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Poll: If you were a final client, would you prefer engaging an agency or a freelancer?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 15:37
SITE STAFF
Aug 1, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "If you were a final client, would you prefer engaging an agency or a freelancer?".

This poll was originally submitted by Levan Namoradze

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:37
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Interesting question - Depends on job, but probably an agency Aug 1, 2006

Good idea to look at it 'from the other side'. I'm sure this one will trigger another interesting discussion.

I replied 'Depends on the job', but I think in many cases the honest answer would probably be 'an agency'.

If I were a final client and needed my product or my marketing material or whatever translated into one or two languages only, I would probably be keen on working with individual freelancers rather than an agency. That way, I would feel more in control (whether that's justified or not is a different question) of what's going on and who is translating my stuff (rather then handing it all over to an agency without knowing who will translate it - or if it might get translated by a team of 10 different translators all chosen on the basis of their cheap rates). Maybe I could even save some money by cutting out the middle man (the agency).

However, if I needed my stuff in more languages, say four or five, it would probably be more efficient to hand over the work to an agency and let them worry about finding the necessary translators. This would be no problem at all for them who are used to resourcing projects in different language combinations while I - as a final client - wouldn't really know where to start and how to choose suitable translators. Also, I would probably be quite busy with my normal job and not have the time to reply to translators' questions all day long - let the agency sort that out, let them filter the questions from those translators for the four or five different languages, let them sort out questions and problems with the file format or the CAT tool (things I, as a final client, probably don't have a clue about anyway). Also, I would just have to negotiate rates with the agency, rather then with five different individuals. I would hand it all over to one contact, if necessary answer a few questions while the project is going on and in the end receive the files for all languages in one hand-off.

So, in many cases it might be more convenient and much more efficient for the final client to hand over the job of resourcing the translation to someone who specializes in exactly this - a translation agency.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:37
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Also depends on the client, I'd say Aug 1, 2006

I can think of one or two who'd rather have a name at the bottom of a non-disclosure agreement.

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xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 00:37
French to English
+ ...
as a final client, may I reply.... Aug 1, 2006

As a consultant, many of the projects on which I work are multilingual. Often I handle as many of the languages as I can myself (usually 2), though I can translate from several. I should add that most of the texts are articles and it is more about writing than word for word translation, before anyone gets scared out there!
Obviously for the language combinations I cannot handle or do not have the time to handle, I outsource, though it is the real end customer who pays.
This means that I work with quite a few other translators on a more or less regular basis.
I prefer if possible to deal with individuals. In only one case do I work with an agency but we have been working together from my days as a Communcations Manager and they know that I can judge their work as an ex-translator and I have whittled down the people I want to work with to a couple and the agency knows this and is very careful. I am spending a big client's money, after all.
For all other language pairs I have built up working relationships with individuals and it is a win-win situation: they get regular work and I always send them copies of the final result. I help them with vocabulary willingly also. I should add that all translations are passed to native speakers who work in Communications (another of my networks!) and a lot of changes may be made. But then I don't want translations, I want texts that read like originals. Bascially I produce brochures and magazines and the readers in the different countries are not interested to know whether or not the material has been translated. They want a good job.
Again we pay good rates (don't apply: the team is full).
In my experience cultivating relationships with individuals is the best answer. It takes times but pays dividends.
If I get an unusual language pair, I can consult ProZ or ask my network. So far, it has always worked a treat.
I have seen far too much rubbish work from agencies - they employ people of varying standards - and I prefer to avoid this channel where possible.

So there you have it from the other end of the the telescope but from someone who once was a full-time professional translator/interpreter, so who cannot be fobbed off with rubbish!


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paula13  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 19:37
Member (2005)
Depends... Aug 1, 2006

All of my direct clients are large companies, and companies usually like dealing with other companies. They appreciate the fact that agencies treat translation as a business (mind you, I'm not saying that freelancers don't). I take my freelance work as seriously as I do everything else and I'm sure my colleages do as well, but companies usually don't know just how serious a freelancer can be about their business and dealing with an agency often gives them a stronger sense of security.

However, I don't think this is always the case, which is why I always set time aside from my business to do freelance work. Some clients want to know they're working with a person, and they want to feel that if they have any questions or need assistance they'll be dealing with the person that actually did the work.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:37
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
IF I had a pool of competent freelancers in the right language combination Aug 2, 2006

For a number of years I was responsible for farming out work to freelancers (as head of translation services in the DC office of the World Health Organization -- PAHO), and I always took individual competencies into account in assigning the jobs. I doubt that any agency could have been as sensitive to our needs.

On the other hand, if I needed a job done in a language combination for which I did not know the translators, then an agency might be the answer.


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:37
German to English
+ ...
Interesting but grey question? Aug 2, 2006

In the case of end clients, this clearly presupposes how big their company is and how much they know about the translation business.

The decision-maker at the end client could be anybody from the Managing Director, the Marketing Director or - where applicable - even a "Localization Manager".

As has been said above, major multi-lingual projects are usually assigned to agencies/localization companies for reasons of simplicity, number of languages required, the 'one-stop solution' concept, and the possible requirement for also going one step further and fully outsourcing "Globalized Information Management".

I can say that most of my direct clients are SMEs - usually for the reasons stated at the top.

"Direct client stalking" will incidentally be an aspect of discussion at the Düsseldorf Powwow in October http://www.proz.com/powwow/964

Chris Irwin



[Edited at 2006-08-02 08:19]


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Maria Dimitrova  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 01:37
Member (2011)
Bulgarian to English
+ ...
Most agencies actually subcontract jobs to freelancers... Aug 2, 2006

As a freelancer, who works for agencies, I know that if I give a text for translation to an agency, the agency will often subcontract it to a freelancer...which is not bad, only that the freelancer will probably charge less, if contacted directly.
On the other hand, if you need a translation for official purposes, then it is better to give it to an agency, so that they can put a stamp on it, etc.
So, yes, it depends on the job, but if it is not for an official purpose I would rather give it to a freelancer - same quality for less money.


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vixen  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 01:37
Member (2002)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Depends on complexity of job Aug 2, 2006

I fully agree with Thomas.

For small jobs in one or only a few language pairs I would prefer to outsource to a freelancer, but I would outsource large projects involving various language combinations and formatting/layout work to an agency.

In either case, the most important factor is to find a trustworthy partner, whether this be a freelancer or an agency. (BTW, I don't consider myself to be a 'freelancer'. I'm a self-employed technical writer/translator running a business.)

When outsourcing work to an agency, the client can stipulate that consecutive jobs are to be translated by the same translator whenever possible. E.g. I get a steady flow of work from one particular end client through an agency and I know for a fact that the other language combinations for this client are also outsourced to the same translators whenever possible. This is a win-win situation for all three parties involved.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:37
German to English
+ ...
Depends on type of job Aug 2, 2006

For technical manuals to be translated into multiple languages (especially if the layout needs to be preserved/adapted in the process), the end clients would probably usually prefer agencies (although the more discerning clients may well have misgivings about the quality of some of the work).

But for legal texts and property-related work I have had a couple of direct clients that were disappointed with the work they had received from agencies, and were glad to find me as a direct freelancer. But they only needed work in my language pair.

To sum up, in my experience specialised clients like to work with a specialist freelancer, especially if the clients know enough of the target language to be able to judge the result.


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Levan Namoradze  Identity Verified
Georgia
Local time: 02:37
Member (2005)
English to Georgian
+ ...
What do we mean with 'a stamp'? Aug 2, 2006

Maria Ilieva wrote:

As a freelancer, who works for agencies, I know that if I give a text for translation to an agency, the agency will often subcontract it to a freelancer...which is not bad, only that the freelancer will probably charge less, if contacted directly.
On the other hand, if you need a translation for official purposes, then it is better to give it to an agency, so that they can put a stamp on it, etc.
So, yes, it depends on the job, but if it is not for an official purpose I would rather give it to a freelancer - same quality for less money.


Dear Maria,

I do agree to the all of opinion except 'a stamp', since I (the freelancer) possess the seal, which may be applied to each of my translations whether completed for an agency or an end clieent. And that seal is acknowledged by all public notaries as a formal certification upon producing (for the first time) my BA Diploma.

Regards,
Levan


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Levan Namoradze  Identity Verified
Georgia
Local time: 02:37
Member (2005)
English to Georgian
+ ...
Absolutely! Aug 2, 2006

Victor Dewsbery wrote:

But for legal texts and property-related work I have had a couple of direct clients that were disappointed with the work they had received from agencies, and were glad to find me as a direct freelancer. But they only needed work in my language pair.

To sum up, in my experience specialised clients like to work with a specialist freelancer, especially if the clients know enough of the target language to be able to judge the result.


Fully agree!


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paula13  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 19:37
Member (2005)
you don't always get the same quality... Aug 2, 2006

Maria Ilieva wrote:

- same quality for less money.


As an outsourcer, I don't think you always get the same quality from freelancers. Agencies go through several editing and proofreading processes (here at W&W projects go through at least two editors and one final proofreader), so you pretty much catch every little detail before delivering. Freelancers don't always have the time, or the resources to go through such thorough editing processes.

In my experience some (not all) freelancers will tend to take on more work than they can handle, and often don’t have time to check their work before delivering. Agencies know better, and we test our translators before sending them work. But, more often than not, direct clients have no clue how our world works and they get stuck with someone who charges cheap, but can't deliver quality (again, I'm only referring to freelancers who take on more work than they can handle, not freelancers in general).


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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:37
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
Depends on job + depends on client ! Aug 3, 2006

In addition to technicity or multilingual aspect of projects, I'd add: Is the client capable (or willing or does he have time enough) to search for freelancers, to select them, to check their job? This is of course is you are searching for quality - if not, you don't need to worry about all that and just take the cheapest you find.
But if you need quality, an agency might (but not necessarily) take on all the "meta" work you'd have to do (or wouldn't be able to do) to hire freelancers, which in the end might make business sense for you.

Maria, I can't agree with you that a freelancer or an agency is just the same except the price. Even if it can happen that some agencies do not add any value to the freelancer's work. but mostly they do. At least here in Western Europe. Now I don't know how it looks like in bulgaria, maybe local agencies are not that serious? I'm not trying to denigrate your country at all, but I've just been in Ukraine myself and seen how some translation agencies handle translations and really, there's a gap with what I know here in France... They wouldn't check anything, even numbers, even for certified translations. And they even recommended to cheat the lawyer who would certifiy the translation! So if that's your experirence, I can understand your point of view, but there are many other serious agencies in the world, too.

But, I must admit another point: depends on language. A French agency for example will do very good job on ensuring quality for translations from/into English, quite good for jobs from/into German, Italian or Spanish and less good for Chinese or Arabic. And then, I must say, if you need a translation for only one such "exotic" language, it might be just the same whether you hire a freelancer or an agency.

But you never can know!


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