Advice for Transitioning from Agencies to Direct Clients?
Thread poster: Eric S.

Eric S.
Local time: 14:31
Chinese to English
Sep 13, 2016

Does anyone have any advice for transitioning from working with agencies to working with clients directly? As a translator who specializes in subtitle and fiction translation, I think I should seriously consider doing so.

The way I see it, these are the pros and cons that everyone pretty much knows already. With agencies you get more regular work (in theory) without having to look for any direct clients yourself, and the agency goes through the trouble of corresponding with the client in your place, and as a tradeoff you are paid at much lower rate.

I can see how this would make sense for someone who usually works on projects that don't provide much volume, but as I specialize in subtitle (movies and TV series) and fiction translation, I'm beginning to think that I may be better off looking for clients directly - i.e. TV networks, movie production companies, and publishing houses.

For one, these types of projects yield high word counts, so unlike if I was translating 2-3 page reports, contracts, etc., there is no need to find as many projects - in short, fewer projects yields higher word count (ie. higher pay), thus I would think the advantage that translating agencies bring by offering steady work may be cancelled out by the steady work one could get from these types of companies (again, movie production companies, TV networks, and publishing houses).

Second, I would really like to be past the phase of taking every type of job under the sun that I can manage to translate despite the extra time many fields I'm less familiar with take. I'm sure, at least with my source language, I'm not alone - being offered jobs for medical documents, patents, contracts, marketing reports, etc. despite specializing in something completely unrelated. I guess what I'm really trying to say is I know I can do my specialty quickly, efficiently, and well, and it just seems so much more beneficial to only take jobs that fall under my specialty - something I find it very difficult to do when working through agencies.

Finally, while I know from experience that working with individual clients can be a headache, to be honest I've noticed that many of the translating agencies I work with can be as well - and I can't really imagine working with the types of companies I mentioned above being more of a hassle than working with these agencies (although, of course, I know working with individual, one-man clients usually is). Of course, to keep it as hassle-free as possible, I imagine I should write up a cooperation contract, and allow the client to provide their own NDA if they choose to do so?

In summary, I'm thinking that seeking these companies out directly rather than continuing my search for agencies will make my job easier, more lucrative, and more rewarding - but I feel that I need all the advice I can get.

For now I'm working on writing up contracts for the two types of work as well as a sort of brochure/resume that describes the way that I operate (quality guarantees, correspondence, reporting to the client, price calculations, what each service entails, etc.)

Once I've finished, I would like to start contacting the three types of companies I mentioned above. I'm guessing I should be contacting companies (again, movie production companies, TV networks, and publishing houses) from the country that speaks my source language, correct? Are there any other types of companies I could target for this work in these countries, or even in the country of my target language (the USA)?

Also, should a freelancer contact these companies as a 'freelancer,' or try to emphasis their 'company' (ie. come up with a name and brand themselves as a company). Any opinions on this? I worry about companies being unwilling to work with freelancers who just use their names rather than a company name.

Again, any advice would be greatly appreciated, whether it be about how to deal with these types of direct clients, contract advice, advice on how to find clients, or what types of clients I should be looking for, what to call yourself/your business, etc.

[Edited at 2016-09-13 05:49 GMT]

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Eric S.
Local time: 14:31
Chinese to English
Great advice Sep 27, 2016

Gitte Hovedskov wrote:

Always look at direct clients from their point of view. I.e. try to figure out what they look for in translators and then tell them how you can provide what they need.
Don't make the mistake of telling potential clients a whole load of stuff they don't care about or presenting them with a whole load of text they really don't want to have to read.

Figure out what you can offer a direct client that an agency cannot, i.e. what makes you a better choice for the direct client.

Present yourself as a potential, equal business partner, not as a 'freelancer', which is such a nondescript term, a sort of 'Jack of all trades, master of none' designation.

Great advice, thanks!

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