Should I hire a freelancer or a translation agency?

It’s difficult to choose a language service provider or freelancer when you don’t know much about the translation process. Having worked both directly with clients and through agencies as intermediaries, I can offer some insight into what type of provider might be best for your project.

It’s better to work with a freelancer if:

– You need translations in one or two language pairs.

– You are going to have multiple projects of a similar type and need to maintain consistency of style and terminology between them.

– The project is creative or literary.

– The project requires specific expertise.

– You would like to communicate and consult with the translator or provide feedback.

A freelancer can get to know you, your company, and your goals closely and incorporate your feedback to deliver high-quality, tailored translations. They can maintain a termbase specifically for you to ensure consistency across projects. As they grow familiar with your products or specialist area, they’ll become more and more efficient. These benefits come from working repeatedly with one person who can fine-tune their service to your needs.

It’s better to work with a translation agency if:

– You need translations in many language pairs, whether in one project or in different projects at different times.

– You need large volumes translated quickly.

– Your projects span a variety of different subject areas.

– You don’t want to provide feedback or interact too much and simply want a finished translation.

Language service providers have large pools of translators, editors, proofreaders, and reviewers to draw on. They can put together a team and turn around high-volume projects quickly. Most will have at least an editor or proofreader review the translation and may have a multi-step quality assurance process.

In short, freelancers can be more tailored, agencies more systematic. That said, there are good and bad eggs in both baskets, so it’s always worthwhile to ask for recommendations and read reviews before choosing a service provider. A great way to find qualified freelancers is the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ Find-a-Linguist directory.

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