How to Run a Translation Tender

If you have a significant translation requirement and do not have direct experience of working with specific suppliers, a tender is potentially an efficient way to get to a short list of suitable translation agencies.

Typically there are several things that you want to establish; broadly falling into three categories.

  • Is the translation agency properly established / resourced to do the work?
  • Does the translation agency have sufficient expertise / experience?
  • What’s my protection if things go wrong?

Before you start

It’s worth thinking things through before running a translations tender. Unless an agency feels like it has a reasonable chance of winning a worthwhile contract, it won’t be properly motivated and this means you risk not attracting the best candidates. Translation agencies may also be reluctant to share detailed confidential information with relative strangers.

This often means that a two stage process is useful where you identify the most suitable candidates before requesting a whole shopping list of information. You should also bear in mind that you might want to get the same companies to tender again in the future, so it’s good to try to make the process fairly transparent and to keep people informed promptly, even when it’s bad news. Always remember that a good translation agency will be well used to competing via tenders and will therefore have much of the information you want to hand.

Issues to consider and the questions to ask

  1. Is the company properly established / resourced to do the work?
    Essentially this is a bit like doing a credit check. You might ask questions like when was the company established? How many full time employees are there? Where does the company have offices? Ultimately you might like to have a look at the accounts: you should note that some companies are reluctant to reveal all the details of their margin structure, even internally. Nevertheless, it is perfectly reasonable to ask to be supplied with any of the data you could access from Companies House in the UK or an equivalent service elsewhere.
  2. Does the company have sufficient expertise / experience?
    Ask what similar work the company has undertaken before. Can the agency supply case studies? Ask to see sample translator CVs. It is industry practice to provide anonymised versions of Translator CVs in these situations. Ask who at the agency will be responsible for handling your work. When you are in the final stages of selecting a supplier it is good to ask for client references.
  3. What’s my protection if things go wrong?
    It’s hard to imagine that the damage of a poor translation service could be rectified, and indeed prevention is very much better than cure. However, by investigating this topic, you can get comfortable that you are dealing with a professional agency which is therefore much more likely to deliver a good service. You should therefore ask what insurances are held, whether there is a complaints procedure in place, what contracts exist with the translators, and – of course – is the company currently subject to any litigation?

We can supply you with a list of sample questions and tender documents, and informally advise you on arranging your tender. For more information please contact us directly.

Please speak to our Managing Director, Patrick Eve on +44 (0) 20 8834 4850 on email him on for RFP examples and a no-obligation conversation regarding your translation requirements.


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