How to Create Effective Translation Services RFPs

Request for Proposal (RFP) for Translation ServicesFinding professional translation companies that offer quality, speed, and affordability is a challenge. It takes substantial time and know-how to evaluate suppliers that businesses can rely on to deliver good language services which are consistent over time. This is why organizations hire fulltime procurement professionals to identify and qualify translation services vendors in order to onboard the LSPs that best meet their requirements.

One situation companies often find themselves in is to overcomplicate the process by issuing long RFPs full of theoretical questions that take forever to evaluate and qualify a vendor’s true strength. On the other hand, companies should avoid getting too abstract about process and methodology descriptions in drafting a translation RFP. Such discussions tend to be just that, “abstract” and devoid of substance. Too many translation vendors just use the ISO manual to look up responses and complete the answers without regard to actual implementation. Furthermore, the results are hard to measure and quantify which is why you should focus instead on things you can easily verify.

Over the last 20 years, the translation industry has evolved in both scale and depth, developing its own lingo and highly specialized technologies and solutions. For anyone outside of this industry (including most procurement professionals), it’s very difficult and time consuming to sort through all of the marketing language from vendors to identify real supplier strengths that suit their translation needs. Thankfully, we at Stepes have taken the time to do the legwork and have created a translation services RFP checklist. Our goal is to demystify the RFP process and help simplify the vendor evaluation task.

While it may not provide a perfect solution for all requirements, the list does represent a no nonsense and practical approach to selecting the best language services providers.

Translation RFP Checklist

  1. Speed. Translation turnaround time is perhaps the most important consideration for your vendor selection in the modern digital age. The digital economy has radically changed (your own) customer expectations. Delivery speed is no longer measured in days or weeks; it’s now defined in hours or minutes. Fast and professional translation services are not only possible, they are increasingly the winning solution for your organization’s global expansion strategy. Fast quality translation of your product manuals, website, and marketing content will allow your company to beat the competition by getting products and services into international markets faster. Test a vendor by asking them to provide a translation estimate of a sample Word, InDesign, or PDF document. Next, ask them to commit to a delivery time. These are things that are all very much verifiable.
  2. Cost. Don’t be misled by vendors that say they only hire industry experts and use sophisticated quality assurance processes to deliver translation services that command a premium charge. Much of the linguistic quality is dependent on the individual translators working on the projects (similar to technical writers that create the source content), however, there are many steps that a good translation service provider can do to improve translation productivity and efficiency. For example, companies like Stepes now use automation to remove many of the manual human touch points associated with conventional translation models to achieve both quality and cost savings.
    One thing you should try is to give the vendor a few strings or sentences to translate (as what usually happens often in software and website development) and see how much they charge you. Many translation vendors charge a minimum fee for small projects. If this is the case, move one. Today agile translation companies don’t apply minimum charges to projects and it’s quite acceptable to translate projects that cost under $1.00.
  3. Technology. The language industry has grown leaps and bounds over the last few decades in not only volume but technology solutions for faster and better translation services. In fact, translation and technology increasingly converge to become one integrated solution. A vendor must have the strength to innovate and develop its own technology tools and solutions to stay in synch with the market. Gone are the times when a translation agency only translates content and leaves the rest to the clients’ engineering teams. Translation vendors that refuse to invest in technology will be phased out. Modern translation solutions are highly technical and continue to evolve and this is why language service providers that are technically strong will be able to help the client stay competitive in terms of efficiency and cost. Ask a vendor questions like if they have developed a terminology management system, translation management portal, or proxy website translation solutions. All these technologies help streamline translation processes while ensuring linguistic quality.
  4. Agility. Ask if a vendor supports agile translation. The world of content authoring and development are becoming agile. Instead of spending weeks or months developing large documents and then worry about getting them translated all together, global enterprises are developing content in much smaller sizes at an ever-increasing frequency. For example, a typical enterprise document is now 500 words or less versus 3,000 words just a decade ago. Part of the reason is that the Internet demands iterative development so content can be deployed in real time and on-demand. This means a translation vendor must be able to provide just-in-time translation solutions when and where you need them. Make sure to ask if your translation vendor has a minimum charge for small projects and only select suppliers that don’t have any minimal charge requirements.
  5. Online. Amazon and AirBNB have redefined old business models using the Internet for improved efficiency and customer satisfaction. Translation services are no different and a new generation of suppliers are going online. Make sure to check if your vendor provide instant online translation quotes for your Word, InDesign or PDF documents. This is very easy to verify, just ask them to send you a link for you to test drive. With their online translation management system, you should also be able to easily track project status, interact with the linguists, manage invoice & billing, and more.
  6. Mobile. 70% of today digital content is created on mobile and 80% of that content is consumed on mobile devices. Mobile translation technology allows translation requests to be instantly pushed to the translators via smartphone notifications, and then allows them to immediately translate anywhere and anytime from their mobile devices in addition to desktop computers. For today’s agile content translation requirements, mobile translation is the ideal solution. Mobile translation technologies are poised to disrupt the language industry, ushering in an era of “Big Translation” to finally meet the scale and speed requirements of our globalizing world. You can learn more about this game-changing technology here:
  7. Service. Make sure a vendor provides 24/7/365 service. The world is competitive and if you don’t do it, your competitors will. Which is why you must ensure translation vendors are always available on-demand. The worst thing that can happen is when you have an urgent request and you don’t hear from your vendor’s project manager until the next day or after the weekend. Choose vendors that work hard and deliver excellent customer service the way it used to be.

If you are finding the whole translation RFP process too overwhelming or simply don’t have the time, please let us know and we will gladly help. Please just send us a note at