10 Essential Questions to Ask When Choosing a Translation Agency

Finding the right translation agency isn’t easy. Maybe you’ve already narrowed it down by asking your network or searching online, but now you need to make a decision.

After all, the translation agency you end up choosing could determine the success of your project. Rather than being a last-minute addition, the right agency should be involved in the strategic planning stage all the way to aftersales service.

Today we’ll give you 10 essential questions to ask before working with a translation agency to help you make that decision. We’ll also show you what to include in a good agency brief to ensure your future projects run smoothly and get great results every time.

Need help in your decision-making process? Get in touch!

What to consider when choosing your translation agency

The more time and effort you invest in this decision from the start, the happier you’ll be once you find your translation agency. Ideally, you’re looking to build a long-term relationship. What you want is a competent partner to handle your multilingual content. More than just providing a word-for-word translation, they’ll be working with you to help you achieve your business objectives.

Here are 10 questions to ask during the pitching stage.

1. What languages and language variants do you cover?

Depending on the size of your business and your expansion goals, you’ll need to know which and how many languages your translation agency can cover.

Do you only need your content translated from English into German and possibly Dutch? You’ll be best served with a small agency with a focus on personal relationships. Are you an expanding global brand? Then a large agency that offers several languages is what you need.

There are also country-specific language variants to consider: British vs American English, Brazilian vs European Portuguese, etc. Make sure that any translators you have working with these variants are familiar with the nuanced differences.

2. What industries and specialisations can you handle?

Whatever industry you work in, you want to make sure your future translation agency is familiar with it. Will they be comfortable handling your requested specialisation with minimal input from you?

You may want to ask for case studies that prove their relevant expertise. Alternatively, have an initial discussion with your prospective project manager. You’ll get a sense of whether they know what they’re talking about, or if they ask questions to get a clearer idea from you.

3. Can you provide any work samples?

Ask your translation agency for work samples. Please note that some segments may be redacted to protect the client’s confidentiality and, if relevant, comply with European GDPR. This is also a good indicator of how they might treat you and your data should you decide to work together.

See if the agency makes their linguists sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) before being added to the agency’s database. This is common practice and ultimately protects you, the client.

4. Do you have any client reviews and references?

Visit the agency’s testimonials or client review page to see what type of clients and industries they’ve worked with. You can even ask if you can contact their clients directly. If they have nothing to hide, there shouldn’t be any issues.

Also, keep an eye out for any of your competitors on the agency’s website. Look at the company names or logos on their “Partners” section, if available.

5. Which other services do you offer in addition to translation/localisation?

What if a translation or localisation project isn’t quite enough? You may need more language services, either now or even years down the line.

Does the translation agency in question provide other language services, such as transcreation, multilingual keyword research, SEO translation, or global content strategy?

The ideal language agency would ask about your required services before you start working together to make sure you’re on the same page.

Pre and aftersales services are crucial aspects to consider as well. Can you turn to this agency in case you have any questions or doubts throughout and even after the project? If so – great! You’ll be good to go without having to switch to another agency with a broader service offering, no matter your future growth level.

6. What do you charge for your services?

This is a big aspect, of course, maybe even the one you’ve been anticipating the most. Yet, it shouldn’t be your priority in this important decision-making process. Remember: You get what you pay for.

Having said that, there’s always room to negotiate with your translation agency, and this doesn’t need to come in the form of lower prices. Amended payment terms or discounts for quick payments can be just as beneficial to you, especially in the long run.

Beware of any immediate quotes you receive from the agency without any input from you. To get a realistic price estimate, you’ll need to provide your project volume, language pairs, and type of material.

At Plume Rouge, our per-word rates start from €0.15, but the final pricing structure depends on your individual project.

7. How do you manage collaborative work relationships?

As you’ll be working closely with your future translation agency, you’ll want to get an idea of what your collaboration could look like across the following aspects.

Communication systems

How do you like to communicate? Phone, video call, chat channel, or email? Do you use Google Docs, but your translation agency prefers Microsoft Word? Make sure to use this preparation phase as an opportunity to settle on means of communication that work for both parties and avoid any confusion or even disappointment.

Onboarding process

Ask your agency how they typically onboard new clients. They may want to interview you to get as much information as possible. They may provide you with guidelines or video tutorials explaining what to expect from your new partnership. What matters is that you feel comfortable and looked after by your new supplier.

Alignment with work schedules

Something that can be easily overlooked in a new working relationship is how schedules and availabilities align.

Think of:

  • work hours
  • time zones
  • holidays

Take Germany, for example, there are national as well as religious holidays specific to each state, especially in Bavaria. (Lucky, aren’t they?) To avoid any clashes and get timely responses, let each other in on your work times, days off, etc.

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8. How do you manage your workflows for the following?

No matter how mundane day-to-day workflows can be, it’s crucial to look into them early on. Keep in mind the people and processes you’ll be dealing with on a regular basis and anticipate any issues before agreeing to anything.

Initial contact

The quickest way to get a first impression is to reach out to the translation agency you’re considering via email, online contact form, or phone. Are they prompt and friendly when they reply? That’s a fantastic start!

Approvals and deadlines

Do you know which representative from your company will be in charge of signing off on translation projects? Make sure to manage expectations with your project manager in terms of milestones and deadlines. This way, you’ll know when to jump in and achieve a quicker, smoother process.


Check whether the agency uses any portals that you can also access to check on the progress of your translation. If so, can you also communicate with project managers there?

File formats

Make sure to ask which file formats they can handle, including less common ones such as InDesign, if applicable.

9. Are you willing to submit to a credit check as part of our onboarding compliance process?

Any agency not willing to undergo a basic credit check with you as part of onboarding is displaying clear red flags from the beginning.

The last thing you want is a translation agency to go under shortly after you started working together. That’s why it’s important to gather some information about the agency’s financial standing.

To do so, you can consult their audited accounts. The German company register (Unternehmensregister), French equivalent infogreffe, or Belgian site Centrale des bilans are go-to sources within Europe.

To learn about others’ experiences with a particular translation agency, check the ProZ Blue Board.

10. Do you have any relevant accreditations?

Accreditations could be relevant for you, especially if your business handles technical materials. In this case, you’ll want to look out for ISO 9001 (general quality management) or ISO 17100 (translation-specific) certifications. You can usually find them on the agency’s website or simply ask about their applicable accreditations when speaking to them.

You can also check relevant associations, such as the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) in the UK or the European Union Associations of Translation Companies (EUATC).

Providing a good brief

Once you’ve selected an agency that ticks all your boxes, you need to provide them with an agency brief. This includes all information they need to create the best possible project for you.

Don’t skip this step as it will determine the success of your expected outcome. The more details you share, the quicker your chosen translation agency can get to work without having to come back with more questions. Having a good brief can be the difference between a project going well or a project falling apart.

A good project brief should answer the following questions.

What are your objectives?

What are you hoping to achieve with this language project? Include as much about your intent as possible: For example, is the material for internal use only or for publication? Is your objective to increase social media engagement, and if so, over what period of time and which metrics exactly? Are you entering a new market and hoping to gain 1,000 new subscribers to your weekly newsletter? Be specific.

Who are you targeting?

Who’s your dream client? What’s your ideal customer’s location, age, gender, or occupation? In the end, you want your content and its translation to speak to that person or group.

What’s your style and tone of voice (TOV)?

How do you speak to your ideal customer; is your tone formal or informal? Are they experts in their field who prefer the use of jargon or is plain language a safer bet?

Do you already have a glossary with your preferred choice of words? Make sure to pass it on to your agency! Not only will this ensure greater consistency throughout, but it can also save you costs in the long run.

How much freedom are you giving the translator? Should certain words or phrases remain untranslated to better reflect your brand?

Put all of this information into your brief, so your translation agency can get as specific as possible.

What’s your budget?

Is this project a long-term investment or are you still testing the waters? Make sure to allocate a fair budget to cover the project from start to finish, or wait until you’re ready to do so.

What’s your expected turnaround time?

Be specific with your deadlines and leave some wiggle room if necessary. You may want to run a company-internal check before publishing the translated content.

Keep in mind that same-day deliveries are unrealistic and won’t do your content justice. The more time you can give, the better.

Ready to embark on a journey with your new translation agency?

Download our step-by-step checklist here.

When selecting a translation agency for a long-term partnership, asking the right questions is key. The success of your collaboration will also determine the success of your business. The project will run smoother, and the outcome will speak to your ideal customer.

You and your agency will have the opportunity to build trust over time. Having a reliable partner can help put your mind at ease. Rather than having to switch to another agency at some point, you’ll be able to stick with one that can handle both your current and future needs.

Choosing the right translation agency to partner with can set your international content strategy up for success. Interested in starting your translation project? Get in touch with us, it’s kind of what we do!

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