International E-commerce: Should You Choose A Translator or Copywriter?

Who should you choose to help your business expand internationally, a translator or copywriter?

What to consider when expansing a business internationally: should you choose a translator or a copywriter to help you grow?

Do you want to start an international online business?

Maybe you’re already in the midst of setting up a brand new online store. Maybe you want to get your products on Amazon and start selling globally. Or maybe you’ve started searching for import / export partners to bring your products overseas.

Whether it’s the former or the latter, potential customers must understand what you’re selling in order for them to buy from you—it’s crucial to long-term success.

In other words, if you want to start an international e-commerce business then it’s important you create sales and marketing materials shoppers can use. That is, multilingual content.

Why you need multilingual content for global e-commerce

Multilingual content can be expensive to create and difficult to maintain if you don’t have dedicated staff for those languages. So is it worth the investment?

Consider the following benefits:

1. It’s easier for stakeholders to discover your products online

We prefer to search for things in our native language.

If you’re French, you probably run most of your Google searches in French—not in Greek. If you’re Korean, you’re going to use Hangul—not English.

That’s just how it is; it’s easier, it’s more convenient, it’s the natural thing to do.

For businesses, that means the best way to reach shoppers at all stages of the purchase journey is to make your marketing materials available to them in their language.

2. It will help you sell your products / services overseas

People don’t buy what they can’t understand. Moreover, they don’t buy from people they can’t communicate with. It’s that simple. So if your materials are in a language shoppers – and business partners – can’t comprehend, they’ll look somewhere else to find what they need.

For example: a German hypoallergenic dog food brand that wants to get its products into Thai pet stores and retail outlets will have a better outcome with Thai-language sales and marketing materials—or at the very least English-language materials—compared to collateral written in German.

3. It increases engagement—and boosts conversions

Fact is, we’re more likely to engage with a website, social media pages or videos presented in a language we’re familiar with than we are with those that require more energy (read: brain power) to process.

We want easy—not stressful.

If your pages are available in a shoppers’ preferred language, then that increases the time they spend interacting with your brand. They’ll actively read product descriptions, share your link with a friend or even send you an email asking for more information. Here, there’s an opportunity to move prospects to take action.

Put simply, there’s engagement—the valuable kind that can lead to conversion.

4. It helps international shoppers decide what to do next

Before someone buys your product, they’re going to want to do their research. That applies to low-involvement products but is even more so for expensive or high-involvement items.

For example:

  • What if the product has an ingredient the shopper is allergic to?
  • What if the size isn’t a match?
  • Does this product have the exact features the shopper’s looking for?
  • What is the return policy?

International customers want to know what they’re getting before they fork out the money for it. But it’s a lot harder to convince someone to do that – or at least ensure they don’t regret it – if they don’t have enough information to make a decision in the first place.

5. It makes you more competitive

Creating multilingual content makes you stand out from fellow local brands on the international online market.

For example: while your competitors’ websites are only available in Japanese, yours is a multi-language website available also in English and French. That makes you so much more attractive to buyers in countries that speak those languages!

Translator or copywriter? Who should you choose? This image shows a waving cut-out man and the text "Hello World!"

So who can help you create multilingual content?

Once you’ve decided to start an international online business, the next question is who can help you prepare for your new audience? More importantly, what’s the best way to create all that multilingual content?

  • Should you simply translate the source material?
  • Would it be better to hire a copywriter to develop the text for you?
  • What about a combination of service providers such as a localization consultant, translator, and copywriter?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Option 1: Hire a translator

The goal in translation is to accurately communicate meaning. Therefore, a translator’s job is to correctly convert a written message from one language into another.

  • Many translators work as freelancers but you can also find them working at translation agencies or at organizations like the UN.
  • Translators have to be fluent in at least 2 languages.
  • They mostly work on business, legal, scientific and technical texts including letters and reports.

Option 2: Hire a copywriter

Copywriting is the process of developing text that supports, serves, and aims to accomplish certain marketing or advertising purposes.

In that respect, a copywriter’s job is to write sales and marketing materials that motivate people to take action—make a purchase, send an inquiry, or sign up for a newsletter to name a few. In short: they write text that sells.

But that’s not all! Copywriters also write SEO copy, i.e. text that is optimized for search engines and the internet.

Option 3: Hire a localization expert

A localization expert adapts products or content for a specific market according to that country’s culture, customs and preferences. Localization experts must be able to translate and have very in-depth knowledge of the country they are localizing content for. They must also have their finger on the pulse regarding the latest trends, social issues and even how politics could affect a marketing campaign.

International selling: how to choose the service you need

The ideal scenario might involve translators, copywriters, and localization consultants. But we also know that’s not always possible—or realistic.


  • Hiring all three can be too financially demanding especially for solopreneurs and small businesses.
  • Coordinating with three sets of professionals can add significant stress and strain to an already tedious process.
  • Working with a translator, copywriter and localization expert can eat up a lot of time if not properly managed.

All this to say, while ‘best practices’ are ‘best’ for a reason, sometimes you just have to be practical.

Here are the three things to consider when choosing between a translator or copywriter and even a localization expert.

1. Budget

What can you afford? And who can bring the results you’re looking for?

Consider this: Translators often charge by the word, so where the source material is short, hiring a translator can cost less than a copywriter or localization pro. The disadvantage is that the translation may sound awkward (it doesn’t have the spark that marketing materials need) and therefore not resonate with your foreign buyers.

2. Availability

Who can take on your project at this time? Can they accommodate your schedule and meet your desired deadline?

Consider this: Sometimes your source material is in a less ‘popular’ language, so finding a translator can be a very real challenge. This is normally the case for ‘exotic’ language combinations, like Afrikaans to Khmer. Other times, yours is a last-minute project—you need someone to work on it ASAP.

When it’s hard to find a qualified translator or copywriter to work with, or when your time frame simply isn’t feasible, you can either create materials in a more universal language like English or work with whoever can help you right now.

3. Personal preference

Do you feel comfortable working with the translator or copywriter you emailed? Do you feel like you’re in good hands? How do you make the right choice anyway?

Consider this: Some of the most talented translators and copywriters are freelancers you’ll never meet in person—they’re working out of their home offices, maybe even from the other side of the world.

Similarly, sometimes the most affordable translations come from online translation agencies where you don’t get to choose who works on your project. The agency chooses for you, so you get what you get without the option to ask for changes or edits. In other words, they might be cheap but you don’t get any say.

If a face-to-face-meeting is a priority or you’re uncomfortable hiring a freelancer over the internet, then you’re left with the options that exist in your city—regardless if that’s a translator or copywriter.

Translator or copywriter? Who should you choose? This image shows two men making notes and working on their laptops.

Still can’t decide between a translator or copywriter?

Follow this rule of thumb:

  • If the source material needs to be binding, as is the case with legal documents (contracts, terms & conditions, privacy policy, etc.) or business reports (technical, annual, financial) choose to work with a certified or experienced translator.
  • If the source material serves a marketing function, that is you have specific marketing objectives to accomplish and you want to benefit from creative leeway, choose to work with a professional copywriter.