Ten tips for agencies trying to attract/impress new translators

In the eyes of many freelance translators, agencies often get it wrong, and surprisingly, many of the best-known agencies survive (even thrive) whilst continuing to get it wrong – speak to any freelancer who’s been in the game for a while about their experiences and most will be able to tell you dozens of translation-agency horror-stories. The problem, as most freelancers will tell you, is that a lot of translation agencies don’t seem to treat the very people who make them their money as well as they perhaps should. So here’s a few tips for agencies interested in starting off on the right foot when trying to impress new freelance translators.

1. Your website matters

Your website matters, so put some time and effort into the user experience from BOTH the client side AND the translator’s side. Broken links reflect very badly on your company and don’t exactly inspire trust or confidence from anybody.

2. Nobody likes to wait

Translators don’t like to wait an entire month (or more!) to hear whether or not they’ve passed translation trials. It doesn’t take long to assess them, so why the wait?!

3. If you haven’t got the work, consider saying so upfront

If a translator puts his or her time into completing your translation trial, said translator isn’t going to be pleased when you don’t give him/her any work afterwards – assuming they pass that is. Hint: the longer your translation trial, the more displeased said translator will be when you don’t come up with the goods.
If you haven’t got any work to offer and/or aren’t likely to require any more translators in the near future, why not say so upfront?

4. Provide a style guide

Do you want American or British English? Do you have any specific requests for formatting dates? Agencies can solve all these types of simple question by providing a style guide or info sheet – or a simple note requesting that the translator adhere to the The Chicago Manual of Style, for example.

5. Make sure the ‘solution’ isn’t available online

One of the first things translators do when they set about translating something new is read around the subject and google a few of the trickier key words or phrases. So if your translation trial is available online in both the source language and the target language, you can bet your bottom dollar that both versions will be found within minutes. Not taking the time to ensure a ‘solution’ isn’t already available online is laughable – as is using the same translation test pieces indefinitely…

6. Offer feedback

It’s pretty much a golden rule that agencies don’t give feedback on translation trials, which is a shame. Just a few pointers would be great! We know you haven’t necessarily got the resources (although some do) to be able to help people who don’t pass your trial but, in the long run, you’re not exactly making yourselves any more endearing by simply saying “No Feedback!” without even so much as a word on why not.

7. Respond to emails within a reasonable amount of time

Respond to emails promptly. You don’t like it when translators don’t respond within a few minutes/hours so don’t make translators wait hours/days for your own replies.

8. Ensure your emails make sense

Nobody is going to be impressed with emails that don’t make sense – especially if those emails are sent by a company specializing in languages.
Emails to translators (whose job is basically deciphering things) hardly need to be perfect, but if your staff aren’t capable of writing understandable emails in a particular language then don’t let them embarrass themselves (and your agency) by trying. Nonsense emails create the opposite of a good impression.

9. Offer reasonable rates

Most agencies can easily afford to offer rates that equate to about half (or more) of what they charge their clients  – which is often some serious money! In short, there’s enough money in this industry for everyone; so let’s get something straight: No Peanuts!

10. Ask yourselves a question!

One of the best questions for agencies to ask themselves is something along the lines of: if we were freelance translators would we like to work for our own agency? If the answer is anything less than ‘absolutely’ then things could be better – often MUCH better! Give yourselves a kick up the bum!

Have we missed anything? How else might agencies go about improving their chances of winning-over the hearts and, more importantly, the minds of freelance translators?

8 responses

  1. I think that’s it, you haven’t missed anything. I haven’t come across such agency though.

    1. Food for Translators Avatar
      Food for Translators

      …you are one of the lucky ones. Here’s hoping you never come across any agencies that do/don’t do these things!

  2. John Apps Avatar

    It’s good to see some advice for the agency side of the translator/agency relationship. A lot of what I have seen has been aimed at translators. I’m relatively new in the business and haven’t yet had any experiences that were too bad but I have read a lot of horror stories that suggest this kind of advice is necessary.

    1. Food for Translators Avatar
      Food for Translators

      Thks. Good luck.

  3. Powersamurai Avatar

    11. Do not change/renegotiate the fee/rate after the job is sent and begun.
    12. Acknowledge receipt of a job sent.

    1. Food for Translators Avatar
      Food for Translators

      Good call! 11 is a big no no and 12 is always appreciated!

  4. Catlingual Avatar

    Don’t ask for an expected deadline and then say you need to check with the customer so don’t start yet!! That waiting time is important!

  5. 13. Be polite.
    Even though technically speaking you’re the client in this case, don’t behave like a crowd of newly-made millionaires buying their cappuccinos (everything’s wrong, you’re too ugly to work here, why don’t you stir it for me?). Behave like human beings.