The decision to hire a freelance translator or use a translation agency can have a dramatic effect on the quality and accuracy of the product you receive. That’s why it’s important to know what you get when you hire an agency, and what you may not get if you go with a freelance translator.
First, we need to define our terms: Freelance translators are independent translators who work on projects on their own. They are their own bosses and typically work alone. An agency, by contrast, is a business with many employees who are available to take on projects. The agency hires employees and verifies their credentials.
Choosing to go with a freelancer or an agency has its positive and negative reasons so whatever choice you make should be dependent upon your current situation. Hiring an agency is usually the best option when speed and quality count but choosing to go with a contracted freelancer can be beneficial but more work is required to oversee the freelancer’s work. With an agency, this is all handled for you.
Agencies have more than one qualified translator working for them, meaning that the agency won’t be “too busy” to take on your project during peak demand. Because of their stable of employees, agencies can also handle larger projects by assigning translation teams to divide the work. What does this mean to you? For example, if you have a large project with a tight deadline a freelance translator can only translate as fast as humanly possible. You may get the translation back on time but it could be prone to errors or obvious mistakes because there was no opportunity for proofreading. One thing you should always expect from your translator is an accurate portrayal of the spirit of your document free of errors and omissions. This is especially vital when dealing with technical verbiage or binding legal documents where mistakes made are more serious.
As a result, agencies are often more flexible than freelancers, and they can often guarantee work sooner than an individual working alone. Most importantly, with an agency, you can be sure of your translator’s skills because the agency will have tested and confirmed the translator’s abilities. Lastly, if the customer isn’t satisfied, agencies offer accountability and remedies to adjust translations to meet customer needs.
By contrast, freelancers don’t have the same accountability because they work only for themselves. It’s often hard to verify the quality of an independent translator, and they are not on call as often as a fully-staffed agency. Lastly, freelancers often use an inflexible price list, while agencies are large enough to offer flexible pricing. A freelance translator may be useful in a situation where you have the time, knowledge and experience to work with a translator and keep him on track. For multiple projects, with shorter deadlines, and quality assurance an agency would be more suited to the task.
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