LSP guide to finding, hiring and managing translators

The success of an LSP relies on finding high-quality, reliable translators. Thankfully, with hundreds of thousands of translators making up the USD 46.52 billion global market, there are plenty to choose from.

In this article, we’ll look at how LSPs can find new translators, the strengths and weaknesses of working with in-house translators versus contractors, and how to vet and manage your team of language vendors.

Where to find new translators

Public marketplaces, such as ProZ, Translator Cafe, and Smartcat, are becoming the standard place to find quality, experienced translators. You’ll find thousands of active language vendors from across the world for any possible language pairings you may need.

Another place to find experienced translators are international industry conferences like the annual American Translators Association (ATA) Conference. Whether you set up a vendor booth or rely on normal conference networking opportunities, these events can be great places to find new translators.

Finally, if you have a business website, translators will come to you. Be proactive by stating what language pairs you’re looking for, as well as what information you’d like to see from new applicants when they make contact.

Hiring in-house or contractors

The first major decision that LSPs make when looking for translators is whether to hire in-house or utilize contractors. Here are some of the pros and cons to both, as well as a hybrid model.

Hiring in-house

Pros: Hiring someone full-time is a large investment that can pay off via consistent availability and ease of communication. It’s also easier to improve project workflows and set goals with regular employees than it is with contractors. Because of this, you have more control over the quality of their work.

Cons: The biggest challenge to hiring in-house translators is simply whether it’s economically viable. When you factor in benefits and taxes, the cost of hiring in-house is generally much higher than working with contractors. In addition, when working exclusively with in-house employees, your ability to take on new projects will depend on how much work they can handle. This can limit the rate of growth of your company.

Strengths of hiring contractors

Pros: Contractors are not only cheaper, but also there are fewer employment regulations to worry about. If you’re a multi-language vendor, then demand around specific language pairs may vary, and working with contractors allows you to hire based on this demand.

Cons: The contractors that you have worked with in the past and whom you trust may or may not be available for any given project. Even if they are available, their focus will likely be split between different clients. When you’re working with many new vendors, you have less control over translation quality, and you frequently have to train new people about company processes and standards.

Alternative: The hybrid model

Single-language vendors and multi-language vendors with dominant language pairings can adopt a hybrid model by hiring in-house editors to work with freelance translators. Editors can more easily control project quality while increasing an LSP’s work volume. This hybrid model may be a good option to lower project costs while maintaining, or even improving, your productivity levels and quality rates.

The Smartcat difference

We’d like to point out that Smartcat can alleviate many of the common issues surrounding working with freelancers. With over 200k freelancers in the database and flexible assignment methods, it’s easy to find quality translators when new projects arise. Multiple communication channels and real-time progress updates are built into the platform, rendering day-to-day communication issues obsolete.

Hiring translators

Generally, finding translators isn’t the hard part; vetting them is. In addition to the standard process of reviewing resumes and references, candidates should be tested on their translation skills. This is a problem for many LSPs whether they’re hiring in-house or exclusively work with freelancers.

Hiring and vetting in-house

Single-language LSPs often have a language specialist on staff that can judge the quality of an applicant’s translation abilities. MLVs, on the other hand, may be hiring for a language pairing that they don’t currently offer, in which case testing will need to be outsourced. There are companies on the market that do offer testing services.

Another in-house testing workaround is to hire people you already trust to review for you.

Hiring and vetting contractors

The selection process for freelance translators can be more complicated if your LSP doesn’t have the appropriate resources to consistently test the translation quality of new applicants. Some marketplaces curate reviews, but these might be subjective and come from buyers who never bothered to check the actual quality of the translations.

For both in-house or contract hires, when testing isn’t an option, many LSPs rely on translation certifications (such as ATA’s) and an applicant’s references. Both of these may take longer to verify — not ideal if projects are urgent.

The Smartcat difference

Our vendor management team can help LSPs screen and test translators, relying on data that might not be available to at-large users. As opposed to subjective reviews, Smartcat provides recommendations from partner LSPs. Customers and Smartcat partners can share comments about the freelancers they’ve used that are more reliable than simply requesting feedback after a project.

Managing your team

Large LSPs generally have a dedicated vendor management team that handles translator recruitment and management. Vendor managers will put together teams, negotiating rates and checking availability, and then hand them off to project managers.

Vendor and project managers can use custom databases or off-the-shelf translation management systems (TMS) to track the translator’s qualifications, such as activity, rates, and reviews, and also to manage project workflow. Many large LSPs have internal databases including thousands of prospective translators.

For smaller LSPs, vendor selection generally falls on project managers. Depending on their budget and technical know-how, they may use a TMS or even spreadsheets to manage their list of translators. Smaller LSPs generally do not have access to as many possible freelancers as larger LSPs.

Tips for working with contractors

When you find excellent freelance translators, you’ll want to keep working with them. Here are a few tips to maintaining a good working relationship with contractors.

  • Give them as much advance notice as you can about upcoming projects. Contractors often take jobs as they’re offered them. Advance notice allows contractors to keep their schedule open for you. It’s also a courtesy that you respect their time and the work they’re balancing. If the contractor you prefer is not available, it gives you time to find someone else.
  • Maintain consistent communication throughout projects. The amount of communications that contractors want with their clients varies. But it’s always a good practice to keep in touch and ask if they have questions. If you were impressed with a contractor’s work, let them know and ask for their feedback to improve the workflow process.
  • Keep your rates competitive and pay quickly. Even if a contractor enjoys working with your company, they often have to go where the money is. Making sure you’re paying a good rate will ensure the highest quality contractors will continue to accept projects from you.

The Smartcat difference

Smartcat provides vendor management services to LSPs of all sizes. In addition, we offer vendor management functionalities in the application to facilitate the quick hiring of freelance translators and tracking data such as rates, notes, and activities. Our payment platform makes it easier to pay translators no matter where they are located. The platform is tied into our native system so that it’s easier to track and pay consistently and on time.