What kinds of business/legal translation work should NOT go through translation agencies?
Thread poster: Paul Denlinger

Paul Denlinger  Identity Verified
United States
Chinese to English
Jun 15, 2016

Have noticed that most PMs at the mega translation agencies no longer have language skills, but only project management skills. This means that when the client has a problem, they just dump the problem on the linguists, and when the client tells them to jump, they ask "How high?"

Are there any areas of business translation where you insist on dealing directly with clients, instead of just going through translation agencies, because there are issues which most PMs are not equipped to handle?


 

Cilian O'Tuama  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:42
German to English
+ ...
Who pays your bills? Jun 15, 2016

Paul Denlinger wrote:

Have noticed that most PMs at the mega translation agencies no longer have language skills, but only project management skills. This means that when the client has a problem, they just dump the problem on the linguists, and when the client tells them to jump, they ask "How high?"

Are there any areas of business translation where you insist on dealing directly with clients, instead of just going through translation agencies, because there are issues which most PMs are not equipped to handle?


Whoever pays your bills is 'your' client. You deal directly with them, and them only. Whoever pays your client's bills is none of your business.

Get your own direct clients, and insist on whatever pleases you.

Don't wish to offend - just my spontaneous input as an outsourcer.
Cilian


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:42
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No limits Jun 16, 2016

Personally I do not see a limit in what types of documents should be handled by translators directly or by agencies. There are good agencies and bad agencies, as there are good project managers and bad project managers.

A good agency with knowledgeable PMs will always be a better customer for us translators than a bad agency with poorly trained or unqualified PMs, so when it comes to working for agencies or outsourcers, our goal should always be to work for the good agencies and work less and less for bad agencies. Do your homework in this sense, and you will avoid the issue altogether.


 

Huw Watkins  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:42
Italian to English
+ ...
Depends on your skills Jun 16, 2016

One advantage I can see for a company to use an agency is that the agency can often offer a variety of project-related products and services that a simple translator cannot (easily).

For example, a complex project may entail localisation, software testing, language testing in live software, DTP, publishing, various layers of quality control and proof reading, multiple-language translation and so on.

There is no reason why a translator cannot organise and manage all of the above, however they would be so busy with the project management and handling all the suppliers, they would no longer really be a translator (or only part time).

I do provide language services for one client in particular (and other ad hoc clients), however it rarely stretches beyond the translation into multiple languages itself. They are extremely happy with me though as I really understand the process and the translators I use, on the whole, are pretty happy with me too, espcially as I actually help them with file preparation, terminology management and other stuff above and beyond pushing emails around. I also mitigate problems with the client before they even reach the translator so they don't even know, and vice versa of course.

I have also worked/also work for some really great agencies (large ones included) who have excellent technical knowledge and are very fair from a business sense.

You get all sorts, so try to enjoy and to please the good ones and try to rid yourself of the bad (where possible).

Addendum:

I have just been offered my first job from an agency based in Holland. The person contacting me is quite clearly a translator herself (we've already discussed aspects of CAT tools and so on via skype on our first contact) and it is likely she may be a sole proprietorship (although I have no evidence for this). The way we communicate is wonderfully pleasant though - she understands my needs without me even having to ask and the emails and skype chats are friendly right off the bat. I expect that her end clients love her too. That is what a translator can offer - the personal touch that comes from spending hours actually doing the work itself. Translators, on the whole, are really nice people I find.

[Edited at 2016-06-16 09:40 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:42
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
you're asking the wrong question Jun 16, 2016

Paul Denlinger wrote:

Have noticed that most PMs at the mega translation agencies no longer have language skills, but only project management skills. This means that when the client has a problem, they just dump the problem on the linguists, and when the client tells them to jump, they ask "How high?"

Are there any areas of business translation where you insist on dealing directly with clients, instead of just going through translation agencies, because there are issues which most PMs are not equipped to handle?


I have noticed this with an agency which appears to be trying to scale up to an "LSP" with the result that the PMs I had a friendly relationship with have all left, and quality is going down the drain. The new PMs appear to be frightened out of their wits by their clients and I have had a couple of run-ins with them when they have refused to contact their client over incomplete sentences and sentences that don't make sense. I just refuse to deliver unless I get an answer in writing to the effect that yes, quality has to go out of the window at this point. It even happened with a job I had to proofread further to a client complaint regarding quality (I think because the PM had ignored my mails and wasted a whole day, then had the client on her back demanding his file yesterday).

It's not that the job shouldn't go through an agency, it's that you're working with a rotten agency. I sent the one I mentioned above a stiff e-mail to say that I will no longer accept their jobs unless I'm allowed to contact their client about queries or the PM promises to pass my questions on and send workable answers back in a timely fashion.
Right now I'm working on another project for them (they do send me interesting stuff) and skyping with their client any time I have a question, so it seems like they have listened to me. Although I did have to hassle the PM a fair bit first. Not sure how long I shall continue to work with these people.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 05:42
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No limit! Jun 16, 2016

Like Tomás I do not see a limit in what types of documents should be handled by translators directly or by agencies. Some big companies need their documents translated into multiple languages and one translator alone cannot handle several languages or translate a large number of words within a very short deadline. I have been translating for 40 years (10 part-time + 20 in-house + 10 full-time) and I must say that I have been extremely fortunate as almost all (one exception comes to mind) PMs I have worked with have been polite and helpful. I must say also that I tend to prefer small agencies rather than mega translation agencies…

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:42
English to Portuguese
+ ...
My suggestions on this issue Jun 16, 2016

A while ago I thought on what I would advise a friendly translation prospect, and came up with this article:
http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/trxag.html

So far I haven't received any criticism or negative feedback on it.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 12:42
Chinese to English
Quality of the agency Jun 16, 2016

I've worked with some very good European agencies who were completely upfront with me that they couldn't understand the source, but would support in the areas that they could. Those relationships worked fine.

There are definitely times when having a direct relationship with the client can help. For creative texts and complex legal texts, I always ask the agency if they'll put me in direct touch with the client (sometimes they do, sometimes they don't). But the very definition of a good agency is one which recognizes what skills it has in house, and works with you to find ways around the competencies it lacks.


 


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What kinds of business/legal translation work should NOT go through translation agencies?

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