Translation Agencies vs. Freelancers: What’s the Difference

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Written by Diego Achio

The CEO & Co-founder of Traduality. Diego loves visiting national parks, playing tennis, go-karts, and Italian food. He also has over 13 years of experience in the translation industry leading language operation teams.

January 6, 2024

If you had to look for professional translators on Google, you’ve probably felt at least a little frustrated by the great mix of options and how hard it is to find the right one. Although translating has existed since biblical times, translation as a profession is relatively new. Not only heaps of bifurcations of it have emerged, but also different ways of offering the same service, as well as varying degrees of quality.

In recent years, the demand for translation services has skyrocketed. Globalization and the development of the internet are primarily to thank for this boom. For businesses looking to globalize, marketing translation is complicated and delicate. Without proper care or an improper translation service, a translation could end up causing serious damage to the company’s image.

Whose fault would that be? While you might blame the translator, the company will blame the person who hired them.

So let’s avoid blows to your company or personal image by discussing the types of translation providers available for hire:


Types of Translation Service Providers

In the end, there’s no perfect translation service, nor is there a perfect translation service provider. However, you can find the ideal service provider for your translation needs with a bit of research. When first looking for translation services, ask yourself:

  • What do I need this translation for?
  • How big will this project be?
  • How many languages do I need to translate this content into?
  • How literal should this translation be?

types of translation infographic

By answering these questions, you should have a general outline of what services your project will need. Next, it’s time to talk about providers. Generally speaking, there are three types of translation service providers. Automatic translators, freelance translators, and translation agencies.

Automatic Translators

Automatic translators are free or paid websites that allow users to translate text immediately without human assistance. While this sounds great in theory, automatic translations tend to be clunky in practice. Their low cost reflects the quality of the translation, and most times, automatic or machine translations are relatively inaccurate. This is because the machine cannot differentiate between a culture’s various sayings, themes, and memetics. Automatic translations are, however, decent for directly translating individual words or short phrases. However, regardless of the degree of technology these machine translators use, they are only around 50-85% accurate.

Freelance translators

Freelance translators are individuals who provide translation services. When choosing a freelance translator, it’s important to know that freelance translators can range from professionals with translation degrees to bilingual people who translate on the side. Freelance translators can also either work full-time or part-time, as they make their own hours.

When searching for a freelance translator, remember to do the following:

  • Check their credentials. Try to find a freelance translator with a college degree or at least 5 years of translation experience.
  • Ask for their CV/Resume. That way, you can check their work history to see how long they’ve been translating.
  • Never go for the cheapest service. It may sound tempting, and your boss may want to stay low-budget, but it will ultimately cost less, in the long run, to have one more expensive translation done well than several poorly done cheaper ones.
  • Make sure the translator is working in their native language. This means that if the translator is a native Spanish speaker, they’ll translate from a foreign language to Spanish.

Translation Agencies

Translation agencies and translation companies are incredibly similar. Unlike freelance and machine translators, translation services provided by an agency tend to be more expensive but well worth it if you’ve got a short project turnaround or require high-quality translations. Translation agencies tend to have the edge over individual freelance translators because they can:

  • Work faster
  • Offer services in a broader variety of languages
  • Manage multiple projects at once
  • Assign different people to different roles in the translation process
  • Spend extra time editing and proofreading a translation.

Freelance translators are limited by their individual capabilities, so translation agencies often hire freelance translators to work on projects as a team. With a team of translators, it’s reasonable for a client to ask for perfection (the final document passes by several sets of eyes before reaching the client), and agencies also have quality assurance measures in place.

The main difference between hiring an individual freelance translator or enlisting help from an agency is the existence of a project manager. Translation agencies will assign their clients a project manager to act as a middleman between you and the translators. In addition, the project manager oversees the translation process and helps edit the final product to ensure it meets the agency’s quality standards.


Looking for a Specific Translator or Agency?

If you’re searching for a freelance translator or a translation agency to help with your next project, a translation marketplace is the best place to start looking. Traduality’s vetted translator marketplace has everything you need to succeed; create your first project today and find vetted translators, or book a meeting with us to learn more about your specific needs.  

Updated 2/21/2024.

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