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Hiring a Freelance Translator Vs an In-House Translator: Pros and Cons of Each

When you’re running a business, there are a million and one things to think about. From the product or service you’re offering to the marketing strategy you’re using to reach your target audience – it can all seem a bit overwhelming at times. “Should I go for freelance or employed translators?” is a question that comes up often for managers dealing with international brands, products, and services.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option, to help you make the best decision for your business.

In this article:

Freelance or employed? Pros & cons of employed translators

In companies operating internationally, in-house teams – developers, designers, customer support, etc. – look after various aspects of the business, ensuring that the company runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis. So, it’s only natural that some businesses would want to do the same with their translation needs and set up a translation function within the company.

In the freelance-or-employed debate, there are some definite advantages to having an in-house translator on your team. Let’s analyse a few of them:

Pro #1: An employed translator is always on hand

When you have an in-house translator, they’re always on hand to answer any queries you may have or to provide a quick turnaround on urgent projects. This can be a real lifesaver when you need a translation urgently and don’t have time to wait for a freelancer to get back to you.

Pro #2: An employed translator has a deep understanding of your brand

An in-house translator will quickly get to know your business, your values, and your target audience. This deep understanding of your brand will ensure that they always produce translations that are on-brand and in line with your tone of voice without the need for constant supervision.

Pro #3: An employed translator can build strong relationships with other teams

The more time an in-house translator spends in the office, the more they’ll get to know other team members and build strong working relationships with them. This is especially useful if you have a large or complex project that requires input from multiple teams. Having a translator who already has good relations with other departments will make coordination much easier.

Pro #4: Potential cost savings

If you need your translator to complete a lot of work for you, then hiring an in-house translator can actually be more cost-effective in the long run than working with a freelancer. This is because you’ll have to pay them a fixed salary – plus any additional benefits like health insurance – rather than paying them per hour, per word, or per project.

On the flip side, there are also some disadvantages to working with an in-house translator. Here are a few things to consider:

Con #1: Less innovation

When someone is employed by a company, they’re not always as incentivised to be innovative as they would be if they were working for themselves. In-house translators might not be receptive to new technologies, like CAT tools that could help them work more efficiently, for example – after all, why would they want to change the way they work if they can just coast along and still get paid the same salary?

Con #2: More expensive in the short term

Depending on the size of your company and the amount of translation work you need, it can actually be more expensive to hire an in-house translator than to use a freelancer. This is because you’ll need to pay them a salary regardless of how little work they do for you in a given month, and the first few months will likely be quite slow as they get up to speed with your business.

Con #3: Less flexibility and availability

If you have an in-house translator, they’re likely to work set hours in the office (or remotely) like everyone else. This means that if you have an urgent or extremely large project that needs to be completed outside of normal working hours, you may need to look elsewhere for help – which can actually be more time-consuming and disruptive than just working with a freelancer or a team of freelancers from the start.

Con #4: Potential quality issues

When companies hire in-house translators, they usually seek someone with solid linguistic skills and relevant industry qualifications. However, it’s not always easy to find someone with both of these things, and you may end up with a translator who’s not as good as you hoped. This lack of industry-specific knowledge can lead to inaccurate translations that don’t reflect well on your brand – with all the associated consequences.

Relacionado: The 7 Most Important Skills that Translators Need

Freelance or employed? Pros & cons of working with a freelance translator

Now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of working with an in-house translator, let’s take a look at the same things from the perspective of working with a freelance translator. You won’t be surprised to learn that there are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach, too. Here’s what you need to know:

Pro #1: No need to worry about the work environment

While freelancers likely won’t build the same relationships with other teams that an in-house translator would, they also don’t need to worry about the office environment – which can be a big plus. There’s no need for you to foster a positive work environment to ensure satisfactory performance from your freelance translator.

Pro #2: More affordable in the long run

It can actually be more affordable to work with a freelance translator than an in-house translator if you only need translation services on an as-needed basis. This is because you won’t need to pay them a salary when there’s no work for them to do, and you can use them for as long or as little as you need without any long-term commitment.

Pro #3: Increased flexibility

One of the biggest advantages of working with a freelance translator is the increased flexibility they can offer. Because they’re not tied to set office hours, they can often accommodate urgent deadlines and requests for last-minute translations – albeit for an increased fee – which can be a lifesaver when you need it most.

Pro #4: Potentially higher quality

While there are always exceptions to the rule, freelance translators generally work in a niche or microniche – which means they have extensive experience and knowledge in a specific industry or field. This can lead to higher quality translations, as they can draw on their first-hand knowledge to produce more accurate results.

Pro #5: Time savings

Hiring freelancers can double the hours of your business: You can have several freelancers in different time zones working on the same project at the same time. This way, you have people working around the clock even if you’re not, which can be a huge time-saver.

Just like it happens with in-house translators, working with freelancers also has a few disadvantages that are important to keep in mind. Here’s what you need to be aware of:

Just like it happens with in-house translators, working with freelancers also has a few disadvantages that are important to keep in mind. Here’s what you need to be aware of:

Con #1: More management required

While you may not need to manage your freelance translator’s work environment, you will need to manage their work more closely. This is because they’re not on-site, and likely don’t have the same level of understanding of your company’s culture, values, and goals. Moreover, the lack of interaction with other departments may derive in poorer communication and a greater need for feedback and clarification.

Con #2: Difficult to build trust and establish long-term relationships

Because they’re not in-house, it can be more difficult to build trust and establish long-term relationships with freelance translators. It’s not impossible, but it may take time and effort as you get to know each other and learn to work together effectively.

Con #3: Higher fees for short turnaround times

While the increased flexibility of freelance translators can be a major advantage, it also comes at a cost. If you need a translation done urgently, you can expect to pay significantly more than you would for a standard turnaround time.

Con #4: May not be available when you need them

While freelancers may have more flexible schedules, they also may not be available when you need them – which can be frustrating if you have an urgent deadline. Because they may take on other projects or commitments that conflict with your timeline, sometimes the only solution is to find another translator who can accommodate your request. This, in turn, can lead to delays, inconsistencies, and frustration.

Con #5: Quality may vary

There is always the potential for quality to suffer if you don’t carefully vet them before hiring. While most freelancers are professionals who take their work seriously, there are always a few bad apples who cut corners or don’t have the skills or experience to produce high-quality results. When you don’t speak the language yourself, it can be difficult to know if the translation is accurate, so it’s always advisable to have someone in-house to act as a second pair of eyes.

Freelance or employed? A hybrid solution might be the answer

The ideal scenario is one in which you get the best of both worlds: the reliability and cost-effectiveness of an in-house translator, with the flexibility and quality of a freelance translator.

The good news is, this scenario is possible – and here at Crisol, we’ve perfected the formula. Our team of in-house translators, together with a network of carefully curated freelance translators, works together to provide our clients with the highest quality translations in the most efficient way possible.

We’re a boutique team – part-agency, part-freelancer – which means you can hire one of us as a freelancer or all of us as small agency. We get to know our clients and their specific needs so that we can provide the best possible solution. They choose who to work with, how much control they have, and how fast they want the job done. We act as an external translation department or as an extension of their in-house team, whichever they prefer.

If you’re not sure whether to hire a freelance translator or an in-house translator, we can help you weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for your needs. Get in touch today to find out more.

Maria Scheibengraf Crisol Translation Services SaaS Translation Services

Author: Maria Scheibengraf

Maria Scheibengraf is an English-to-Spanish marketing and SEO translator specialised in software (SaaS, martech, fintech), and Operations Manager at Crisol Translation Services, which she co-founded in 2016. With a solid background in programming and marketing, Maria has an in-depth understanding of the technical intricacies involved in software programs, websites, and digital platforms. Maria is also the author of The SEO Translation Bible.

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