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  • Writer's pictureUndertow Team

Outsourcing vs In-house Multilingual Content Production - Which model is the best for your business?

Are you looking to generate more leads and increase brand awareness by entering into new international markets? Are you struggling with where to start on your SEO localization journey?

There are multiple ways to approach your multilingual content strategy and, in this article, we’re going to explore the pros and cons of outsourcing vs in-house international content production to help you decide which model is right for your business.

There are 4 main Multilingual Content Production Models:

Whether you choose to outsource your website localization, build an in-house team, or choose a hybrid model of both - it’s completely up to you. Different companies have different models that work for them.

“In every company I worked with, there was a different model and it worked for them. The first company was an in-house team of translators. The second was a hybrid model where we had freelancers but also in-house localization managers that were localizing for the top markets. Then the third company was also kind of a hybrid model, with freelancers, agencies, and also in-house people.”

As you can read, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Below we explore the pros and cons of each so you can discover which one is best for you.

In-house International Content Production

In-House Model:

An in-house model is where you hire a team of talents directly for the company. This can be a small or large team including copywriters, translators, SEO localization experts, UX localization experts, localization managers, project managers, and so on. Bear in mind that the larger the project, the larger the team.

This is a great option if you need to continually translate and localize content, or you regularly create new marketing campaigns for different markets. If you have the time and budget, you can build an awesome team that knows your company and brand voice through and through - so you can trust your brand personality is portrayed accurately.

Advantages of an in-house team of translators/writers

  • Easier management and communication when everyone is under the same roof.

  • A better understanding of the product. (Your employees should know your product best and therefore the branding and tone of voice should be consistent no matter the language.)

  • Easier to collaborate with others efficiently. (If your copywriter needs help explaining the technical aspects of your product they can easily go ask the right person without much delay.)

  • More control over availability and timetables. (Holiday periods are always covered.)

  • In-house team members can learn new skills and collaborate with other departments.

Disadvantages of an in-house team of translators/writers

  • High costs. (Hiring, Benefits, Insurance, etc.)

  • Hard to prove it’s a worthy investment when costs are so high.

  • Can be risky during low-volume periods. (What do they do when there is no work? Or once the project has finished?)

  • A need for hybrid roles to avoid idle time. (Can the copywriter also be an SEO Localisation expert? This could be seen as an advantage for the employee if they’re willing to train in something new and level up their skills, however, it comes at the company's expense. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee they would be compatible with the new position, as different roles require different skillsets.)

  • Time-consuming to hire the right team. (It's a job in itself to find and hire the right team, not to mention very costly if it backfires.)

  • Doing everything in-house requires purchasing and managing software for translation and localization, integrating them with the system, and setting up processes. (TIP: Make sure to check the technology works with your CMS / Website before purchasing. Do a pilot run first to make sure everything integrates smoothly and is intuitive to use or you could waste valuable time troubleshooting errors.)

  • Not always the highest-quality content production.

“There is a very big misconception that if you have in-house people, you have the best quality, while if you go with an agency, that is not the case. And I can tell you that that's not true, at least in my experience.”- Valeria Nanni, Head of Localization at Skyscanner.

In-House and Outsource Hybrid Model

In-House and Outsource Model:

An in-house and outsource model is where you have an in-house team and also a pool of freelancers to outsource to. This can be a great option for small to large projects as your internal employees can help manage communications, control quality and handle administrative tasks such as invoicing and budget tracking while keeping costs low so you can focus on your other tasks.

Advantages of mixed in-house and outsourced translators

  • It can provide flexibility.

  • More cost-effective, and therefore easier to prove the investment.

  • Ability to tap into different expertise, talents, and technologies.

  • Some talents may include software as part of their package.

  • Efficient if managed well.

  • Your in-house team can emphasize context to freelancers, including screenshots, identification of strings, comments, character counts, etc so your brand is correctly portrayed.

Disadvantages of mixed in-house and outsourced translators

  • Requires strong project management, communication, and coordination skills.

  • May require hiring and training your in-house employees first, before outsourcing, which can be time-consuming, and still adds more work to your plate before the team can work autonomously.

  • Quality may vary depending on the translators/writers available.

  • Potential for cultural differences and misalignment.

  • Need a large pool of translators to work with, especially during holiday periods.

  • Need to cultivate good relationships with your translators and actively engage with them regularly.

  • Requires searching for and selecting the right tools for both your translators and in-house members. They need to be able to integrate with your CMS seamlessly, and you will have to troubleshoot any issues that arise on your own. All of which is very time-consuming.

External Partner Model

External Partner Model (Fully Outsourced):

The external partner model is where you completely outsource all your localization efforts to a multilingual content agency. This means the whole project is managed by another company, reducing the workload of in-house staff.

They can fill in gaps in knowledge on where to start, strategy, costs, processes, as well meet deadlines more efficiently due to their larger pool of freelancers. When you set up your own team you’re less likely to have so many contacts to choose from, and this can present a problem when meeting deadlines. Especially if your freelancers have other priorities, become ill, or go on vacation.

This is a great option if you plan on entering into multiple markets at once or if you have many customer touchpoints such as a website, blog, app, sales collaterals, support documentation, FAQs, and help articles to translate and localize to your desired markets.

Having the right outsourcing partner means they will handle the overhead of managing people, finding and training staff, managing absences, and exceptions like legal documents that require translation, etc.

Advantages of a translation agency

  • Cost-effective, and therefore much easier to prove to investors.

  • Can provide access to a wider range of expertise.

  • Can scale easily.

  • Can help with time zone coverage.

  • Quality and consistency can be ensured through service-level agreements.

  • Always available.

  • Can take care of everything language-related, reducing the workload of in-house staff.

  • A speedy solution if you need to start immediately.

  • Management and training are easier with agency-provided tooling. (Sometimes it’s provided for free, which is an extra bonus.)

Disadvantages of a translation agency

  • Requires building trust.

  • Potential for cultural differences and misalignment with branding and tone of voice if different copywriters are utilized all the time.

  • Managing external partner relations can be difficult at times.

  • It’s a possibility the agency isn’t transparent with its processes.

  • If you cannot speak to the freelancers directly, you will always have to go through the agency first, which can create a bottleneck and slow down all processes.

  • Agencies may be platform agnostic or provide their own tooling, but it heavily depends on whether the platform can integrate well with the in-house content management systems that are often highly customized.

  • It is important to have a good internal process system set up to transfer information to the agency promptly, to avoid prejudicing quality - especially for ongoing projects.

  • For marketing campaigns or creative work, a detailed brief is essential, and it may require ad-hoc meetings with the agency which can be time-consuming and complicated when communicating your vision.

“While choosing a localization partner, make sure that you do a pilot with them. Don't just ask for a translation test because the translation test is a one-off. Of course, they're going to do it amazingly well, but it doesn't give you an idea of how they work.

How do they collaborate with you? Do they ask the right questions? Do they get in touch when they need to? Do they respect the deadlines? Are they proactive or are they just like, ‘Here we go, here's the translation’ and that's that? Do they help you reach your objectives?

Do a pilot and work with them for a month before actually deciding which company to choose.” says Valeria Nanni, Head of Localization at Skyscanner.

The Undertow Difference

At Undertow, we value transparency and open communication to ensure we’re aligned with your brand and messaging.

We assemble a team of selected copywriters specific to your brand, and train them as if they were your own in-house team. We also create tone of voice guidelines for each market, ensuring your brand is communicated consistently and effectively worldwide.

We are experts in the language service industry. We have experience working with different translation platforms and can help you choose which one works best for you.

What makes us unique is our human factor. When working with us, you will always know who’s handling your copy and who you need to get in touch with directly if needed. We aim to be approachable and easy to work with.

At Undertow, we take care of everything language-related. We turn your business goals into results. Get in touch with us.

In-House, External Partner and Freelance Hybrid Model

In-House, External Partner and Freelance Hybrid Model:

The hybrid model is a mixture of in-house staff, freelancers, and an external partner. It’s a common model; using small in-house teams of 5-7 people and a vast network of freelancers or agencies.

The in-house team can revise the copy, reach out to relevant people in the company, and help brief the agency. Meanwhile, the external partner can potentially manage your freelance network and take on the brunt of the project management, leaving you time to focus on running the business.

This model is complicated to develop in the beginning, but once put in place, your team will be able to manage large projects efficiently, cost-effectively and, most importantly, independently. Ensuring fast and efficient results for any sized project without much supervision on your part.

Advantages of the hybrid model

  • More cost-efficient than having everyone in-house, and it also maintains quality control.

  • Efficient in managing freelancers and agencies and guarantees speed.

  • Easier to get approval for this kind of investment compared to having a full in-house team.

  • In-house team members can learn new skills and collaborate with other departments, such as a mixed role of linguistic and project management tasks.

  • In-house team members can help manage communication with external resources and handle administrative tasks such as invoicing and budget tracking.

  • Provides easier quality control for top markets.

Disadvantages of the hybrid model

  • Costs associated with having in-house team members.

  • Requires good team spirit and processes to ensure smooth collaboration and transfer of information.

  • Internal processes need to be examined to ensure the right information is available to the agency in a timely manner, to avoid prejudicing quality or reducing speed.

  • Requires strong project management and coordination skills. The larger the team, the more difficult it is to manage.

Factors to Consider when Choosing Between Freelancers and Agencies for Localization Work

Factors to consider when choosing between freelancers and agencies for localization work:

Hiring Freelancers

One advantage to working with freelancers is the human connection and direct feedback loop, which is particularly helpful for smaller projects with fewer languages.

However, the disadvantage to working with freelancers is the bureaucratic processes, especially during holidays when they may be unavailable. This can lead to delayed delivery or the need to have a larger pool of linguists. It can also be very time-consuming to select and evaluate freelancers, and keeping them engaged can be difficult if they don't work with the company regularly or find other clients.

Hiring an Agency

Agencies are better for larger projects with many languages because they have more resources to manage the translation process, including training, and quality evaluation models. Not to mention all the tools required to complete such a large project.

On the other hand, working with larger agencies can result in the message getting lost and quality suffering due to the many intermediaries involved.

“My suggestion, and the way I did it with Skyscanner, was to look for a small to medium size localization partner that worked directly with the freelancers and, if possible, was also transparent with who they worked with. So if you had to get in touch with the freelancers directly for a specific project, you could therefore avoid the middleman altogether. It also shows they care about the freelancer's best interests.” - Valeria Nanni, Head of Localization at Skyscanner.

As previously mentioned, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Your choice should heavily depend on your availability, budget, and business goals.

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We translate your content into results

At Undertow, we are a young and dynamic boutique agency that can adapt to your requirements. We handle all things language-related with full transparency, building tailored teams to fit your specific needs.

We are your allies when it comes to all things language, localization, and digital marketing within the SaaS industry. We prioritize your brand identity and pride ourselves on being approachable and easy to work with. You will never just be a number to us.

We also provide language technology, always looking for opportunities to automate systems and ensure a smooth integration process.

If you’re looking for a flexible, cost-effective, Localisation Partner that turns visitors into customers. Get in touch with us.


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