The competition: on translation platforms (part 1)

7 Jan 2015 | Translation Industry

In the past several years, we’ve been noticing a different sort of competitor emerging among language service providers (LSPs). They look just like any other translation agency; however the way translation platforms actually work is different.

We’ve tested three of these translation platforms for you, so here is a quick presentation:




Where from?




How many translators?




Volume (words) already translated?

63 million

275 million


How do they recruit translators?

Simple translation test

2 complex translation tests

No translation test

How much are translators paid,  per word?

0.03 Euro/word approx*

0.025 Euro/word approx*

Free to name your price** (they suggest 0.025 Euro/word)

Production process

Upon request it is possible to add a proofreading option, as well as project management, like at TradOnline

Upon request it is possible to add a proofreading option, as well as project management, like at TradOnline

Upon request it is possible to add a proofreading option, as well as project management, like at TradOnline

translation platforms

* With Gengo and TextMaster, the translator has to accept the rate per word offered by the platform. We’re naming a default price here that we’ve seen during our tests; yet it’s not unlikely that these prices vary from one project to another, in the lower as well as the higher price range.

** leaves it up to the translator to indicate the rate per word that they might want, as opposed to the other two platforms. However, you are regularly reminded you should lower your price… “The rate per word you have indicated is too expensive, we will not be able to contact you for any translation projects.” The translator might then feel pressured by this intimidation tactic to lower her price.

The need for these translation platforms

…is quite easy to decipher. The need for translations is growing in this global market, and first-time clients who do not understand the inner workings of the translation biz will look for the quick and inexpensive version.

The second reason might be that many clients need multilingual translations and don’t have the time to personally communicate with 5, 10 or 15 translators at once, and hey presto, here’s a solution which seems handy and right at their fingertips. (Hint: we do this type of language/translator-juggling every day without dropping the ball.)

The service

These three translation platforms do not use MT (machine translation). They do use an interface to track projects, similar to the one TradOnline uses, i.e. the client can keep an eye on the project and so can the translator. This interface is more automated, so might be less reliable than TradOnline’s way of monitoring projects, which is based heavily on project managers interacting and getting to know the translators, so they immediately know who fits what type of job. Crowdsourcing translations is one of the main features of this type of translation platform.

Up until recently, the client would have got an appealingly low price, but if that client’s need goes beyond a conventional crowd-translated text and they want the whole shebang, then there will be extra costs for project management, a qualified translator, proofreading – oh hey, that’s already what we offer as a standard here at TradOnline, plus peace of mind that your project is in the right hands.

The type of jobs fitting for these translation platforms are e-commerce or blog posts. If you need a technical translation, the bang for your buck theory might not work using these platforms.

What about the translators?

Besides the way they manage projects, the point of departure when comparing these translation platforms to more traditional translation agencies is their relationship with their translators.


These “bang-for-your-buck” platforms are aimed at clients with a low budget, thus forcing them in turn to offer low rates to translators.

Let’s get down to the math: an experienced translator can translate 2500 to 3000 words a day (1500 words for a translator who’s starting out). This will take her 7 to 8 hours of work. By applying a rate of €0.025, that means €62-€75/day, or €10/hour, from which the translator will deduct taxes applicable in her country.

We could wonder what is driving the translators who accept working for very low prices such as those proposed by these platforms:

  • Is it to fill a gap in the way they use their time?
  • Is it because the quality of their translations isn’t good enough to get jobs from agencies who would pay more for their time?
  • Is it because the translator sees this work more as a hobby and the pay as pocket money?

Is that really a translator? Stick around for part two!

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