Freelance Translator or Translation Agency?

Many customers face the question of which alternative is better, to deal with a translation agency or entrust a project to a freelance translator? How does the work of freelance translators differ from that of translation agencies and when does it make sense to hire one?

A customer needs to understand the translation business, know the selection criteria, and the places where to look for freelance translators to find a great one. Unfortunately, customers are not always good at it. Many companies prefer to contact a translation agency and shift all their responsibilities to them. Such customers may not always be able to properly check the quality of the services that are provided to them.

problem of choice

Other customers who have some relevant experience and know the ins and outs of the translation business prefer to look for proper translators without the help of agencies. This is particularly true when highly specialized texts in various fields of science and technology are to be translated. Therefore, there is no single way of doing it. Everyone decides for themselves.

Freelance translators value their reputation and appreciate their long-term customers. They do their best to ensure that a customer is satisfied with the translation and will contact them again in the future. The competition among freelance translators is very high. Therefore, a business owner should not be afraid to contact a freelancer. Freelance and distance work become ingrained in our everyday lives more and more, especially during the last two months.

When Does it Make Sense to Hire a Freelance Translator?

  • The customer knows exactly the scope of the source document and is satisfied with the average translation speed of 8 to 12 pages a day.
  • The customer has a notion of the translation business.
  • The customer knows for sure which translator they are looking for.
  • The customer needs a specialist with some unique knowledge, educational background, experience, etc.
  • The customer has specialists who can check the quality of the services provided by the translator.

We would not recommend you to look for a translator on your own if you do not know the specifics of translation work. In this case, you risk hiring an unqualified translator, a translator with inappropriate specialization, or even a scammer. In this case, it is better to contact the translation company which will undertake the selection of a translator for your specific project.

Where can you find a qualified freelance translator? There are special translation websites (such as,, and others) that have a large database of translators. In these databases, freelance translators specify their prices, specializations, education, work experience, reviews by employers. A potential customer can get all this information and choose a translator by the language pair and following the requirements of a particular job. But in any case, the selection of translators from these databases and their testing will take time and you may not have time if you are a business owner.

Freelance Translator Advantages

Firstly, when you contact a translation agency, you do not have the opportunity to choose a translator yourself. So, you cannot be completely sure of the qualifications of the specialist that will be chosen for you by the agency. This is because translation agencies do whatever they can to prevent any direct communication between a client and a translator to prevent losing the client if the client wants to hire the translator directly. Translators at translation agencies are not attached to a specific customer and do the work as it becomes available. Therefore, in one case, a translation can be done by one translator and completely meet the requirements of a client with the next part of the same project done by a completely different translator whose qualifications may differ from those of the first one. An editor often corrects only the terminology and cannot change the style of the text. This often results in the fact the quality is never the same in the same translation agency. Translation agencies prefer to keep silent about this fact, but this is a fairly common phenomenon. If you hire a particular translator you have already worked with before you can be sure of the quality of their work. This is the most important advantage of a freelance translator.

Secondly, the prices of a qualified freelance translator are usually lower than those offered by a translation agency. Moreover, you can always bargain with an independent worker. In most cases, a translator offers discounts for the sake of further fruitful cooperation. It should be pointed out that translation prices differ among freelancers greatly. It all depends on the qualifications and work experience.

Thirdly, an actively working translator is always in touch. You can contact him/her on holidays and weekends which cannot be said for sure about a translation agency. (Whether the translator you contact agrees to work or not is another question). If a translator has any questions in the course of work on the translation, he/she can quickly contact the client and clarify all the aspects in real time without any intermediaries.

Fourth, if a client has a large project, he/she can independently select several translators and form a task force at his/her discretion. There are professional communities on the Internet such as those on Linkedin, Facebook, etc.

Fifth, a freelance translator already knows all the requirements of a customer cooperating with him/her regularly. If a client constantly orders translations on similar subjects, a freelancer will develop a client-specific project-specific terminology. It is much more difficult to do this in a translation agency, since the translator who made the previous order may be busy next time. That’s why the translation in this case is usually given to another available translator who needs explanations of the client’s requirements again. 

Sixth, you can find a very competent specialist. Almost all highly qualified translators prefer to work on their own and not through a translation agency. Such specialists are officially registered as sole proprietors and work at high rates. Translation agencies often use the services of low-skilled translators as they require much lower pay. Their translations often need editing, especially when it comes to highly specialized text. In this case, it is more reasonable to contact a freelance professional who will translate at high prices than paying more to several employees of a translation agency.

You don’t need to look for a translator in your local area. The Internet allows everyone to send any documents by e-mail, so you can find a translator even at the other end of the world. Many freelance translators living in Russia are officially registered in the tax office as self-employed specialists or sole proprietors, so you can do business with them in the same way as you can do with legal entities such as limited liability companies.

Disadvantages of Freelance Translators

Firstly, no translator is capable of translating large projects on his/her own. The standard translation speed is 8 pages per day or 40 pages per week. If you need to translate 200 pages and have only one week for that, you should contact a translation company or distribute the work among several translators.

Secondly, any translator may get sick or have other force majeure circumstances. A good translation agency can give your order to another translator in case of any unforeseen circumstances, which a private translator cannot always do.

Thirdly, a translator may already be busy when you want him/her to take your order. The fact is that truly competent translators are constantly busy with work and can choose clients that pay the highest rates and are the most comfortable to work for, etc. For this reason, a client should have several proven translators in mind to be able to interchange them.

As the saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket.”

Fourth, as was already mentioned, to find a translator, you need to know this business and spend some time choosing a translator. However, in some cases, it is enough to do it just once and then just choose an appropriate specialist from your own database of translators depending on the subject of the translation without any problems.

And with the right approach, a private freelance translator can successfully replace a translation agency. It’s up to you to choose.

Hire a freelance technical translator specializing in oil & gas and construction: contact Aleksei Afonin at,




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