Which translation partners should you work with?
As the quality of a translation project relies heavily on the linguists, your choice of what type of translation partners to work with will be the determinable factor for the success of your project. There are many choices for translation partners that will make you confused. Should you have your own team of translators or work with professional translation agencies or find freelance translators?
To find the answer, you should consider the benefits and drawbacks of each partner to see which one suits your needs best.
Table of Contents
1. In-house Translators
Some companies consider having their own translator team (in-house translators) to handle translation projects within the company. The team can consist of translators for one or some specific languages based on the demands and business strategies.
- Urgency – In-house translators can handle urgent projects in a tight deadline. Instead of coordinating, or even finding and testing freelance translators or translation agencies, your company can assign the task to an internal translator who can jump right into the project.
- Subject-matter experts – In-house translators are familiar with the writing styles and brand voices of the company. Thus, it guarantees a satisfying final result without conflicts in the terms of styles.
- Costs – When hiring in-house translators, your company has to deal with hidden costs such as insurance, over-time costs, recruiting and training costs, etc. Besides, if the company doesn’t have frequent translation projects, it will be a waste of partners.
- Capacity – The fixed number of in-house linguists in a company might not have the capability to handle a surge in the requests from internal clients such as a sudden high volume project with a tight deadline.
- Types of services – To provide a ready-to-publish final translation, multiple people with different skill sets need to be involved: translators, editors, proofreaders, and DTP experts, not to mention interpreters or voice talents if you have a demand for media localization. However, normally each linguist can only provide limited services (one or two services) and languages (mostly one language pair). Therefore, the company will need a quite big team, increasing the costs to cover them all in-house. This option might not be suitable for all SMEs.
2. Freelance Translators
The second type of translation partners is freelance translators. Freelance translators are self-employed translators who work as an independent contractor for a range of clients. They seek, contact, and support clients directly during the whole translation process.
- Low price – Using this partner, you don’t have to worry about fees for agencies. You only pay for what you receive from the translator. Your costs for a translation project are cut down significantly (but in some uncommon cases, some freelance translators might ask for a higher rate than translation agencies).
- Direct communication – When working with freelance translators, you can contact them directly at any time without an intermediary. If there are some changes in the projects, both parties can discuss and find a solution in no time. This process helps save you a great deal of time.
- More coordination efforts – Translators should be the native speakers of one language to be qualified for producing a great translation. This requirement leads to the fact that one translator can handle one language (or two in some specific situations) only. If your projects include, say, three to four language pairs, you will have to find three or four freelance translators respectively. The rates of these translators might be lower than those from translation agencies, but you have to handle them all by yourself. Consequently, coordination efforts are much higher.
- Lack of full translation process – A translator tends to focus on either translating, editing, proofreading, or DTP, i.e. one step in the whole translation process. To complete a project, many freelancers must involve. Each person takes responsibility for each step in the process and you are the key person to manage and coordinate all those people.
- Limited CAT tools use – To ensure the consistency of a translation, CAT tools are an inevitable assistant for translators. However, a freelance translator might not support all CAT tools. There is a chance that the tools they support aren’t your file format.
- Communication & Service – the communication skill and responsiveness of a freelance translator can range from terrible to excellent. If you’re lucky, you will find the ones that are super pleasant to work with. But on the other end of the spectrum, your freelance translator may disappear all the time you need them, or very rude/unprofessional to cooperate.
3. Translation Agencies
Translation agencies or language service providers (LSPS) are a valuable source of translation partners for your projects. They are companies that specialize in providing varying degrees of translation, interpretation, localization, or language consulting solutions. They may own a team of in-house translators and have a wide network with freelance translators. Besides, Project managers (PMs) and Salesperson/Account manager/Program manager from these agencies play an important role in supporting the operation of each project to help the process run smoothly.
- Wide service range – The translation process involves many steps other than translation, editing, and proofreading. While freelance translators tend to focus on one among these three basic steps, translation agencies can cover a wider range. They also deal with desktop publishing, language quality assurance, or linguistic sign-off. Or in other words, they provide you with a whole process of translation and localization. Even when you only order one or two steps in the process, reliable translation agencies still add more values to your projects by conducting their internal Language Quality Assurance (LQA) after each step.
- Various industries – Translation agencies are likely to have a deep network of in-house linguists as well as freelance translators specializing in a variety of domains. They can work with documents in Medical, Engineering, IT, Software, Travel, or any industries you are working in.
- A wider range of language pairs – Translation agencies often have a specialized team called Vendor Management to source the translator of any language pair in need. Gradually, they develop a big network of freelancers to meet hundreds of languages demands which you normally can’t, and don’t have to, do so.
- High-Capacity – With a pool of hundreds of native linguists, translation agencies are capable of handling a great number of projects, from small to high volume at the same time. If needed, a high-volume project is divided into small parts and assigned for different linguists in the network so that the deadline can be met.
- Fewer coordination efforts – Instead of handling each freelancer of multiple languages/services by yourself, you can count on the PM team of translation agencies. Their duties are to bridge you with the linguists, handle a variety of issues along the way to make sure your projects run smoothly.
- CAT tools – The use of translation memory (or TM) in CAT tools help translators reduce time re-translating identical text or terms and remain the consistency of the whole documents. It is also beneficial to clients in terms of costs. All translation agencies make use of CAT tools for their projects regardless of the volume of a project. They can use a great number of CAT tools to meet all client’s demands thanks to the support of an engineering team.
- Better customer services – Translation agencies have a team of well-trained PMs and Sales that have better great communication skills and a service mindset. Generally, they can give you more professional supports than the individual translators whose core skills are linguistic.
- High price – In general, translation agencies charge a higher fee compared to freelancers. The reason is quite simple. Besides paying linguists, translation agencies have to pay for management fee including salary for staff, administrative costs, and keep a small proportion of profit.
- Indirect communication – In translation agencies, clients and linguists do not contact directly with each other. Instead, a PM team acts as an intermediary between them. The assigned PM convey the needs and requirements of clients to linguist while giving linguists’ feedback to clients. In general, the communication process will be longer by having one intermediary man. But the translation agency can bridge this gap if they employ in-house translators.
4. What is the right translation partner for your project?
Choosing among there translation partners namely in-house translators, freelance translators, and translation agencies is undoubtedly a challenging task since they all have numerous advantages and disadvantages. Your match would depend on various factors below so don’t forget to analyze them carefully before making a decision.
|Factors||In-house translators||Freelance translators||Translation agencies|
|Number of languages||One pair||One pair||Many pairs|
|Number of services||One to two steps||One to two steps||One step to the whole process|
|Amount of volume||Small – Moderate||Small – Moderate||Moderate – High|
In some cases, your company can work with 2 or 3 types of partners at the same time.
- Combine by languages: With high demands in English to Japanese translations, for example, you can have your team of Japanese in-house translators handle these documents. Once in a while, you might have documents from other language pairs that need translating, say English to Korean. Instead of hiring another team of Korean translators, you can contact other partners such as a freelance translator or translation agency to help you with such infrequent projects.
- Combine by services: Some core services will be performed by your internal partners while the rest will be assigned to external partners or vice versa. For example, you can outsource the Translation and Editing part to an agency and perform the final LQA/proofreading yourself. This solution will ensure the final product is of your own tone & style, while you do not have to build a big and costly in-house team.
Overall, you can enjoy the advantage of all the types of translation partners if you can combine them well to suit your needs.
Once finding out which type of translation partners you wish to cooperate with, you should invest an adequate amount of time to select the best translators or translation agencies for your specific project. To help this process less time-consuming and more effective, we have recommended a full process of how to recruit good translation partners for companies. You can check it out here.