Translation agencies / direct customers ?
Thread poster: francoisebou
francoisebou
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:39
Dec 4, 2013

Hi,

I am just curious to know most of people point of view on this subject.

It seems that this world has inclined into being a "go between" world.

Look at housing, how many times do you deal directly with the actual seller of a house and not through an estate agent!
Look at teachers... I went on Internet 2 years ago to notice that now, to find teachers on Internet, you find teachers' agent!!

Same in translation... Years ago there were no agencies but only translators dealing directly with customers and getting paid much higher indeed for the same job without seeing their own tool (Trados, Wordfast etc.) used to discount their own pay for example !

So why do you think we still need agencies? Are we lazy (or lacking the punch) calling direct customers?
Do direct customers desire a integrated service in many language without having to contact individual translators?

Are we unable as translators, to form a group of 10 or 30 linguists in different languages and propose our services in one go and get better pay?

Because, after all, we do almost everything... Translation, Proofreading, Formatting, DTP etc...

You see what I mean.... You could get pay at better rates of pay dealing directly with customers (avoiding the agent part) but no... We do not do it...

I just want to know your point of view on this...

I am not blaming agencies here, just noticing the changes in this international world and want to know different point of view on this matter.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
wotswot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:39
Member (2011)
French to English
Hi! Dec 5, 2013

I think your outlook on things is somewhat limited.
Why do translation agencies exist?
1. They have many translators on their books, in many different language combinations, which is a decisive factor if deadlines are tight (as they all too often are).
2. They usually have project managers, very important for multilingual jobs.
3. They usually have the resources we lack (proof-readers, DTP specialists, depending on format, etc.)
4. They "sell" us, in other words they deal with all the sales and marketing side of things, not forgetting the after-sales aspects (potential complaints, updates, etc.). They bill the end customer, so they bear the brunt of the upstream and downstream work and the potential legal risk.

Take a straightforward example: a large corporation needs its annual report translating into 5 different languages in 3 days. Is it going to spend an inordinate amount of time finding, assessing and engaging 5 different translators, or is it going to entrust the task to a translation agency?

Your proposition "Are we unable as translators, to form a group of 10 or 30 linguists in different languages and propose our services in one go and get better pay?" is simply untenable! If you've succeeded in doing so, I'd like to hear about it. But in the real world this is impractical. In your scenario, someone somewhere would have to act as project manager anyway, which boils down to being an agency! And that person would want their cut for the not inconsiderable amount of upstream and downstream work involved in "proposing our services in one go".

I really don't understand where you're coming from. The model you advocate may work on a local level, but certainly not on a national/international level, which is where the money really is. Large corporations only deal with reputable, well-known and long-standing agencies (translation, advertising, communication, etc.), not with a multitude of individual freelancers, however well they may be able to "dress themselves up" as a group of 10 or 30 linguists!

The only way you can achieve what you propose is by forming an agency yourself! And if you did so you'd realize that it's really a lot of work and stress, all the more so as you'd be in competition with a host of other more experienced agencies. Unless of course you're "la perle rare", i.e. a genius not only in translation and DTP but also in sales and marketing.

"Don't bite the hand that feeds you" is all I can say!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 09:39
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
The chicken or the egg Dec 5, 2013

francoisebou wrote:
It seems that this world has inclined into being a "go between" world.

In my opinion, it is not a matter of a direct will or choice, but a practicality.

People are searching for service providers because most often they don't have a clue how to go about the service they need. They only know the superficial and tangible manifestation of the result they are after that's about it.
When they go online or to a local directory of service providers they will contact someone that they found there, simple as that.
This brings us to the core issue. Many service providers may be the best at what they do, but at the same time lack business culture. When offering a commercial service it is not enough to be the best at what one does, it is not less important to know how to conduct oneself in the business environment. Sadly, this is where a lot of service providers fail - translators/interpreters included - and leave the field for opportunistic intermediates who hold just he opposite traits, good commercial skills but not always the respect and professional expertise. For them it is just a platform to make money out of.

Or in other words, no one can find one's services if they are not visible, if one doesn't speak the client's [professional] language, and if one is shying away from getting one's hand dirty in acquiring clients and dealing with them.

It is also worth noting that the intermediates do a great job at social engineering both clients and service providers, making them believe that they (desperately) need and depend on them.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:39
Member (2008)
French to English
Not at all Dec 5, 2013

francoisebou wrote:

So why do you think we still need agencies? Are we lazy (or lacking the punch) calling direct customers?


Not at all. I have quite a few direct clients, but many more agencies. Very often while I'm up to my neck in work an agency will contact me to do a job and I have to say I'm fully booked. So the agency has to find someone else, while the end client is blissfully unaware of the hassle involved in matching their job and timeline with an appropriate and available translator.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 08:39
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Years ago....? Dec 6, 2013

francoisebou wrote:
Same in translation... Years ago there were no agencies
but only translators dealing directly with customers and getting paid much higher indeed for the same job without seeing their own tool (Trados, Wordfast etc.) used to discount their own pay for example !


My apologies for living in a different space-time continuum to you, but you hold that "years ago" agencies did not coexist with Trados and suchlike.

For me, "years ago" means an Olivetti Lettera 22 (see wiki) and agencies (unlike dinosaurs) did actually coexist with humankind.

That's how I made a living in the late 70's.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 08:39
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Specialising Dec 6, 2013

I was lucky enough to start my translating career in-house, and running an agency is a very different job from translating, alhtough we translators did take part in some of the agency work.

Are we able to gather 30 translators? For a really good all-day powwow, yes, sometimes. It would never work as a permanent arrangement!

This week I visited a client - an agency that really is looking into the future, handling tandem translations and/or coordinating global jobs for the big groups that need most of the EU languages plus a few more.

Adapting DTP to suit different scripts...
Localising the illustrations and graphics as well as the text is often important too!
Agencies sometimes start as groups of translators who try to cut out the middlemen, and find it is not possible!

Back in the stone age, I am sure there were some people who were best at making flint knives and arrowheads, and some who were better at hunting...

That is what civilisation is - taking part in the community in different ways.
(Even if that raises the question of whether ants and bees are civilised?)



Direct link Reply with quote
 
Houston1
United States
Share Dec 6, 2013

I think My apologies for living in a different space-time continuum to you, but you hold that "years ago" agencies did not coexist with Trados and suchlike.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 08:39
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
And your point is.....? Dec 7, 2013

Houston1 wrote:

I think My apologies for living in a different space-time continuum to you, but you hold that "years ago" agencies did not coexist with Trados and suchlike.


You quote me. but I fail to understand your point, which is....what, exactly?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

James (Jim) Davis  Identity Verified
Seychelles
Local time: 10:39
Italian to English
Wow hardly a word in favour of direct clients Dec 8, 2013

Recently, I have done a little work for agencies. First question, could you contact the client and get the original word document instead of this time consuming unwieldy PDF, which I or you will have to convert? Answer: no. When I ask a direct client the same question, they generally answer by sending the Word file which is just sitting on their computer. If I have queries about the source text with an agency, I have to go to Google and hope. There is no direct contact with the client. With a direct client, often they say "just phone if you have any problems". With my direct clients I have been translating for them for years and often I know their business better than the youger staff at the company. Basically, when I occasionally translate through a reputable agency of highstanding I cannot give the same high quality and fast service (more time is wasted researching) for two reasons: one is that the agency is a barrier to communication between author and translator; two follows from one in that agencies don't allow translators to always translate for the same client company and gain in-depth knowledge of a company and its field.
Over ninety five percent of my work is from direct clients with whom I have worked for decades. One advantage is that I know the authors and their business so well that sometimes I could probably write the source and the target text. By translating with direct clients I can achieve standards of accuracy, speed and quality that are difficult to achieve working for an agency. That translates into two thing: greater job satisfaction and higher income. There is probably a third, which is job security. Working for a client over a period of decades, you build up strong relations and they think twice before going elsewhere for their translations. You are working for a whole company sometimes writing three of four invoices to different departments. At an agency, a new project manager can be enough to lose the client, with absolutely no other factors involved.
Sometimes I think agencies employ a member of staff to concentrate full time on all the reasons why direct clients are a bad thing and agencies are the only feasible alternative and then on ways to brainwash translators into believing this.


[Edited at 2013-12-08 14:13 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-12-08 14:59 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-12-08 15:01 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:39
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You missed the point Dec 8, 2013

francoisebou wrote:
Do direct customers desire a integrated service in many language without having to contact individual translators?

Indeed. Very many customers are busy people whose time is best spent actually taking care of their business, and not managing translators. Agencies are best at this task.

francoisebou wrote:
Are we unable as translators, to form a group of 10 or 30 linguists in different languages and propose our services in one go and get better pay?
Because, after all, we do almost everything... Translation, Proofreading, Formatting, DTP etc...

See? Your list is missing a key factor: selling. Agencies are best at selling our work, and I really enjoy the idea that they have expert sales people working to capture work and send it over to me. That of course has a cost, but I'm fine with the part of the money they keep in exchange for not having to take care of sales. I am a translator, not a sales person.

Agencies are the lion's share of my work, and I am happy about that since I am extremely lucky to deal with excellent PMs who are most reasonable and respect my work.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Robert Dunn  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 01:39
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
I prefer direct clients and only work with agencies that pay fairly Dec 14, 2013

For all the marketing and other work that the agency does on behalf of the translator, they more often not give you the translator the short end of the stick by exerting a downward pressure on prices, expecting you to do extensive and tiresome formatting work at no additional charge, I mean, if you guys work for agencies that treat you fairly then that's great but personally, I see them as cold beasts, businesses out for profit, a middleman if you will. Of course, not all of them are like this and I work with a few that pay fairly but they are among the minority.

They may take care of the marketing for you but why not do it yourself and get better-paying clients while you're at it instead of relying on an agency that sees you as a mere cog in the machine? This will also give you that satisfaction of being able to pull in business yourself, which is highly gratifying.

Communication is much better without having a PM in the way in any case. You can better foster a meaningful communicative relationship with the end client this way, especially after an agency's office hours.

[Edited at 2013-12-14 05:51 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Direct clients don't always pay better than agencies. Dec 14, 2013

I lived near Flushing New York. Because law is one of my areas of expertise, I attempted to contact lawyers in Flushing.

I offered 12 cents per word for translating the supporting documents of their cases from Chinese to English, and these lawyers thought I was trying to insult them.

I found out they usually use paralegals who are willing to work $10 per hour, and these people translate 500 words an hour.

So, these potential direct clients usually pay $0.02 per word!




[Edited at 2013-12-14 07:36 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
There could be more hassles working with direct clients Dec 14, 2013

I recently signed a contract with a direct client and they asked me to have a booklet translate into 4 languages.

After a long negotiation, everything was ready to go. Then my DTP vendor suddenly realized that they didn't provide "links" in the DTP package.

You know what happened? The direct client just had no way of forwarding those "links" to me other than sending me a DVD.

And it took him 2 months for him to get this DVD from his DTP vendor.

Then, he mailed it to me. 20 days have passed but I haven't received the mail.

Today he told me that he will re-send it to me with a track-able mail service and asked me if I can get everything ready to print before the holidays.

I told him that I had to contact my translators all over again because most of them might have lost interest in this job, or are not available any more.

This experience told me that it might not be the way to go to work with direct clients, unless you have sufficient patience.

[Edited at 2013-12-14 07:48 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-12-14 08:00 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-12-14 21:35 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-12-15 05:13 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:39
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The major differences Dec 14, 2013

I think I covered most of the issues from the client's stance on this article.

At least so far (and it's been there for quite a while) nobody has suggested any changes to these points.


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Translation agencies / direct customers ?

Advanced search







SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »
CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search