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Professional Translation Agencies Or Freelance Translators – Which One Is Your Match?

Posted by Anne Q. on November 22, 2019.

Translation and localization are no doubt a vital cornerstone for every company seeking global success. In the absence of translated and localized content, your brand faces a high possibility of being misunderstood and misrepresented. Your credibility is reduced considerably in the overseas markets eventually. Therefore, the need for a trusted translation partner cannot be ignored.

The problem is there are many choices for translation services out there that make you are confused. Should you work with professional translation agencies or find freelance translators? What are the benefits and drawbacks of these two options? How can you make the best decision? Let’s find out the answer in today’s post.

1. Professional Translation Agencies


    • Wide service range – The translation process involves many steps other than translation, editing, and proofreading. While freelance translators tend to focus on one among these three basic steps, translation agencies go one step further. They also deal with desktop publishing, language quality assurance, or linguistic sign-off. Or in other words, they provide you with a whole process of translation and localization. Even when you only order one or two steps in the process, reliable translation agencies still add more values to your projects by conducting Language Quality Assurance (LQA) after each step.

Full Translation Process

    • Various industries – Translation agencies are likely to have a deep network of in-house linguists as well as freelance translators specializing in a variety of domains. They can work with documents in Medical, Engineering, IT, Software, Travel, or any industries you are working in.
    • A wide range of language pairs – A great translation requires a highly-qualified translator who speaks the language as their native tongue. Otherwise, the accuracy of the content might not be guaranteed. It means one freelance translator can only be capable of 1 to 2 language pairs. Meanwhile, translation agencies can find suitable human resources from their deep network to meet hundreds of languages demands.
    • High-Capacity – With a pool of hundreds of native linguists, translation agencies are capable of handling a great number of projects, from small to high volume at the same time. If needed, a high-volume project is divided into small parts and assigned for different linguists in the network so that the deadline can be met.
    • Better Coordinator – Instead of handling each freelancer by yourself, you can count on the PM team of translation agencies. Their duties are to bridge you with the linguists to make sure your projects run smoothly.

Translation Agencies Communication Process


    • CAT tools – The use of translation memory (or TM) in CAT tools help translators reduce time re-translating identical text or terms and remain the consistency of the whole documents. It is also beneficial to clients in terms of costs. All translation agencies make use of CAT tools for their projects regardless of the volume of a project. They can use a great number of CAT tools to meet all client’s demands thanks to the support of an engineering team.

CAT Tools



    • High price – In general, translation agencies charge a higher fee compared to freelancers. The reason is quite simple. Besides paying linguists, translation agencies have to pay for management fees including salary for staff, administrative costs, and keep a small proportion of profit.
    • Communication – In translation agencies, clients and linguists do not contact directly with each other. Instead, a PM team acts as an intermediary between them. The assigned PM convey the needs and requirements of clients to linguist while giving linguists’ feedback to clients. If one party has any urgent changes, they still have to wait for the assigned PM’s response. If the PM works smoothly, that’s great. But if he or she is unresponsive, the progress of the project might be negatively affected.



2. Freelance translators


    • Low price No fee for agencies, you only pay for what you receive from the translator. Your costs for a translation project are cut down significantly. (In some rare cases, long experienced freelance translators might ask for a higher rate than translation agencies.)
    • Direct communication – When working with freelance translators, you can contact them directly at any time without an intermediary. If there are some changes in the projects, both parties can discuss and find a solution in no time. This process helps save you a great deal of time.

Freelancers Communication Process


    • A limited number of languages – Translators should be native speakers of one language to perform a great translation. This requirement leads to the fact that one translator can handle one (or two in some specific situations) only. If your projects include, let’s say, three to four language pairs, you have to find three or four freelance translators respectively. The rates of these translators might be lower than those of translation agencies, but you have to handle them all by yourself.
    • Lack of full translation process – A translator tends to focus on either translating, editing, proofreading, or DTP, i.e. one step in the whole translation process. Thus to complete a project, many freelancers must involve. Each person takes responsibility for each step in the process and you are the key person to manage and coordinate all those people.
    • Limited CAT tools use – To ensure the consistency of a translation, CAT tools are an inevitable assistant for translators. However, a minority of freelance translators haven’t made use of these tools yet. Even those who have cannot support all CAT tools. Chances are the tools they support aren’t your file format.



3. Which one is your match?

Choosing between translation agencies and freelance translators is undoubtedly a challenging task since they both have many advantages and disadvantages. Your match would depend on various factors below so don’t forget to analyze them carefully before making a decision.

Factors Translation agencies Freelance translators
Budget No strict budget Limited/Tight budget
Number of languages Many pairs One pair
Number of services One step to the whole process One to two steps
Amount of volume High – Moderate Small – Moderate

(for high-volume projects)

Quicker Slower