The minimalist guide to buying a translation

Need a translation but don’t want to spend all day buying one?

It’s easy, really. So here’s a whistle-stop minimalist guide to buying a translation.

1) Get your text ready

Finalise your original text and proofread it. Send it for translation only when it’s ready: you could still make changes later, but the rework would needlessly cost you extra time and money.

2) Find the right translator

Who is the right translator for you? That depends on the type of text, the subject matter and the language combination.

If it’s a marketing text about a travel destination to be translated from Italian to EngThe minimalist guide to buying a translationlish, for instance, then I can help. If it’s a technical manual about a telephone exchange to be translated from English to Italian, then I can’t.

To find someone who can, try the Institute of Translation and Interpreting or Chartered Institute of Linguists. Look for a professionally qualified translator who’s a native speaker of the language that you need the text translated into (aka the “target language”).

3) Ask the translator for a quote

Email them the full text, ideally in a Microsoft Word file, and tell them how soon you need the translation.

The translator may need some extra information, e.g.:

  • What the text is for (to sell, to inform, etc.)
  • Who will be reading it (overseas potential customers, a business partner, etc.)
  • Which language variant you need, if any (e.g. British English vs American English)
  • Whether there is a style guide, term glossary or any reference information to follow.

The translator will quote you a price and propose a delivery date and time. Get this quotation in writing (via email). You can then negotiate and agree or look for another translator. Remember that translators are not all the same, so the cheapest is unlikely to be the best.

4) Place your order

Confirm in writing (typically just via email) that you accept the translation quotation, so that you have a legally binding contract, quoting any purchase order number of your own.

5) Answer the translator’s queries as work progresses

Make someone available during the translation process to reply to the translator’s queries. This will make sure that you get the best possible translation with no ambiguities or grey areas.

6) Take delivery

The translator will email you the finished translation by the agreed deadline.

7) Billing and payment

Tell the translator your billing details (address, tax code, etc.) so that they can send you their invoice, typically on delivery or at the end of the month. All the necessary details should be present and correct, and the price should be as agreed.

When it’s time to part with the money, pay promptly by the requested date, using one of the payment methods stated on the translator’s invoice.

8) Repeat

Hopefully everything will have gone smoothly and you will have received an excellent translation and had a good experience.

Perhaps there’s something else that your translator can translate for you?

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