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Why do clients turn to big translation companies rather than individual translators?
Thread poster: LilianNekipelov

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:22
Russian to English
+ ...
Jul 22, 2014

I have been wondering recently why many clients decide to give translation work to big, faceless translation companies, which charge them at least twice as much, and then give out the work to the most economically desirable translators, instead of contacting qualified translators directly.
Is there any logic in that type of thinking? It is as if a client looking for a lawyer paid twice or three times as much to get a mediocre one: this is, fortunately, not allowed, because no one can outsource lawyers' or doctors' work.

Translation is an expensive service to begin with, so I really cannot see the logic in using an agent. It is slightly different with interpreting. I just wonder why don't they outsource concert pianists, and violists as much/ Quite comparable skills--in terms of uniqueness.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 01:22
German to Serbian
+ ...
They have their reasons... Jul 22, 2014

...they trust them more as legal entities plus direct clients don't have capacities to test out their freelance contractors. They count on agencies to do the good job, which they are often not capable of estimating (whether the job was actually good or not).

For lawyers and doctors you are probably right, however, violists and pianists do have agents that are earning much more than they do (per concert). It looks like arts professions aren't as protected as lawyers and doctors are. Now you brief all these facts up to your kids at the beginning of their professional education/career, it's on them to choose, it's on you to present the facts.


 

Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:22
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Convenience Jul 22, 2014

There are many advantages of going to a big translation company that I can imagine.

Firstly, if you want something translated into multiple languages, you'd have to contact many translators in order to get all the work you needed done if you contacted translators directly. With a translation company, you just place the order and they sort out getting the linguists to do it.

Secondly, I imagine big translation companies never have no availability for a job. There'll always be some translator they can find to do a job, so once the end client places on order for a translation, they'll almost definitely get it without having to ask several translators themselves.

Thirdly, it's more expensive, but more streamlined. I imagine a translation company will invoice end clients once per month or so, so the end client only has one big invoice to deal with as opposed to numerous small ones from multiple translators (which the translation company has to deal with).

There are other things - the quality of work from a translation company is also more likely to be high quality as they will already have vetted the translators they work with, for one - so for companies that don't need to worry about something costing a few hundred extra if it saves them time and is more convenient, going to translation companies makes a lot of sense.


 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 02:22
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
A few reasons off the top of my head Jul 22, 2014

1. In the direct client-freelancer model, an employee has to manage the translation / localization process. The client may not have an employee who's qualified for this, or one who is available enough to devote a considerable chunk of their time to managing the process.

2. When translating / localizing into multiple languages, the above costs increase accordingly. It becomes much more convenient and/or economical for the end client to have a single point of contact -- the agency PM -- rather than many translators and/or editors for all the languages involved.

3. End clients trust agencies to have suitable translators in the appropriate language pairs standing by to start and deliver the work quickly. This allows the client to save time and money screening freelancers, especially if multiple target languages are required.


 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 08:22
Japanese to English
+ ...
I wondered the same thing a while back Jul 22, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:

I have been wondering recently why many clients decide to give translation work to big, faceless translation companies, which charge them at least twice as much, and then give out the work to the most economically desirable translators, instead of contacting qualified translators directly.
Is there any logic in that type of thinking? It is as if a client looking for a lawyer paid twice or three times as much to get a mediocre one: this is, fortunately, not allowed, because no one can outsource lawyers' or doctors' work.

Translation is an expensive service to begin with, so I really cannot see the logic in using an agent. It is slightly different with interpreting. I just wonder why don't they outsource concert pianists, and violists as much/ Quite comparable skills--in terms of uniqueness.


Eventually I came to the conclusion that many clients need the same stuff translated into many languages. Since most translators only translate into one or at the most two languages, that means that for every target language a client would have to find and deal with different individual translators. This means different Terms of Service, rates, time zones, etc. I can see how it would be annoying for a client to juggle all of that when they could simply go to one of these agencies which offer one-stop shopping in a dozen or two of the world's major languages.

For example, I recently translated a menu for a Japanese restaurant in English. I also found out that the agency was handling the translations into Chinese and Korean as well. Were they not able to handle the outsourcing of these other languages, I may have not had the opportunity to get the job from them since I cannot provide translation services in those languages either.

The problem lies not in the big, faceless translation agencies themselves but rather in the way they do business. By trying to increase profit margins at all costs, these agencies just keep lowering the rates they pay to translators. And as those rates get lower, the quality also decreases. End clients are in many cases completely unaware of this phenomenon, as they are not really a part of the translation industry. I certainly don't know detailed information about other industries in which I don't participate actively.

So, how to educate clients about the situation? That is the question.


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:22
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Look at it from a company perspective Jul 22, 2014

When analyzing why someone does something you should never try to analyze it from your point of view, you have to look at it from their point of view.

One reason a company would rather use an agency may be that companies often have to translate text into different languages. If you have to translate text into 10 languages it is a lot easier and quicker to deal with just one company (i.e. the translation agency) who will find 10 translators for you rather than looking for 10 translators yourself, from a business point of view this makes perfect sense, the time savings alone justify this.

Another example could be a company who only translates things very rarely or it may be the first time they need something translating, they know nothing about the language and have no idea how to look for a qualified professional translator, so they turn to a company which (in theory) specializes in finding translators.

Another example would be a company that has a very large project to translate and needs it translating quicker than a single translator could, say you need one million words translating in a month (I've worked on projects like this), there is no way one translator could handle that volume, you need a team of translators and they need to be coordinated in order to use the same terminology, style, etc., so you turn to a company who does this for you.

The are a lot more examples like this.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:22
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I don't personally agree with this part Jul 22, 2014

Charlotte Farrell wrote:


There are other things - the quality of work from a translation company is also more likely to be high quality as they will already have vetted the translators they work with, for one - so for companies that don't need to worry about something costing a few hundred extra if it saves them time and is more convenient, going to translation companies makes a lot of sense.


The quality of work may as well be inferior--the layout will be most likely better, or the paper may be of a higher quality. Many big companies have no way of checking if the translation is accurate or not, so they hire back translators to compare the translation with the original, which is a sort of Sisyphus job, for which you have to pay, and does not guarantee top quality, regardless. They also make the translators work under tight deadlines, which is very destructive to the translation process.

The only reason that someone may want to do it is probably that they want the text translated into multiple languages--other than that --it is a total waste of money.

In New York, for example, if they get work from the City, they have to make sure that the translator's rate per hour complies with the City's regulations and rates-- quite high rates per hour--around forty dollars per hour, or more perhaps, regardless of the language. So, I can't really see how they can still make any money without taking advantage of the translators, in some way.

[Edited at 2014-07-22 17:33 GMT]


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:22
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Less hassle and all services together Jul 22, 2014

As I see it, if it is a good company, it should provide proofreading.editing services, besides translation in various language pairs, so a client does not have to search for a translator in the language pair which might be "rare" + a proofreader/editor. That is a plus.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Certainly a valid reason Jul 22, 2014

Alex Lago wrote:
Another example would be a company that has a very large project to translate and needs it translating quicker than a single translator could, say you need one million words translating in a month (I've worked on projects like this), there is no way one translator could handle that volume, you need a team of translators and they need to be coordinated in order to use the same terminology, style, etc., so you turn to a company who does this for you.

One translator = one human-being. However skilled that one person is, they can only work for a certain number of man-hours per month, so can only produce a limited number of translated words. You also can't get one person to be available 24/7.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 01:22
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Clients would do far better to work with small and medium-sized agencies Jul 22, 2014

I prefer to work with medium-sized agencies - some of them have all the advantages and fewer or none of the disadvantages.

They work from smaller premises, often at the edges of towns or in small towns, so they are within reach of transport for wherever their employees live, but do not have to pay city-centre costs for huge offices.

They specialise in particular subject areas and are REALLY good at them, so they can advise clients. They have networks of specialists who help with anything outside their core area, so they find the capacity one way or another.

They do all the marketing, coordinating with other languages and DTP-work etc. that I am clueless about - and they really look after clients' and translators' interests. They have qualified PMs who are allowed to make decisions and able to sort out questions before they turn into problems.

In all modesty, they attract better qualified and more professional translators and they pay them better. They attract the kinds of clients who appreciate quality and understand that to get a good translation you have to allow time - and pay for it.

It is a tough profession, but they manage anyway - their clients are loyal, and they are not constantly trying to catch new ones with cut-price offers! They can compete pricewise, but not with bottom feeders.

I have simply stopped working for one or two of the big, faceless agencies, and there are others I only work for when I have time. While if the small ones call or mail me, I bend over backwards to fit some of them in - and I know they will always go the extra mile for me.

So how do we educate clients about that kind of agency and support them?
That is the way to go.

Bigger is not necessarily better in translation - attention to detail is far more important.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:22
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, I think so, too, Josephine, Jul 22, 2014

and pay fair salaries to their in-house translators and editors ($75,000-$100,0000--range in the US), plus fair rates to the translators --at least $0.15-20/word and set reasonable deadlines.

Otherwise, I absolutely agree with Christine. The human touch is what counts.


[Edited at 2014-07-22 18:46 GMT]


 

Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:22
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Yes, you're right Jul 22, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:


The quality of work may as well be inferior


Oh, absolutely, it may be. The end client would probably expect the quality from a translation company to be better than from an individual (or at least it's more likely that it would be), is what I meanticon_smile.gif


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:22
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Your capacity as an individual is limited. Jul 22, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:
I have been wondering recently why many clients decide to give translation work to big, faceless translation companies, which charge them at least twice as much, and then give out the work to the most economically desirable translators, instead of contacting qualified translators directly.


It will give the direct client a lot of hassles to work with individuals. They rather spend twice or 3 times as much so that they can get a peace of mind.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:22
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
A lot of direct clients are paying you with the corporate money Jul 22, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:

I have been wondering recently why many clients decide to give translation work to big, faceless translation companies, which charge them at least twice as much, and then give out the work to the most economically desirable translators, instead of contacting qualified translators directly.


Not from their own pocket. Why should they care that much economically?


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 07:22
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Violinists and pianists Jul 22, 2014

Musicians are used for a lot of purposes and in many cases you can find something broadly comparable to a freelancer-agency relationship.

 
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