Translation platforms Part 3 – What’s best for you?

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In this blog series, we’re exploring translation platforms. You may be unsure as to whether it’s worth investing the time and resources into setting up your own translation project via a platform. Or maybe you’re intrigued to know what a traditional translation agency can offer you instead? Here, we’ll guide you through the seven steps of managing a translation project on your own and with an agency.

If you want a reminder of what self-service translation platforms are, check out part 1  and if you’d like examples of what’s on the market, we covered a selection in part 2.

1. Project timings

Most translation platforms allow you to enter deadlines using simple online calendars. This method works fine for straightforward projects. However, business is rarely that simple: what if you’ve got several file sets, multiple process requirements, and a range of different turnaround priorities? When you’re not used to it, managing complex timings under pressure can be extremely stressful.

With an agency, however, you can discuss your timing requirements and they’ll arrange all the project deadlines for you and to suit you. What’s more, if you have extremely tight deadlines, having a dedicated project management team plan your translation for you can save you a great deal of time and hassle.

2. Assigning translators

The platforms will give you ultimate control in choosing all the translators and proofreaders you need. This means they’re answerable directly to you and there are no extra links in the chain.

However, it also means you’re on your own if things don’t go according to plan. Additionally, if you’ve never managed a translation project before, knowing who to select can be overwhelming.

Agencies, on the other hand, have a huge pool of suppliers they know and trust, meaning they can select the best team for your project.

3. Managing the project

Platforms enable you to have direct contact with translators to answer their queries and issue precise instructions. Sometimes, however, answering numerous queries or issuing directions throughout a project can be very time-consuming.

To circumvent this, agencies often put measures in place in advance to ensure the project proceeds smoothly such as reference material and guidelines, so translators have fewer questions and your instructions are clear from the start. If there are questions, responsible project managers will filter them in a way that makes the process simple and time-efficient for you.

4. Machine translation

One of the fundamentals of online self-service translation platforms is their integrated machine translation (MT) functions.

Agencies also often offer MT and will vet the translation software they use for suitability, security and accuracy. They also offer several quality services such as post-editing (proofreading). In addition, an agency can advise you on when machine translation is necessary, and when it’s best avoided.

5. File formats and tech support

Platforms often support a wide variety of file formats and have flexible systems to fit with the software you’re working with. Similarly, many agencies, like AST, partner with prominent content management systems (CMS) and have dedicated IT staff to be able to deliver translations directly to your website – no matter the format.

6. Cost

Self-service platforms mostly operate on monthly or yearly payment plans, meaning they’re not optimum for short-term or sporadic projects. If you underestimate the length or complexity of a project, the months can add up and end up being unexpectedly expensive.

Translation agencies, however, will assess your needs and give you a cost estimate up-front, often giving you the option to choose from several different services at different prices. This means you can plan your budget more precisely for any kind of project.

7. Quality

If you were dissatisfied with the quality of your translation on a platform, you’d be responsible for sorting the issue with your translators direct. This can be stressful and uncertain for both parties and can potentially incur additional costs.

Agencies mediate these issues for you, have concrete, effective processes for tackling complaints in a way that produces the best result for you.

In the rare event that an unresolved quality issue causes severe repercussions for your business, agencies have professional indemnity insurance in place to protect you, with financial cover usually well in excess of £1 Million. Most self-service platforms don’t offer this as they waive liability from the outset. 

To sum up

As we’ve seen, both translation platforms and traditional agencies can cover similar needs and services. The primary difference is that platforms give you control and can be convenient, flexible resources whereas agencies do the work for you. Whichever route you choose depends largely on whether you want to put in most of the work yourself, or whether you want a dedicated agency team to take care of everything for you.

We hope our guides have helped you to decide what’s right for you but if you still have questions, we’d be happy to help. You can contact us here.