RE: Working with Free-lance Translators

Subject: RE: Working with Free-lance Translators
From: Andy Becraft <andy -at- trados -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 13:21:36 -0800

With apologies to those who may consider this slightly off-topic...

Rick Kirkham is looking for <snip>information on the *business* aspects of
hiring, working with, and paying free-lance translators (or one-person
translation "agencies").</snip>

>Where do you advertise for free-lance translators? How much detail should
>the ad contain?

First of all, why are you looking for freelancers rather than an actual
agency? Do you have the time to manage the day-to-day queries and
scheduling of six or more translators? What sort of quality control process
are you going to have in place? Are you going to hire an editor for each
language in addition to one or more translators (your later question shows
that you're at least thinking about this)? Who's going to perform the DTP on
all six languages?

If you don't want to find yourself being a localization project manager
instead of a technical writer, I would *seriously* consider finding one
agency to handle all of your translation-related tasks for all six languages
-- from translation itself to editing, DTP, QA, and project management. I
understand why many people are initially reticent to go with an agency,
citing reasons like, "Freelancers charge a lot less per word than agencies
do..." and "We can do the DTP and QA in-house." In general, the per-word
cost of translation through an agency includes editing and QA as well as
translation. Also, a localization project manager would usually be assigned
to your project, handling all of the queries and scheduling centrally for
you. From a business case perspective, your company will probably find that
a good agency will save you money in the long run.

That said, there are several places online where you can find freelance
translators (and editors):

* TranslationZone.com (a site maintained by the company I work for, TRADOS)
* ProZ.com
* Aquarius.net
* Exp.com (not a translation-specific site)
* Guru.com (not a translation-specific site)

Several of the sites I listed above allow you to create translation projects
online, and then translators simply bid on the project. The minimum
information you need before posting a translation project will be the
languages into which you want the document translated, the word count for
each document, the general schedule for submitting a bid and for returning
the translation, and the format in which you want the documents returned
(sounds like a "Duh!" statement, but you'd be surprised how many translators
wouldn't necessarily return the document in its original file format).

>How do they bid?

If you use one of the sites that allows you to create translation projects
online, the translators would submit their bids on the site, and the site
would automatically notify you when a bid was submitted. You'd then log on
to the site and pick one of the bids. If you don't use one of these
"marketplace" sites, the translators could simply submit bids to you via
e-mail. Localization or translation agencies (and many freelancers as well)
usually have a standard form they use to send bids to potential clients.

>Will the translators need any material from me in order to formulate a bid?


Yes. Your source files are a good start, but you may want to give them
additional reference material such as special instructions, a
language-specific style guide or glossary, translation memories from
previous projects, and other resources and reference material.

>Are translator's bids made in terms of hours-worked, or words-translated,
or
>some third method?

Translation bids are generally in terms of the number of *source* words
translated.

>Is there a written contract, and if so how detailed is it? Should it
specify
>everything I will send to them (e.g. current English text, translation of
>previous version of text, translation memory, if any, etc.) Should it
>specify all deliverables from the translator? Should it specify an absolute
>due date?

Contracts are never a bad idea. They ensure that the translator does his or
her best to deliver on time, and holds them liable for any gross mistakes
they make during the translation process (in other words they must perform
any necessary rework -- for free -- that is due to their mistakes or
negligence). If you're working with a professional translator or agency, the
bid or quote they send you can often serve as the contract. The contract
would usually specify -- at the very least -- the agreed-upon costs (with a
caveat that additional work will be charged separately), broken out by file,
language, translation memory match types, and so on; the exact deliverables,
including translation memories and PDFs; and a general schedule (again, with
a caveat that the schedule could change due to unforeseen circumstances).

>Will I know the exact, final cost when the translator starts work, or will
I
>have only an estimate until the job is complete?

A contract will ensure that you're not completely blind-sided at the end of
the project. However, the actual final cost is often not exactly the same
as what you were initially quoted.

>Will the translator send an invoice? (What is an invoice, anyway? Just a
>fancy word for "bill"? See I told you I know nothing about business!)

Yes, the invoice is a bill, and the translator *should* send you an invoice
when he or she completes the translation. Each of the costs identified in
the invoice should have been previously documented, either in the original
approved bid/quote/contract or in a "change order" issued and approved
during the course of the project. Nothing in the invoice should come as a
surprise.

>How is the translator's work double-checked? Should I plan on hiring a
>second translator in each language to proof read?

As I said above, when you work with an agency the cost of editing,
proofreading, and QA are usually covered by the per-word rate. When you're
working with an individual translator, you may be saving a nickel per word
on translation, but then you'd need to hire an editor for a nickel per word
in order to ensure consistency and quality. Would you ever deliver on-line
help or user guides in English that hadn't been proofed by a third party and
verified for accuracy? :)

Feel free to contact me off-list if you have any more questions about the
business side of translation or localization.

Good luck, and best regards,

Andrew Becraft
Documentation and Localization Manager
Internet Business Unit
TRADOS Seattle
505 5th Ave South, Suite 350
Seattle, WA 98104 USA
Phone: 206.438.5238
Fax: 206.438.5239
E-mail: andy -at- trados -dot- com

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