How do you know when you’ve found a good translator?

Having recently bought a house that needed a bit of TLC, hunting around for a professional [insert trade here] is something I’m now more familiar with and I’ve had some positive experiences and unfortunately negative ones too.
So you need a document translated... You’ve browsed websites, sent enquiries and maybe even started receiving quotes. But how do you know who to go for and who to trust with your project? Are there any sure signs that tell the best translators apart from the rest?

1. The way your initial enquiry is dealt with
You should get a prompt reply and, if you’ve asked specific questions in your email, the translator should answer them in their reply. If you’ve sent an original document and asked for a quote, the reply should include a timescale for completion and show the breakdown of costs e.g. certification. Ideally the quotation should be a separate document and have the translator’s contact details and their terms and conditions.

2. The translator’s profile
Some things to look for are qualifications/credentials, professional memberships, fields of expertise and years of experience. Read 5 things to look for in a translator.

3. Testimonials/samples of work
They’re not always available on the translator’s website but there’s no harm in asking them questions like:
Have you translated this kind of text before?
Can you show me one of your translations?
What do your clients say about you?

4. The translator’s approach
With the exception of small and straight-forward jobs, it’s generally a good thing when you hear from the translator between accepting a quote and receiving the translation. Professional translators will ask questions about the original to ensure the translation reads the way you want it to; they may explain linguistic/cultural differences or suggest different approaches and check your preferences.  

CHECKLIST - does my translator have at least 3 of the following?
 Accreditation/professional memberships
 Online presence/good reputation
 Client testimonials

Why choose me

Professional linguist with 13 years' experience
Translator, teacher & interpreter since 2004
Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists
Member of the International Association of Professional Translators & Interpreters

Translation experience
Certified translation of official documents:
- birth/marriage/divorce certificates
- diplomas, transcripts & references
- legal/medical/insurance documents
Academic articles/literary essays
Business/marketing communications
CRM software

Interpreting experience
Court hearings
Medical and work-related
Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010
Arts/cultural events
'Fixer' for French TV

Teaching experience
Language assistant at prestigious Fettes College
Teacher at 3 leading UK universities
Organised a T&I workshop

First degree in English Studies
MSc in Translation Studies
Professional Graduate Diploma In Secondary Education (French & Spanish)