In-house vs Outsourcing

What’s the better option: to hire an artist or translator onto one’s own staff, or to commission work on a turnkey basis from an outsourcing company? We’ll go over these processes in detail and sum total up the expenditure involved, in work hours and money, with the head of production at Inlingo’s localization department.

In-house and outsourced teams: strengths and weaknesses

The choice between hiring an in-house specialist and delegating to an outsourcing company is not always a straightforward one. The decision often depends on your specific tasks, goals, and budget. We’ll consider the pros and cons of both approaches.

In-house teams

A team of your own staff is an excellent choice for long-term projects with regular updates. Such a team will be deeply immersed in the context of their work and always on hand in the event of urgent questions. Moreover, processes carried out directly within the company are transparent and can be easily monitored.

Hiring an in-house specialist is justified if

  • you can assure the employee a constant workload;
  • there is a quality-control structure for the employee: a PM, LM, and mentors to keep track of deadlines, check the quality of the work delivered, and give feedback;
  • the budget for the team matches the market price for a specialist’s services.

Outsourced teams

A third-party team has a number of advantages: ready-made strategies for the majority of scenarios and additional resources in the form of an IT team, LOC QA specialists, PMs, and editors. You won’t need to apportion a departmental budget for technical equipment and quality control, as these functions are already carried out by the outsourcing company. And if there is a need to broaden the team for new languages and tasks, scaling can be achieved painlessly and without any impact on your company’s current structures.

Nevertheless, this option also has its downsides. First among these is the limited degree of control over localization processes in real time. You can only assess the final results of the work, with your influence on the basic procedures of the outsourcing company being wholly indirect.

Working with an outsourcing studio will suit you if

  • you want to have your own staff carry out only certain essential elements of the project: quality control, text integration into a game, work with the community. However, there is a constant flow of tasks regarding, for example, localization, and they are more convenient to outsource in order not to inflate the staff establishment;
  • a specialist is needed for a short spell, there is limited and temporary volume of work on specific tasks, or spikes in the workload are apparent over the course of development. In such cases, hiring a team or elements of one through outsourcing will be an optimal solution for smoothing out an uneven workload;
  • a control system is absent or cannot be scaled: the work of an outsourcing team includes the services of PMs, leads, and/or art directors;
  • the budget for the team does not equal the market price for a specialist’s services. In such cases, you can best afford to bring an expensive specialist onto the project for specific tasks of particular complexity or importance through outsourcing rather than by hiring them full-time.

An outsourcing company is not simply an errand boy delivering files from freelancers to the client. First and foremost, it’s a guarantor of quality: we carry out corrections until the client is satisfied with the result. The choice of contractor, their testing and set-up, the appraisal of their work over time: all these processes are carried out by the outsourcing company and included in the cost. Where necessary, our services include setting up custom automation according to customer specification.

The team selected for the project is not just skilled linguists. The specialists work in a specific genre and make a thorough study of your project—they are fully immersed in it. Beyond that, we perform quality control on the work of contractors for the whole duration of a project, not only at the selection phase. 

Yulia Molostova, Head of Production at Inlingo

What’s the better option: in-house or outsourcing?

It may seem at first glance as though the integration of employees into the standing staff of a project is more effective: labor costs are lower than in the case of outsourced teams, all employees are fully acquainted with context, and communication is instantaneous. In actual fact, the choice is not so clear-cut. Let’s take a close look at the question from every angle.

Labor costs

Sometimes clients pose the question: what is the financial benefit of outsourcing specialist work? To give an example, the market price for the services of a full-time artist is $2,000 per month. Assuming 20 working days in a month and 8 hours in each of those days, an hour of a specialist’s labor costs the employer $12.50. Whereas the cost of engaging a specialist through outsourcing may range from $15 to $20 per hour. But such calculations do not always account for the real costs of retaining a specialist internally.

It is important to consider that a salaried in-house employee, besides the fixed payment for their work, requires vacation time, sick leave, and other obligatory payments to be made at the company’s expense. Other necessary expenses are excluded from apparent labor costs, such as translation software, licensing office software, and IT support. When working with an outsourcing company, none of these expenses need to be budgeted for.

The price for the services of an outsourcing company includes, besides the work of the primary specialist, the pay for the whole team that assures the quality of their work. This can include project managers, leads, art directors, and producers: the scope of the team depends on the scale and complexity of the content. These people assign the contractor their task and ensure it is ready on time, correctly formatted, and completed to the proper standard of quality. They do everything required to make sure the final version of the content meets the client’s expectations.

In order to organize work of the same standard directly within your team, it is necessary to retain a number of other specialists. In this way, the cost of an hour of an artist’s labor can be several times greater than it appears. Taking this into account, the equivalent services of an outsourcing company, in which all of the expenses mentioned above are already included, appear more economical by comparison with permanent hires.

In the case of employing a linguist, the difference is still more pronounced. Included in the price of an outsourced translation are, besides the work on the text itself

  1. the drawing up of style guides and the creation of project glossaries;
  2. several passes of quality checks on the translation, including editing, final polish, and automated checks;
  3. work with player feedback and tracking the game’s rating on sale platforms;
  4. systematic work to improve project quality, with the creation of databases of player and client feedback;
  5. developing technical solutions according to requirements;
  6. dedicating additional resources to any other problems that may arise. Examples include a more thorough culturalization, the translation of ASO text with keywords, or surveying of the target audience on a variety of questions.

Recruiting a specialist

The labor costs of an outsourced team include the selection of a contractor with experience relevant to your project. Hiring an in-house employee means taking this on for yourself. Let’s say we’re looking for a 2D artist. All of the following specialists are needed to fill this vacancy:

  • A recruiter to undertake the composition, publication, and amendment of the job listing, and aggregate the responses to it. Their role also includes actively searching for a specialist, communication with candidates, issuing a test task, delivering the results to the client, and organizing feedback.
  • The senior or head 2D artist commissioning the work: their responsibilities include drawing up parameters for the work of the specialists, composing a test task and checking its results, participation in interviews, and other measures to adapt a new specialist to the team.
  • Optionally, an art director/producer: they may be the one to commission the work, or one of several people participating in these processes.
  • HR: concerned with adapting the worker to the team.

The time from the moment a vacancy appears to the deployment of an employee may range from one to three months. For this entire period, the specialists mentioned above must work on the search, spending working hours which, in some cases, significantly raise the costs associated with the vacancy.

After the deployment of the new employee, additional effort must for some time be expended on adapting them to their team. However, a person may not pass the probationary period, or may simply decide to leave the team — even where their work is successful. The search must then begin anew. Where work is outsourced to another company, all these processes are carried out seamlessly, without effort by the client. 

Yulia Molostova, Head of Production at Inlingo

The same goes for in-house teams of linguists: it is important to consider that these phases in the recruitment of a specialist may require additional budgetary and man-hour resources:

  • searching for an employee on professional platforms;
  • preparing a test task, specific to each type of service: translation, editing, testing, and others;
  • appraisal of test tasks and filtering out those candidates not making the grade;
  • training and preparing teams for the projects;
  • work with the employee database: the creation of systems for assessing linguists and monitoring feedback and progress, all in real time;
  • the selection of a team suited to the setting, mechanics, and themes of a given project;
  • monitoring the team’s capacity in the dashboard and the creation of relevant employee ratings;

All of the above-listed points can be taken care of for you by an outsourcing company, which allows the client to economize on both time and money.

In the final analysis, what choice should be made?

To answer the question of work format it is important to begin with the requirements of your company, the scope of the project, and the financial means available. We recommend being guided by the following key factors:

Intensity and stability of the workflow

If your project involves many tasks and their workflow is even, then an in-house team is the optimal solution. In the opposite case, where intensity is low and there are sudden drops in workload, outsourcing work may avoid a multitude of problems.

Team structure

Employing an in-house team is advisable if you have established systems of deadline adherence and quality control. They should also be easy to scale without loss of quality. If this is not the case, it’s better to turn to an outsourced team. This will have complete ready-made solutions to meet the needs of your business.

The team budget

The cost of an hour’s work outsourced to a specialist also includes their support staff: a project manager, lead, and art director. Given this, it’s close to the market rate. Moreover, the outsourcing provider is able to undertake branches of operations that are not suitable for you to maintain in-house — for instance, testing and the creation of 3D models. This is useful where work on such tasks is only needed periodically and you don’t intend to hire a full-time employee. Sometimes the client may require consultation with an expert native speaker to resolve particular translation questions. In such cases turning to an outsourcing company is quicker and cheaper than directing recruiters to search for a native speaker.