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Switching from LSP to freelance work
Thread poster: Momox2017
Momox2017
United Kingdom
Apr 16

Hi all,

I am working in a small IT company which has been using an translation agency to get its software and content translated from English into 11 other languages. Due to cost, we would like to try working with freelancers (instead of the LSP) in a few markets, to see the effect this could have on cost, as well as on quality.

Has anyone of you experienced or orchestrated the switch from LSP to freelancers in an organisation? My main concerns are:

1) Will the LSP be able to provide us with a legacy translation memory, so we don't have to start building our own from scratch - this would help any new freelancers we might try collaborating with. If not, how would you tackle this? (Although of course the legacy TM might be different to what is actually on the site now, as the content may have been changed internally after translation delivery)

2) We do not have a TMS or CAT tools in place - as this is a pioneer project for us, we aren't sure whether an investment in these fields will be feasible, if for example we decide after 6 months that we will NOT go the freelance route and go back to the LSP. Are there any translation memory tools that might integrate with the company's self built translation tool? Or are they always part of a CAT tool?

3) As we currently do not have a TMS or CAT tool in place, I am worried about consistency and not being able to leverage if we try the in-house freelance option without a TMS or CAT tool. As I said, we arent sure whether or not we will use freelancers (instead of an LSP) in the long run, but do you think not using a CAT tool for, say, 6 months, could be justifiable at all - and then we evaluate again in 6 months? Or do you think this could be very damaging on quality? What other factors would I need to consider here, e.g. output numbers?

Have you experienced such a transition and what other concerns would you have in a similar situation?

Still a newbie in this field, so just learning

Thanks in advance,
Laura

[Edited at 2017-04-16 13:42 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-04-16 17:15 GMT]


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Evelina Kravina
Austria
Local time: 19:20
German to Italian
+ ...
Your question "Switching from LSP to freelance work" Apr 16

Hi Laura!
I am a brand new proz.com member (although a translator with a very long experience - but I have been working mainly as a teacher now for 5 years, thus having very little time to dedicate to my favourite activity, translation ...)
Now I decided to start it again much more intensively (just a very fresh idea of these days ..) , that's why I registered on the Platform yesterday. I am just AMAZED to see how exciting the proz.com world is and I am enthusiastic to be a member hereof.

So I am sorry but I really am not able to answer your question (yet...), maybe shortly as soon as I will get acquainted and up-to-date again with all innovations related to cat tools / TM tools etc. etc.
But I have to ask your first what do you mean with "LSP"?

By the way, my profile is: http://www.proz.com/profile/2353054 (I still have to integrate it a lot, so it's just basic now...

Let me know - I am in touch with some PRO proz.com members who should be able to give you the best tip.

Best regards from Austria,
Evelina


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Nina Esser
Germany
Local time: 19:20
Member (Jul 2017)
English to German
Some considerations Apr 17

Hi Laura,

I haven't been involved in a similar transition yet, but having worked as PM for almost 8 years, I thought I could share my two cents

1.) As far as I know, the TM content is yours - if you want the LSP to send you an export, they cannot object. Not sure though if they can ask for a fee to have it exported...

2.)/3.) I think your questions two and three are closely related, so I'm answering them together: Whether or not it is necessary for you to have your own CAT tool, largely depends on how many translators you are planning to use per language. If you are only going to use one translator (or one translator and one proofreader) per language, I would not invest in a CAT tool just now. You could ask the freelancers to send you a TM export (probably best in the TM exchange format tmx) at the end of each month or so. Even if you cannot do much with that without a CAT tool, you can at least forward it to the LSP if you decide to go back to them. Be aware, though, that the LSP might not be too thrilled to import translations into their TM from translators they don't know...
If you are going to use several translators per language, e.g. because of large volumes or crazy deadlines, I would be wary NOT to use a centralised CAT tool. However, you say you have already built your own tool anyway. What exactly does it do? What was it developed for? If it's good (and provided it's possible from a technical point of view), freelancers might be happy to use it.

Last but not least, you said you want to switch to freelancers to save costs. May I ask how much (in percent) you are hoping to save? Just wondering if it'll be worth-while as you'll have to pay someone in-house to do the project management and, as you've already pointed out yourself, might have to invest in a CAT tool too. Depending on your requirements (volumes, deadlines, file formats, etc.) the project management might be rather time-consuming. I would also think that at the beginning you'll have to sift through a multitude of applications and, if you want to do it right, have the applicants tested to see if your regional teams like their style, etc...
There are freelancers who coordinate multi-lingual teams, so basically do what the LSP does for you at the moment too. However, I suppose there's not as much overhead for them, so this might actually be less expensive for you (and save you the necessity to build translation-specific expertise in-house).


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Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 03:20
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Depends on your agreement with LSP Apr 17

Hi Laura,

You can try to ask LSP for their TM, a lot of clients do. If worse comes to worse, you can always invest into a CAT-tool (if your own one does not support the alignment) and then do the alignment of your source and target documents and build your own TMs.

As for the company's self-built CAT-tool, I am afraid, you will need to check it. All major CAT-tools today offer TM files which can be used by another CAT-tool but I am not sure about the self-built ones.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:20
Member
English to French
Cutting costs? Apr 17

It would be interesting to read an end customer experience about this and hear how it panned out, but I'm afraid it's not the kind of thing to talk about in a public forum.

My view as a translator working almost exclusively with translation agencies:

- Given that you will handle the agency's work, you will likely have to dedicate in-house resources to this end, only with less experience and more mishaps, waste and costs. And it will mean setting up frameworks, workflows and tools to do the job.

- Quality control, editing and handling translator queries, egos, communication, screening and all that stuff that agencies do also have a price.

- Many translators charge end customers more money than they charge agencies', because they include services (hand-holding) that agencies don't need. More dead wood=higher fees.

Bypassing the wholesaler to go directly to each manufacturer can save money for commodities, but translation is not a commodity.

Philippe


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Momox2017
United Kingdom
TOPIC STARTER
Clarifications on your questions Apr 17

Hi everyone,

Thanks for your contributions! I will answer them below.

Nina

"If you are only going to use one translator (or one translator and one proofreader) per language, I would not invest in a CAT tool just now. You could ask the freelancers to send you a TM export (probably best in the TM exchange format tmx) at the end of each month or so. Even if you cannot do much with that without a CAT tool, you can at least forward it to the LSP if you decide to go back to them."

--> 1) That's a really good idea and one that I was thinking of. I can see one potential problem here - once we receive the translations back and import it into our CMS, we might make linguistic changes to it directly in our CMS (as we have no CAT tool), so it wouldn't be reflected in the translator's translation memory. This would then mean that the freelancer would have an outdated version of the translation, which was stored in their system before we made our updates.

--> 2) Alternatively, we could send the translation to an external proofreader, but the proofreader's and translator's translation memory wouldn't be synchronised. Or do you know of a solution where the Translation Memory can live on a centralised server? I suppose in order for us to have that, we would need a CAT tool after all, is that correct?

--> 3) We currently have the same problem with the LSP - the LSP's translation memory does not necessarily correspond to what we end up using in our software. Have you ever worked with companies that might change the translation in-house, in a CMS, so that the LSP's translation memory stays un-updated? What could be a way to tackle this - is the only way to invest in ouw own CAT tool, so we can change the translation, and thereby the TM?

"If you are going to use several translators per language, e.g. because of large volumes or crazy deadlines, I would be wary NOT to use a centralised CAT tool. However, you say you have already built your own tool anyway. What exactly does it do? What was it developed for? If it's good (and provided it's possible from a technical point of view), freelancers might be happy to use it."


--> Our current tool is more of a CMS, where web strings are stored - it can give you a preview of how strings will appear in context in the software and it can save translations, however, it does not have a translation memory or other advantages, such as glossary management, which a CAT tool could offer. But this is one of the reasons we are thinking of freelancers - we could have some of them come into the office and explain to them exactly how our tool works (it's not super straightforward and there are usually usage problems that the LSP reports to us). It would likely be a gradual change, not a 180 degree turnaround.

"Last but not least, you said you want to switch to freelancers to save costs. May I ask how much (in percent) you are hoping to save?"


--> We are currently looking into this topic, and perhaps another agency would do, but the one we currently employ is charging almost 0.25€ per source word across all languages. Plus, so far, the developers have been interacting with the agency, which has resulted in a lot of miscommunication because they do often not understand what it is that a translator needs in order to deliver a great job (for example guidelines, context, layout, documentation). So we basically pay double this amount per word because we have to send back almost all our translations for editing, and pay again.

"Just wondering if it'll be worth-while as you'll have to pay someone in-house to do the project management and, as you've already pointed out yourself, might have to invest in a CAT tool too."


--> The company will invest in hiring a dedicated project manager shortly to deal with this field, as the current situation (developers dealing with LSP) is no longer feasible for us. I just wanted to get your expert opinions on the matter because I will most likely be involved in the entire process to begin with.

"There are freelancers who coordinate multi-lingual teams, so basically do what the LSP does for you at the moment too. However, I suppose there's not as much overhead for them, so this might actually be less expensive for you."


--> How can I find these (in our case specifically dealing with IT translations) and do they usually have references from other clients?


Philippe

My view as a translator working almost exclusively with translation agencies: Given that you will handle the agency's work, you will likely have to dedicate in-house resources to this end, only with less experience and more mishaps, waste and costs. And it will mean setting up frameworks, workflows and tools to do the job.


--> Currently, it is the developers dealing with the LSPs, and it is not working out as they view their work from a completely different perspective. We basically pay for the same work multiple times because the initial request from a non-localisation person was faulty. So the company will soon hire a project manager dedicated to the field of translation, handling all translation requests across the company. May I ask if you know how other companies do this? It seems unreasonable not to have a dedicated project manager in-house, and instead have each and every person who needs a translation, get in touch with the LSP themselves. Would be quite interested to discuss this.

Evelina: Welcome LSP stands for Language Service Provider.

Vanda: Really great thoughts, thank you!

Thanks everyone, I'm really happy to be able to discuss this with some real experts in the field!

Laura

[Edited at 2017-04-17 12:26 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:20
Member (2008)
French to English
Outsourced vs in-house LSP Apr 17

The rate you are being charged from your current LSP of 0.25€ per source word, considering you are getting the services of multilingual translation, proofreading and editing, project management, terminology management, and all the other things that a LSP is responsible for, doesn't appear to me to be unreasonable. I'm pretty sure that if you deal directly with translators and proofreaders, assuming yourself all the responsibilities of an LSP, at the end of the day you will be paying about the same or more.

One of my direct clients is a very large multinational corporation. While I am dealing directly with them as a translator, I work with their in-house LSP, a large department that is virtually the same as an independent LSP. I work with a Project Manager, who is part of the Language Project Management office. My point is that even when taking these functions in-house, they still have to be done and there is still a cost involved.

You state that you are a "small IT company". Language services are only peripherally related to the work of an IT company. I might suggest the savings you foresee might not in reality be there.

So the company will soon hire a project manager dedicated to the field of translation, handling all translation requests across the company.


This may improve the quality of the translations but it may not save on direct costs. Be aware that a LSP Project Manager is not the same as a Project Manager for other fields, such as construction, who use Gantt and Pert charts, etc., concepts somewhat foreign to LSP's work.

[Edited at 2017-04-17 14:49 GMT]


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Nina Esser
Germany
Local time: 19:20
Member (Jul 2017)
English to German
Further considerations Apr 17

Hi Laura,

From your explanations, I suspect that any agency and any freelancer will have to charge higher rates because of the additional work involved. I think in your case the best solution would be to invest in a solution that either lets you plug a CAT tool into your CMS or lets you export and import the content for translation. If you work with an LSP they might be able to help you with that, so that you only pay for having a solution developed, but don't have to buy a CAT tool. (This might of course 'chain' you to that LSP.)

If translator and proofreader use the same translation tool, the translator can export a bilingual file for the proofreader to import at their end. Then the proofreader would have the up-to-date TM that they can share with you.
If translator and proofreader don't use the same tool, or if you want to do the revision in-house, most CAT tools can export translations in a bilingual Word format. Proofreaders can enter their changes in these files and the translator can import them back into their tool. I can see two potential problems with this approach, though:
1.) Your in-house revisers might actually prefer to make their changes in the CMS as they can see the context/layout.
2.) Translators might not like a proofreader's changes and the PM loses a lot of time while arguments go back and forth.

I can think of two ways to look for freelance translators: Either post a job (for a long-term relationship of course, not every time you need something translated) here on ProZ, or on the websites of translation associations in the relevant target countries (e.g. BDÜ in Germany, sft in France, etc.). Each platforms has it drawbacks of course. I reckon that through ProZ you will receive more applications, and less expensive ones too, but also more applications from translators that are not really suited for your specific requirements. National translator associations tend to charge for posting job ads (at least the BDÜ does) and I suspect that translators applying through these platforms on average charge more.
In any case you should specify exactly what you're looking for (IT experience, probably native speakers? Etc.). You can also ask translators to include reference letters in their application, although it's sometimes hard for freelancers to get reference letters from some clients.

I know various SMEs where all translation requests are channeled through the marketing team. They don't necessarily know anything about translation, but are just the poor souls the job has been in inflicted upon


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Nina Esser
Germany
Local time: 19:20
Member (Jul 2017)
English to German
Small addition Apr 17

Just to say that I agree with John. I just got the impression that the decision of hiring a dedicated PM has already been made. If not, I would not recommend hiring someone...

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Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 03:20
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
You may consider editors anyway Apr 18

Momox2017 wrote:

So we basically pay double this amount per word because we have to send back almost all our translations for editing, and pay again.

--> How can I find these (in our case specifically dealing with IT translations) and do they usually have references from other clients?



You may consider hiring a pair, translator and editor, for each target language to ensure the quality from the beginning and avoid time loss. TMs and clear guidelines (a good PM should be able to do it) should help.

As for the project coordinators, you can post a job here. From my experience as a project manager and project coordinator, I do not think it is necessary for them to specialise in IT translations (although it is a plus when they know the terminology, industry requirements and specifics) because they can't check 11 languages but a solid experience in managing multilingual teams is certainly essential.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:20
Member
English to French
Getting it right first time Apr 18

Despite the amount of private messages from agencies/freelancers claiming to do it better, cheaper and quicker that you must have received by now, I also agree the base rate doesn't sound excessive.
From what you're disclosing, it's getting expensive because of internal flaws in your cooperation with the LSP. Before addressing external causes, I'd see what I can do to improve that aspect.

Streamlining the interface between your organisation and the LSP will likely decrease costs substantially.
To this end, I believe a CAT tool is essential to maintain some kind of repository, even a one-seat license or eligible freeware to start with, in order to validate operations from CMS back to CMS while incorporating translation updates.
And someone who knows a bit about how translation is performed to coach IT and standardise relations with the LSP.
Rank content depending on translation quality required (internal, marketing, social, printed, UI, UA,...) and budgets you're prepared to invest.
If quality doesn't improve in the process, then the LSP might be to blame.

Anyway, unless you trust me to come up with brilliant ideas about your actual situation and implement them beautifully in EN>FR, I wouldn't go the freelancer route before I had a serious look at my currently inefficient way of working. There seems to be a lot of waste there, and waste is bad for the planet.

As I've just become a self-proclaimed "consultant", with millions of IT words and thousands of IT translation jobs, and knowing that knowledge is power, I think I've done enough baiting.
I can now charge silly amounts of money even to state the obvious in a shiny report.

Philippe


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 19:20
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Use a standard CAT tool Apr 18

From a translator's point of view, a CAT tool is not just a CAT tool. Some translators can use several, but many are not happy with more than one or two. It really is distracting to struggle with the mechanics of a CAT while trying to translate. Personally, I use Trados Studio and insist on my CAT tool or no CAT tool, but I am not very technically minded, and IT specialists may be more flexible that way. However, if you use one of the standard CATS, it will be easier to find translators who are happy to use the same one, or who can deliver in compatible formats. Otherwise you have to work with the translators who will use your tool, and you may exclude some of the best, who can pick and choose who they work for!

Quite apart from that, I would expect it to be most cost-effective to have an agreement with one of the major CAT tool developers and let them sort out the inevitable issues...

I work closely with my favourite agencies (LSP clients), and some are much more attentive to their clients that others. They all claim to tailor their services to your needs, but some actually do so, while others, I suspect, offer a range of standard packages you can choose from, but don't go far beyond that.

If you are not happy with your current LSP, it might be an idea to look for another, instead of starting up your own in effect. You need one that is 'big enough to cope, but small enough to care' - once they reach a certain size, bigger is not necessarily better.

Small and medium-sized agencies often specialise in a limited range of subject areas - IT, a branch of engineering, medical or law or whatever, and REALLY provide excellent service in their chosen field. They know how to deal with problems in your field - they are more experts than generalists. The PMs are better trained and often really knowledgeable about the subject and the language, which is an enormous advantage.
These agencies are typically based outside city centres, in locations with lower overhead costs for offices and other items that are not relevant to translation, so they can keep fees competitive, and you get value for money. If you need translation is a field they do not normally handle, they often have a network of agencies who can reliably provide the extra service.

Just a few more thoughts.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:20
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Going alone... Apr 18

With the right set-up, you should be able to accomplish a fairly smooth transition. The learning curve will be rather big at the beginning, though.
First step would be to employ a project manager who knows the field and is experienced. Secondly, I would invest in a CAT tool. There are many online which don't require a massive initial investment. After this, you will need to start your recruitment. I would discard the idea of "fishing" here on ProZ or posting every single job. Although there are many professionals here, you will receive hundreds of applications and this will be very time-consuming. Most will be useless.

My advice would be to use the professional organisations in the UK, namely ITI and CIoL. You can pick 3 (native) translators for each language combination (use the directories) and test them with a short paid test. Remember that these translators have already been vetted and should offer a fairly high degree of knowledge and professionalism already. Obviously, like any field, some will be better than others. Pick 2 translators in each language combination and stick with them, monitoring their performance. It's important you have a stable team you can rely on. You want people who are responsive and helpful and can solve problems, if necessary. Fast and punctual communication is also essential. I know colleagues that disappear for days or answer to an e-mail after 6 hours... finally, be suspicious of people who charge very little. This is not sustainable in the long run if you work in a professional capacity. Professional translators will charge high rates because they need to invest in their profession, technology, developing their knowledge, training, etc.

I hope you'll find this helpful. Good luck!

[Edited at 2017-04-18 12:11 GMT]


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Andrejs Gorbunovs  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 20:20
Member (2013)
English to Latvian
+ ...
A team of freelancers Apr 18

I am providing several of my clients with translation services in my native language + 4 other languages, however, I am a freelance translator (I am doing everything on my own).

I have created a list for each of the clients mentioned above, which contains several translators (depends on quantities/language pairs).
The first thing to do is to tell all the translators that they are on a team, this way you can reduce time spent for sending indvidual e-mails, while still remaining professional (each translator/proofreader knows that he/she is the only expert on the list for the appropriate language).

The second thing is a back-up list, which contains translators/proofreaders, who are skilled enough to provide their services, but are unable to work as full-time team members due to personal aspects, however, they do not mind to take some work from time to time if any of the team members is unavailable.

This approach has allowed me to ensure a reasonable workflow and turnover times for all interested parties.

And, my main advice for working with freelancers is to provide reasonable deadlines. Plan the translation work in advance to ensure that there will be plenty of time for the desired volume. The agencies often promise very short turnaround times since this way they wish to stand-out among the competition, while often failing to ensure quality.
Happy [qualified] translators means high quality translations

[Edited at 2017-04-18 12:22 GMT]


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:20
Member (2004)
English to Italian
right... Apr 18

Andrejs Gorbunovs wrote:

And, my main advice for working with freelancers is to provide reasonable deadlines. Plan the translation work in advance to ensure that there will be plenty of time for the desired volume. The agencies often promise very short turnaround times since this way they wish to stand-out among the competition, while often failing to ensure quality.
Happy [qualified] translators means high quality translations


Forgot to mention this... you are 100% correct. One of the big pitfalls of translation is tight deadlines. A professional translator needs plenty of time to apply his/her skills... it's not a mechanical job, it's creative. Tight deadlines and low rates are the bane of our industry. If you charge low rates, you need to work very fast in order to achieve a decent income. Little time means fast rate of work, which in turn translates into poor quality.


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