Like any market in the global economy, translators work in a competitive environment. If we don’t differentiate, we´ll get lost in the crowd.

Specialising, and finding a niche market is sound advice. But is it enough? There are dozens of translators who offer the same services, in the same specialist field, at varying rates. Many clients don’t realise that such a thing as specialisation exists, and  believe that any translator can (and will) translate any text, no matter what it’s about. So, how do we get potential clients to choose our services over those of another translator?

I believe that one way to tip the scales in our favour is to become ISO certified. Complying with the International Standards Organisation standards requirements for translation and related activities not only helps us be more organised but also, more importantly, lets those who are shopping for translation services know that we strive to ensure they get the best possible product.

My first step was to get ISO Qualified via the ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting), something which was easy to do (for a small fee of GPB 29 during their introductory offer period, now GBP 49), given that I am already Qualified MITI, which, by the way, is another way to increase visibility and add to your professional credibility. Information on becoming ISO qualified is available to ITI members on its website, and this prompted me to participate in the “ISO 17100:2015 – raising the profile of the translation industry” webinar presented by Raisa McNab, Lead on Standards at the UK Association of Translation Companies (ATC).

ISO 17100-2015 cert - facsimile
ISO17100:2015 (Translation services – Requirements for translation services)

One of the things I was most curious about was whether an individual freelance translator could get certified, or if it was only limited to companies. In addition to answering this particular question, Raisa McNab gave a great talk about the demands of ISO 17100:2015, an overview of how standards are developed, and why they matter.

Following the webinar, I contacted the ATC to get the ball rolling. Why the ATC you may ask, given that I am based in Portugal and there are local certification companies? Simply put, the ATC knows the translation business and I thought, who better to certify my workflow than someone who understands it? And they offer remote auditing services. Another decision I made when contacting the ATC was to not limit my application to ISO17100:2015 (Translation services – Requirements for translation services). Given that post-editing is likely to be a significant part of our job in the future, I decided to be proactive and get certified to ISO18587:2017 (Translation services – Post-editing of machine translation output – Requirements) too.

ISO 18587-2017 cert - facsimile
ISO18587:2017 (Translation services – Post-editing of machine translation output – Requirements)

After an initial free consultation to discuss exactly what I required, so that the ATC could provide a quotation, we scheduled the three stages of the audit: Stage 1 for the electronic supply of data; Stage 2 for the closing meeting, and Stage 3 for the remote audit.

The timing, I guess, is fairly well spaced out. However, I am an Aries (i.e. impatient) and generally quite organised, so the process seemed a little too long for my liking. Following the initial consultation, in which the person I spoke with helped me understand what I would need to have in place to comply with the requirements, I immediately drafted the workflow that would need to be submitted; this made having to wait two weeks for the electronic supply of data frustrating. I had to wait a further two weeks for feedback on what tweaks would need to be made to my workflow, and then yet another two weeks for the audit itself, at which point the ATC would check that I actually practise what I preach. All this waiting left me a little antsy! But, of course, I do understand that the ATC has other applicants and other things to do and, so, I simply waited my turn.

I already had copies of the standards which I had previously purchased when looking into certification (I’m impatient remember?), but this was not entirely necessary, since the ATC offers access to assessment tools when you sign up to the service to prepare for certification.

The people at the ATC are all extremely friendly and helpful and make the process a breeze. The process itself isn’t complicated, if you get organised, and getting organised shouldn’t be that hard to do. Most of what is needed is probably already part of your general workflow. Basically, you just have to map it out step-by-step according to the standard, and have evidence and examples to back it up.

This is the “easy” part. What could be a little harder to digest is the cost. Of course, going in, I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap. Getting certified never is. As mentioned, quotations are tailored to the individual, so cost will vary, but be prepared to spend between €800 and €1,000, plus an annual fee every year of half that amount for annual audits. Plus VAT, of course.

You’re probably wondering whether the investment is worth it. Since I have only just received my certifications, it is a little too early to tell, although I believe it will be in the long run.

Either way, by having ISO17100:2015 and ISO18587:2017 certification,  I’m letting my existing and potential clients know that I am serious about delivering the best service I possibly can.

The sense of accomplishment I feel at having obtained ISO certification has also motivated me to continue to improve as a translator. I would heartily recommend ISO certification as a way to stay ahead of the pack!

©2018 Rossana Lima

Rossana Ferreira Lima - circle
Rossana Lima

Born and raised in South Africa, Rossana Lima has been a translator since moving to Portugal in 1998; first as part of her functions as an executive assistant, and then, later, in parallel to being an ESL teacher.
Now, dedicated to translating full-time, she specialises in translating contracts and other legal documentation, as well as in translations for the venture capital, finance and business and tourism sectors. In addition to translating, she revises and edits documents written in English.
She is a Qualified (MITI) Member of the Institute of Translations and Interpreting (ITI) in both the Portuguese-English and English-Portuguese pairs and certified to ISO17100:2015 and ISO18587:2017. She is also a member of the CIOL and APTRAD.

2 thoughts on “ ISO certification success ”

  1. Hi Matheus. Thank you. Regarding “return”, honestly I haven’t felt much of a difference workwise, at least nothing concrete like, say, a client stating that they are contacting me because I am ISO certified. That being said, I’m sure that being ISO certified provides my (and potential) clients peace of mind, knowing that I hold my work up to the highest standards.


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