So many times throughout my project management career I have followed up with a client or prospective client only to find out they got various estimates and went with the lowest bidder. This more often than not does not turn out well.
In fact, just the other day I followed up with a client and heard that they used a competitor who came in with a much lower quote only to have received a bad translation. How embarrassing for the client to have had to go to a native speaking colleague to fix what should have been a quality translation originally. He even used the phrase that he "got what he paid for".
The first red flag the client should have noticed is the disparity among the quotes. The lowest quote was less than half of what our estimate was. Typically this means the various parties are not quoting to include the same services or do not understand the scope of the project.
Most translation service vendors like to hear feedback regarding the other estimates. And if it’s reasonable the vendor may work with the client to align the quote with the others if cost is the only deciding factor. But, it has to be an apples-to-apples comparison of the work involved. Some vendors do not include editing, desktop publishing or proofreading and then will have to add this later on to the initially quoted translation.
Second, most quality translation agencies use educated and experienced linguists. And with that comes a price. There are agencies using low cost translation software, or they may be outsourcing out of country and quote dramatically low prices. The fear being the possibility the English comprehension is unsatisfactory so the messages may be conveyed incorrectly.
My best advice is to get all of the information you can from the prospective vendors. Make sure the quote lists the services that will be included and ask for references in the same area or field of expertise as your material is in.
Make sure that you are getting what you pay for. Because we’ve all heard the saying that if that extraordinarily low price seems too good to be true, it probably is.