Surprisingly enough, not everyone can fully understand the crucial difference between goods and services: unlike goods, which are tangible in nature, you can’t examine the result of a service beforehand. Now that might sound trite, but in fact we translation service providers are frequently expected to provide a standardised product. But there is no such thing as a standardised translation – which is a good thing! Think about it this way: When you’re in the hardware store looking to buy screws, you can examine them closely as well as measure, compare and handle them before buying. In the world of translation, the only way you’d be able to do this is with the service provider itself and its internal processes. You can’t do this with the service provider’s performance as you would with a standard product, however. That’s where it gets interesting – and subjective.
There are, of course, objective criteria in our world as well: (The following paragraphs apply primarily to translation companies, not freelance translators.)