Direct clients vs. Agencies
Thread poster: xxxeurotransl
German to English
+ ...
Jul 5, 2001

We all work for direct clients as well as agencies.

I would like to know: do you work predominantly for direct clients or for agencies?

Also, what are, in your opinion, the pros and cons of working for either one?

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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:27
French to English
Jul 6, 2001

99% direct client.

Advantages direct client (off the top of my head, in no particular order of importance) :

- direct contact with person placing the order

- one or two people who are dealing with the text with whom you can discuss the text without passing through a third party (reduces chinese whispers effect)

- putting a voice and/or face to a job implies personal involvement, a little bit of the personality is involved so more committment from the client

- greater chance that your client knows what he is talking about, always useful when you need to clarify certain points. The client may know some technical vocab although might not always know what to do with it (which is where you come in!). When you have a dialogue with your client, he indirectly assesses your approach, your understanding and your interest. Commercially better all round!

- being paid : no middle-man, so easier to impose your terms and conditions, higher rate for you, lower rate for the client than if going through an agency, speedier payment

- human factor : you are in direct contact with the person requiring your help during the job so more fun, more chance of getting paid on time

- word of mouth : when your satisfied client talks about the translation work you\'ve done for him, he\'s talking about you, because he\'s happy with your work and the way you work - probably also because you got along well, albeit on the \'phone. Other clients come directly to you, referred to you by this happy client! As Henry has indicated on another forum, using your name is a good idea as people remember who they deal with, and they know they\'re dealing with just one person, the one who\'s doing the job.

- generally easier to check out the financial stability of your corporate client than an agency

When starting out I had 50% agency work and 50% direct client. I almost never work for agencies now. There are good and bad \'direct clients\', just as there are good and bad agencies. As I specialise in just one field, word-of-mouth does the trick. I read around the subject area all the time, keep up to date with technical and business developments in the field and contact potential clients when and where something interesting is happening - after having done a bit of research to make sure I\'m not standing on anyone\'s toes in doing so. In any event, if someone is already doing their work and they are happy with it, there\'s no harm done.

However, one translator I know, does four languages into her native language and works exclsuively with agencies. The langauge combinations she offers are not easy to come across and so she commands a high rate and is generally paid within a reasonale time. Apparently her agencies are happy as they only deal with one person for a range of languages, she doesn\'t have to tout for business and some of her clients contact the agency asking that she do the work for them. Another way of working which seems to suit all involved.

I do one language combination, essentially in one field. I find it quite exciting getting out there looking for clients and know many of them personally either beforehand but often through my work. When an instructing party changes job and moves to a new company, I sometimes pick up new work that way, whilst staying with the old client also.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-07-06 06:03 ]

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German to English
+ ...
Jul 6, 2001

Thank you for your input, Nikki.

I think, however, that your situation is unique in a way - specializing in such a narrow field, etc.

I always try to have a good balance between direct clients and agencies.

My experience has been that it is, in some cases, easier to check out an agency than some direct client (unless the direct client is some big corporation that everyone knows).

For example: in the past, I would also translate personal documents (birth certificates, transcripts, driver\'s licences, etc.). Those direct clients were individuals. In 99% of these cases, I had to haggle with them over price and many other things. Plus, I made appointments with them to deliver the original documents (required for certified translations), and most of them would never show up on time (not even on the day agreed upon!!!!!!). So, that\'s why I stopped providing these \"personal\" services altogether.

To some degree, I actually prefer to work for (reliable) agencies: maybe because they shoulder a considerable portion of your responsibilities (e.g., finding clients, negotiating with clients, proofreading and editing, formatting, etc.).

I also found, with direct clients, that you deliver your translation, and then you get some \"smart-a..\" secretary or whoever who tries to show how superior they are by picking your translation apart - in fact, identifying \"errors\" that are not errors. In cases like that, I would think, an agency would also take the role of a \"defender\".

One example: I once encountered a civil servant, who was married to a South American woman, who claimed that the Spanish translation I had delivered was bad: he claimed that the word \"inversor\" did not exist in the Spanish language (\"investor\"). Crazy, eh? [I was only the middleman: I had the translation done by a qualified translator with Spanish as his first language]

When faced with a whole organization (i.e. agency), people like that may think twice before making a fool of themselves like that, but when it comes to individual freelancers, some of these people think they can trample them.


Are there any markets or countries that are dominated by agencies? For example, a few years back, someone once told me that the translation industry in the UK was absolutely dominated by agencies and that there was basically no room for freelancers. In other words, all the freelancers just work for agencies, and that\'s it. Is that true?

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Local time: 10:27
Italian to French
+ ...
How do you contact direct clients thanks? Dec 8, 2010

How do you proceed to contact direct clients?

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Veronica Lupascu  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:27
Dutch to Romanian
+ ...
Direct clients vs agencies Dec 8, 2010

Direct clients are also less organized sometimes and the time one can lose while dealing with a direct client and explaining simple things is NOT paid.

I had a situation recently. They contacted me (by phone) and told me they need a very urgent translation. They asked whether I am available, agreed to send the file to be translated via email immediately and proposed to discuss all further aspects via email (it was not me who called). I didn't receive any file and after few hours I sent an email telling them that. I suggested that there could be a technical problem involved and they could try to resend the document (since it was so urgent, that requested a direct phone call). I got no answer back. When I finally reached them the other day, they apologized for not sending me the file to be translated and said that they don'y need the translation anymore. OK! Shouldn't I be informed? I know that they may be busy or so, but an agency would take the time to inform you that the project was cancelled.

I prefer working with agencies rather than with such kind of direct clients. It is not first time when potential direct clients disappoint me. Also, as it was already said, you can "check" an agency in a way or another, but direct clients involve more risks.

The risk is reduced for agencies, because they have much more clients, they can sue a client and continue providing services for other clients. A freelancer will have to fight alone, while loosing time and money.

I agree that few good and constant direct clients would be a valuable source of income. You have only to find them - a somehow risky process.

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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:27
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
On direct clients for personal documents Dec 9, 2010

xxxeurotransl wrote:

For example: in the past, I would also translate personal documents (birth certificates, transcripts, driver\'s licences, etc.). Those direct clients were individuals. In 99% of these cases, I had to haggle with them over price and many other things. Plus, I made appointments with them to deliver the original documents (required for certified translations), and most of them would never show up on time (not even on the day agreed upon!!!!!!). So, that\'s why I stopped providing these \"personal\" services altogether.

Perhaps things are different in your market. I do a fair number of personal documents for direct clients. None have ever tried to haggle and they generally assume that it is normal to pay in advance. Never a problem with any of them. The postal service has always served me well for any deliveries that could not be made by e-mail, but you probably see more hard-to-replace originals than I do.

[Edited at 2010-12-09 04:17 GMT]

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Direct clients vs. Agencies

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