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Needle in the Haystack: Finding the Right Translation Company

Usually, when you need to get your message across to your audience, you are the master of your own destiny. The words, the tone, the nuances, all these things are under your control. However, when your audience does not speak your language, you are now in foreign waters. Suddenly, you need a navigator, someone who knows the currents and winds you cannot see.

You need a translator.

In this situation, how do you find the right company for your translation needs? A quick Internet search produces a hundred and one companies that guarantee excellent results at the lowest prices. If they all seem to promise the same thing, how do you choose which of them to contact? It takes time to submit a request and juggle all the initial communication. And as we all know, time is money.

In today’s article, I’m going to look at some tips that can help you quickly separate the wheat from the chaff and identify translation companies that are worth your time and effort to contact them.

Don’t believe the hype

Let me start with a story.

My wife and I were hired as editors in a HUGE translation project a couple of years ago. At least it was supposed to have been just editing.

The client had wanted to save money on the Japanese to English translation, so they found a translation company in a South Asia country that promised perfect English at a really low cost.

You can probably guess where this is going...

When I opened the first of countless spreadsheets to start editing, my heart sank. I must have said some savory words out loud because my wife came into the room to see what was wrong.

“Look,” I said, pointing at the screen. She read over my shoulder for a few moments and said, “Oh my goodness...”

It was gobbledygook. It was word salad. It was worse than Google Translate.

We tried our best to edit it, hoping it would get better. It didn’t. It got worse.

We basically had to go back to the source text and try to figure out how the translator got from there to here. Eventually, we had to renegotiate with the client as they had promised us that the text would only require light editing at best.

I felt bad for the client because the initial translation was a complete waste of time and money. However, their desire to cut corners came back to bite them in the end. They ended up spending more money than they planned. A lot more.

Don’t be that client.

Tips for finding the right translation company

Identify your needs

Before starting your search, the first step is to figure out exactly what you need in terms of translation. Consider the following questions about the translation:

  • Who is your target audience?

  • What are your goals?

  • What is your marketing plan?

  • What is your CTA (call to action)?

  • What is your budget?

Your answers to questions like these can make for a more targeted Internet search, allowing you to focus on the phrases and keywords and produce better results.

Search smarter, not harder

Search engines are getting better and better every day at finding what you need. You can type in a question, a phrase, or a list of keywords and get good results.

However, did you know that most search engines have advanced search tools and settings that allow you to refine your search and find the best possible results? For example, with Google search, by using a few tweaks to how you format your search terms, there are simple ways to make your search more precise.

Consult your network

Word of mouth recommendations are usually the most reliable, especially from people you know and trust. Don’t be shy to contact those people or write a short post in your networks, such as LinkedIn, and ask them if they know of any good companies.

As you know, someone who is good, fast, and reliable is a great resource, and most satisfied customers are happy to promote a business that has helped them in the past. This is especially important because what makes for a good translation company is often intangible, and only the people who have used their services know its true quality.

Visit their website

Let me tell you another story.

In graduate school, one of my teachers told me about the university’s hiring process for a new adjunct teacher.

They had received more than 700 applications for the position - thousands of pages of cover letters, resumes, teaching philosophy essays, etc.

I said, “How on earth do you decide which ones to ask for an interview?”

She held up an imaginary piece of paper. “We quickly look at the resume,” she said, her eyes scanning up and down. “If there are ANY mistakes,” her hand made a casual flinging motion, “it goes right in the trash.”

First impression count. Every time.

A company’s website is their public face to the world. It shows their attention to detail and the quality of their work.

If a quick scan of a potential translation company’s website reveals any typos, misspelled words, or formatting problems, to me, that is a major red flag.

Search for reviews

Research has shown that a customer is two to three times more likely to leave a review for a negative experience than a positive one.

With this in mind, search the Internet for “review company name” and pay close attention to any negative reviews that you find. If possible, read the details, though, to figure out if it is a legitimate complaint or not.

Look at their social media presence

Social media has become a major tool for companies to promote their image and services. In fact, a whole industry of social media marketing now exists, and millions, if not billions, are spent every year to reach potential customers.

The main social media platforms used by marketers are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter.

Most established businesses and professionals are on LinkedIn. In fact, there are more than 700,000,000 registered members who use it to connect with others in the business world. A well-managed and developed LinkedIn profile demonstrates that a company takes their reputation seriously. Similar to their website, a quick scroll of the company’s LinkedIn profile will offer useful information about their connections, references, and testimonials.

Similar to reviews discussed above, you can learn a lot about a company by what their customers have to say on social media. It can also be revealing to see how the company responded to customer comments, especially negative ones. Do they push back or do their best to make the customer happy?


The world wide web is an amazing resource and allows us to find more information than we ever could have imagined. Yet, not all that information is accurate or useful, and it can be difficult to find what you need.

The tips above may not always produce the results you want, and implementing all of them may also be more effort than you want to put into your search. However, taking the time to identify the best candidates for your translation requirements can save you time and money in the end.


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Originally from Ohio, USA, Bailey is an experienced freelance writer and editor, especially for technical and scientific content. With an MA in English and a background in science, he also has more than 20 years of experience in teaching English around the world.

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