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Why the freelance translator is the best option

Thanks to the Internet and the online presence of linguists, hiring translators has become easier and cheaper than ever before. In the early 2000s, you could not easily have your service manuals, apps and websites translated into other languages. In 2016, you can hire freelance translators across time zones to efficiently have your services and websites translated.

But having too many options can also be exhausting. 58064 agencies are registered to ProZ, and that’s only agencies. There are much more freelancers and many other crowd translation "solutions" such as Gengo.

The price gap of translation services is unreasonably large. I know that some translation agencies charge 0.5 USD per word for English to Hungarian translation. I charge 0.12 USD, and that’s the average price for freelancers according to ProZ. Some agencies charge 0.01 USD per word, of course, there is no doubt that they use Google Translate, because the average speed is 300-700 word per hour, depending on the format and topic. So that agency is making a maximum of 7 dollars an hour and their translators are making even less before tax, insurance and other miscellaneous costs.

Having too many options is not very convenient when you are not fully informed as to what you are getting and you have to take the time to choose. In this article, I will explain the pros and cons of hiring a freelance translator, translation agencies, and crowd translation.

  • Freelancers for almost everything: small, medium and big projects.
  • Agencies only in rare cases, for multi-lingual and huge projects.
  • Never use crowd translation. Don't even think about it.

In a nutshell when your translation needs match the description below, it’s always good to hire freelance translators.

  • Less than 20,000 words a day
  • to 3-5 languages

A professional translator can easily manage 3000 - 5000 words a day. If your project exceeds this amount it is still a good idea to hire multiple freelancers, or ask your freelance translator if he can recommend one.

When your translation project is really huge, translation agencies are the solution, since coordinating several translators can be a complicated work for your staff and translation agencies have their database of freelancers, ready to be exploited.

Big translation is

  • more than 20,000 words a day
  • translation to more than 5 languages

When you seek the cheapest and quickest translation, regardless of quality, then you may use a crowd translation service like Gengo, Babylon, Smartling or OneHourTranslation. Then you will end up proofreading or correcting the entire translation, so ultimately this will be the most expensive solution.

A freelance translator is always the better, quicker and cheaper.

Insider tip: freelance translators always offer cheaper per-word rate, the quickest turnaround and the best quality. I cannot stress this enough.

The reason for lower prices is quite obvious; you pay only translators when you hire a freelancer whereas if you contract an agency you are also paying a high earning CEO, along with human resources staff, trainees, their office staff and their capital investors. Contrary to what many may think translation agencies don’t have the advantage of volume over freelancers. Translation is a labour intensive service, and the size of a company has very little impact on the productivity of each translator. It’s not like one translator in a company of 1,000 translators can translate more words per an hour than a freelance translator.

You can also assume the quality of professional freelance translators is constant. If you work with an agency, they don’t always assign the same translator to you. Actually, you will never know who is actually working on your sensitive documents. It is much practical for them to assign the best translator for new clients or very big clients, and assign trainees to small or existing clients. When you contract with a translation agency, you put your text into a black box and at the end something comes out, but you will never have any idea what is going on in that box. And you receive all this "service" for double the price.

Hire translation agencies only in very special and rare circumstances

Coordinating a huge team of translators for different languages and different cultural backgrounds requires project management skills and intercultural communication skills. A huge project here means one with more than 5 languages, where for each language you need more than 20,000 words translated a day. You can enjoy the simplicity of having only one contact point if you hire a translation agency, but this simplicity will a big, fat price tag.

While translation agencies don’t have an advantage in productivity over freelancers, they do not even have an advantage in availability. Actually, agencies are less available than freelancers. They have their office hours and after these hours you can hardly reach them. However, translators are used to work for clients from different time zones.

Never use crowd translation.

Crowd translation services do not play any part in the actual translation process. Crowd translation acts as intermediary platform in which customers upload texts to the platform and translators carry out the translation and then submit the translated text back to the platform. Actually, these "companies" are nothing more than a piece of code running on a website, sold by aggressive marketing.

Furthermore, crowd translation platforms won’t waste their time making sure your final translation is anything more than just translated properly. To be honest, it makes no sense to talk about their time, since these are nothing more than a piece of code.

Thanks to online availability of freelancers, and websites like this one, you can directly work and communicate with your translator and pay less for the service than when you use other solutions.

If you want to have your work translated but don’t have enough money or knowledge, freelance translation is the only option worth trying.

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