Establishing your presence in new foreign markets will require work on your part. The sooner you start planning for it, the easier the process will be. When embarking on a new localization project, one important question that needs to be answered before anything else can be done is, “Do we want to localize in-house or outsource localization to a localization vendor?”
Rarely does a company manage the entire localization process in-house. They would need to hire freelance translators to work on their translation tasks, at the very least. If they choose to outsource more tasks, a business can also hire a localization services provider to take on various parts of a project, or the project as a whole.
Small and medium size businesses, often with limited financial resources, face a real dilemma when choosing whether to outsource localization to a company or to do the job in-house. There is no easy answer as to which approach is better. Everything depends on your business model, and the volume of localization work you anticipate. Let’s consider pros and cons for both options.
Outsource Localization vs doing it In-House: The Pros and Cons
Localization and Project Schedules
- Pro – It may be easier for your team to adjust to changing schedules.
- Pro – It may be faster for your team to respond to immediate requests in the event that anything needs a last minute change.
- Con – Overworked employees may not be able to devote enough time for software or web localization tasks, which would lead to constant delays and lower quality output.
Translation and Localization Cost
- Pro – The initial set up cost is going to be expensive. However, in-house localization may be more cost effective in the long run.
- Con – You may be spending large amounts of time and money on education and research if you do not already have strong knowledge or experience in localization.
- Con – Bringing in someone who already has localization experience is necessary. Hiring localization engineers and experienced translators and reviewers is essential. (Keep in mind that we are not talking about your brother’s wife who happens to speak Chinese and can do some translation for you on the side. We are referring to professional translators whose main job is doing translations. It costs more, but you want professionals if you expect quality).
- Con – Do not forget to consider licensing and training costs. You will have to buy some type of translation tool, pay for support and also train your employees in order to handle your own translations.
Control, Quality and Management
- Pro – One great bonus is that you will have full control over your software, web or mobile localization process. Check out our post on free and near-free tools that assist localization testing.
- Pro – Your company knows your products and services better than anyone. Therefore, your dedicated team members will be able to provide excellent localization quality control.
- Con – You will most likely have one single point of contact if you choose a vendor for communication and requests. Handling localization internally, on the other hand, will require you to be available to many more people (even when you have a dedicated localization project manager, this applies). Do a simple calculation:
number of translators + number of editors + number of Localization Quality Assurance Testers
Now imagine each of them sending you emails with questions; questions that you may not necessarily have answers to unless you already have experience in localization or localization testing.
- Con – It may be difficult to ensure quality in-house with a limited number of experts to work on translations. Localization companies have access to many translation professionals and will make sure there is good translation quality assurance process in place. As such, they can juggle around between resources quickly if needed. They can have the file verified by another linguist lightning fast if the quality is in doubt. After all, localization is what they do for a living.
Outsourcing to a Localization Vendor
Localization and Project Schedules
- Pro – You will likely feel more obligated to stick to initially set schedules because working with a localization company is like having an accountability partner.
- Con – Sometimes, you may have to adjust to the schedule and availability of your localization vendor. This can be especially difficult when you need to work around the initial schedule that is planned.
Translation and Localization Cost
- Pro – To outsource localization to a vendor is probably less expensive up front because you pay as you go. Also, you do not risk upsetting your busy employee’s schedules.
- Con – You will still need someone inside of your own business to oversee such processes as sending out files and approving deliveries.
Control and Quality
- Pro – Reassurance of superior work is part of the deal. Most localization companies employ translation and localization quality assurance steps which ensure the excellence of the service. They will revisit any translation that does not meet your expectations free of charge. You may need to spend additional funds if you hire your own translators and the quality is found lacking.
- Pro – Localization knowledge is a huge plus for deciding to outsource localization. It is not very likely that you can build a team internally that can encompass the same amount of knowledge and
expertise that a web or software localization vendor will have.
- Con – You are more dependent on the vendor for future localization tasks. Vendors will make mistakes, and this should be expected. Likewise, you should be prepared to address the situation if your vendor suddenly demonstrates a drastic decline in the accuracy of their work.
Ultimately, you wouldn’t want to handle localization in house if you lack experience, time and knowledge. It’s not an activity that someone can perform after reading a few blog posts. It may be wise to outsource to a localization company if localization is not likely to become a core activity for your service or product. Also, you are more likely to “do it right” if you have the assistance of a localization vendor. It’s an industry that is rapidly changing, and using the latest industry standard processes and tools will save you many headaches in the future. Choose a localization vendor carefully, and make sure they have the technical experience you and your web, software or mobile application requires. Translating a word document and translating a multi-lingual website are two totally different ballgames.
Handling localization internally from the start, on the other hand, may be a better plan if it is going to be a significant part of your business. You will gain experience and be better prepared for the days when the process becomes more complicated. Additionally, it would be very wise to hire a localization expert or localization consultant to handle your growth in this area, if this is the route you choose to take.
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