You’ve made the decision to reach out to an international audience… now for the next step: getting your content translated. Whether it’s digital marketing content, a website, or a technical manual, you’ll need to choose whether to work with a translation agency or with a freelance translator . Each option has its merits, so this article with help you decide which is best for you.

Translation projects come in all shapes and sizes. You might have one short document which needs to be translated from one language into another. On the other hand, you might have tens of thousands of words which need to be translated into several languages and adapted for different markets around the world. You may know a freelance translator who can help out, in which case, great! But if you’re wondering where to start, here’s a summary of the pros and cons for working with a company or a freelancer…

Translation Agency – Pros and Cons

Pros

Agencies have many tried and tested linguists
A good translation agency usually has a large pool of linguists with different language combinations and fields of expertise, all of whom have translation qualifications and/or several years of professional experience.

Short deadlines are not a problem
With lots of translators, agencies have more resources than freelancers and can complete translations quickly.

Your communication style and branding stays consistent
A translation agency will make sure that your message is conveyed in a consistent and cohesive manner across all languages and audiences.

Translations will undergo extra checks and reviews before delivery
An agency should run quality assurance texts on translations to make sure there are no errors in the target language, and the translations will be checked against the source file.

Your content can be formatted so they are ready to publish
An agency can usually handle any file type or format. They often have creative teams who can help with things like InDesign, audio, transcription, voiceovers and formatting. Not all freelancers are able to offer a suite of services and skills to produce things ready for market.

Cons

It’s more expensive
Translation agencies often have higher rates than working with freelancers directly. But what you’ll get for your money is a translation managed from start to finish, as well as all the extras such as QA checks, formatting and reviews.

You don’t know who is translating the text
While there’s a personal touch to working with a freelance translator, you won’t know exactly who is completing the translation by outsourcing to an agency. You are trusting them to do a good job for you.

Some companies might use different translators each time
Depending on the availability of the translators working for the agency, the same linguist might not be available every time. However, a company should always choose a translator with good knowledge of the field of the translation and will try to use the same group of linguists as much as possible. They’ll also use translation memories to ensure things are consistent.

You won’t build a direct relationship with the translator
Some clients like to have direct contact with the translator. With an agency, you’ll build a relationship with your project manager. The PM then manages translators, reviewers, editors and formatting specialists on your behalf.

Freelance Translator – Pros and Cons

Pros

It can cost less
Freelancers will often charge a bit less than agencies for translation, so this is particularly useful if you’re working to a tight budget. However, you’re unlikely to get an extra pair of eyes go over your translation prior to delivery.

You know exactly who you’re working with
By skipping the agency, you’ll know who is translating your document and be able to contact them directly.

The translation can be assigned more quickly
An agency will need to check the availability of several linguists before the project is confirmed, however a freelancer might be able to check the text and accept the job sooner.

You can build a working relationship with the linguist
By working with the same freelance translator over time, they will get to know the product or service you provide. This means that the terminology and style used in your texts will be more consistent than if different linguists are used.

Cons

The freelancer might not be available when you need them
Freelance translators often have many clients and so might be booked up when you need them. This might not be much of an issue if you don’t mind waiting a little longer for the translation, but if you have an important deadline to meet, this may cause a few problems later down the line.

Freelancers do not accept multilingual projects
While many freelancers have multiple source languages (e.g. they translate from French and German into English), it’s rare to find a freelancer who will translate into multiple target languages. Translators should only work into their native language, so beware of anyone claiming to do otherwise. Unless they’re truly bilingual, they might be subcontracting.

You’re unlikely to be offered all the extra services
While freelance translators are experts in translation, they probably won’t offer the extra services an agency can provide such as complex DTP and extra reviews.

Choosing a translation company or a freelancer will often depend on the sort of project you have and your experience at sourcing translations. If you have a small amount of content for translation, or only a single language requirement, you can contact a freelancer directly.

However, it can take time to find the person who’s right for the job. An agency is your best option if this is your first time getting a translation, especially if you have a large-scale project with a tight deadline, require multiple languages, or if you need the text to be formatted post-translation.

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