For good reasons, every translator wants to work only with good translation agencies, because working with good translation agencies saves the translator a lot of headaches, troubles, worries, and annoyance.
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Therefore, knowing how to choose good translation agencies is one of essential business skills that every translator should master.
Although there are many good translation agencies, it’s not easy to spot good ones in the beginning. Mistakes are unavoidable, no matter how much you pay attention to my advice. I myself have made plenty of mistakes. That said, it is critical to ask yourself some questions before selecting a partner in your translation career. Below are the five questions you should consider in order to select good translation agencies to work with.
Do they have a good rating on Blue Board?
Interpreting the Blue Board score is not a rocket science but it does need a bit of insight and practice. I will not go into details here; please read Be an Informed Translator: Reviewing Translation Agencies Through ProZ’s Blue Board. Checking the Blue Board is such an important step that can prevent future headaches, waste of time and financial loss.
Are large translation agencies good ones?
Not necessarily. Translation agencies often stress how big their company is when they ask translators to bid for projects. Their claim about their size may be true or false, but that kind of information is simply useless even if it’s true, and it can cloud the translator’s judgment. Just because the agency is large does not mean that it’s good. Not at all.
In my opinion, a good agency:
- offers good rates
- provides required information in a timely manner (good communication), and
- does not complicate things for translators.
That is the definition of a good agency for translators. Size is not one of the criteria here; their size is simply irrelevant. Who cares how many branches they have around the world? Besides, the following is often true with large translation agencies:
- try to lower rates and
- communicating with them is sometimes difficult and impersonal.
- busy PMs sometimes send out mass emails to translators that may not be relevant to all recipients.
- are often unable to answer questions quickly
- do not respond to translator’s inquiries on time.
Large translation agencies can be good ones, of course, but only when their internal work flow is well managed and they are able to assist translators with their work. At agencies with good management, translators may not have to submit invoices and payments are automatic after invoices are uploaded to their system. If this is not the case, large agencies end up associating themselves with negative traits such as overworked PMs, bureaucratic and impersonal operations, demanding attitudes, etc.
Are translation agencies that regularly promise continuous and repetitive work good agencies?
Continuous work flow is important for a freelance translator, so having small but regular projects repeatedly can be very attractive. Agencies know that too well so, when they ask translators to bid for projects, they sometimes promise continuous work flow. Such promises are often misleading, however. Lower quality agencies that ask translators to bid on projects are more interested in dealing with the project they have at hand at the cheapest rate possible rather than building relationships with translators and their promises are oftentimes nothing but a way to lower the rate. Besides, regular work is really a misleading word. Perhaps they should use the word “frequent” instead. Even then, “frequent work assignments” that may or may not come true is by no means an excuse to lower your rate.
Are translation agencies that “allow” translators to use their online platforms (CAT tools) for free good agencies?
This is how it works, they say: the translator logs into the agency’s online platform, translates, and logs off. I’ve already written a post about this (Free Online CAT Tools VS. Purchased CAT Tools: The Importance of Building Your TM and CAT Tools: The Online CAT Tool), but I will repeat myself here: this system does not benefit translators; instead, they suffer a great loss. In this kind of system, the translator has to become familiar with a new CAT tool and he or she does not get to keep any TM after the job is complete. Also, when it comes to calculating the word count, repetition rate, etc., the translator has no choice but to rely on the agency.
The translator is no longer a language service provider when he or she uses translation agencies’ online platforms, but a mental day laborer. As language service providers, we must decide on our own how to work and what to charge for our services. Agreements can be made with clients. However, if the translator has no control over the content, volume, and discount (where there is repetition), it’s not much of an agreement. In my opinion, it’s best to stay away from these agencies if you can.
Are agencies that are small and specialized good agencies?
These are agencies that specialize in one area and focus on translation projects in that specific area. For example, there are agencies that manage automatic voice recording response programs while only translating materials related to this. Others translate only academic papers, online lecture series, text related to medical devices, clinical trials, patents, legal documents, etc. Because these agencies have secured specialization in such areas, they have the ability to capture the market that other agencies cannot. Thus, they tend to provide much higher rates to their translators. These agencies also put in a lot of effort to find translators that can work professionally in these specific areas, and once they do, they tend to treat them well.
If you consistently select agencies based on these standards, you’ll be working with only the best agencies within a few years.
Want to know more about how to run your freelance translation business? Check out my e-book: 9 Ear-Opening Tips for Freelance Translators Running Single-Person Enterprises E-Book.
Not started your freelance translation business yet? Check out my e-course just to do that: How to Participate in the Internet Translation Market E-Course.