I need to translate a document, should I work with a translation agency or with a freelancer?

By November 3, 2016Blog

I’m a freelance translator, so you may think that I would always recommend working directly with a freelancer; but actually, there are some projects that are better dealt with by agencies. Likewise, there are other cases where a freelance translator would be a better fit.

Which option (agency/freelance translator) is best for you depends on your translation project and on your type of company.

 

– If you need to translate into many languages (for example, into the 24 official languages of the EU), an agency may be able to handle that better, as they’ll have a pool of translators ready for all these languages (or they’ll look for them if they don’t). They’ll also manage the translations for all the languages and you’ll only have one point of contact, which will probably require less dedication at your end.

But remember that this logically doesn’t come for free and within the price of your translation, you’ll be paying a project manager at the agency to do this job.

 

– However, if the languages that you translate into are always the same, you may also consider working with several independent translators, even if it requires slightly more dedication from you. Also, some freelancers work in a similar way to small agencies; they are in contact with other translators and could organise a small team, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to arrange a big one.

 

If you translate into different languages each time and you don’t want to have to find a suitable translator every time, then it may be less time consuming for you to use an agency.

 

If you regularly need urgent translations, an agency will normally have an available translator to handle your job (unless you need a nuclear Physics report translated from Chinese into Urdu for tomorrow). Agencies arrange for “back-up translators” for your projects, so that if the translator normally working in your documents can’t take it immediately, someone else will be available.

But remember that translators are not interchangeable as machines are!, having the same brain working on your documents and getting to know your products will normally produce a better quality translation. So, make it easy for yourself by giving reasonable deadlines.

 

– On the other hand, for occasional urgent translations, freelancers working directly with you may be more willing to make the effort to accommodate your translation if they can, because the relationship is more personal, and because they know that you rely on them. The advantage for you is that the quality won’t be affected by a change of translator.

 

If your document is specialised and you translate into 1 to 7 languages, hiring a freelance translator will likely be the best option. Working with an individual will allow you to choose someone with the perfect background for your specific field, which is key for specialised texts. You could check their LinkedIn profile, their profile in translators’ directories or associations or their web page and see if they’ve worked on similar documents to yours.

 

If you want to work with a professional that understands your company and your products well, then again a freelance translator may be a better option, as you ensure that your documents will always be handled by the same person. Another good reason is that the communication will be direct, so it will be easier for translators to ask you any questions related to your products and your business, ensuring more precise translations.

 

It’s also more likely that an individual is more committed to your company thanks to this direct communication. Of course, an agency will also want your company to succeed and they’ll aim to provide the best possible work, but nothing beats the commitment created by individuals working directly together.

 

A last note if you find yourself in between of these 2 optionsThere are also small “boutique” translation agencies with a reduced pool of trusted translators, which may give you the benefits of working with agencies, while keeping some of the advantages of freelance translators.

 

THE NEXT TABLE SUMMARISES THE ADVANTAGES OF WORKING WITH AGENCIES AND WITH INDIVIDUAL TRANSLATORS:

 

I hope that this post is useful for you. If you’re thinking of requesting a translation or you’ve already done so, I’d love to know if this post has helped or if you have any comments or suggestions for me or for other readers.

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