The best formula for translation companies: in-house translators or freelancers?
Thread poster: Natalia Conovca

Natalia Conovca  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:05
Member (2008)
English to Romanian
+ ...
Apr 6, 2007

Dear all,

We are having a big debate with our potential business parners, related to the organization of the translation process.
On the one hand, we prefer to work with in-house translators, as we can train and monitor them, thus keeping the quality under control.
On the other hand, they prefer to work only with freelancers in order to keep the costs as low as possible. One more issue, their pay the freelancers much lower than the average price per page on our market.

So, before deciding whether to associate with them and accept their conditions, I would like to know what are the best international practices in this respect. What is the best way to assure a high quality as a translation company: to develop a good in-house trasnaltion team, or to work mainly with freelancers.

Thank you,


Irene N
United States
Local time: 09:05
English to Russian
+ ...
The answer is very simple Apr 6, 2007

Can you afford an in-house team and all associated costs no matter what? You can't tell them - take a hike for a month or so until we get a project that can feed you and us both...

When you grow, have editors on staff for quality consistence and 1-2 in-house people for quick turnarounds. When you grow really big, like Gasprom, go for a skyscraper and not only translators but personal assistants:-) And have a decency to pay good rates to your freelancers if you care for good reputation of your business and your own culture and heritage at all:-)



Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Member (2002)
+ ...
Keep fix costs low Apr 6, 2007

Natalia Conovca wrote:

On the other hand, they prefer to work only with freelancers in order to keep the costs as low as possible.

That's the main point, Natalia. Especially in the initial stage of a business, and maybe later on as well, it's important to keep the fix costs as low as possible, i.e. rent for the office, costs for electricity and phone & internet etc, maybe your own salary and that's it. This will let you survive those periods of the year when you have less jobs.

Now, let's take the other situation of you really employ some in-house translators. First you will have to assure that they have a steady flow of job, or you will pay them for doing nothing than making your coffee five times a day. Secondly no translator can take all jobs, i.e. all decent translators get specialized after some years and can't take all kind of jobs. This would mean that you either have to restrict yourself to just taking certain jobs from certain clients, and turning down all others (because your in-house translators aren't qualified enough), or you will stay have to give some jobs to freelance translators (and at the same time those in-house translators have a dull time and nothing to do).

I don't want to say that having in-house translators is a bad idea, you just need to see the pros and cons and maybe wait until business has grown. However, finding translators who are keen on being employed and working 9 to 5 are hard to find, I'd say, so you might have to face quite some staff circulation.



Balttext  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:05
English to Latvian
+ ...
Mix of both Apr 8, 2007

In addition to what the colleagues have already correctly indicated, I just wanted to make it clear that different approaches can work quite well, ranging from "freelancers only" to "mainly in-house and some freelancers".
However, if you consider where to start with, I would suggest to stick to what was said by Erik - keep your fixed costs low. And only after some time when you are sure of a steady flow of jobs where you feel sure that a part (not all) could be done by an in-house translator, hire one after careful testing. Then in some time when you again have made sure that there is enough jobs for an additional in-house translator or more - add them to your staff.
Any approach has some advantages and disadvantages, and a lot will depend on the pool of translators you have selected, business tactics (high or low rates are not always decisive - sometimes it is the good relations that matter), and lots of other factors where no one can give you the right formula.

Wishing good luck,



Natalia Conovca  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:05
Member (2008)
English to Romanian
+ ...
Thank you Apr 9, 2007

Thanks a lot for your replies. Acctualy, when pleading for a strong in-house group, I was mainly thinking about the quality of translations, as in-house translators imporve their quality much quicker than freelancers. But, taking your advise to keep the fixed costs as low as possible, I've realized that it is better to have a mixed approach - both in-house and freelancers.

I hope I will finally find the best formulaicon_smile.gif



MariusV  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:05
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
it depends Apr 10, 2007

I think that the basic rule is the volume of work. There shall be a simple arithmetic calculation of what is the best financially - hire a team of translators sitting and working in the office, or hiring a free-lancer.

Well, if the volumes are big and permanent, say 50-80 pages per day per lamguage combination, maybe it is more reasinable to pay a fixed salary to an in-house translator(s). If volumes are small and/or episodical, maybe it is much better to hire a free-lancer.

As for quality, well, I do not think it has much direct relation if the translator sits in the office, or is hired as a freelancer. Free-lancers may come to the office from time to time to be trained (if, say, a project is specific and specific knowledge or skills needed). We have Internet nowadays, Internet messengers, Internet telephony, and office staff can be located at any place of the world actually.

What I would do - hire these people as freelancers (better more professional to avoid problems with quality) and, when the time passes, the "maths" tells that it is better to hire them as in-house, do it. I'd also prefer free-lancers because the cooperation scheme is more flexible - the parties are less independent from each other (I think people will prefer that instead of "boss-employee" relations).

As for the costs - do not put them down too much. Well, start of a business might not be so easy, but remember one thing - people need to have a motivation to work well, and to do their best. If they are underpaid, there will be no motivation. I think that if you make your clients happy even by working on a smaller profit margin, your clients return again, they recommend you to other clients, etc. and finally you will earn more like that instead of saving on the lowest rates to translators.


Elizabeth Joana
German to English
+ ...
Availability of freelancers Apr 21, 2007

I aslo agree with a ll the comments above, however, there is one more issue to be considered when you go for freelancers - their availability. If you have less volume, they are perferct, because they will save you the cost of maintaining in-house translators. But if you suddenly have an influx of translations and your freelancers are busy, then you can have a problem. Obviously, since the relationship is less formal, you can't expect freelancers to wait for your call rather than accept other jobs. And you can't guarantee them jobs regularly. So they don't rely on you and you can't rely on them as far as continuous availability.

One solution is to have a large database of freelancers, but then they will all expect you give them something from time to time. And it wouldb be difficult to train them all and preserve consistency of translations. It is a real vicious circle. If anyone found an efficient solution to that, let me know:)


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