There are a lot of complaints in the industry of abusive relationships between translation agencies and freelance translators these days. But it does not have to be that way. I am giving a webinar for “The Alexandria Project” on Tuesday June 3rd, during which I give tips on how to make working for translation agencies both rewarding and profitable. I want to share some of these tips here, plus present some recent discussions in the blogosphere on working with agencies.
First of all, what are the advantages of working for a translation agency (or Language Service Provider, LSP)?
- They do the hard work of marketing and finding the clients for you so you can focus on doing what you are best at, translating.
- It is very easy to have steady work once you have found a few good agencies you like to work for.
- They provide a “buffer” between you and the client, which can be valuable if the client is being “difficult.”
- They educate the clients about the translation process for you.
However, there are also some disadvantages working for translation agencies:
- The income or rates are lower than when working for direct clients, since the agencies need a cut of the fee for finding the client and for the project management.
- Agencies in different countries have different payment terms and methods that you may need to adjust to.
- Agencies may require a test translation to evaluate your translation skills and fit for a project.
- You often have to sign non-disclosure agreements, contracts, etc. with the agency.
That said, most freelance translators work with agencies and the majority of the translation jobs come from translation agencies. If you do some research before working for an agency and especially in order to find the agencies you would like to work for, the conditions can be very favorable.
Here are some tips for finding a “high value” agency to work for:
- If you already work for agencies, figure out which ones you enjoy working with the most, why you enjoy working with them, the qualities of that type of agency, and try to find similar agencies.
- Use payment practices lists to find agencies with a good reputation and good payment history.
- Always research a new agency that contacts you for the first time. Do they have a website, physical address, contact info and do they have good payment history?
Once you have found a good agency to work for, treat this work relationship professionally and like a partnership. Keep open and clear communication, follow instructions and communicate your requirements clearly. It should then be both enjoyable and profitable to work for this agency.
Corinne McKay recently wrote on her blog: “Good agencies have trouble finding good translators, even if they are willing to pay real money for their services. Partially, this is because some good translators have had it with agencies and will only work with direct clients.” She thinks that agencies could become more transparent and market their value better, and be more like an agent than an agency.
Terena Bell recently wrote an article comparing the yoga industry to the translation industry and something in that article struck a chord with me. She wrote “Unfortunately the freelance translator community has a reputation of us being a pretty hateful bunch, complaining and putting agencies down. How do we expect non-translators to respect us when we don’t even behave respectfully ourselves? Agree with changes in technology; don’t agree with changes in technology. But don’t waste your time writing negative blogs and tweets about others in our industry. It only makes the profession look underdeveloped.”
I think it is up to us freelance translators to make sure our relationships with a translation agencies are enjoyable and perhaps we could appreciate what they provide a bit more if they would become more transparent.
In my upcoming webinar “How to create profitable and rewarding relationships with translation agencies” I will also discuss how to deal with translation tests, signing contracts, getting paid or raising your rates, plus more tips on how to make the relationship with agencies mutually beneficial. You can find more information about the webinar here.
What do you think of working with translation agencies? How can we improve our relationship with agencies? I would love to hear what you think.