Four Things Freelance Translators can Learn from Translation Agencies

  • Greater than 3 minutes, my friend!

    From time to time, I see discussions among translators about how translation agencies are greedy and they take most of the profits of translation projects.

    You see that in social media, blog posts written by some freelance translators and on other media.

    But the most positive discussion I have read recently was between Steve Vitek

    and Dmitry Kornyukhov when they discussed how freelance translators can learn from the way translation agencies work, instead of just talking about them and considering them monsters.

    Yes, freelance translators can learn from translation agencies about many things. These agencies make millions of dollars each month, which means they are doing something good and profitable.

    In this article I refer to translation agencies who work ethically and professionally.

    Here is what freelance translators can learn from translation agencies.

    One: Having Systems in Place

    Successful agencies always have some type of a system for everything they do. They provide guides for each process they operate. These guide explain exactly the steps the employees should follow to execute their assigned tasks. For example, when a new accountant joins the translation agency he/she can easily know exactly how to collect invoices and run payments because this all is written in a guide that explains the whole process of invoicing and payments.

    Let’s be honest, many freelance translators are disorganized.

    I know some freelance translators who send invoices months after the completion of the jobs. I was guilty of that too! That is because their workflow does not contain set dates for invoicing or a process to check for missing invoices.

    As a freelance translator, you need to have a process of how to organize your work folders, at what dates of the month to work in your invoices, how to track unpaid invoices, at what dates to work at your marketing…etc.

    Two: Customer Service at Translation Agencies

    Language services market is known to be very fierce competitive market. There are many classes of service providers in our industry and “if you are not taking care of your customer, your competitor will.” as Bob Hooey said.

    Professional translation agencies know this rule.

    The customer needs to be taken care of at all the phases of the business; while doing the sale and after sales.

    Many freelance translators do not like to receive feedbacks from their customers. They take it as a personal matter; as if the customer is insulting them.

    Freelance translators need to follow up with their clients and know if they have any concerns about their work. You need to build a relationship with the project managers inside the translation agencies or the end client contact you work with.

    Be there with they have a problem and need your expertise.

    Three: How to Manage Translation Project Effectively

    Translation agencies work at different projects in many languages at the same time. This requires a solid background in project management. Each project may involve tens of resources to complete the project in time.  Usually agencies will have a set workflow they use to manage such projects to make their life easier.

    Freelance translators need to learn this skill from agencies.

    Sometimes freelance translators accept more than one translation task at the same time because they work with different clients too. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you know you can deliver all projects according to their deadlines with the required quality level.

    Each freelance translator should have a spreadsheet or an application that logs all projects in progress with their deadlines. Also, a professional linguist knows how to prioritise these projects and how to sign them off.

    Four: Consistent Promotion of Their Services

    Freelancers in all industries love their professions, but do not have enough marketing skills. This is the same situation for freelancers in web development, photography, graphic designs, content writing and many other domains.

    Translation agencies work really hard in their marketing. They take care of their social media channels, run advertisements and attend online and offline events.

    As a freelance translator, you do not need to do marketing as much as a translation agency does, but at least work on it to some extent.

    Check out your near local events where you clients participate, try to be in front of your clients as much as you can and in your capacity as a solopreneur.

    Your Turn now!

    If you see something succeed, you need to see why this happened and try to replicate this it. Try to embrace the success of translation agencies and see what they do that works for you as well and do it now!

    I really like to hear your thoughts about that, so please do not hesitate to write down your comments.

    P.S: I have written an FREE guide on how freelance translators can use email to win new translation clients, get it from here.


    Sherif Abuzid

    About Sherif Abuzid

    Arabic translator I design websites for translators.

    2 thoughts on “Four Things Freelance Translators can Learn from Translation Agencies

    1. We’re way past the era in which translation was a niche job! In a market with such a competition, we must learn first of all to be entrepreneurs, and that means taking care of every aspect of our business. We can learn that from translation agencies as well as from entrepreneurs and small companies in other sectors 🙂

      1. Thanks for the comment Eleonora. I really liked your saying “We’re way past the era in which translation was a niche job”. Yes, translators need to be more open to other communities and start to learn from other business too, especially translation agencies and entrepreneurs.

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