Can you reduce your translation costs without compromising on quality?

What is the point of the translation agency

If you've tried searching the internet for something like French translation services (go past the many misleading offers of automated free translations), you will have discovered the hundreds of translation agencies proposing to successfully manage your multilingual projects for you. Unlike PR agencies whose expertise lies in keeping relationships with the press, or marketing agencies who sell ideas and technology, the translation agency’s job is more difficult to justify.

What if I told you that it is possible to get a cheap translation from a qualified and experience translation professional without decimating your marketing budget, simply by going straight to a freelance translator?

What your translation agency doesn’t want you to know

Often seen as the one-stop shop for all translation needs, translation agencies build their business on compiling a large pool of freelance translators with the view to responding quickly and efficiently to compagnies’ needs such as multiple languages, short turn-around times or specific industry knowledge.

Because they have wider shoulders (ie, a greater budgets and resources to promote themselves), they tend to be more visible on Google and their sales team can rally up a larger audience. This gives them purchasing power with freelancers, who all tend to spend long hours registering with agencies and jumping through their many hoops.

Interestingly, and despite the varying requirements and processes, the projects tend to land in the same freelancers’ laps. In fact, it is not uncommon for me to hear of an upcoming project from two or more of the agencies I work for. Eventually, the client will settle for one of them and, having finally found out who would get their hands on the margin, I can start translating. I rarely get to talk to the client and when I do, it is generally under the close supervision of the agency's representative.

Do you really need a translation agency, and what are the risks of cutting out the middle-man?

Agencies do have a role to play, and in some cases your translation project will work out better with their help. In many other scenarios however, you can save a lot on your translation budget as well as streamline your workflow by working directly with the freelancer translators. Before you ditch the middle man and decide to manage it all yourself, here is a short summary of what translation agencies do and how you can make do without them.

Vetting the translators

Managing the proof-reading

Driving down translation costs

Managing multilingual projects

Files and data security

Files formatting and processing

Managing reference files and glossaries

Responsibility and reliability

In truth, unless your project comes in an unusually complex format or requires a particularly precise collaboration among a large team of translators, it is perfectly possible and easy to manage all this yourself.