Independent translator or translation agency: A difficult choice?

When your company requires a revision or translation, you can op to work with an independent translator or a translation agency.

The difference between the two used to be considerable. Currently, however, they differ only with respect to their organisation. While an agency counts several employees (accountant, sales people, project managers, etc.), the independent translator works alone and makes use of external experts when needed.

Let me explain more about this hard choice using a blog article by an anonymous large translation agency that has made some dubious claims.

1. Translation agencies and independent translators are not competitors.

Nothing could be further from the truth. An increasing number of companies are ignoring agencies because they are no longer happy with the quality offered. Independent translators are increasing the role they play in the market.

There are very few professional translators left who are willing to work for large agencies, mainly because these refuse to pay the translators reasonable rates. In short, the translations of large agencies are, by definition, below average.

2. Translation agencies have more resources than independent translators.

Thanks to the internet, the world has become a village in which it is fairly easy to make contacts. The same goes for the independent translator who, thank to various networks, knows a lot of other translators. They are often even personal acquaintances or friends. Moreover, the independent translator knows far better than a project manager what to look out for.

An extra advantage is that the independent translator does not promise you impossible deadlines if the quality cannot be guaranteed. Dividing a large text between multiple translators results un uneven. That’s what you get from a large agency that is more focused on sales than on quality.

3. Independent translators cannot handle complex projects.

If you mean projects that include translation as well as desktop publishing and printing services, then you are correct. In that case, a translation agency is a good option. However, what good is this if the translation is not of high quality? You could be left with a beautifully printed folder or document, containing a lower quality text!

It may cost you a little more effort, but having the translation done separately by an independent translator can ensure you receive quality you want. The translator can also verify the DTP work before printing, something many large agencies tend to forget. Win-win!

4. Independent translators are not always sufficiently technically equipped.

“Not always” is not the same as “never”. In addition, professional translators regularly help each other in case of a technical challenge. Never underestimate the technical knowledge of the independent translator!

Besides, while the project manager of a large agency simply takes the files you send and goes to work, the independent translator thinks proactively and offers ways to make the work easier, better and less time-consuming for you. Again, win-win!

5. The independent translator does not always offer the required specialisation nor continuity.

Indeed, which is why an independent translator – contrary to many large agencies – will not accept just any text. However, that translator does have an extensive network and knows colleagues very well, better than the project manager who contacts someone from his database whom he has never worked with, let alone spoken to. The independent translator’s network is not limited to his or her own language. This way your text van be translated by the right person with the right language skills. All via the independent translator!

On top of this, an agency will never tell you who translated your text. It could be a law student or a bank employee who translates as a secondary activity. Alta Verba gives you the names of the translator and reviser of your text. This is unique in Belgium!

A large agency may say it uses the same people but you have no way of knowing for sure. The continuity claim is therefore false.

6. Translation agencies provide a greater added value.

Is that so? No way!

With an independent translator you have direct contact with the person handling your text, or at least with someone who knows what he or she is talking about, which is often far from true in the case of a project manager.

The independent translator’s added value is considerable.

One final word: It is wrong to put all translation agencies in the same category. Many, mainly smaller translation agencies do a very good job. The larger the agency, the more important the ‘margin’ and the cheaper the translators used, which has disastrous consequences. Stay clear of agencies offering machine translation. This type of translation has everything to do with money and nothing to do with quality. More information about that in this article.

In short, a professional independent translator is
a complete and recommendable alternative to the large translation agency.
An independent translator delivers truly personal service with high quality translations.