Translation Agencies: What are they? Why should I choose them? And what should I expect?

Translation Agencies: What are they? Why should I choose them? And what should I expect?

One of the major doubts for new translators is whether they should choose to sell their services to direct clients or translation agencies 🤔

Since it’s rather difficult to give a clear answer, I’d like to start talking about translation agencies 👇👇👇

Translation agencies are companies who provide various kinds of linguistic services to clients, and who act as an intermediary between clients and translators. Therefore, the client is not your client, it’s theirs. Consequently, if you’re looking for direct clients, agencies are not the right place.

How can you find a translation agency? There are several tools you can use to get in touch with them.

First and foremost, Proz.com. Proz.com is the most famous website where translators meet clients/collaborators and vice-versa. When you subscribe to Proz.com, you have access to the Blue Board, an impressive list of agencies or individuals and, most importantly, the feedback the translators give them. If you’re not subscribed, you can still see their score, but you’re unable to read the actual feedbacks or see who worked with them.

Another tool is, of course, LinkedIn. By searching the professional social network, you can find any kind of agency and find their contact or person of interest, like vendor managers.

One of the smartest things you can do is cross-searching these two websites. Obviously, you must know first what you’re looking for, but I’m sure at this point you already have a specialization field or are aware of your preferences. Don’t you?

When a translation agency gets back to you after your email of presentation, the person you’re communicating with is usually the vendor manager.

The vendor manager is someone in charge of making the first contact with prospect freelance collaborators, providing a translation test if appropriate or applicable, as well as communicating the results. You might also be asked to sign an NDA before receiving assignments. I’ve always been asked to sign them, sooner or later, so don’t worry when this happens. I hope there’s no need to say to read them top to bottom before sending anything back.

If you passed the translation test, many things may happen. Don’t assume that because you passed the test, you’ll automatically start receiving assignments. It might also not happen. “Are you kidding me?”, you may ask. No, I’m not 😔

Just consider that in my first year of business I passed around a dozen tests, signed almost as many NDAs, and am currently working with three agencies. The 30% rule (or even less than 30%).

What happened to the others? 🙄 Besides the one I left, I wish I knew. Usually, the main reason is that they fill up their database ‘just in case’ and then keep working with the translators they trust the most.

I keep in touch with them with my new projects of interest, or achievements or else because timing is everything, so don’t ever worry, don’t ever be discouraged.

When you start receiving job offers, the person who manages assignments is the project manager. Every agency employs several PMs according to their workload and fields of specializations. They’re usually very friendly, but sometimes also enigmatic. As I already said, follow them: if they are informal, be informal; if they’re not, don’t.

For example, one of the agencies I work with has recently employed a PM who’s so friendly I named them “the heart PM” because they send tons of emojis, is extremely supportive and always have a kind word to encourage you to keep up with the good work. So, I don’t feel like be no less ❤️❤️❤️

If you can’t take an assignment because [any serious reason here you don’t have to justify], take the chance and politely say no. They get back to you, eventually. And if they don’t, well… Draw your own conclusions.

  • 🔖 A hint: it’s not your fault. You’re not supposed to say yes to everything. You don’t look choosy or unprofessional when you say no to an assignment. Quite the opposite.

Agencies have a preferential channel of communication. Some of them use only emails, others prefer Slack or a similar kind of software. They might also have their own portal where they assign jobs, keep track of assignments, or where you must upload files like your invoices. You’ll be told everything when you start your collaboration. Pay attention to every detail and ask in case of doubts.

And here is a golden rule: Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to look unprofessional or annoying. If there’s something unclear to you, just ask.

You found something unclear in the text they assigned you to? Ask. You need clarification from the client? Ask. The agency asks you to use a tool you’ve never used? Ask if they have user manuals — once I didn’t and couldn’t finish my task, so… Usually, they can provide you with educational materials for not-so-commonly-used software like Trados or MemoQ are, so don’t be shy.

In a nutshell, what are the pros and cons of collaborating with an agency?

PROS

  • It’s a good starting point if you’re at the beginning of your career with a small or zero portfolio of your own. Through translation agencies, you can gain experience and build your resume if you want to take direct clients in the future.
  • You don’t need to constantly advertise yourself as they take care of acquiring new clients.
  • If the agency uses Slack or similar software, it’s easier to create a network with your colleagues and stay in touch with them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply when the agency communicates with you only through emails.
  • There’s less stress about refusing a job offer as you know they can easily assign it to someone else.

CONS

  • You might have to work on projects you don’t really like or don’t go under your area of expertise, but you take anyway because money.
  • You can’t choose, deal directly with, or steal the client (the latter is really, really mean, so please, don’t even think about it).
  • Waiting time to have your queries answered by the client is usually longer.
  • There’s more stress about refusing a job offer as you know they can easily assign it to someone else.

Let me know your thoughts about my post. Ask me questions. I’m here to share my experience and my observations with you 😉

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See you in 15 days, fellas!