Let’s share some good news and bad news with you.
The bad news: There is no answer that fits them all.
And the good news? There is an answer and it only depends on – you!
A brutally honest benefit-to-disadvantage comparison
Today’s article features an honest duel of the advantages and disadvantages of both sides – freelance translators and language services providers aka translation agencies. Even though you’re reading it on the website of a translation agency, it doesn’t mean that the final verdict is set or biased!
Not even close! As someone who works with translators from all over the world day after day, we know and submit that there are advantages and disadvantages to us as an agency as well as to freelance translators, who have been our valuable partners all these years.
We promise that our comparison will be based on three factors:
- More than 15 years of experience
- Brutal honesty
- The desire for you to find exactly what you need in a given moment – whether it is a freelancer or an agency
Further on, there are several categories (just like in a real competition!) and after every category, there is a dedicated space where you can write down who is in the lead based on your current needs.
Let’s make it this way:
Before we begin, let’s make something clear:
We wish it were always this simple, right?
6 categories and 6 results
When we don’t want to wait, availability is crucial. It might be true that translation agencies have set opening hours and might not respond to your message outside of it, some freelancers might respond to your questions (inquiries) even in the evening. An advantage that might mean a lot to some.
However, this is only one side of the story.
Let us not forget that freelancers (especially those who maybe don’t have an all to serious approach) sometimes might even not respond to your messages (freedom is the biggest asset of any freelancer), which will never happen with a translation agency. But if that is true, it is also true that it will be much easier to agree on work over weekends with a freelancer (in case of urgent projects) than with an agency.
A translation agency usually employs at least one project manager thus having several employees at their disposal to respond to your inquiries as quickly as possible and even to find a suitable translator for your project as soon as possible.
Some agencies even feature a chatbot on their website to respond to the most frequently asked questions and a calculator that will help you – even at two o’clock in the morning – get a rough estimate of the price. The office hours are therefore not the most important factor, but they are important.
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Translation is a field that has witnessed an immense technological progress recently.
Computer-aided translation (CAT) tools together with translation memories, term bases and glossaries are a must nowadays, since they do not only ensure consistency, but also allow for discounts with every additional translation project. They are used by both – freelancers and agencies with the latter having several tools and bigger bases at their disposal, which increases consistency and reduces the price even further. Agencies often also use advanced quality management tools and feature a professional who supervises the process for a top-notch translation while keeping your translation databases up-to-date.
Last but not least, translation tools are not very cheap and agencies are in a better position to afford a variety of CAT tools. You as a client can enjoy certain benefits from each and every one – with a lower price and a higher consistency of all translated texts being the most important one.
Extensive projects will be finished sooner and more consistently by an agency due to a variety of tools. It is also true, however, that translators without any CAT tools are a rarity these days, meaning they can also give you a discount.
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Let’s make something crucial clear about quality:
A translation is followed by a bilingual proofreading and quality assessment, but also graphical design and upload to the website. You can even opt for SEO if you require it and the provider, of course, offers it.
The most advanced agencies also boast of ISO certificates, which means an even higher level of quality and professionalism of the services provided. Freelancers rarely offer this perk.
A freelancer will most often provide only one of the two main services: either a translation or a proofreading (if he/she works alone). A (slightly higher) quote by an agency, however, will most often also include the translation and proofreading/editing. Just think about which services you need.
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When it comes to speed, translators are mostly winners.
Their time from the confirmation to delivery is usually shorter – but there is a reason for that. Agencies (at least the better ones) include at least the bilingual proofreading, quality assurance, and editing of the translated document into their service. This makes the final document graphically consistent with the source document, which extends the delivery somewhat. The process can this feature as many as four different professionals: the translator, the proofreader/editor, the quality assurance expert, and the graphic designer. Of course, each of them needs their time to do their job.
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An agency’s quote will rarely include the translation only, whereas freelancers will mostly quote you for the translation only. This means that an agency will give you a significantly higher price – it is up to you to see whether it is just high, higher or even too high based on your project (purpose, scope, target audience, publishing channel).
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Trouble with the selection: Why waste your precious time with looking for and selecting the most suitable translator and proofreader into German (since you only know how to say Gesundheit! when someone sneezes) if a project manager can do that for you? Based on many years of experience, they know the pros and cons of individual translators the agency works with very well meaning that they know exactly who will be the best choice for your marketing or technical text (it probably will not be the same person).
Direct communication: When cooperating with a freelancer, you will communicate with them directly, which might be an advantage for many clients. There is nothing handier than sending an email to quickly get a professional response or explanation from the person who made the translation.
A good project manager: It is said that a good project manager is like a guardian angel and a bad one is like a tasteless soup (OK, no one says that. But it is a fitting metaphor). An experienced and professional project manager at an agency will do anything for you to be happy with the delivered project. They will also respond to all of your (there are no dumb questions, right?) questions and concerns. Do you have a question for the translator? The project manager will also take care of that.
A translation into several languages. If you need a translation into five languages, for example, among which you have Chinese, Norwegian, and Latin, you will hardly go look for five translators and proofreaders yourself. After all, where would you find them? There might be a translator for Latin under some rock. How about the other two? In this case, an agency is the right choice for you. The project manager will look for the most suitable native speaker who will work their magic to make something that Norwegians would never be able to recognise as a translation.
Your guardian angel, like we said.