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Poll: What is the single most important factor in working with an agency?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 07:29
Jan 5, 2007

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "What is the single most important factor in working with an agency?".

This poll was originally submitted by Mike Hunter

View the poll here

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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Other: meaning All of Above Jan 5, 2007

The option I wanted was not there... so... I don't think anyone (maybe there is someone) is interested in working with an agency that pays 0.02 (eg.) per word and gives 100000 words to translate...

And of course, at the end of our work all of us want to be paid on time... right?


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:29
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I voted "other" Jan 5, 2007

When working with an agency, there's more than one vital element: Clear and reliable communication, fair rates, and relatively on-time payment are all essential. Coming up with the "most important" seems very artificial.

[Edited at 2007-01-05 20:20]


Mike Hunter
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:29
English to Flemish
+ ...
single most important factor Jan 5, 2007

I agree they are all important, but my assumption is that there's always some trade-off e.g. you might accept a slightly lower rate for a really humungous job, or a subject that particularly interests you. On the other hand most people would like to be paid more for the Friday afternoon pig of a job which needs delivery on Monday morning.

I also think conditions are not only about rates. As a translation manager, I'm not just interested contracting translators at the lowest rates, deliverability is very important. Quality of job = less hassle for me, and more importantly a happy client.


Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:29
Italian to English
Trust Jan 5, 2007

An agency is a customer like any other.

And for any customer, the most important factor is trust, which Steven and Mike have eloquently illustrated from both sides of the fence.

Most of my customers are direct but I do work regularly - at my rates - with four or five agencies, two of which I met through ProZ. At the end of the day, it comes down to working with clients that want a long-term, mutually profitable, relationship, not the chancers who are after a one-off deal, at your expense if necessary.

So always make the first job a small one, and always be prepared to write it off against experience if it goes badly. In real life, most people are serious and the bad experiences are not necessarily the client's fault.

Mike's comment on trade-offs is also relevant. For example, I am happy to wait a little longer for payment from a customer that pays me well if I know from experience that the money will eventually arrive. Again, it's a matter of clear communication and mutual trust.




Darin Fitzpatrick  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2006)
German to English
With Giles ... Jan 5, 2007

... which is why I picked "good communication."

I don't rely on translation income to pay the mortgage, so speed of payment is less important to me. Higher rates are always good, of course, and I like steady work (as opposed to lots of work).

But I really, really hate dealing with people who can't communicate well. It's not worth the time or stress. Good communication is the foundation of a good, trusting relationship.


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:29
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
They're all important Jan 5, 2007

Steven Capsuto wrote:

When working with an agency, there's more than one vital element: Clear and reliable communication, fair rates, and relatively on-time payment are all essential. Coming up with the "most important" seems very artificial.

[Edited at 2007-01-05 20:20]

I agree, Steven, they're all important, but when answering a poll I presume the "rules of the game" require you to make a choice.
Yes, good communication with clients is important, as is regular work and fair rates, but ultimately we are working for pay and the hassle of bad or slow payers is such a waste of time and energy that I truly appreciate those of my clients who always pay on time.


Elisabete Cunha  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:29
Member (2006)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
All factors are important Jan 5, 2007

I also believe all factors are important, but I must say I prefer an agency with low rates giving regular work to an agency that pays good rates and gives work once a year.
But the most important is that the agency is serious and reliable and pays on specified time.


Irene N
United States
Local time: 09:29
English to Russian
+ ...
With Giles and Darin Jan 5, 2007

Trust. Absolutely. I too picked "good communication". Things happen, agencies' life is not always a bed of roses either.


Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:29
French to Spanish
+ ...
Don't know... Jan 6, 2007 I never work with agencies.
No option for that, so I didn't vote.


Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:29
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Good Rates Jan 6, 2007

Of course, all of the alternative options are important. However, among the important factors, good rates is the most important to me.

The first time we deal with an agency, we will never know if they will pay on time, give us large work volume, or have good communication with us. The one thing we can know for sure is the agreed rates because this is the first thing discussed between the translator and the agency.

If it appears that the same agency wants to contract the same translator, the story would be different. He/she may compromise the agreement based on the past track record of the agency in terms of the four factors.

[Edited at 2007-01-06 01:25]


Clara Duarte  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I would chose Communication + Volume Jan 6, 2007

I do like the PR side of the job, prospecting potential clientes, and so on, but when an agency offers me a job I feel immediately appreciated for my quality (unless the agency is clearly favouring me for my quote), I don't need to deal directly with the client which allows me to have more time in the day to work on the translation, and so having a good relationship with the agency is a priority to me.

Volume is an added bonusicon_biggrin.gif


Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:29
Flemish to English
+ ...
Good rates Jan 6, 2007

Posted here :
English>Dutch made in China at 0.03$/€0.075 p.w. makes me want to run away from it.
English>Dutch: Offer from India at 0.05 eurocents. Not worth it.
French>Dutch, construction specification at 0.06, payment after 45 days and 4 years of guaranteed work, no thank you. Deduct all your costs and you arrive at 0
I'd rather do a shorter translation at good rates than a voluminous at Chinese rates. Less work and earns more.
Mind you, good communication with specification of what the agency expects from me is equally important.

[Edited at 2007-01-06 12:33]


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:29
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I chose good communications Jan 6, 2007

When I communicate well with agencies they usually eliminate problems or solve them fast.

Things like finding the end client's special in-house terminology, for instance, can be arranged in advance or settled quickly if you communicate well (and this builds up trust). Or the question of which deadlines can be stretched to allow for proper proofing...

I like good rates, but you rarely get paid for hassle, so a fine rate on word count can drop a long way if it also has to cover time wasted on problems.

If the agency understands about problems, some even pay for an extra hour to get them solved. But it has to be explained...

In terms of keeping hourly rates up, good communications pay off very well.

Good communications also help the agency to remember me. They register what I am good at, and that I do not specialise in Norwegian and Swedish... so they do not waste everybody's time sending me jobs I am not able to do.

A short, friendly e-mail and 'I hope I can help you another time' is often all it takes.

Communications are what translation is all about - so they are necessary all through the process.

An afterthought - if you communicate well with the agency, you can negotiate rates up. You may have to let them have easy jobs at lower rates in return, but they will presumably also be able to use that as leverage with end clients... and charge enough to pay you more for the really challenging jobs.


[Edited at 2007-01-06 12:42]


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:29
German to English
Communication important Jan 6, 2007

I've found that agencies that know how to communicate are usually well-organized and pay on time. I've found that rates / volume are often unrelated to other variables.

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