Where should you buy translation/interpreting?

I have had a few calls recently from potential customers who were worried by price issues. When that happens, as an “intermediary” I often give the name of a translator whom they can contact direct, who may not be VAT registered and who will not add the management (and finder’s) fee the intermediary needs to charge (think wholesale v. retail, though a direct translator bearing all the responsibility for a job rather than relying on an intermediary to read proof etc. will probably pitch prices somewhere in between these extremes).

I have a foot in several camps: around 85% of my living comes from the translation I do myself, the remaining 15% from intermediary work. In my “own” work, I serve both direct clients (a growing market for me) and translation companies. Sounds like more feet than any human being is entitled to! The question therefore arises for both myself and my clients: when should you go through an intermediary (translation company/agency), and when should you go direct?

Some simple rules:
– one-off jobs can often be handled by a translator/interpreter directly.
– if you are dealing with a limited number of languages and maybe not placing T&I work every day, you could be well advised to go directly to the translator
– especially if you are dealing with the kind of work where direct contact with an individual is useful, such as promotional or sensitive material where discussion with the author can be crucial.
In some ways the individual then deals with opposite poles – material where consistency and client knowledge does not matter so much, or where they are really particularly important.

But be careful where you shop: especially if you are not familiar with the T&I field, useful resources are www.iti.org.uk (my own personal affiliation) and www.iol.org.uk which are specialist professional associations with lists of qualified and tested individual professionals. Expert users “shop” there too! Members are listed by specialisation as well as language, so you can find the closest possible fit with your needs. The “letters after your name” which they provide are also particularly useful if you need to have the translation certified for court use, for example. And by the way, these are UK institutes, there are of course equivalents in other countries.

However, there are cases where the individual T&I professional cannot meet all your needs. If you are a busy person placing:
– a wide range of languages
– long jobs which a single person may not be able to handle within a specific deadline
– regular projects, particularly if (as above) they are long or in a wide range of languages
– you need the translation to be read by an additional external proof reader (a service some individuals provide and some do not, but most can do on request)
– you don’t have time to handle the phone calls, individual queries, general and particular management work involved
– you may want complex technical handling to give consistency over immense projects or have several languages handled in technically complex formats
– if, as a rare translation user, you really want someone else with expertise to choose your T&I professional, negotiate, know who to go to and what questions to expect etc.
If, in other words, you need a one-stop shop or a professional project manager for any number of reasons, then the additional fee normally incurred for a large in-house T&I/communications department or – more and more frequently – paid to a T&I company is more than worth while. ITI (web address above) has corporate members, there are also specialist professional associations for translation companies such as the ATC (Association of Translation Companies), EATC (European Association of Translation Companies) etc.

Either way, it makes sense to identify the best supplier to suit your needs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: