Should I Hire A Freelance Translator Or A Translation Agency?

Whenever you are looking for a translation service provider, the first thing you will need to do is to choose whether you will go for a freelance translator or a translation agency. When you do so, your decision should be based on few things:

  • Type of project (one-time project or long term project; bilingual or multilingual project)
  • Type of text (highly sensitive and confidential content; highly specialized content)
  • Services you need (language services only or other additional services)
  • Budget

Let’s analyze each of the situations.

  • Type of project

If you are going to need translation services repeatedly, it is better to search for a freelance translator you can trust. Here is why. If you hire a translation agency, you won’t know who is working on your texts. You may be happy with the translation first time, but there is a great chance that your next text will be translated by somebody else. Agencies change their Project Managers quite often and your texts may be translated by different translators each time. It is important to have the same person translating a long time project for few reasons:

a)      They get to know your style preferences, your company’s specific slang, your products/services and your company’s philosophy and will implement them in the translation.

b)      There will be a high level of terminological and stylistic consistency throughout all translations.

c)       Usually, translators build local glossaries and translation memories that help them review translations they’ve done previously. This is important when you have phrases/sentences that repeat in your texts (like chapter titles, for example) and ensures that these repeated phrases will be translated in the same way all the time.

On the other hand, if you have a small project and you are sure you won’t need any other translations in the future, you may opt for the services of a translation agency. They will find a good translator for your project and you won’t have to spend time searching. Usually they already have translators registered in their databases and you won’t need to invest any additional time to find one.

It is also a good idea to contact a translation agency when you have a multilingual project (when your texts have to be translated in more than one language). They already collaborate with many freelance translators for different language pairs. However, if you are going to need translation services for a long period of time, I strongly advise you to invest the time needed and find a good translator that understands your needs.

  • Type of text

If the information that has to be translated is highly sensitive (like texts addressed to victims that were sexually harassed), or highly confidential (like business contracts, legal cases), it is better to contact a freelancer to do the translation. Here are the reasons:

  • Your text will be handled by one person only;
  • You can sign a confidentiality agreement with the translator;
  • Generally, translators have already their own terms and conditions of collaboration and usually they treat confidentiality with the highest level of professionalism;
  • You will know all the time who exactly is working with your text and whether that person can be trusted or not.

If you handle the text to a translation agency, there are multiple levels of employees that will have access to your text: your contact person, the project manager, probably the accountant as well + the translator.

  • Services you need

If you need a wide range of services besides translation, it is better to contact a translation agency. Assuming you need your text to be translated and proofread; then you want that somebody arranges the text in a special format (DTP services) or that the text is SEO friendly and links to different pages on your website, etc., a translation agency will find the right professionals to do each part of the job. A freelance translator alone usually specializes in translation and/or proofreading only and won’t be able to provide you all the services you need.

  • Budget

Like any other activity, there is a clear relation between the quality of a translation and the rate charged. Translators are usually people with university degrees in different fields and any educated professional expects to earn at least the medium salary in his/her country. If you see advertisements that promote quality translations at a very low price, you’ll probably pay for machine translations or crowdsourcing.

If you outsource your project to a translation agency, make sure you know what rates they offer to their translators. All businesses tend to try to cut costs down. You probably don’t want to pay a rate of 200 USD/EUR per 1,000 words to an agency, while the agency finds a cheap translator and pays them a rate of 30 USD/EUR per 1,000 words. Such gaps are very common in the translation industry. Make sure you know what you are paying for and that the quality you receive is worth your money.

Working directly with a freelance translator will usually cost you less and there will be 100% transparency regarding the money you pay.

Basically the rule of thumb here is to collaborate either with small translation agencies (few language pairs covered, they usually value both their clients and their translators), or with freelance translators directly.

Don’t believe those agencies who claim to provide good quality translations in all language pairs possible. It is usually not true. They won’t have the in-house staff to assess the quality of any text in any language.