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Written by Montserrat González

Montserrat is a professional translator who likes to read and write fictional stories. There's nothing she enjoys more than spending time with her friends and family.

January 11, 2018

Translation agencies, freelancers and more: What’s the difference?


If you had to look for professional translators on Google, I’m pretty sure that the first time you felt at least a little frustrated by the great mix of options and how hard it is sometimes to find the right one. The truth is that although the work of translating exists since biblical times, translation as a profession is relatively new and, consequently, not only heaps of bifurcations of it have emerged, but also different ways of offering the same service, as well as degrees of quality.

Although it may not seem like it, translation is a service that has gained a lot of demand in recent years thanks to globalization and business expansion. Being a work both complicated and delicate, if you do not choose the type of provider you want to hire right, you can end up causing a serious damage to the company you work for and, want to guess whose fault it will be? I’ll give you a hint: You’ll blame the translator, but the company will blame the person who hired them.


Types of translation providers

Let’s put accusations aside and go to what you want to know. In short, there is no perfect provider, but there is the ideal provider regardless of whether you are a particular client, company, factory, franchise, etc. It all will depend on the type of service you need and what you need it for; and of course also that you can differentiate types of providers. But helping you in that part is my intention in this article. So, there are basically three types of providers: automatic translators, freelance translators and translation companies or agencies..


Automatic translators

You must be careful with these. These are free or paid websites where you can translate text immediately and without human help. It is the most economical service but as the saying goes “you get what you pay for.” I recommend using it only if you need to know what a text says in another language for personal purposes where there is nothing at risk. Generally, regardless of the degree of technology they use, they have an accuracy of between 50% and 85%.


Freelance translators

These are individual people who provide the service. The important thing to know about this type of provider is that you can get a real professional or a bilingual person who translates to earn extra money, can devote to translating full-time, or maybe translates as a part-time job.

If you are considering going to a freelance translator, remember to:

  • Make sure that they are a professional with a college degree or at least about 5-7 years of experience if their title is not related to translation.
  • Always ask for their CV or resume, so you can check their work history and how long they have been translating.
  • Never go for the cheapest, even if it sounds tempting and your boss wants an economic service remember that “you get what you pay for.”
  • And finally, make sure that they translate into their native language and not into a foreign language. That is, if the translator is from Mexico, they should translate from a foreign language into Spanish.

Follow the tips above and you’ll get a good independent provider.


Translation agencies/Translation companies

If you choose to work with a translation company or agency (they are practically the same), you should know that the service will be a little more expensive but worth it if quality and delivery time are your priorities.

A freelance translator can do a good job, but their efficiency is limited by their individual capacities, and while you’re paying for a good service, asking for perfection is demanding a lot. If what you need is perfection, the service and price of translation agencies or companies take into account (or should, ask them) that your document passes through several eyes, at least a translator and a reviewer. The best companies also have quality assurance and can guarantee the “perfection” you are looking for.

It is important to know that many translation agencies work with freelance translators. The difference between you directly hiring one and the translation agency assigning the job to one of them is that the agency will arrange for an editor to review their work and a quality assurance manager to ensure that your content is delivered impeccably. If you need the translation for an important matter in your company, it is worth the investment, right?

Now that you have the weapon of knowledge in your favor, you can keep looking for the provider that best fits your needs, and remember that you get what you pay for. Let yourself be carried away by the golden rule of looking for the average price and ask all the questions needed.

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