How can I be a translator as well as an agent at the same time
Thread poster: r-lts.com

r-lts.com
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:00
English to Chinese
+ ...
Jan 17, 2013

I have been a freelance translator outside the UK (mainly part-time) and thinking of going towards the full-time road in the UK. However, I am thinking of maximising my revenue by not only accepting jobs that I CAN DO (e.g. my language pairs / within my availability) but also acting as an AGENCY (or agent since it will only be me) to pay other translators to do the job for me and I get a small amount of payment in return as an agent. Is it possible?

1-If so, can those costs that I use to hire other translators be counted as business EXPENSES?
2-How can I ensure the quality (to avoid my liability as an agent) of the work that is completed in other languages that I don't understand?
3-Can I be the SOLE TRADER (registered as self-employed) even I act as an agency as well as a translator?

Your help will really help me to decide my future career direction to focus on. So if you could give me some advice I am very grateful for it.

Thanks in advance.


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:00
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Oops Jan 17, 2013

ivy_oops wrote:
2-How can I ensure the quality (to avoid my liability as an agent) of the work that is completed in other languages that I don't understand?


Nobody needs another box shifting agent/agency. What are you planning to contribute to the translation process except adding some cost?


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:00
Chinese to English
Joining the low-cost, no-quality army? Jan 17, 2013

I agree with Siegfried. Some people start to outsource because they have too much work to do themselves. But you say you're only part time. How about working full time as a translator for a while?

If you just want to outsource because it sounds like you can make money while doing nothing, then you'll have to join all the other low-cost providers in China and India. I won't wish you good luck with that.

If you're serious about being an outsourcer then, yes, of course the expenses you pay to translators are deductible.
You find clients, and charge them X for a translation; you pay the translator Y, and the proofreader Z. X-Y-Z is your revenues.

It is very difficult to ensure quality in languages you don't speak. Most small agencies focus on just one or two languages for precisely this reason. There's plenty of work in Chinese-English. Why would you want to take work in other languages?

Yes, you can be a freelance outsourcer. But your accounts will inevitably be more complicated, and you will have to think carefully about taxes if you use some translators who work in the UK and some who work overseas. You'll probably need to get a professional accountant to do your books.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Fraught with potential difficulty Jan 17, 2013

ivy_oops wrote:
I have been a freelance translator outside the UK (mainly part-time) and thinking of going towards the full-time road in the UK. However, I am thinking of maximising my revenue by not only accepting jobs that I CAN DO ... but also acting as an AGENCY...


I think that before you start thinking about becoming an agency or a middleman, you should first get some experience as a full-time translator. Alternatively, you should devote all of your time to being an agency or middleman. This is just my opinion, but I think you may be surprised at how much time is taken up by being a full-time translator. Being an agency or middleman also takes time, and you may find it very, very difficult to balance both types of activities successfully.

I have no problem with people who act as mere middlemen in the translation business, but it is important that you understand what you're getting yourself into.

Don't forget that operating as an agency (or as a mere middleman) will put a lot of pressure on you and your time. The middleman tries to be an invisible link between the translator and the client, but in doing so he needs to be there at the moment when the translator sends back to the translation (or any queries) and he needs to be there the moment when the client replies with comments or with updates etc, otherwise the lag will result in missed deadlines and increased pressure on the translator to be available at impossible times.

In my opinion, one reason why translators are willing to accept lower fees from agencies is because agencies help increase the translation quality by taking care of arrangements for proofreaders and other checkers. But if you're simply a middleman who passes the work on from the translator to the client, then those tasks must be done by the translator anyway, using the translator's own money, during his own time, despite the fact that he works for a lower fee and needs to do more work to make the same amount of money. And this is why middlemen are not much liked by many freelance translators -- they increase workload and reduce pay.

Now you can say that this is a free market and that translators are free to not make use of a mere middleman, but it is often rather difficult to identify a mere middleman, unless he markets himself that way to both clients and translators (which I don't think happens often).

I don't know enough about UK law to answer any of your questions relating to your status as a sole trader or any tax benefits that you may get or not get. Who knows... it may even depend on whether your expenses are incidential (e.g. when you're a translator and you hire a typist to type a document for you) or a normal part of your activities (e.g. when you regularly hire translators to do the translations for you).

2-How can I ensure the quality (to avoid my liability as an agent) of the work that is completed in other languages that I don't understand?


I wonder if it would be possible to avoid liability to operate on a principle of a finder fee. In such a sceniario, the client would get two invoices -- one from you for the finder fee (because you found them a translator) and one from the translator, for the translation. The translator would also get an invoice, from you, for a second finder fee (because you found him a paying client), about a month or two after his invoice was submitted to the client. However, in such a scenario, there would be nothing stopping the client from working with the translator directly next time, so I'm not sure how sustainable such a business model would be. It would, however, as far as I can see, remove your liability for the translation quality.

Look, there are ways in which real agencies reduce or remove their liability, but doing so is expensive, and it requires processes such as hiring a proofreader and a second proofreader, before delivering the work to the client, but this is the point at which being an agency becomes a full-time job in which you really can't operate as a single person anymore.


[Edited at 2013-01-17 11:19 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
Took the words Jan 17, 2013

Phil Hand wrote:

I agree with Siegfried. Some people start to outsource because they have too much work to do themselves. But you say you're only part time. How about working full time as a translator for a while?

If you just want to outsource because it sounds like you can make money while doing nothing, then you'll have to join all the other low-cost providers in China and India. I won't wish you good luck with that.


Glad you guys expressed my reservations about the motives here. Bargepole touch it wouldn't I with a.


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