Every small business with international potential knows that it makes sense to go global by localizing websites, social media, and valuable content, translating to one foreign language market after another. But how to get from here to there? We examine best practices for translation and localization so that small and medium businesses can grow their markets and expand their audiences across national and linguistic borders. We provide best practices, tips, and tricks for global business to get the most bang for the buck, even when budgets are tight. Localizing Your Existing Content: The Best Return on Investment Rod Stewart sang that “the first cut is the deepest.” He may have been singing about something else, but his claim applies to the original content. You probably know that the first cut of content for your company, its website, and your marketing campaigns will cost you most in blood, sweat and tears. It will leave a dent in your budget. Take a deep breath and consider the good news: your biggest content expenses are behind you. The incremental costs of adapting your content to additional language markets are relatively small, a fraction of your initial costs. But, depending on how many new markets you want to tackle, those “incremental” costs will add up. This article is all about reducing those “increments” to a minimum without sacrificing content quality so that you don’t make a fool of yourself abroad. Rather, reap the benefits of expanding to new markets and tapping into new income streams. Localization Agencies: The Translation Tradeoff The easiest way to proceed is to locate the professional language service provider that’s right for your business. On a per-word basis, working with a localization company may seem the most expensive. But since time is money, and your time is valuable, the overall cost of working efficiently and save yourself and your staff time and trouble needs to be factored into any cost-benefit calculation. For more information in looking for the right localization service provider, check out this article. Obtaining localization services from a translation agency means working with a team, where your primary contact will be with an account manager who mediates between your staff and the linguists involved in your project. You will not usually have direct personal contact with the translator. This may be disconcerting for control freaks, but it can expedite and simplify the process: a translator may be great at website translation or marketing translation, know how to translate a page to their mother tongue, but they may be lousy at client communication. Pros and Cons of Working with a Localization Company What’s important is that your translation is done quickly and professionally. Most translation agencies will guarantee that their work is mistake-free and commit to fixing any errors subsequently discovered. The work delivered by an agency will usually be flawless, but a guarantee over a defined period post-delivery serves as an insurance policy. Ask for a year. Speaking of insurance, working with an agency will also protect you from the personality quirks and availability glitches of individual translators. If a translator comes down with the flu or goes AWOL the night before a deadline, your agency has your back and is contract-bound to find a suitable replacement in their “stable”. Working with a company shields you from the uncertainties and “baggage” of working with individuals. The other big advantage of working with a localization agency is process efficiency and scalability. If you’re done a website translation, app translation or marketing translation in one language, the costs for subsequently languages will keep declining because the infrastructure has already been set up. The big “con” of working with agencies is cost. You will pay a premium for working with a company rather than an individual. The word rate of agencies – measured by the words in the source documents – maybe 50% or so higher than freelancers. So there is the temptation to seek out individual language translators. Tips and Tricks When Working with Freelance Translators These days there are marketplaces where you can find and engage freelancers of all kinds, and translators are well-represented on such platforms as Freelancer, Upwork, and Fiverr. You can review their profiles and CV, check out their ratings and reviews, peruse their portfolios. You can solicit proposals from each or post your job and see who makes bids. You can ask questions and negotiate. The vetting process takes time and energy. Do it for each language pair you undertake. The benefit, for some, is that you may get lucky and develop a trusted relationship with a talented translator, at an affordable rate. Or you may start out fine, and then hit a wall, or experience disappointment with the translator’s work, availability, or delivery speed. Here are some tips to improve your chances of success: Tip #1: Selected translators in pairs. Use one translator to edit and audit the work of the other as well as to serve as a backup and “insurance” in case the other flakes out or disappoints. Tip #2: Break projects into milestones. Most platforms support this. The first milestone should be a trial, to reduce your risk in time and money. The second should be a first draft of the work. The third should be a final to your complete satisfaction, with the emphasis on “complete.” Put those milestones in writing. Tip #3: Make a Big Deal About Titles Catchy headlines are key. Make sure your selected freelancer knows how to make a title that induces clicks, key to your SEO and KPIs. A creative title maker is a keeper! When to Use Machine Translation and When to Avoid It In the last five years, since the advent of neural machine translation, AI-driven services have come to approach human quality. So much so that some human translators get lazy and use machines to do the work for which you are paying them. So keep your eye out for that. Still, services like Google Translate and Microsoft Translator can be useful for your internal research, for “spinning” long-tail content and niche marketing, seeding pages with ads and click-inducing links. But don’t skimp on auditing machine-generated content: always engage a freelancer with mother-tongue fluency to proof anything that comes from the “brain” of a bot. Conclusion Bottom Line: Use professional language service agencies when you have the budget, to save time and aggravation, or hire pairs of translators when you don’t. Use AI-driven online translators to do first drafts, first-draft translations, and to check the humans on your team!