SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

6 Do's and Don'ts for Writing a Localization RFP [Free Template]

[fa icon="calendar"] June 4, 2015 / by Lorna Franklin

writing a request for proposal for translation services

There's no shame in admitting it, writing a Request for Proposal is tedious and time-consuming. Anyone involved in procurement or selection of services for large companies will dread the thought of it, but it's just another one of those things that "has to be done"... and I suppose they are necessary for making the right choice for your company, so we can't really avoid them, as much as we'd love to.

To save you from trawling through reams of text, picking out what you need to bear in mind, here are a few guidelines of what you should and shouldn't do when drawing up a RFP for localization.

If you're still looking for some inspiration afterwards, we've created a handy PDF with 43 questions you could ask in your Localization RFP, which you can download below.


#1 - Provide a realistic timeframe for completion

A well written RFP will be extensive, and laden with information, which your prospective vendor will have to process and use to form their bidding strategy. If you want your vendors to be well prepared, make sure to give them realistic expectations for completing the RFP. You should include a calendar which states the estimated completion date for each step. As a guide, you should give around 2 weeks for Q&A to be submitted and then an additional week for return of the documents afterwards.

#2 - Give definitions of specific terminology

It is important, in order to avoid any grey areas and to speed up the Q&A process, that any specific industry terms, or acronyms mentioned in the document are clarified in a “Definitions” section. Go through the document, and pick out any terminology that you may take for granted that everyone will be clear on. It is best to include as many terms as possible in your list of definitions, just to be on the safe side.

#3 - Include your approximate localization spend and a breakdown of your most common languages

It can’t hurt to show your prospective suppliers what they could be missing. Tell them how much you have spent on localization over the past 1 to 3 years and how much you expect to spend; these figures will help figure out volume discounts. After that, include a table of all of the languages that you work with, along with a percentage representation of volume per language.

#4 - Identify and outline your reasons for the RFP

Create a section with the title “Key Business Objectives” and give a clear outline of what you as a company want to achieve by doing the RFP process and why you are looking at new vendors. Are you benchmarking your current suppliers? Do you wish to narrow down your current system for choosing translation services, by having only a select few approved vendors?

This can be followed by a section which allows you to state explicitly, and elaborate on what you want from your chosen company in each of the following areas: Quality, Cost, Customer Service, Technology, Customization, etc; enabling participants to respond to your needs.

#5 - Allow participants to submit any questions they may have regarding the RFP or the selection process

Set up a portal or simply attach an editable spreadsheet where people can submit any questions or requests for clarification that they may have. Another thing to note… be clear and concise in your responses. No one likes a one word reply to a five sentence question, if it is relevant. I know that time can be of the essence, but if someone asks a legitimate question, try to grant them the privilege of a legitimate answer. This will make participants feel more comfortable and get rid of the hierarchical perception that these processes seem to create. I’m not sure why, but the image of the “Volturi” in Twilight always comes to mind; you know the really scary panel of Vampire judges? No one wants to be compared to that…

#6 -  Invite the vendor to bid on as many aspects of the localization process as possible

Don’t just focus on rates per word... hourly rates, DTP rates, Engineering rates,Project Management rates, Machine Translation rates, etc. should all be included in the bidding process. This will allow vendors to be more or less competitive according to their strengths, and will help you to narrow down your choice.


#1 Make up throughput metrics (words per hour, pages per day) without knowing what is realistic or not

Why not just put down a number that you think is achievable, and then double it, just for good measure right?... By throwing in a nice high throughput figure, it’s easy to assume that you will then only attract the suppliers who have the resources to support your demands. However, all that will do is scare off any vendor worth their salt, leaving you with the ones who will claim that your expectations aren’t a problem… but then end up running everything through Machine Translation. The reason being that a quality translation cannot be rushed or faked. So do your research, and settle on throughput metrics which are enough to support your needs, yet still within appropriate margins for attaining high quality.

#2 Rely on samples as a sole measurement of quality

Asking for samples from a translation vendor is common practice, as it can give you an indicator of the level of quality; however it is important not to base your overall decision on sample translations. Why? Because quality is achieved through working closely with a vendor over several projects, creating and developing glossaries and implementing changes after review stages. It is through this relationship with your translation supplier, that they develop an understanding of your needs, your brand voice and your style preferences. All of this can’t be judged through a 250 word “sample”. Instead, throughout the entire RFP process, have a vision of what qualities your chosen vendor must possess overall, and make your decision based around this, not on one or two particulars.

#3 Be tempted by an attractive price

We’re all guilty of it… if we want something, we buy it at the cheapest price possible, if we want to sell something, we sell it at the cheapest price possible to stay ahead of our competitors. In certain cases though, the cheapest does not always mean you will be getting value for money; and translation is one example of this… as well as fake designer handbags, but that’s another story. If you are deciding on a new translation vendor, you will be tempted to select the vendor who caves under all the pressure and sells their services at the cheapest rate they can afford, but you have to ask yourself: why are they offering their services for cheaper than everyone else? Are you sure they are using high quality translators? Is it that they are desperate for your business? These are the type of questions which must be considered carefully, before making any rash decisions.

#4 Select too many candidates to take part in the RFP process

Prequalify a selection of language service providers by sending out RFIs (Request for Information), once you have established who will be most likely to cater to your needs, invite only the most favourable candidates to participate in the RFP. The more participants, the longer and more laborious your review periods will be.

#5 Lose sight of your goals

An RFP should be well structured, and have clear, detailed insight of your business’ short and long term goals in order for suppliers to match their capabilities to your needs. Be clear about both your goals, and your pain points to give suppliers the opportunity to offer relevant solutions. If your key objectives are kept in mind throughout the entire process, it will be easier in the end to identify which suppliers have consistently met your expectations and who will be the best fit.

#6  Forget to look beyond superficial metrics

It’s easy to focus only on things like cost and turn-around time, which are obviously important, but don’t forget to look under the surface and cover things that will give you a deeper insight on the capabilities of each supplier. Ask questions regarding their process for quality assurance, what technology and automation they use, how they build their quotes, and references from past customers. All translation suppliers are not created equal, so don’t be afraid to give each of them a good “grilling”, this will differentiate each vendor from the other and hopefully provide a clearer picture of who will be most suitable for your needs.

Remember, your translation request for proposal should reflect your company's translation needs, so don't over complicate things if you can avoid it. Only include questions which are relevant and which will answer exactly what you want to know.

Feel free to download our PDF (43 Suggested Localization RFP Questions), and paste the most relevant questions into your RFP... we won't tell if you won't.


Download 43 Suggested  Localization RFP Questions


Topics: Documentation Translation, International Business Strategy, Translation Services

Lorna Franklin

Written by Lorna Franklin

In 2009, Lorna's love for languages inspired her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Intercultural studies with French and Spanish, in Dublin City University (DCU). During her degree, she spent a year living in Granada, Spain which truly re-enforced her passion for the Spanish language and culture.