Risk management for outsourcers

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Just as language service providers are encouraged to take precautionary measures before accepting a job offer, outsourcers of language-related projects should also follow certain steps to avoid or at least mitigate risks.

Steps for identifying a professional service provider

Outsourcers of language projects are encouraged to take the following steps to identify professional service providers and have a successful service provider-outsourcer job relationship:

  • Identify the project needs
  • Identify potential language service providers based on project needs
  • Record and agree on job parameters
  • Have a back-up service provider
  • Become available to the service provider
  • Have the project checked / proofread
  • Leave feedback

Identifying project needs

Before conducting a search for the appropriate service provider, outsourcers must first identify the project needs:

  1. Is it a translation, editing, proofreading, etc. job?
  2. What will be the purpose of the target text (i.e. for publication, personal communication, for internal company use, for personal use)?
  3. What's the subject field of the project?
  4. What's the volume of the project?
  5. Is it a rush job?
  6. Is the volume of the project in line with the time available for the project to be completed, proofread and delivered?
  7. What's the delivery deadline?
  8. Will there be any partial delivery requirement (i.e. part of the project delivered in advance)?
  9. Is there any language variant involved (Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, etc.)?
  10. Will there be a native language requirement?
  11. Does the job require the use of a computer aided translation (CAT) tool?
  12. What is the budget available?

Once the above listed questions --and other relevant questions-- have been answered, the outsourcer will be able to search for potential service providers matching these requirements.

Identifying potential language service providers

Identifying appropriate service providers implies matching job requirements with service providers' skills and talent. Some of the areas or information outsourcers must check before deciding who will win the project include:

  • Specialty / experience (service, pair and field-specific)
  • Identity
  • Location and availability
  • Credentials / certifications
  • Client feedback
  • Rates and payment methods accepted

Specialty / Experience

Search for language service providers with specialty, or at least working experience in the project field. A service provider who has already worked on a few projects in the folklore field is likely to render a more appropriate translation and in a shorter period of time (these service providers may keep a glossary of terms in the folklore field and save time when it comes to finding the meaning or the equivalent of a given term).

In ProZ.com profiles, fields of expertise are listed in the "Expertise" section. If service providers are active site users, you may see that they have earned a few KudoZ points in their fields of expertise --shown when mousing over each field name. These points are awarded to them when they help another site user with the translation of tough terms, showing that they know the terminology in such field.

In the same way, potential candidates should preferably be specialists in the language pair of your project. If your project is in Spanish to Italian language pair, search for candidates who have experience with texts in Spanish to Italian. Even if candidates have a wide experience in Italian to Spanish, or if they are native speakers of Italian, having worked on projects in the same language pair you have in your hands should help you assess the type of work they will deliver. At ProZ.com, language pairs are listed in the "Working languages" box available to the left of the profile page, in most cases with top language pairs --pairs in which the service provider specializes-- shown at the top of the list. Also take into account KudoZ points and services information shown when mousing over each pair.

Finally, make sure that potential candidates have experience with offering the services you are looking for. While most language service providers offer translation services, not every translator is a specialist in website localization or subtitling for instance. Services in ProZ.com profiles are shown in the "Services" section.

Other areas in ProZ.com profiles that will help you assess service providers' expertise in a given language pair, field or service include:

  • Portfolio: check the Portfolio section to see if the service provider has posted any sample translation in the pair, field and service you need.
  • Project history: check the project history of candidates to see if they have worked on any project in the pair, field and service you need, and if they have received any feedback from the outsourcers of those projects or the colleagues who worked with them on those projects.
  • About me: check candidates' "About me" section for further information on their experience and specialization.
  • Tagline: check candidates' taglines --the short sentence shown right below their profile names-- to see if they mention their specialization.
  • Articles, Glossaries: see if potential candidates have written any article in the field you need or if they have created any glossary in the language pair and field of your project.
  • Software: check the "Software" section of candidates' profiles to make sure they know how to use the tools or software required for your project, if any.
  • Teams: see if potential candidates are part of any team of translators working in the language pair and field you need.
  • Website: check candidates' websites, see if the information listed in their ProZ.com profiles match the information in their web pages.


Once you have identified potential service providers based on your project needs (language pair, field of expertise, software required, etc.), check candidates' identity. Since the assignment of language projects is mostly done online and outsourcers and service providers do not generally have the chance to meet in person, as an outsourcer you will want to confirm that there is a real language service provider behind an email address, job quote or profile.

If you make a job posting and select "Direct email message" as quoting option, make sure that before assigning the project you confirm that the email message received has been actually sent by the service provider signing the message. You can confirm that the job quote received has been actually sent by a real service provider --and not by someone else impersonating a real service provider-- by searching for the service provider and contacting him/her directly via their profile page. (Cases have been reported where an outsourcer received a job quote via email from a scammer who had copied the name of a real service provider, pretended to be him/her to get the job, and delivered poor quality --just to get the money).

To avoid receiving emails with job quotes from unreal service providers, ProZ.com recommends the use of the online quoting system. This way, quotes received are automatically linked to the service provider's profile, allowing outsourcers to check profile information to confirm professionals' skills. If Instead you use the directory to search for language professionals, make sure you check their profile and confirm their expertise.

In any case, always investigate the experience of potential candidates before assigning a project since their experience is closely related to their professional identity. A fake translator will rarely have a profile with WWA feedback or verified credentials.

Location and availability

Before deciding who among potential candidates will win the project, check their location and availability. Time zone is important when doing business online. Even when most translators have no problem with working overnight, some professionals may have more fixed working hours. Make sure that their location and time zone does not affect your project deadline and that the translator is available to complete the project in time no matter the part of the world they are in or their time of the day.

In ProZ.com profiles, location is shown right below the profile owner's name and under the "Contact" tab, while availability is shown in the Availability calendar available to the left of the profile page. (Note that some service providers may choose to hide this information from public view though).

Credentials / certifications

Another piece of information that outsourcers are encouraged to check before assigning a project is whether the potential candidate has earned a translation-related credential or not. While translation-related credentials should not be an exclusive requirement, outsourcers of language projects have the option to require such credentials. Translation-related credentials at ProZ.com (i.e. certificates issued by educational institutions upon completion of a translation-related course) are shown the "Credentials" section. However, note that site users can report as many credentials as they want and at any time, but only those who the "verified" tag next to them have been verified by site staff as valid and existing credentials.

At ProZ.com you can also search for professional service providers who have proved they meet or exceed minimum professional standards and that, given this, have earned the right to become members of the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network. These members have been reviewed by a special screening team composed of site staff members and they have proved to have translation ability, business reliability and online citizenship. Members of the Certified PRO network display a red "P" badge next to their profile names.

Client feedback

When assessing candidates' experience, client feedback may come in handy. Checking feedback posted by other outsourcers who have worked with potential candidates in the past may prove candidates' reliability, i.e. that they have gained the trust of those other outsourcers for delivering good work and following professional guidelines.

At ProZ.com, feedback posted by outsourcers regarding service providers' reliability is shown in the "WWA (Willingness to Work Again)" box available at the top-right corner of profile pages.

You may also find client feedback on specific projects in the "Project history" section of profiles, together with peer feedback as well.

Rates and payment methods accepted

Finally, make sure that you check potential candidates' minimum rates to make sure they adjust to your budget, and that the rate you are willing to offer them is in line with minimum rates in their country and for the services involved. Just as outsourcers do not like to receive job requests from service providers when you do not have a job at hand, service providers do not appreciate a job offer with rates that fall below their minimum. At ProZ.com, service providers' minimum rates are specified in the "Rates" section of their profile. If you are making a job posting instead of contacting potential candidates directly, make sure you pay attention to the automatic warnings the system will show to you if the rates you specify fall below the minimum (as reported by the community in their profiles).

Also, have in mind that rates may need to be adjusted depending on the payment method you use (specially if there are any transfer fees involved). So, confirm with potential candidates that they could in effect receive payment via the payment methods you have available. The "Payment method accepted" section in ProZ.com profiles will display this information.

Record and agree on job parameters

Once you have selected a few candidates from among potential candidates based on job requirements and candidates' skills and availability, and you have decided who will be assigned the project, make sure you specify the job parameters (i.e. job requirements) in writing and send them to the selected candidate so that you both agree on what has to be done, when and for how much. This is what is in general called PO (or Project Order). A PO is a document that contains information relevant to a given project and that stands as an agreement between the service provider and the outsourcer. The PO can be attached to an email (as a .txt, .doc or .pdf file for instance) or even be part of an email message, and should include at least the following details:

  • Name of project
  • Language pairs involved, specifying source and target language and any language variant included
  • Service to be offered (translation, proofreading, etc.)
  • Volume of project (words, pages, hours, etc.)
  • Rate (per word, per page, per hour) and total amount to be paid (including currency)
  • Payment method to be used and payment date
  • Project delivery deadline
  • Project source and target format
  • Type of delivery (e-mail, postal mail, social network message, etc.)

By agreeing to these terms and conditions in advance (before the service provider starts working on a project), service providers and outsourcers may rest assured that they both understand what the project and the agreement is about and avoid misunderstandings that may later derive in more serious issues (no delivery, lack of payment, etc.).

Have a back-up service provider

Outsourcers should also be prepared for the unexpected. Service providers may be unable to complete the project in time for a number of reasons (computer crash, accident, power outage, natural disaster, etc.) so outsourcers should always have a second list of candidates (maybe a few of the ones that were not offered the job in the first round) from which they can select one to complete the project and deliver to the client in time. Have in mind that while completing the job in time is a responsibility of service providers, delivering the project to the final client in time is the responsibility of outsourcers.

Become available to the service provider

Outsourcers are also encouraged to make themselves available to service providers at all time. This one too is a good strategy to save time, money and headaches. When possible, check with the service provider on a daily basis, offer your assistance, let him/her know that you are there in case they have any doubt. But, careful, avoid harassing the service provider with unnecessary emails or phone calls. If the service provider you select is a professional service provider, it is likely that you do not need to contact them so regularly.

Have the project checked / proofread

No matter how confident you are about the service provider you chose for your project, always run a final check before delivering to the final client. For this, it is possible that you will have to follow all the previous steps to find a professional proofreader. In case of conflict between the results delivered by the first service provider and those delivered by the service provider doing the checking or proofreading, make sure you make yourself fully available to both service providers and try to reasonably mediate between them to avoid further conflict.

Leave feedback

In the end, if you are satisfied with the services you received, make sure you leave feedback on the service provider to help other outsourcers like you to find a good professional for their projects. At ProZ.com, use the "Make entry" option available in the WWA box at the top of the service provider's profile or simply click here (you must be logged-in to your ProZ.com account to be able to leave feedback on service providers).


The steps described above are summarized here.

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