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  • Writer's pictureLaura Vuillemin

Why Freelance Translators Run Away From *Certain* Agencies

[DISCLAIMER: I’ve been collaborating with a medium-size translation agency for a long time now, things are going very well and I’m delighted. I’m not targeting all agencies. Fortunately, there are great ones out there which deserve our praises.]

▶️ Their recruitment process is tedious and outdated

We are in 2023. Asking for a CV no longer makes sense. Many freelance translators have a LinkedIn profile and/or a website which showcase(s) their experience in much more detail. You might see samples of their past deliveries, and recommendations. And don’t get me started on cover letters… Are you asking your plumber or tiler to describe their interest before hiring them? No.

▶️ They attach too much importance to test translations

Receiving a satisfactory test translation doesn’t necessarily mean a linguist will be a good fit. The best way to judge a translator’s competence and professionalism is by assigning them a small project to start off, and then review their work to see if it suits, taking other variables into account (timeliness, notably). Someone might very well polish a test translation just to get onboarded, but then turn out to be a person who churns out target content, takes hours to reply and misses deadlines.

▶️ They treat translators like numbers, not humans

For them, human and personalized contact is optional. They don’t see the point of properly greeting a translator, or thanking them for a delivery. An automated email, sometimes starting with a horrible “Hi partner”, will suffice. I know some will say, “Yes, but projects managers are busy”. True, but so are translators and, come on, typing “Thank you for the delivery” takes two seconds.

▶️ Their ethics are disputable

End clients, are you aware that some (usually big) agencies send your content to their entire translator pool, and simply have it translated by the linguist that will be the quickest to hit “Accept the task”? That’s the famous “First come, first served” approach. They don’t really care about who does it. They want it done, that’s all. And if this means having a different translator handling your content each time… Never mind. There are more important things than stylistic consistency!

▶️ They offer very low rates but make huge profits

Margins and profits seem to be the ultimate goal. For this reason, they offer ridiculous if not insulting rates to translators, while charging their own clients two or three times more. They pocket a lot of money, appear in fancy agency rankings (which focus more on revenue than quality of services, by the way), but tend to forget that without linguists, they wouldn’t generate a dime.


Once again, very respectful and quality-oriented agencies exist, but the translation world is also sadly made of bottom-feeding organizations whose practices MUST be denounced.


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