What\'s the use of agencies?
Thread poster: Theodore Quester

Theodore Quester  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:44
French to English
+ ...
Mar 13, 2002

Having worked now for several months, I am a little confused about agencies. Starting out, I assumed the benefits of working for an agency were:

1) quality control - i.e. the agency proofreads, edits your copy

2) liability - i.e. the agency is legally responsible for the product.

Now, I\'m no longer so sure, as I have filled out several applications where was asked if I had

1) liability insurance

2) a proofreader to read my copy before I sent it in

I have also been told \"we\'ll send it on to the client as soon as you send it to us\", which certainly gives me the impression that no quality control is going on.

So, what are people\'s experiences? And can you tell me, are there advantages as far as liability with working through an agency?

I have also got the impression from a posting that the ISO standards for agencies insist that all their work is proofread/edited; can one ask an agency if they are conformant?

How many people have a formal arrangement to have someone else proofread their work. Is it amicable, paid, reciprocal or what? Do I have to become more or less my own agency to subcontract out the proofreading and do what I considered the agencies work in the areas of quality control and liability (I already took out insurance).

So are agencies useful only as a source of lower rate work? Or is this only in less than ideal circumstances?


Theodore Quester


Local time: 02:44
Afrikaans to Spanish
+ ...

That\'s the situation right now!

Maybe then you can understand the situation!


No answers, but same thoughts Mar 13, 2002

I don\'t propose any answers to the questions you raised, but I just have to express my similar frustrations with agencies.

They have us fill out all those forms that shift everything that they\'re supposed to handle over to us. Just this weekend, I had an agency that wanted me to find a notary public to notarize my translation AND mail a hard copy of my translation to the client. If only it weren\'t in the contract I signed that I shouldn\'t solicit the end-client, I could have gone (and I really felt like it) directly to the client and offered my services. It would have saved everyone a lot in terms of hassle and money.

As I posted somewhere else, how I wished the government (who is usually the end-client in my language pair) would outsource directly to competent translators instead of having to go through agencies. I understand it\'s unrealistic because the government would want one translation agency to handle all the different languages, but still it is so frustrating to have to deal with agencies who don\'t/can\'t offer feedback or improve on your work but are profiting the most by being the middleman.


jccantrell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:44
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
both extremes Mar 13, 2002

Good question, Theodore, what IS the use of agencies?

I have seen both extremes. I have worked with several GOOD agencies that have their own stable of proofreaders, usually translators with other areas of expertise. This is part of the service they provide for THEIR customers, especially if they want to KEEP them as customers. The fact that send me the edited text is a bonus for me.

I have also worked with agencies that do NOT have language specialists proofing the translation. They do, however, at least read the English translation and then question the clumsy parts. While not as extensive as bilingual proofing, it DOES point out errors.

Finally, I have also worked with offices where they take my translation and just ship it off to their customer. Some of these last a while, most of the ones I have worked for have since disappeared. Why? Who knows?

In any case, to answer your original question, I use agencies to provide me with work. I do not advertise, other than a listing in the ATA directory. This seems to provide me with a steady stream of interested agencies. If I were to translate full-time, I would probably find direct clients and rely less on agencies, but for now, I view this as a symbiotic relationship.

So, my advice is not to rely on agencies as proofreaders, editors or liability shields. Just view them as a customer and provide the best product you can to them.


Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 20:44
German to English
+ ...
My 2 cents Mar 13, 2002

First off, there are agencies, and then there are agencies.

You\'re right, Theodore, an agency, by definition, has its own proofreaders and system of quality control. So, anyone asking you to provide your own proofreader (and trying to hold you liable to a degree exceeding the job at hand) is not a real agency and should, therefore, be avoided.

The problem is that there are too many fly-by-night operations out there these days, and, naturally, they try to download all of their duties on to their subcontractors. INSANE!

Again, stay away from them.


Jane Lamb-Ruiz (X)  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
re fly-by-nighters Mar 13, 2002


Very interesting, very true and very annoying. The best thing is to stay away from these people or charge them for extra services and tell them you might their issues to light in a public forum.

Recently, someone send me a file and so I thought we were on the road to negotiating a translation. It turned out this person sends files to a bunch of people, and then chooses the one who answers to the said person\'s self interest. When I told this person that I believed this to be non-ethical, the person said he/she didn\'t like me and was going to remove me from his/her listserv. When I pointed out I might bring this issue to the \"wider translation community\" the person backed down. I wonder what the person\'s client would think knowing their files have been sent out for all the members of a listserv to see?




Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:44
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

Agencies have a role to play Mar 13, 2002

Dear Theodore,

Agencies exist because they have something to offer that we don\'t:

. They offer their clients to deliver translations into X languages. We can\'t.

. They can offer extras like DTP of all sorts plus having the documents printed or produced in other forms (CD,DVD, video casettes etc)

Those are irrefutable advantages of good agencies. Then, as Werner points out, there are agencies, that do not have much of these qualities, being out for the quick buck. Let that not dim your understanding of the basic function of agencies.

One thing agencies should not indulge in:

Taking responsibility for the correct content of the translated text. That should be the sole responsibility of their client.

The one \'publishing\' (giving out) the translated text is the only one who can (and should) take full responsibility for the content. Thus, they should hire/arrange/test the proof-reader.

The agency could of course administer the proof-reader traffic, but they should not hire/arrange/test him/her.

If agencies were to follow these simple but clear principles, litigation can be banned from entering the discussion.

Best regards

Mats Wiman


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
ISO Agencies Mar 14, 2002

Hi Theodore,

ISO agencies usually publish the fact (after all they go through to get the ISO) and have their translations proofed, often by another free-lance translator whom they pay. It\'s part of the process.

The problem with working on one\'s own is this lack of objectivity we have about our own work. Thus, I have had friends who work for direct clients, at prices that can pay a proofreader to work for them.

On this basis, I have accepted some really large assignments after forming translator teams who circulate glossaries around and proofread each other (small teams are easy to handle). In other cases, I have formed part of a translator team under a single proofreader who does nothing but that, and sees to the unification of criteria as well.

These are possible alternatives.


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

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

What\'s the use of agencies?

Advanced search

BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »
memoQ translator pro
Kilgray's memoQ is the world's fastest developing integrated localization & translation environment rendering you more productive and efficient.

With our advanced file filters, unlimited language and advanced file support, memoQ translator pro has been designed for translators and reviewers who work on their own, with other translators or in team-based translation projects.

More info »

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