Networks vs. agencies for assuring quality
Thread poster: Noe Tessmann

Noe Tessmann  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:23
English to German
+ ...
Jun 8, 2008

Dear colleagues,

we had a lot of threads about low rates from agencies and the general price decrease. Some people suggested to find the right agency who cares for quality and to avoid the "middle-man" agencies who don't add any value to your product/service/commodity however you might call it.

I found an interview with one of the founder of German association of quality translation agencies (QSD) who said that they also have to distinguish themselves from low-cost agencies who are just deliver "small cars" compared to their "luxury cars" and therefore are calling for European regulations.

The main difference are the proofreading stages where added value can be produced. Decent quality can be achieved by cutting the prices of the different stages of the production process. Quality can not be achieved by one translator but by a chain of control. In other words if we work for less the overall quality can be improved.

Is there a way out of the vicious circle? Many of us are part of freelancer networks but it seems that we're not able to compete with professional agencies. Are there some good practice examples for successful networks?

Kind regards


[Edited at 2008-06-08 14:30]

[Edited at 2008-06-08 15:14]


Vito Smolej
Local time: 02:23
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Vicious circle? What vicious circle? Jun 8, 2008

,Many of us are part of freelancer networks but it seems that we're not able to compete with professional agencies.

I admit openly, it is just a hunch - but I feel that the view we have from my little freelancing stand is rather limited. I dont think we are in any way competing with the big league players - it's an altogether different ballgame. Except if possibly they are already feeling the squeeze - a slow, but perceptable decrease in the worldwide commerce and communication, forcing them to go for peanuts ... But, sincerely, I do not think its happening ...



paula13  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:23
Member (2005)
Working together as a way out... Jun 9, 2008

Noe Tessmann wrote:

Is there a way out of the vicious circle? Many of us are part of freelancer networks but it seems that we're not able to compete with professional agencies.

[Edited at 2008-06-08 14:30]

[Edited at 2008-06-08 15:14]

I agree with Vito to some extent, freelancers and agencies are definitely not in the same league! Not because freelancers can’t offer the same high quality, but because agencies can provide larger outputs in a lot less time as well as other services like graphic design, dtp, etc. However, if we know how to market ourselves as freelancers, we very often have access to the same juicy clients as agencies do and when we do, we need to ensure the same high quality as the big guys. To do so, I think it is essential to work in our areas of specialization (and when I say “areas” I hope this is not interpreted too loosely, no one can specialize in a zillion different areas) and to have someone edit, proofread, and final eye our work. All this requires time and money, and it is harder and harder as professional translators to get new clients to want to pay what our work is worth when they can get their texts translated for peanuts somewhere else, especially if these clients are unfamiliar with the translation world.

In my opinion, there are two types of clients just like there are two types of freelancers. There are clients who understand the importance of linguistic quality and accuracy and those who have no clue. Similarly, there are freelancers who know what they’re doing and how much their work is worth (which does not necessarily mean they can't have affordable or flexible prices) and those who need to undercut because price is the only thing they’ve got going for them (and are, therefore, willing to work for ridiculously low prices).

I don't know for a fact if the latter have had such a strong impact on the market as some colleagues think, but I do know that it is harder and harder to get new clients to pay what used to be standard rates and their main excuse is that they can get it at half the price. So something is definitely going on with prices, and it’s not just agencies.

Now, those of us who have been in this business long enough can afford to choose who we are interested in working for based on our own goals or interests, but this is not the case for everyone, and when too many desperate people lower their prices too much, the market shifts. This is a basic principle we all learned in ECON 101!

So, as to your question Noe, I think there is a way out of this vicious circle and it involves all of us working together to provide translation/interpretation services at similar prices. Of course, some may argue that this could have a negative impact on competition, but it doesn't have to be that way if we use our skills to compete instead of our price! (How's that for Utopia?icon_razz.gif)


Noe Tessmann  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:23
English to German
+ ...
Uprise and fall of the middleman agencies? Jun 10, 2008


OK, we cannot compete really with the big players. I realized that. Working for the multinational end clients seems to be good for your ego and your CV, but it doesn't pay off. Every possible gain in time is quantified and goes into the pocket of the agency. Myriads of freelancers do their piece-work and prices are decreased for all at once in one mass email.

But all the "middleman agencies" with "300 tested mother tongue freelance translators" all over the world and a self-made web site whose sole merit is to manage multilingual projects. Their uprise is due to a vacuum left by freelancers who are not able to offer whole services (like me).

Yes, I agree certainly we have to market our skills.

Best regards


[Edited at 2008-06-10 19:31]


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