How to Hire the Best Translation Services

So you’re ready to hire a translation service. Should you go with an agency or a freelancer? How do you find the right service? We answer these questions and more so you can hire the best translation services for your needs.


The old way of delivering translation services is broken.

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A typical business model for language translation agencies doesn’t work for clients. It adds cost, human process, and a lack of visibility and transparency.

Today’s models fit neatly into existing content and web development processes—with more context, human-to-human interaction, and centralized workflows that deliver translations that aren’t just technically correct but also localized to connect with a global audience on a local level.

But hiring professional language translation services can be challenging. Finding the best translation service for you means you’ll need to reflect on your business, content and web needs, and localization strategy.

The Top 5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Translation Service

Translation is more than just words. If you’re thinking of hiring a translation service or are just getting started with localization, here are the top five questions you might be asking yourself.

1. Why hire certified translation services?

It wasn’t that long ago that the only businesses that needed translators were global and multilingual companies. Think big brands like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, or Apple. These companies were already big and international enough to justify multilingual content.

That’s no longer the case. Less than a third of the nearly 4 billion people on the Internet speak English as their native language, even in English-speaking countries. On average, it takes 52 languages to reach 99% of Internet users. If you want to expand your reach and grow your business, you’ll need to consider the members of your target audience that speak Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Arabic, Portuguese, Swedish...the list goes on.

Every company can be a global company—but to be a successful global company, you have to replicate that same brand equity, buyer trust, and customer care as your native language. Companies have to feel local and personalized to compete.

The first step? Speaking the language.

That’s why translation services and human translators are in huge demand today. The industry is projected to reach $56.18 billion in 2021, with $9.72 billion in growth between 2020 and 2024. The American Translator’s Association (ATA) alone boasts 9,500 members in more than 100 countries.

Now, every company can be a global company.

2. What are the types of translation services?

At a minimum, translation services partners should support the languages most important to your business. After that, though, there’s a wide range of services you may need or want based on your localization goals.

The three most important types of translation services are:

  1. Professional translation: Changing one language to another for a piece of content, done through human translation. This should be provided by native language specialists who you actually know and with whom you can communicate regularly.
  2. Transcreation: Unlike translation, which focuses on word-for-word swaps into different languages, transcreation is the process of translating the meaning, style, and tone of your content. The final product is effectively written in the desired language with the source language as a guide.
  3. Post-editing: Post-editing uses a mix of human and AI-based machine translation. The text may run through machine translation first, and then it’s edited by a human to ensure accurate translations and the right tone and voice. This gives you the ability to create high-quality translations quickly at a lower cost.

Other services depend on your goals and what type of content you’re predominantly translating. You may want to look at specialized translation, transcription and subtitling, voiceover, international SEO management, desktop publishing, linguistic assets development, and quality assurance.

Your needs will likely grow and change as you expand into new markets, so it’s important to find a translation partner that can grow and change with you.

3. Should I use a freelancer or an agency for document translation?

The answer, like most things, depends on you.

Freelance professional translators or linguists are often native speakers that can offer specialized experience in a specific language, becoming an extension of your team with fast turnarounds. Working directly with freelance translators is a good strategy for certain types of projects or one or two languages, and many freelancers can recommend reviewers for proofreading and quality assurance.

However, when projects are more complex (involving multiple languages, content types, or file formats), an agency is often a better solution. Translation agencies can take care of many moving parts for you—managing projects, juggling multiple languages, editing and providing quality assurance, and offering several different types of services all at once. All you have to think about is creating great content or web pages in your native language. They’ll do the rest.

That’s exactly why we hire top-notch freelance translators to work with us at Smartling, so our customers get the best of both worlds. Meet them here.

4. What’s the average rate for translation services?

Consider translation an investment in the performance of your product and your content.

When given a choice between similar products, 75% of the population will choose whichever one provides them with information in their native language. When you add to that the fact that 40% of businesses don’t use localization, it becomes clear that using translation services immediately sets you apart from the competition.

According to the ATA, the minimum rate for translation should be 12 cents a word. But pricing depends on experience level, services offered, and project scope—the more complex or high quality you want your translations to be, the more they will cost. Here at Smartling, we offer a variety of plans based on what our customers need. See our pricing here.

5. What do I need to get started with translation services?

Before hiring a translation company, you’ll need to consider:

  • Target languages: Which language pairs do you need, and how does that tie into your expansion strategy?
  • Pricing, currency, and payment: Is your organization ready for multilingual content? You’ll need to support your global buyers throughout the entire journey. Before you start, ensure you have a clear pricing strategy in global currencies and have the right payment systems to support other currencies or payment types.
  • Brand, tone, and voice: How will you adapt your brand to other markets, if at all? You may find that some aspects of your voice don’t resonate when translated into other languages.
  • Content types: Translation services can cover any kind of content, but they do have different considerations. Understand whether the bulk of your translation needs are in web pages, eBooks, blog posts, e-learning, video or podcasts, or images, as that requires different skill sets.
  • Privacy and security: If your business is in a more regulated industry, you may need an extra layer of protection. Government agencies, legal documents, medical translations, and dealing with sensitive information may require specialization.
  • Workflow: How do you currently create content or ship new software? Your translation services will need to fit into that workflow for projects to stay on time. Think about the number of reviewers, your software development model, turnaround times, and your overall content production schedule to make sure you find the right service for you.

How do I find the right professional translation services?

You’ve already found it. You share the goals, and we provide a plan. From transcreation to machine translation, Smartling strikes the right balance between speed, quality, and cost so your translation experience feels effortless. With experience in 50 business verticals and over 150 languages, you can count on Smartling to deliver quality work.

Want to learn more about everything you need to work with translation services?

Download Smartling's Guide to Translation Services.