How to Write an RFP for Translation Services
Each day companies send dozens of Requests for Proposal (RFP) and Requests for Information (RFI) in search of a translation (localization) agency to provide translation services. As a localization Production Manager, I work closely with the sales department to filter through the requests to decide which ones to respond. We also need to make certain we provide all of the requested information required to help these companies assess us as a potential translation partner. I have compiled a list of “do’s and don’ts” for the translation services RFP process and, also, a list of the most common questions we receive.
Translation Services RFP – Do’s
DO provide a realistic schedule for completion and submission of the RFP. The schedule might look like the following:
Translation RFP Process:
Confirm interest to participate
RFP sent out
Response to RFPs DUE2
Request for presentations (if required)3
Agency Selection Made
- You should give at least 7 business days for an agency to review and submit questions.
- You should give at least 14 business days for the response.
- You should give at least 14 business days to schedule a face-to-face presentation; possibly less if virtual.
DO provide detailed company information and your company’s website, as well as project goals. This information could include:
- Goals for seeking a translation partner.
- Goals for translating content.
- For example, by department, such as marketing: attract more customers; HR: training global staff; support: help with multilingual support.
- The staff currently employed to support any translation initiatives.
- Pain from any previous experiences with translation initiatives and/or partnerships. You need to tell the doctor where it hurts and how you hurt it for her to help.
- Experience you want the translation agency to have.
- For example, website localization, eBook translation and publishing, Chinese translation, SEO for Arabic speaking markets, etc.
DO provide as much detail about the type and quantity of content to be translated, including:
- Type(s) of content.
- Language(s) required.
- Details and metrics of actual documents, even if estimated.
- 6: 4-page, 6 x 9 brochures, 500 words each
- 20: 4 to 5-page menus, 1,500 words each
- 18: 20 to 35-page eBooks, 5,000 words each
- Details and metrics of websites to be translated, even if estimated.
- What content management system (CMS) is being used
- Word/page counts for content
- SEO requirement
- Details and metrics of audio/video to be translated, even if estimated.
- What formats are being used
- Word/page counts for script content
- Number of voice/video talent required
DO get resumes and/or meet your account team before making a selection including your assigned Project Manager, Account Manager, Senior Management Representative, Language, DTP, and Technology Leads.
DO try to get your initial list of agencies down to 4-6 best candidates, as a result of your initial web research. Including more than 6 companies in the RFP process starts to add time to the RFP responses review and may not result in better data for comparison.
Translation Services RFP – Don’ts
DON’T send out RFPs without providing details on past experiences and future goals, which gives the translation agency the opportunity to learn about your company. Failing to provide this information can really diminish the effectiveness of the process and information received.
DON’T send out RFPs without allowing some form of Q&A with potential translation partners.
DON’T send out RFPs without allowing enough time for the candidates to respond in a comprehensive manner. Two weeks should be the minimum time allowed for a response to be submitted.
DON’T send out RFPs without including a step for personal presentations for the finalists in the process. There can be much learned with a little face time.
DON’T rely too much on “samples” being provided as the sole indicator of quality translations. Quality must be consistently achieved over many projects and linguistic acceptance needs to follow glossary development and client onboarding steps to capture your terminology and style preferences. Focus on the QA process a company articulates in the RFP response.
Questions for Translation Services RFP
Translation Services Process Questions:
- What are your core services?
- Do you use translation memory?
- Do you provide client onboarding and orientation? Please, explain.
- Do you have quality assurance procedures in place? Please, explain.
- What is your process for safeguarding proprietary information?
- What is your process for certifying translators?
- What is your process for website translation?
- What is your process for multilingual global SEO?
- What is your process for document translation?
- What applications do you use for translation and desktop publishing?
- Do you build glossaries as part of your services?
- How do you qualify and test your translators?
- Where are your translators and copywriters located?
- What is your Quality Control/Assurance process?
Translation Services Technology Questions:
- What tools does your firm use to deliver its translation services? (TMS, TM, CAT, etc.)
- Are there any license, support, deployment fees your firm charges for using these tools? Please, explain.
- Does your firm have a web based translation project management tracking system? Please, explain.
- Does your firm have the ability to interface with web content management systems such as (specific CMS)? Please, explain.
Translation Company Summary Information:
- 1 to 2-page company summary.
- Number of years in business.
- Last three years’ revenues (if a public company).
- Bank reference(s).
- 3 to 5 client references.
- Any awards won by company.
- Types of services offered.
- Types of translation and project management tools developed and used.
- Private, public or investor backed.
- Any past or planned mergers or acquisitions.
- Languages and locales served.
- List of company websites.
Translation Company Price Sheet:
Please, provide a price list for all service offerings based on tasks performed and languages.
Writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for translation services is a critical step in the translation company’s vetting and selection process. It is important you are able to review the information and compare company submissions in an effective and efficient manner. Do your homework upfront to limit the number of companies you are vetting via the RFP and provide them with a clear, comprehensive Request for Information or Proposal.