In a previous article, I described how poor translations can really hurt your reputation and where these poor translations come from.
In this article, I will look at the benefits of a freelance translator and where these elusive creatures can be found.
Although this article focuses on translation, most of it also applies to other services, such as language training.
Large companies often have departments for translations, but while medium-sized companies (and smaller) often have a need for translated text, (documents, brochures, web-site etc.), they don’t have the resources to have permanent staff purely for this task.
A common method is look to agencies, get some quotes and send it to the cheapest one – but there are hidden problems with this approach.
It isn’t my intention to slam agencies and there are situations where they absolutely shine for example, if you have literally millions of lines to be translated or need text translated into several languages. But for bilingual web-sites and documents, I believe that a freelancer translator can provide a better service.
What are the potential pitfalls with agencies?
Agencies may show you impressive CVs, but there is no guarantee that any of those people will actually be involved with your translation.
You might be really happy with the translation, but the translator is not available for future work and you run the risk of style changes between documents or, in the case of longer texts, style changes within the document, because it was split between several translators.
Bearing in mind the fact that agencies will often pass work around if they don’t have the capacity, your 10 files could be translated by 15 different people, which is hardly a good way to ensure consistency.
Also, people translating these documents are quite ‘removed’ from the customer and there is no real sense of any sort of relationship with them.
Your contact at the agency may only speak your source or target language, but not necessarily both – this will hinder communication.
Let’s not forget that agencies also need to make a living and therefore the value chain is longer.
Freelancers translators can be a much better alternative
You work directly with them, which means a relationship is built.
They actually care about you and your company and you care about their well-being.
If you and the translator are geographically close, you can meet up with them to discuss matters, which is much more effective than emails and telephone calls.
They get a much better feel for what you do and how you do it, which makes the translated material stronger.
There is also a great level of consistency, as the same person does your translation.
They speak both source and target language fluently, which makes discussions about the translation much easier.
For general translations, you pay less than an agency.
Highly specialised translators aren’t available via agencies – they don’t use them.
Where to find freelancers translators?
So you’re convinced that freelancers are the way to go, but where to find them ???
Most freelancers have some sort of internet presence, whether it is their own web-site, on a translator site such as ProZ, TranslatorsCafé, or maybe on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, Xing, or even on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. There may actually be too many places that they can be found and no freelancer will have a meaningful presence on all of them, which could make finding the right one for you potentially awkward. Most freelancers don’t have huge marketing budgets like the larger agencies, so tend to get drowned out.
Freelancers can and do attend events. For example in Germany, Xing organises monthly gatherings in many towns. Some of the more daring colleagues have been known to visit trade fairs in order to contact companies.
There are numerous translators groups on Facebook – join one and post your requirements.
Twitter has several hashtags for translators (common ones are #translation, #xl8, #t9n, #l10n) – feel free to use the internet search tool of your choice to find more.
Don’t forget the telephone book – a basic listing is usually free of charge and does get used by freelancers. Sometimes the simplest option is the one that works.
You know a translator, but not for your required language pair?
There is another sneaky option, if you already know a translator. If they don’t offer your required language combination, they probably know someone who does. They are happy to make the connection, for several reasons.
- they’re service providers and are generally helpful by nature
- other translators do the same for them
- you might need their language combination in the future and will remember that they were helpful
Because the recommendation is a personal one, they will be sure to mention people that are professional and serious – they don’t want to risk a dodgy recommendation coming back to bite them in the bum.
Working with freelance translators can save you money, while increasing quality. If that’s not a win-win, then I don’t know what is!