Business: Why chose an independent Freelance Translator over a Translation Agency?

So, you have a document to translate, but you don’t know of any translators in your network, what do you do? Typically, you go to Google, search for a translator and hey presto, the top search results bring up the names of a few translation agencies who all promise wonderful things, you contact them, they give you a quote and within a few days, you have the translated document back. Simple.

In this article, we will shine the spotlight on why it’s important to look further afield for the right translator for you, and this may mean choosing an independent freelance translator rather than an agency.

Value for money: what happens to the money you pay an agency for translation services?

Let’s say you agree to pay 0.08€ per word for a translation, your document is 1,000 words so the total cost is 80.00€ + 21% VAT (in Spain, for example). How much of that will go directly to the translator? Take a guess…

It may surprise you know that the person who plays the biggest role in translating your document, the translator, will receive approximately 60% of that amount from the agency, perhaps 0.04€ or 0.05€ per word which an agency would offer as a “standard rate”.

Essentially, the money you pay for an agency translation is not for the translation itself, it’s for the whole package. You are paying for the agency’s overheads, you are contributing to the salary of the Project Managers who will take on your project and will assign the work, more often than not, to a remote translator that they haven’t met before, rather than an in-house translator, and then of course, the agency’s profits. There are no guidelines for translation rates so an agency can charge any amount they choose and they can pay the translator as little as they please. There will always be a translator out there, struggling to make ends meet, who will have to accept unacceptable pay conditions with a payment period of 90 days from project completion.

The time-frame assigned to complete the translation is determined by the agency, and may be insufficient for the translator to translate, edit, proof-read and double-check their own work which compromises on the quality. The agency may also employ proofreaders to check the translators work, but this is not always guaranteed so it would be worth checking if you’re going to an agency for translation services.

Ultimately, to attract the best translators a fair fee has to be paid and by going through an agency this cannot always be achieved, meaning that your document may be translated by inexperienced translators.

“But it’s safer to go to an agency than an individual translator!?”

Yes, it can be perceived this way, which is why finding the right translator whom you can trust is imperative to getting the best of both worlds. Anyone can essentially start a translation agency, this does not guarantee that your translation is “safe”.

Finding your ideal freelance translator means you can be confident that your translation is in good hands, where neither party will be disadvantaged in terms of payment or quality, with the addition of an excellent translation produced by a translator who is being paid a fair rate of pay, has sufficient time to create an accurate and high-quality translation, and will naturally perform well because their very own business and reputation is at stake.

If you have doubts about an individual translator’s credibility, nowadays, most translators will be able to provide you with links to their professional online profile(s) which shows their feedback and ratings based on previous projects, for your peace of mind.

Alternatively, request a simple contract from your translator agreeing the terms and conditions of the project for even more security, this helps to protect both the translator and the client in the event of any disputes.

Why choose an independent self-employed Translator?

By going to an independent translator, 100% of your money will be invested in the translation. This means that the hourly rate calculated is high enough for the translator to invest the appropriate amount of time in the translation and proofreading process, and the deadline is agreed directly with the client, rather than dictated by the agency, giving the translator the ability to guarantee that a translation will be completed to the highest standard possible and on time, because they can ensure that they have sufficient time for all of the steps in the process: research, translation, editing, proof-reading, and any questions or doubts.

While an agency will typically be juggling hundreds of projects simultaneously, an individual translator is likely to only be working on several projects at once, giving  your project far more prominence and importance. Your business will be valued, and your satisfaction is paramount for the translator to uphold their own reputation and business.

Having direct and open communication with the translator who is working on your translation also has many advantages. Communication is simplified and less likely to be misinterpreted.  You can have direct, uncut access to the translator, and the translator to the client so that the finished product will be exactly what you hoped for.

Bringing translations back to translators:

The proliferation of translation agencies has lowered translators pay on average, and decreased the overall quality of translations. Creativity and accuracy cannot be rushed, but these two important elements of translation are constrained by the incredibly low pay and tight deadlines offered by some agencies.

There are some excellent translation agencies out there, that can really guarantee professionalism and quality, but there are many, many others that do not meet those standards.

If you do choose to opt for an agency, don’t be afraid to ask how the money you are paying for the translation is being invested. At the end of the day, there’s no point in paying top dollar for a high quality product if only 50% of it is spent on the actual quality aspect, and the remaining 50% bears no relation to the translation itself.

Focus on the skills of your chosen translator; some may hold degrees in Translation Studies or Foreign Languages, some may hold Master’s degrees, or are studying other post-graduate translation courses. They may hold an official professional translation qualification, such as the Institute of Linguistics Diploma in Translation. Or, they may have obtained their experience through other routes and life-events. These professionals have educated themselves to a level which justifies professional pay and in turn, they provide a professional service. Consider taking your translation work directly to an independent freelance translator to support the profession and to seek the best possible results for your business or for yourself as an individual.