Translation Outsourcing: Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

translation outsourcing

Outsourcing your translation needs to a professional language provider can make a lot of sense. Not every business or website has the means or personnel to do their own in-house localization. In that case, hiring a company who specializes in this kind of work is a great way to bridge that gap.

If this is the first time you are considering working with external translation services, you might have a lot of questions about this process:

  • Are there benefits to working with a language provider?
  • When does it make sense to do so?
  • What kind of translation work can you outsource?
  • How do you find a trustworthy translation company or freelancer?
  • How much does translation outsourcing cost?
  • What difficulties can arise and how do you deal with them?

To help you navigate these question marks, this post will go over the entire process step by step. When you finish it, we want you to feel ready to approach this topic and get the translation help you need.

Why Outsource Your Translations?

The first question you might have is why you should even consider outsourcing your translation. After all, theoretically, you could also take care of it yourself.

Maybe you have someone on staff who speaks your target language or you even speak it yourself. Maybe you have ongoing translation needs and think it would make more sense to hire someone for it full-time.

All of those are valid concerns, so let’s go over the benefits that contracting out your translations can offer and discuss in which cases it makes the most sense.

Better Translation Quality

When working with a professional translator, they are exactly that, a professional. No offense to you or any multilingualists in your company, but just because you speak a language, that doesn’t mean you are qualified to translate it.

As we have examined on this blog before, translating is hard. You have to juggle many linguistic aspects to properly convert something from one language to another. Especially if the content is more ephemeral like marketing messages. For that reason, working with someone who does this day in and day out is often better than attempting to do it yourself.

Conserves Resources

When contracting your translation out to an individual or company, it doesn’t impact the rest of your work processes. You don’t have to set aside your own time or that of someone in your company who might already be busy or working on important things.

Plus, you save on management overhead because you don’t need an overseer for in-house work. Instead, you can leave it at the doorstep of someone else and they get back to you with the results. In the meantime, you can continue working on creating business results in other ways.

Access to Expertise Beyond Translation

Translators not only bring their translation skills but also usually specialize in particular industries or topical areas such as technical, financial, or medical translations.

medical label translation example

That’s knowledge laypeople like you and I normally simply don’t have. Imagine translating a contract by yourself and making a mistake. It could have decisive consequences for your business.

Therefore, outsourcing translations is especially useful for matters outside of your realm of knowledge. However, even if it’s about something you do know, you might not always possess the foreign necessary vocabulary to translate it. Here, too, you can benefit from the expert knowledge of skilled contractors.

Reduced Costs

We will talk about pricing in detail further below and, make no mistake, outsourcing translations can be costly. However, if you compare it to creating your own in-house translation processes, most of the time, it’s quite affordable.

If you have a lot of translation needs, building the supporting infrastructure to continuously deal with large localization efforts is expensive. You need to hire people (often one for each language pair you need), train them, and pay their salary, even if there is no translation going on. Plus, they likely need specialized translation tools, which add extra costs.

Finally, there is the management part. Someone needs to keep an eye on what is going on and make sure the translation pipeline is running correctly. All of the above is built in with an external language provider.

Higher Scalability and Flexibility

Besides the costs, there is the question of scalability. If your company grows quickly and your need for translation with it, it can be hard to adapt. Again, you might need to hire additional people, etc.

On the other hand, most translation agencies already have a network of freelancers and translators in place they can tap into. That way, they can react to your growing needs with more flexibility than you could by yourself.

Faster Turnaround Time

Finally, there is translation speed. Again, professional translators have been doing this for a long time and are better at it than laypeople. In addition, they often invest in the latest technology to speed up their translation service such as AI machine translation combined with their own expertise.

deepl machine translation software

However, even outside of machine translation, they simply have the right tools and infrastructure. That means they can get more stuff done in a shorter amount of time. In short, what you would expect from working with a professional in any sort of circumstance. They can simply do it better and faster than you.

So, When Should You Outsource?

From the above, we can deduce different scenarios where it does or doesn’t make sense to outsource to a translation professional vs taking care of the translation yourself. The key points here are the number of languages, the volume, and topical area.

If your translation involves just one language pair, the volume is manageable, and the topic falls within something that you know well (such as translating your own online content) having someone on your staff who is responsible for that can be completely sufficient.

However, if you

  • need to translate into a multitude of languages
  • and/or deal with a large volume of content
  • and/or it’s about something you are next to clueless about (e.g. a legal contract)
  • plus, you need to scale quickly

in that case, working with a professional provider is often more time, resource, and cost-effective than building your own translation pipeline.

What Type of Translations Can You Contract Out?

Now, if you were inclined to give translation outsourcing a go, what can you use it for? It turns out pretty much anything. As mentioned above, you can find translators with expertise in almost any area, including but not limited to:

  • Websites — Websites are primary communication channels for most businesses. Offering them in different languages to attract a larger audience makes a lot of sense, especially in e-commerce. A good translator will try to fit the translation into the existing layout and design as well as address multilingual SEO. To avoid having to extract the text from the website first, use a specialized plugin like TranslatePress, which allows you to translate directly on-site.
  • Documents — For document translation, it really helps if you work with someone who is familiar with the subject matter and has the necessary expertise.
  • Apps and software — These are similar to websites in that there needs to be a strong focus on user experience, which the translation has to accommodate. The text might have to be extracted first.
  • Videos — Another common area for translation are subtitles, especially after the growing success of streaming services. They are a big part of movies and TV shows that come out in different countries, as is dubbing.
  • Marketing materials — Businesses that want to operate globally need to adapt their messaging to local markets. This takes the most creativity as it’s often more about translating a sentiment and not word by word. Plus, it can include images that also need to be localized.

How to Find Translation Companies and Freelancers

The next question is, of course, how to get in touch with people who you can outsource your translation work to? So, let’s talk about that next.

Ask for Recommendations

According to translators themselves, the most common way clients find them is through recommendations.

client acquisition methods of translators
Image source: CSA Research

So, if you are looking for some help with translation outsourcing, your best bet is to ask around your network. This is also very useful if you are looking for an industry expert and ask similar companies as yours.

Do Your Own Research

If your network doesn’t yield any leads, as you can see from the graph above, your next best bets are marketplaces, profiles, or websites of individual translators. Another place you can look for is LinkedIn.

translators on linkedin

You also need to be clear about what exactly you are seeking. The majority of translators are self-employed. So, if you are only after translation for a single language pair, looking for the presence of individual translators is a good idea.

translator website example

However, as mentioned above, if you have more complex translation needs, working with an agency with a larger pool of translators can be a better idea.

To give you a leg up, we actually have detailed articles on where to find translation companies, freelancers, and website localization services. The posts tell you exactly where you can find translation professionals and the steps you need to take to hire them. That way, you don’t have to start from zero.

How to Evaluate Potential Candidates

That leaves the question, how do you know who to work with? Well, there are a few ways to evaluate prospective translation service providers.

A good way here is to look at online testimonials. Check ratings on translator marketplaces or review sites like Clutch or Trustpilot. Facebook and Google Maps are also good places to find customer thoughts on businesses. Look especially at negative reviews and how the company has handled them. This speaks to their business practices in general.

translator response to negative google maps review example

Besides that, check the client testimonials provided on the website. If there are a lot of them, that’s a good sign. You can also try to reach out to former clients and ask them about their experience.

Finally, if you find a translator through their own website, pay attention to the site quality. It’s also a good indicator of their professionalism.

How Much Does Translation Outsourcing Cost?

Now, let’s talk about pricing. This depends on a number of factors. One is the rarity of your language pairs. Here is a table with the most common language pairs among translators and interpreters:

most common language pairs among translators
Image source: CSA Research

Naturally, English-Spanish translation is cheaper than Hungarian-Xhosa because fewer people can do the latter. Language rarity increases the price. In addition, these factors also play a role:

  • Work volume — This is a no-brainer. The more work, the more it costs, just like in any other profession. Note, however, that you might get a better overall rate for high-volume jobs.
  • Experience of the translator — People who have been in the business for longer and have honed their skills for a long time can ask for better rates because they usually offer better quality and are faster.
  • Complexity — Another factor is the difficulty of the work. Especially if it requires specialization, such as for legal documents, it’s usually more expensive.
  • Timeline — How fast you need translation also has a bearing on the rate you pay. Rush jobs cost more than those done at a more leisurely pace.

Note that freelancers usually charge per word or per hour. Agencies or LSPs, on the other hand, often ask for a project fee based on the services involved.

So, how much exactly should you expect? Well, because of the complexity, it’s hard to give a definite number. On average, you can expect around $0.10/word or $35-$75 per hour for normal translations. Beyond that, it really scales according to the factors above. Translated has a handy calculator to give you a better impression.

translation rates calculator

Translation Problems to Anticipate

Unfortunately, working with external language service providers is not always smooth. Just like in other professional relationships, there are problems that can crop up. Besides general translation problems, these are:

  • Inconsistent quality — You might have to shop around a bit until you find someone who can sufficiently accommodate your translation needs. This can also happen with an agency, where you can have several translators that provide different levels of quality.
  • Lack of control — If you give the translation out of your hands by outsourcing it, it is literally out of your hands. If your chosen provider doesn’t communicate well, it might be difficult to keep track of the progress.
  • Insufficient familiarity — An outside provider doesn’t know your business, its goals and voice, your target group, customers, etc. as well as you do. Therefore, they might not be able to take these into account when translating your content.
  • Bad culture fit — Culture plays a huge role in translation. Countries with the same language can use it very differently. If this is something that matters to you, be sure to check that your translator not only has the language proficiency but also knows the target country well.
  • Privacy concerns — If you give away material to translate that contains proprietary information, it leaves your realm of control. While confidentiality should naturally be part of your translation contract, you can sometimes have a bad experience.

These are just some of the problems that might arise. Be prepared to deal with unexpected issues as this is normal. If you have a good partner to work with, you will be able to overcome them.

What About Machine Translation?

When confronted with the costs of outsourcing translation work, a natural reaction is to think whether it can’t be done for free with machine translation. And, when you compare machine translation with manual translation, speed and price are definitely where machine translation shines.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that, even though machine translation has gotten much better, it still gets stuff wrong all the time. Usually, it can do about 80% of the work. Yet, that still leaves 20% that needs to be corrected and if you don’t invest in that, it can have pretty bad outcomes, especially for things like legal documents. Do want to leave that up to chance?

In addition, the translation quality in machine translation is really dependent on the language pairs. Just like human translators, machine translation is better at more popular languages than at less popular ones. For example, Google Translate is best at English but makes more mistakes in other languages.

google translate accuracy per language table

Therefore, the less mainstream your needs, the more likely it is that you will need a human translator, at least for editing.

Plus, many translation providers use machine translation themselves in order to deliver faster results. However, they still provide the much-needed oversight to ensure correctness and quality.

So, while machine translation can be enough for simpler tasks, it’s likely not something you should solely rely on, especially for critical content. For that, you need real experts who know what they are doing.

Use TranslatePress for Outsourcing Your Website Translation

When translating your WordPress website with the help of contractors, you want to make the process as easy and painless as possible. In that case, it helps if you have a good partner by your side such as in the form of the TranslatePress translation plugin.

Take Advantage of Translator Accounts

TranslatePress makes working with external language providers very straightforward through translator accounts. They allow you to give translation professionals direct access to your site so they can work on your content immediately.

create translator account in translatepress

This eliminates the need to extract all the text on your site, send it over, and then copy and paste the translation back to your website. Everything happens in the same simple interface as the rest of the translation work. This saves a lot of time and effort. Note that translator accounts are part of the premium version.

Do All Your Translation in One Interface

Speaking of interface, almost everything you do in TranslatePress happens in the same main translation interface. It’s very easy to use and get the hang of, even if you’ve never worked with it before.

translatepress main translation interface

The preview on the right allows you and anyone else working on your website to navigate to the page you want to convert to another language. From there, you can choose any of the text it contains via the drop-down menu, left and right arrows, or directly from the page.

ways to select strings from the translatepress interface

When you do, a text box appears on the left for the translation. Add it, click the Save button, and the translated text will appear on your website.

enter translation in translatepress

Unlike other translation plugins, TranslatePress looks at the rendered HTML content instead of scanning the database. This lets it translate pretty much anything that appears on your site, including widgets, menus, themes, plugins, and more.

Implement Image Translations as Well

With TranslatePress, you also have the possibility to localize your images. Your language service provider can best help you translate any images with text and also give you input on what images might be more culturally appropriate for your target audience.

localized images with text example burger king mexico

Any adapted visuals are as easy to implement as text. Simply, select an image from the TranslatePress interface and then choose an alternative on the left. Save and you are done.

translate image in translatepress

Support Your Translators With Machine Translation

As we have learned above, machine translation can be a valid tool for translation outsourcing. While not enough on its own, it does help with speed and you can offer it as assistance to your language service provider.

TranslatePress can do automatic translations via Google Translate and DeepL (the latter requires a license). Switch it on under Settings → TranslatePress → Automatic Translation.

translatepress automatic translation settings

When enabled, any string you or your translator choose from the interface will automatically have its translation show up in the usual field.

translatepress automatic translation in interface

Here, it’s easy to make corrections or give it that last bit of polish before submitting it.

Get Your Multilingual SEO on Point

Finally, TranslatePress offers a multilingual SEO pack that allows you to translate your page links, SEO titles, meta descriptions, ALT tags, and other important SEO elements. These options are available to translator accounts as well, so your contractors can also help you optimize your site’s different language versions for search engines.

translatepress string slug translation

Use the Right Plan for Your Needs

TranslatePress comes in both a free and paid version with three different pricing tiers. The free version is fully functional to offer one additional language on your WordPress site. However, if you want access to the aforementioned translator accounts and automatic translation with DeepL, TranslatePress Pro is the right solution for you.

Use Translation Outsourcing to Your Advantage

Contracting out your translation work can offer better quality, turnaround time, and cost-effectiveness than doing everything yourself. It especially makes sense when you have high volume needs, your translation requires expert knowledge, and/or you need multiple languages.

Above, we have talked about everything you need to know about translation outsourcing. You know what you can use it for, how to find providers, what costs to expect, issues to anticipate, and if machine translation can play a role.

By now, you hopefully feel ready to give it a try. If you do, using a WordPress plugin like TranslatePress, which accommodates working with external language professionals on your own website can further improve the process.

TranslatePress Multilingual

The easiest way to translate your WordPress website with the help of outsourced translators.

Get the plugin

Or download FREE version

What’s your experience with translation outsourcing? Anything you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section.

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