From translation agency to freelance translators

As you may know from previous blog posts, our products are available in different languages and local varieties. For some products, we currently maintain 16 different locales. With new features being added and existing features being updated frequently, one can easily imagine that a lot of translation work is needed to keep our products up-to-date and useful in every language.

So to keep the process smooth and agile, we recently decided to switch from working with a translation agency to working with freelance translators. What may sound easy was actually a long process. Read on to learn more about our journey:

The past

Making sure that our online shop administration is up-to-date in all of our languages is one of the tasks our team, Team Emerald, is responsible for. Our team has worked with a translation agency for several years. The advantages of working with an agency are: Fairly quick turnaround times, good availability, they have a pool of many translators for almost every language, and take care of managing communication with the translators. In the past, our team only managed localization for one of our products and the cooperation with the agency worked fine.

But in 2020, we took over the localization management for another product, for which translations had previously been managed by a different team and translation agency. The first challenge was to connect this product to our localization tool (you can read more about that here).

Both products are comprehensive tools, and several developer teams work on new and existing features for them, so the amount of texts to be localized has increased a lot for us since we took over localization for a second product.

Need for change

With the amount of translations to manage, working with a translation agency started to have its challenges.

One challenge was that the agency had a minimum order value and took rather high fees when the requested amount was lower than that. This soon became an issue. While the overall amount of texts to be translated had increased, features in an agile company are of course not developed all at once and changes to existing features often require many small adjustments to the texts here and there. To avoid the fees, we collected the texts to request them once or twice a month, which resulted in us having to manage, review, and process a big bunch of translations at once for every order.

Another challenge were corrections. We strive to deliver correct and consistent translations that make our software easy to understand and convenient to work with in every market. That’s why we review the translations for obvious errors like missing words (it can make a huge difference if a word is missing in a translation – imagine the word being “not”), redundant spaces that could cause issues in the software or incorrect glossary terms. With the help of our localization tool’s translation memory and glossary we started to notice lots of smaller and bigger errors in the translations and had to request corrections from the agency for almost every order. It sometimes took several days for the corrections to be delivered, which made it very stressful for us to meet internal deadlines.

Moreover, communication was not very transparent. For every correction request we had to contact the agency, who then contacted the translator, who then replied to the agency, who then forwarded the reply to us. Is your head already spinning? Ours was, too.

So I felt like we needed a change.

The change

I started off with researching different options and discussing them with the team. It turned out the glossary needed to be cleaned up as a first step, to ensure consistency for any new translation option that we would choose. This was not a simple task, as the glossary contains hundreds of terms and was partly outdated at the time. With many other tasks requiring our attention, it took several weeks (if not months) for me to finish cleaning up the glossary. After that, I continued to research different options, weighing pros and cons, calculating costs and volume, considering needs and restrictions and consequences for the development process.

I presented my findings to my teammates, and we agreed that a combined model of working with freelance translators and asking internal native speaker colleagues for help would probably be the best way to move forward. Freelancers seemed to have several advantages for us: They are usually flexible, allow for direct 1:1 communication, and we could be sure to always work with the same translators who would grow more and more familiar with our software’s wording every time. Internal colleagues have the advantage of being very familiar with our products already and communication is easy, but it was impossible to cover all languages and the entire workload with the help of internal colleagues.

And so we set out on our journey of reworking our localization process. Stay tuned for the next part.

About the author

Yasmine W. is a UX Writer / Tech Writer at ePages. She loves working with words and languages and is passionate about finding just the right wording. Even if that means deciding the original wording was actually the best option.