There is no denying that translation agencies can be useful. From a client’s point of view they are convenient, especially if a lot of languages are required. If you need a document translated into ten different languages there is no need to find ten translators – the agency will take care of that for you. Nor do you need to know about the translation process – just send the text you need translated to an agency and again they will do everything for you. From a translator’s point of view it is easy to get regular work from agencies, meaning you can earn a stable income without having to spend a lot of time marketing your services.
However these advantages have lead to large agencies dominating the translation industry and like everything, translation agencies also have their disadvantages.
For clients, there is often a lack of personalised care. Unless your business is regarded as important enough, your projects will often be managed by different project managers and translators. It is therefore difficult for them to know about any specific terminology or requirements your company might have. For translators, agencies often offer low rates and set unrealistic deadlines. Working with an agency often means you are unable to approach the end client directly with any queries you might have about a project and you will have to relay these queries through the project manager. Likewise, any queries the end client has about your work will often be passed straight on to you without any clarification having seen sought. Therefore the scope for miscommunication is great.
There are several reasons why large, low paying and unprofessional agencies are able to dominate the translation industry:
– Many translators are willing to accept low rates offered by such agencies in order to have a secure income
– Many agencies do not invest in training their project managers and as a result they will often agree to unrealistic deadlines just to please the client and their employer. Nor do they know the appropriate questions to ask their client in order to meet that client’s needs
If you are buying translation services for the first time you need to do some research: will the requirements of your project be best met by choosing an agency or an individual translator? If you decide to work with an agency there are many reliable, professional ones to choose from. Get recommendations and check LinkedIn or Twitter to get an idea of how individual agencies work. If the text your require translated is highly specialised consider looking for an agency specialising in that field: many of the translators they work with will have professional experience in that area.
If you are a translator you should also get recommendations from colleagues and form an impression of how an agency works before agreeing to work with them. Above all do research into the rates typically being charged for your language combination and specialisation and stick to your principals if you think an agency is trying to underpay you or set too tight a deadline.