This ongoing series will provide succinct guidance to buyers of translation services.
Translation pricing can range dramatically and while the most expensive rate may not guarantee the best product, as a buyer of a service, you need to look at the rate objectively. Vendors who are pricing themselves WELL below the competition should be suspect for several reasons. First, it is possible that they do not understand the scope of the work you require. Or, it is possible that they are subcontracting their work to countries where the rate is depressed. In this case, there is an issue of accountability from a buyer’s perspective. You should be sure that your work is not being shopped around to the lowest bidder. Many large translation clearinghouses do this—they post work on an online board and then assign it to the translator who is willing to do it the quickest and the cheapest. This is hardly ideal when the translation will go on to represent your company or your product to an international audience.
The fact of the matter is that, in translations like many things, you get what you paid for. Your agency should be pricing themselves competitively, but you should also be sure of what you are getting, how you are getting it and where it is coming from.