This discussion is a bit like the age-old question: “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” Very often freelancers call translation agencies into question. They consider them as nothing more than sales agents. Of course, this is far from being the case. And yet, the client has to make a very important decision: translator or a translation agency? This article is intended to give an answer to that question.
There is a widespread view, that a freelance translator would cost you a lot less than if you decide to hire a translations agency. However, this is not a generally valid statement.
It happens very often that the fee of a highly qualified and busy translator with a large customer base and solid reputation, be compatible with the translations agency fee.
You need to be prepared for another possible scenario – you could encounter a translation agency that attracts customers with low prices, but you have to be sure of one thing – it will not guarantee quality services. Your text will be translated by a student or some other random person. You would not want this, would you?
Finding a high quality contractor is maybe the most difficult task for any client who is not familiar with this topic. Here, we have to point out that both freelancers and translation agencies provide services of various quality. Therefore, the most important decision you area facing is to make the right choice.
As we already mentioned, there are freelance translators who do their job perfectly, as one can see from their reputation and number of customers. This means that they are also very busy and that is the reason they do not work for translation agencies – they simply do not have time for more orders! But we must put on the red light – most translators never reach that level. It is very hard for the customer to find the best solution among so many unqualified translators.
Take a look at some statistics:
– Around 65% of all applicants for the position “Translator” do not know the basic grammatical rules and make spelling and punctuation errors.
– Not more than 5% of all applicants pass the entry test.
So, if you are not able to assess the translator’s professional level, there is a 95% probability you will get a translation of poor quality.
Try to look for a translation agency that can guarantee quality and take responsibility for the end product.
Another advantage of the translation agency is that it works with competent, qualified and tested translators. In addition to the time-tested workflow, the agency also works with editors and specialized tools – two things freelancers do not offer.
For these reasons, it is almost impossible to get a translation of poor quality from a translation agency with a good reputation.
To recap, we are talking about reputable agencies with experience in the industry.
If you want to get a translation that will not embarrass you in front of your customers, we recommend that you carefully choose your translation agency. Rely on different criteria to help you with that choice. Here are the basic criteria:
Your text needs to be translated by a qualified translator, so you have to hire an expert which implies higher fees.
We are presenting you with a reasonable budget for a translation project:
– The translator gets 50%
– The editor gets 25%
– 10-15% are paid for administrative expenses, etc.
– The agency gets 10-15%
Now take a look at any offer you have already received. Take the price for a translation page and divide it by two. The result will be the approximate amount that the translator is going to get for one hour of work. Just imagine whether a university graduate with extensive experience and the relevant IQ level and knowledge, would work for that kind of money. If that seems unlikely, there is a risk your translation will be made by a student or an amateur. In such cases they will skip the editing step. Quality assurance is out of the question.
Any profitable agency introduces different processes for quality assurance. Just ask any representative of the agency how they ensure quality.
If you contact a translation agency via e-mail or via the query form on their website, you will most definitely receive a prompt response. You can always send a short text for translation, to make sure of the quality of their services.
Quality of text on the company’s website
You can be sure that very often you will convince yourself that “the cobbler’s wife is always worst shod”. Of course, this is not the case with professional agencies that stand on their reputation.
Any company that reaches a certain level strives to establish a recognizable brand and a good image. Of course, corporate identity, quality logo, and website are only the primary signs of a good agency.
Volumes and deadlines
If you have a large assignment, it will probably take a lot of time for a freelancer to finish it. Translation agencies, however, do not have this problem. They are able to include several translators and editors, so they can translate large volumes of texts for a relatively short period.
Of course, the customer can also find several translators and allot the text between them.
But this case raises a couple of very important questions:
– How do you find several qualified translators, in the first place?
– Even if they provide a translation of good quality, their translations will vary considerably. Here you will need an editor to consolidate the style, vocabulary and terminology. It is often quite difficult to find an editor even for a translation agency and almost impossible for a customer who has no experience.
– All stages of the task have to be coordinated. This is one of the Project Manager’s important roles. Such professionals usually work in translation agencies.
All of this means that you will have to establish your own agency and shoulder all the problems that will arise in the process of the assignment implementation.
But before you give us that ironic look, try to answer the following questions:
- Do you have enough skills and experience to perform this process with sufficient quality and professionalism?
- Do you have the time for that?
- Do you need a translation department?
If the answer to these three question is “Yes”, then it makes sense to try. The problem is that many agencies rely on amateurs that have never worked in a translation agency, does not know how to hire translators, how to establish a quality assurance system, etc. Therefore, you get the following result: bad translation, waste of money and reputation before your customers…
Now you are probably convinced that the easiest way to present a quality project within the deadline, is to hire a translation agency. This is the more constructive way.
Stability and willingness to work
Freelancers work simultaneously with several customers. It happens very often that they work on several different assignments at the same time. This person needs a break, he or she often encounters various issues that may affect your deadline. If your translation is urgent and has a fixed deadline, the risk is very real!
I think it is obvious that the agency has a backup qualified translator, to ensure that your assignment will be finished on time.
It is important for the client to be able to contact the contractor at any given moment, to clarify details or see how things are going. But often it happens that the freelancer is not available. This usually happens when you need him or her the most! Agencies would never allow this to happen.
If you ask us “Which is better – to work with a translation agency or with a freelance translator?” the answer would be: “It depends on the agency and on the translator”.
Translation agencies are not only coordinators, they constantly upgrade the process and add value by choosing competent translators, providing quality assurance, coordinating the translation process, ensure constant communication with the client and are always prepared for work.
Of you choose a freelancer, you will have to do all of the above completely alone. Do you really have the energy for all of that?
However, there is always a risk of encountering an incompetent agency. So be very careful when choosing a contractor.