As a rule, translation agencies are started by professional translators, not professional managers. In fact, less than 10% are established by business people. The majority of them developed from one-person ”agencies” which were launched, managed and grown by translators.
When the number of pages to be translated significantly exceeds the average output of one person, let’s say 15 pages per day, there are two options:
- the single-person agency turns down the project
- the owner decides to share the volume with a second person (colleague, family member, neighbour, etc.)
Let’s discuss the second option in more detail. The type of work delegated to the second person might be different, depending on the chosen model of cooperation:
- the hired colleague takes a portion of the volume and both persons work in parallel.
- the agency owner entrusts the entire volume to two or more colleagues and then proofreads, verifies and edits the entire text alone.
Model (1) is more risky because of the possible inconsistency of the translation. In such a case, both translators should agree a style guide and basic glossary. And they should communicate regularly in order to make the translation as consistent as possible. However, without proofreading or editing, the inconsistency might still occur. And this is why I would not recommend this model.
In model (2) the company owner ensures the consistency by editing the translations delivered by his colleagues.
This is the first step in growing the translation agency. More providers are used to translate the text, but the company owner is still able to control the quality of each translated paragraph and sentence.
The next important step in agency growth is the moment when the owner is no longer responsible for every translated sentence. This happens when the total volume exceeds the owner’s capability to read all the translated texts.
Of course, the recruitment process is very important. The agency owner can evaluate the candidate’s skills because he/she knows this language combination.
However, the owner reserves the right to resolve any doubts raised by any of the providers involved in the projects, or can intervene if something goes wrong.
Also, if an issue is raised by a customer, the owner is able to decide whether the claims are justified or not. And the owner, having full knowledge about the nature of every claim, can discuss the problem with an unhappy customer.
I remember a project for a travel guide to Israel. It was aimed at Polish pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land. The author was an Italian priest who spent several decades in Israel. This is why the descriptions of the sites were accompanied by large portions of the Bible.
We searched for the best Italian-Polish translator in our Vendor Database. We found a female translator who studied Mediterranean archaeology. She worked for several years in Italy and Egypt with numerous teams of archaeologists and she even had a Ph.D in archaeology. Our project manager was sure that it is a good choice.
However, when we received the first batch of the translation, we were completely surprised and dismayed. The Polish text contained her free translation of the Bible fragments instead of quoting the proper verses from the official Polish text of the Bible. Even worse, she had well-known characters from the Bible confused with some other names.
When I called the Doctor Translator to stop her work and to cancel the purchase order, she was surprised. But she explained, that: (i) she is an atheist; (ii) she has no copy of the Bible at home; (iii) there is no obligation in Poland to keep a Bible at home. I was really shocked…
This is a real illustration that even with an extensive database of providers (we had more than 7,000!) there is a certain risk. Of course, we hired another translator and the text was translated correctly and delivered on time.
You can imagine how important the choice of translators is for a mature translation agency that offers translations in language combinations not known to the owner.
Modern Translation Management Systems offer a sophisticated provider management module. The records of each individual provider include a lot of different information. But the most important feature for me is the tracking of ratings for each provider. These need to be kept up to date based upon evaluations after each project.
From my own perspective, the most difficult decision in my career was to start offering language combinations which I was not able to verify. The Translation Management System gave me a perfect tool to ensure proper quality from all providers.
Jurek Nedoma is also co-founder of the professional TMS software development firm XTRF Management System.