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Hire a Professional Translator by Starting out on the Right Foot - Part 1

Finding a translator – or rather, a service provider willing to translate your content – in today’s world is most definitely easier than it was in the past.

Hiring the ‘right’ professional translator for a job is where the struggle still remains, but the truth is, many of the difficulties that usually arise can be avoided before you even send out an enquiry to a professional translator.


The simple answer – provide as much information and detail as is possible.

But what information? What details?

That’s what I’ll outline below in this two-part article.

How to hire a professional translator by enquiring like a pro

By including the job details that translators desire most when considering new enquiries, you’ll be starting out on the right foot – allowing the translator to quickly decide if they’ll be the best fit for your job or not. This saves them, and you, a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth, headache, and ensures that both parties will be happy with the work arrangement you establish.

The following points come from key insights we learned from the survey results of 247 professional translators who described the types of crucial information that is either missing or poorly communicated in the most problematic of job enquiries.

Budget and Pricing

Talking about pricing can be a touchy subject, but here’s what most translators suggested in our survey.

Information to include:

Things & phrases to avoid:

Payment details

Late payments, and even cases where they don’t receive payment, are issues translators face and want to avoid at all costs.


Project details

Always include:

Consider including:


Always include:

Common misconceptions to clarify:

General Professionalism



The above list may seem like overkill…

But if you’re honestly wanting to find the best translator for the content you need translated, the above gives you a very detailed look into what types of information and communication styles real translators have shared with us.

If you follow this list as a guide to the next enquiry message you write, I’m confident that you’ll not only save time in the long run, but you really will get started on the right foot with a translator who knows exactly what to expect in your working relationship, confident that he or she is the best for the job at hand.

In Part 2 of this article, we’ll share some word-for-word scripts that take the above information into account. Sign up for our newsletter to get those scripts emailed directly to you once Part 2 is available.

Written by Nate Hill
TM-Town Developer

Comments (13)

Kenneth van der Vlugt
Posted about 1 year ago.
An excellent summary. Thank you Nate. Regards Kenneth
Sirajul Islam
Posted about 1 year ago.
Thanks Nate for the issues and concerns you've covered. Most of the things you've mentioned are possibly targeted to the employers of translators, and that's look good. As a translator of English <> Bengali language pair, I find it difficult to work online because none in the world except my country, and the Indians understand this pair. The market is also limited to two countries, i.e., Bangladesh and India. So, while I tried to bid for translation jobs, I see that most of all employers are either Indians, or working through them. Here I face two problems: 1) Indians want to pay in Rupee, and declines to pay in FC through bank transfer; and 2) Most of the employers ask me to use this or that CAT tools. So, what's precisely my problem? #1 payment is uncertain; #2 low budget/rate; and #3 usage of CAT tools. Machine translation has made significant strides in translating some major languages but not Bengali, my native language. So, I simply can't machine translate any piece and then edit that to deliver. So, my job isn't "easy". Bengali is such a language that can't be translated well into English or vice versa by using software. Bengali typing needs time because of its complex nature; and correcting spelling is also an issue. Moreover, the way Bengali is spoken and written can't match English because the cultures are different. It's also true when I translate a source English material into Bengali. I mean, the translations aren't done well if done verbatim because that can kill the spirit of both the languages. It's also difficult to impress an employer who is a stranger. A few translators are trained linguists, and so the employers. So, there exist mismatches. What more can I say? It's better to stick to the local market than to hover around strangers, and as such, I prefer not to work online. Thanks for the blog again. Wish you all the best.
Posted about 1 year ago.
Great article Nate. One of the things I have mostly found in clients enquiries for translators, is that they ask for best rates, and want to lower them, once you offer the client your range of rates. As to payment details, I prefer clients to give their rates per word for a project. That way it is easier to see if it fits in my range of rates.
Ramon Somoza
Posted about 1 year ago.
You have covered most of my major complaints with translation companies, but I have a couple of additional ones: 1) If the company has specific terms and conditions or style guides, these should be a) reasonable and b) short. I got once for a 500-word job a 35-pages T&C document which I was supposed to read, scan and sign every page. When I had read six pages I wrote them a mail sending them to hell. Basically, they were asking for absolute slavery, so I never bothered to read the rest. I have also encountered styles guides where the guide was several times longer than the text to be translated! 2) State the amount of work correctly. I remember that I was sent a "100k word" document that was "partially translated" and the company asked for a special price. The actual text to be translated was... 700 words, but I was supposed to provide a special price and provide them with the translation memory. Needless to say, I never worked for them again. 3) Special requirements. I often translate classified documentation. In this case, it's not just a matter of confidentiality - you need to maintain the environment secure, have special erasure software and mail encryption or submission by secure means. 4) NEVER change the conditions! I recently had a row with an agency on a 100k+ word assignment. They asked for a discount because of the volume, got it, and on sending the invoice they also wanted Trados discounts, which they had never mentioned before. The statement "that's our standard policy" is not an excuse - they should have stated that up front, and they would not have received a discount. (They paid after I hinted that I would sue them for fraud). 5) Trados discounts. Once thing that pisses me off as a translator is that I have paid for the tool, and the agencies want to reap the benefits without paying a dime (ever tried to get a discount for a dishwasher because the manufacturer has bought new machinery?). Even worse, they try to impose you discounts such as "100% match free" when in a language (e.g., Spanish), the sentence might change depending on context (e.g., because you have to change the gender), so you DO need to edit the text. If they insist on that kind of shit, I plainly tell them that I will NOT review such matches, and that they will be liable for any mistakes that arise from that. I have a special price when the text is highly repetitive, but I really hate it when they try to get a few cents or dollars off because of "Trados discounts". Often the added complexity of preparing the invoice is greater than the "savings" they get!
Suhail Sabbah
Posted about 1 year ago.
Great article, that covers most intrinsic translators' sufferings! Thanks Nate. Waiting for part 2.
Patricia María Ferreira Larrieux
Posted about 1 year ago.
Thank you for this article, Nate, and for trying hard to "educate" our clients. In my language pairs (IT, EN> ES) and specialization fields (Medical Device regulatory affairs, clinical trials), there are two things that I need to know and, most of the time, I need to ask: - the specific country of destination, as regulations change from one Spanish-speaking country to another; and - if the English "you" needs to be translated in a formal (Usted) or informal (tú) way. Receiving a glossary or reference material is something that I appreciate a lot, but seldom happens.
Nate Hill
Posted about 1 year ago.
Thanks everyone for your comments and further contributions!
Luca Tutino
Posted about 1 year ago.
Hi Nate, I liked your article thanks! A possible addition: - If an agency uses a "Translator Portal" "PM System" etc, please include a link (better if autologin) and clear instructions on how to download any materials in EACH message. These systems are mostly complicated, unclear and a serious hindrance to collaboration and to getting paid. Free-lance work for a number of different agencies, and should not be expected to learn and remember login and complex details for all of them. I look forward to read part 2. :thumbsup:
Roxana Danco
Posted about 1 year ago.
Thanks Nate for describing the complexity of the subject. I worked for different companies in the past (as an employee) so I have not had to cope with this issue so far...as I have just recently become a freelancer. This is all new to me. And it's good to know. Thank you for all the information!
Rody Correa Avila
Posted about 1 year ago.
Thanks Nate. Very good article. I hope outsources and agencies take it seriously into account. All very good points. And the additional comments are great. Thank you fellow translators.
Anna Cribley
United Kingdom
Posted about 1 year ago.
Excellent summary Nate! The time you took to round up this information and put it into an efficient article for us all to work together effectively, is really appreciated! Thank you! :smile:
Posted about 1 year ago.
Useful article, real things which translators meet.
Nate Hill
Posted about 1 year ago.
Thank you for the continued comments and contributions. Really happy to hear this has been helpful :smiley:

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