Translation agencies… No, thank you!

You know translation agencies’ reputation is in dire straits when you see a flood of potential job postings stating they do not want to be contacted by agencies.

Of course, we can scoff and say the reason is that they can get lower prices from freelancers (amongst other “perks” that benefit the agency / end client more than the freelancer), but if for a handful of clients this is certainly true, maybe the current trend hides an uglier truth than what we would like to see.

As a translation company ourselves, we deal with all sorts of linguistic service providers/seekers: from freelancers to translation agencies and end clients.

Let me tell you what we have seen: a steep decline in quality provided by agencies along with increasing demands (sometimes quite absurd) in terms of prices, instructions, and deadlines. As a translation company, we deal with this and move on, talking amongst ourselves about the state of it all, while seeping our tea during Skype calls.

We are in the position of accepting or refusing conditions, in this sense we have the upper hand. Unfortunately, while in the past we saw a few agencies with less-than-ideal professional practices, nowadays it seems to have become the norm.

This does not bode well for anyone.

I know that there are great agencies out there, ours included (if you’ll excuse my bragging), so this may not apply to you, but we all affect each other in the process. Practices such as cutting too hard on costs, demanding urgent deadlines (when in most cases, there is no need) and unfair scrutiny in follow-ups will come back and bite us in the future.

 Others are to blame… really?

Poor quality freelancers have always been around. You know the type: lowest prices, blatant lies about their qualifications, accept everything under the sun only to leave the client hanging days after the deadline was due, poor results… so, this isn’t the real problem.

Moreover, that client who only goes after the lowest price possible has also been a staple in this industry. Also, not the root of the problem.

One can almost “smell” the apprehension in job listings when they say, “No contact from agencies, please,” which makes us wonder: what kind of unscrupulous “sharks” have bitten these clients so hard in the past that made them so opposed to translation agencies?

And then, we remember our own professional experiences with some agencies in the last few years and a tiny light bulb goes off in our heads! We also see this happen between agencies; we are weary even of each other! Doesn’t that tell us something?

Instead of diving into this trend, why not starting a process of educating about the importance of linguistic services provided by teams? Moreover, how about more transparency?

Yes, there are great freelancers out there (we are fortunate enough to work with some of them), but they aren’t the only solution. I will even argue that for some types of jobs, they aren’t the best solution at all.

For some projects, a team is certainly the best answer, because the project will exchange hands between people that know each other’s strengths and work habits, detecting issues that may have been overlooked by the others. In big projects and/or more complex subjects, this is a must.

At our translating company, we choose to have a small in-house team because experience tells us that better results are achieved when working as a team, learning from each other, and enhancing our skills.

Occasionally, we collaborate with freelancers, yes, but only with those we trust and when the workflow / project type demands it.

Hiring a team… what benefit is there for a client?

Basically, it’s a one stop solution for a translation project, period. In one single quote, the client is entitled to translation (link), proofreading (link) and quality control (link)—amongst other tasks, when needed, like editing (link), transcreating (link), copywriting (link) and so on.

If there is a problem or something to add/correct, the client only needs to contact the person ahead of the team, usually the project manager, who is in touch with all the other team members.

There is no need to jump through hoops, from e-mail to e-mail, contacting the various participants in the project—who, most of the time, don’t know each other—trying to reach a consensus and a final translation that does what it’s supposed to. Only writing about it is giving me a headache, being in that scenario can be a nightmare!

A final word

So, translation agencies of the world, think long and hard about the practices you want to implement, because you are also shaping the future of this industry.

Instead of complaining about poor quality freelancers stealing all the jobs or about clients that only pester you about prices, think about your own standards and what you are doing to create a more trustworthy and sustainable environment in this professional arena (yes, it is a Brené Brown reference, for those of you who got it).

We can make a difference. As for our team, we’re committed to doing our part! We believe that this trend can be overturned and that trust in translation agencies can be regained, as long as we don’t compromise on what’s most important.

Want to know more about how a translation boutique can optimize your business? Learn about our services!

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