How to find and hire a translator

A guide to finding and hiring freelance translators for your project. How to review translators for the best results for your translation project!

Hiring professional translators and getting your project translated into other languages is not an obvious task to the uninitiated.

Any business operating across language borders will eventually cross this bridge.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated if you bear a few key points in mind.

If we agree on the assumption that you want your text to be as effective in the foreign language as it is in your own, then we can focus on how to achieve that in the post below.

1. Go to where the translators are

Depending on the size of your project your options are:

  • Local or international freelancers (smaller projects or larger, self managed)
  • Local or international translation agencies
  • Online translation platforms

2. See the differences between the three options

The agencies and platforms tend to do the work of finding the translators on your behalf, but then mark up the work for their margins, also offering project management for multiple language projects.

Freelancers are typically quicker and easier to work with, at lower rates than agencies. Platforms may have lower rates still, but they really pressure their translators to work for fractions of the rates they usually charge. This means they often only end up with the most needy talent, ergo not the best quality. Far from it.

With freelancers you also have direct communication and so can resolve and amend issues faster. Agencies have single points of contact if lucky, but then still have to pass messages up and down a chain.

Agencies do say they will place jobs carefully, but in my experience you can easily be the only available person that day and end up with something not usually in your wheelhouse.

3. Focus on specialisms and experience

If you have the choice, opt for someone who has worked on your type of text before. Preferably lots of times, so they have had chance to develop familiarity with the vocabulary and industry. Perhaps they have also worked and trained in it (ideal for medical, engineering, scientific etc.).

Ideally you’d want a translator who has worked as such full time for over 3 years, as there is a bit of adjustment to make to the industry that a newer, fresher translator may not yet have done. But if their specialism is aligned with your subject, then that carries a lot of weight on its own, regardless of experience. Do still check the following, however.

4. Make sure they have been cross-checked by someone

By that I mean, make sure they are members of a national translation association. Someone to hold them accountable should multiple complaints be made. In the US you have the ATA, in the UK it’s the ITI and CIoL. There are 100s, sometimes a few in each country, so make sure to check this out closely.

If they are a member of an association, and have university level language or translation qualifications, they have already been tested to the Nth degree and do not require further testing from your team - you’re good to go if you’ve done the right checks.

5. Translation rates, prices, fees and payment

Finally you have an invoice to plan for. We have an article on how much a translation costs that might guide you on this, but typically you’ll be paying per word to translate, per language. Settlement can be in advance or within 7-14 days for freelancers, depending on your agreement and relationship.

Hopefully that clears up the process a little. I’m on hand to discuss any part of that process by phone or email, just use the contact details in the footer below or on the front page.

I also run a small translation agency and online translation platform so have experience a little across the board. This also means I can connect you with the right people if that would help - feel free to get in touch!

Thanks for reading. I do translation from French and Swedish to English, so if that's useful to you, feel free to connect and message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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