Should I choose a translation agency or a freelance translator for my translation project?
Good question, isn’t it? I’m a freelance translator and those of who you expect me to condemn translation agencies per se will be disappointed. The answer to this question is not that black and white. It depends mostly on the nature of your project and your needs as a customer.
For example, it may be wiser of you to choose a translation agency if you have a project with several language combinations, i.e. the same document has to be translated into different languages. A translation agency can offer you the infrastructure you need for such a project. They will find you a translator for each language combination. They make sure that each translator meets the deadline and they will function as an intermediary between you and numerous translators. You will save a lot of time because they will take over the coordination of the entire project. You will not be responsible for communicating with several translators at the same time. Personally, I would not accept projects with languages I don’t speak because I would not be able to control the quality of your translation. Call me a control freak but I have to understand what leaves my desk.
But what if you need your document translated into one language only? What if this document is even highly confidential? Wouldn’t it be wiser to disclose your document just to one person? The following factors may help you whether to choose a translation agency or a freelance translator:
When working with a freelance translator, you will have one contact for your problems and concerns. Many agencies normally have at least two project managers that cover a group of clients. Some do not organize their clients according to this principle. Personally, I have encountered and still work with very well-organized translation agencies but I have also seen a lot of negative examples during my freelance career.
Short decision-making processes
Agencies have a hierarchy. The project manager who coordinates your project and is your first contact within the agency in the case of problems probably isn’t authorized to make any major decisions. When working with a freelance translator, you will get a definite answer right away, whether it is about a tight deadline, the budget of your project or any other concern you might have.
You know exactly who receives your project. During my career, I have received countless legal and technical documents by mass email and was asked if I could translate those documents. So, if your document is highly confidential and contains proprietary information or personal data, you may not want complete strangers to get to know that you are in the middle of a divorce or came up with a brilliant invention. This is sensitive data that absolutely needs to be protected.
In my opinion, this is the most important factor of the list. Freelance translators are experts in their fields. They did not only study years to get their degree in applied linguistics. CPD in their fields of specialization also plays an important role for them. Many agencies (but fortunately not all of them) often choose the translator solely on the basis of the word price and not on the basis of the translator’s expertise in the field. That means that you do not only know who will translate your documents, but also that you probably won’t even know their name. Most importantly, you don’t know if that same translator will be available to translate other documents for you in the future.
In conclusion, choose a qualified freelance translator who is an expert in your field if your document contains proprietary information or personal data and needs to be translated into one language only.