Why use a freelancer?


Advantages of a freelance translator over an agency

The translation industry is made up of many different players, from individual freelance translators and small agencies of less than a dozen, up to large international agencies that can translate any language at any time of the day, whilst also offering a wealth of other linguistic services to supplement their business. All options have their pros and cons, but I am going to concentrate on the advantages that hiring a freelance translator can offer - after all I am a freelance myself and most large agencies normally have a plethora of clients already and probably don't need the additional business.

  • Price: Without a doubt freelancers are cheaper than translations agencies, mainly because the customer is not paying for all of the agency's overheads. Most of the savings involved by using a freelancer usually get passed on to the customer. Freelancers can offer cheaper per-word rates because there are no additional fees involved as their own costs are substantially lower. If you need a translation into only one language and you have a low or limited budget it makes much more sense to use a freelancer. Most agencies outsource the work to freelancers anyway - anonymous people that the customer will have no contact with or influence on. Why not just cut out the middle man and deal directly with the freelancer yourself?
  • Consistency: With multiple translations, using an agency does not necessarily mean that the same translator will work on the same project - in fact they probably won't, especially if multiple translations are required or there are different target languages. The quality of a freelancer is more constant and they can maintain a consistency of work with repeat translations that is difficult to find in an agency.
  • Accountability: Using a freelance translator guarantees that the customer knows who has completed the work. Most freelancers have far less clients and therefore each one is more valued. It is important that the customer is satisfied with the work completed. Clients can collaborate directly with the person who will be doing the translation. Often questions arise, and it is much easier to be able to speak directly to the person involved allowing individual freelancers to establish a personal, one-to-one relationship with the client. As long as the freelance translator submits work of a high standard and acts in a professional business manner and is honest, not taking on more work than they can deal with or missing deadlines, this personalised relationship is hard to beat. The freelancer can take direct responsibility for their work - there is literally no one else to blame if the client is unhappy. Working directly with a freelance translator allows clients to establish and build a relationship that cannot be attained working with an agency.
  • Quality: Because they often work on multiple projects in many different languages, larger translation agencies are often too busy to be able to check individual texts properly or review the work completed by outsourced freelancers. They simply do not have the time. An agency can always excuse themselves by blaming the person who actually completed the work and promising that it won't happen again, or sending it on to another person to complete, thereby extending the deadline without any guarantee that the final work will be any better. If a freelancer submits inferior work back to a client they are likely to lose them in the future - the client will just go elsewhere. This is a superb motivation for the freelancer to submit accurate, professional work, researched and reviewed and returned to the client in a timely manner.
  • Confidentiality: It is much easier for a freelance translator to maintain a client's wish regarding confidentiality than it is with an agency. Often, an agency will send out documents marked 'Highly Confidential' to everyone involved in the process (translator, copywriter, proofreader, project leader, contact etc) - anyone of whom can jeopardise that very confidentiality (mostly inadvertently).  With a freelance translator - only that individual will actually view the documents ensuring a far higher standard of privacy.

Of course, these points are purely subjective. There are many advantages in using an agency, especially if you have a lot of work that needs doing quickly - work that would simply overwhelm an individual freelancer, but we are living increasingly in a world where the landscape of work has changed. For better or worse, people are increasingly working from home on short-term contracts or on a freelance basis rather than being permanently employed or working in-house. To put it simply, there are times when an agency would suit your needs better and a time when a freelancer would. Freelancers are not suitable for every type of job, but they are still the perfect solution for any client interested in any of the points above.