the quality. An understanding "just for you" can be provided by free machine translators; if you need something more, you should turn to professionals.

Individual translator

If you address the translator directly, you will surely benefit in price. Read more about this in the article "How much does a translation cost?". Moreover, most likely, the work will be completed quickly.

When is it advantageous to contact the translator directly? When you need a nonurgent translation at a low price; also, if there is a possibility that such translations will be needed regularly. What about urgent translations? The translator himself is often ready to start working immediately, but it will take you a long time to find a good contractor. So, it makes sense to order urgent translations from individual translators only if you already have such in mind.

Intermediaries and translation agencies

It is mostly the same. Of course, you pay more, but you get at least some guarantee of quality since, usually, the reputation of an agency is worth more than the reputation of an individual translator. This category has a number of advantages, which determine when it is better to choose it.

  • Additional services

    Most intermediaries and agencies, in addition to translation, offer proofreading of the text by the editor or native speaker, layout, transcription or voice work. If you need any of these, it's easier to find everything in one place.

  • Many languages

    Your text might be translated into many languages, while you communicate with one person and make only one payment. There's no need to waste time searching for contractors. By the way, if an individual translator offers you his services in 4 - 5 languages, he is probably an intermediary. If this offer does not stretch the timing, he is definitely an intermediary.

  • Quality assurance

    If the individual translator provides services of poor quality, you are looking for a new one. If the translator from the agency provides services of poor quality, it is the agency who's looking for a new translator. In both cases, you won't get the job done on time, but contacting the agency, you will save time. It is also worth noting that when working with the agency you do not have to pay again due to the poor translation, they take on these problems. Moreover, in such cases, you can receive compensation, such as partial payment for the poor quality\wrong timing of the completed project, return of money (full or partial) and, possibly, a discount on the following order, if any.

  • Formal cooperation

    Agencies are much more likely than individual translators to offer the opportunity to collaborate on official terms. For business, this can be very important. This also includes the opportunity to get a translation with a notarized certification.

  • Urgency

    The intermediary may split your order (at your consent, of course) to several translators, thus greatly expedite the work. This approach could lead to a slight loss in quality, for example, due to the different style of translators, but in a very short timing - this is the perfect solution.

One of the possible disadvantages when working with intermediaries and agencies is the problem of continued cooperation. If you approved the first translation, there is no guarantee that you will approve the second one either. The problem is that a new order can go to another translator. But in fact, this problem is easy to solve. You can ask the intermediary to transfer the work to the same translator. Moreover, most intermediaries do so as standard.

When you have decided on a category, you have to choose a specific contractor. In all categories, there is a variation in price, so focus on your budget and choose by quality.

What is not an indicator of quality?

  • Price. It depends on many factors (read "How much does a translation cost?"), but is indirectly dependent on the quality. Actually, any translation should be of high quality, otherwise, it costs nothing.
  • Feedback on the website or in the group of the contractor himself. Feedback on your own resources is easy to falsify.
  • Education certificate. No comments.

What is an indicator of quality?

  • Feedback on independent resources. Freelance sites or translator ratings are perfect for that. This feedback is much more difficult to fake, and the site administration regularly monitors false ones. It is worth remembering that feedback is not always objective. Although traditionally one negative feedback crosses out about fifty positive ones, you should not scuttle the candidate because of this. Perhaps this is your perfect contractor, and negative feedback is just a nasty coincidence.
  • Portfolio. It is relevant only if you are able to evaluate the quality of the translation by yourself, or you know someone who can. The number of files in the portfolio says nothing about quality; find the file you are interested in and study it in detail.
  • Experience. Beginners should be treated with caution. An experienced translator is more likely to do the job well.
  • Test. This is the last and most reliable authority. Nothing says better about translation quality than the translation itself. However, the test should be given only to a few selected candidates who passed all the other criteria and in case of a successful test you are ready to work with any of them. And remember, in the civilized world people pay for the test task.