Independent translator or translation agency; a difficult choice?

When your company requires a revision of translation, you can choose between working with an independent translator or a translation agency.

Previously, the difference between both was considerable. Currently, however, they only differ with respect to their organization. While the agency counts several employees (accountant, sales people, project managers, etc.), the independent translator works nearly solely with external people.

I would like to tell you more about this hard choice by using a blog article of an anonymous large translation agency that has made various 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 their role 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, per 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 get to know people. 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, he knows far better what to look out for than a project manager.

An extra advantage is that the independent translator does not promise you impossible deadlines if no quality can be guaranteed. Dividing a large text between various translators leading to a disproportionate quality? That is what you get from a large agency that would do anything for turnover (except provide quality).

3. Independent translators cannot handle complex projects.

If you mean projects including translation, desktop publishing as well as print, then you are correct. In that case, a translation agency is a good option. However, what does this mean to you if the translation is not of high quality? Does it mean that you are left with a beautifully printed folder or document but with a lower quality text?

It may cost you a little more effort, but having the translation done separately by an independent translator can save your quality. The translator can also verify the dtp work before print, 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. Do not underestimate the technical knowledge of the independent translator!

Besides, while the project manager of a large agency simply takes the files you sent and starts working on those, the independent translator thinks proactively and offers ways to make the work easier, better and less time-consuming to you. Once again, win-win!

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

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

On top of this, an agency will never tell you who translated your text. It could just as well 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. That is unique in our country!

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 bigger surplus value.

Is that so? No way!

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

The independent translator’s surplus 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. Do 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 a truly personal service with high quality translations.