Much has been written about freelancing from the point of view of the translator, but not much is known about the perspective of language service providers.
Most large Language Service Providers (LSPs) have an in-house team of linguists who handle the bulk of time-sensitive, confidential or strategic projects. When the workload exceeds internal capacity, Project Managers (PMs) turn to freelancers to take on the overflow. Likewise, to help existing clients with translation requests in language pairs out of their core competency, LSPs will seek to outsource the job rather than turn it down, since it could be the start of a business development opportunity.
Facilitating this outsourcing is the Vendor Manager (VM), whose mission is crucial: to ensure the business can absorb any overflow seamlessly by recruiting capable and reliable resources.
Recruiting freelancers is hard work, as competition for reliable, capable translators is fierce. A VM needs to spot the rare talent via a number of avenues:
After identifying a promising lead, the VM approaches the freelancer to discuss rates, availability, and proficiency with translation tools. If they reach an agreement, the freelancer will take a short translation test, which should be specific enough in terms of subject-matter to allow the reviewer to assess the candidate’s potential. A passing grade means that the freelancer can become a vendor and sign all relevant paperwork (contracts, non-disclosure agreement, etc.). The collaboration may now begin in earnest.
During the on-boarding stage, it is essential that close monitoring be performed: the deliverables will be carefully reviewed and scored, and detailed feedback sent promptly. At this stage, a degree of tolerance for errors is advisable—the expectation is not for a flawless translation, but rather for a reasonably good translation that the in-house reviewer can improve without having to redo. Key assessment criteria are:
A passing score means that there is potential for the trial to continue, and expectations will rise slowly as the freelancer becomes familiar with the specificity of the accounts assigned. Once the on-boarding process is complete, reviewers or the VM will send feedback only when warranted, as a means of course-correction and continuous improvement. Besides reviewing the work of freelancers, the LSP has a responsibility to keep them apprised of any changes in terminology or style.
These are some guidelines for freelancers as they embark on a new collaboration:
A long-term partnership can be beneficial for LSPs and freelancers alike, but for the collaboration to work, LSPs must be supportive of the freelancer’s work in every possible way, and freelancers must be proactive and responsive to the LSP’s requests.
A capable, loyal and reliable freelancer is a rare and precious asset. Good, ethical LSPs think of their freelancers as part of their team and invest time and resources to train them and help them succeed.
Mariana Quiroga is a Senior Project Manager in a leading Montreal-based translation firm. She has worn many hats throughout her career in the translation industry, having been a freelancer, in-house translator, reviser, vendor manager, localization trainer, and project manager.