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Should You Work with a Freelance Chinese Translator or a Chinese Translation Agency? – What are the Pros and Cons? (Part 1)

Maria Krisette Capati, Author

05 January 2020

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a two-part series about working freelancers and translation agencies. Know more about the pros and cons when working with both.

You can always search for Chinese translators on the internet to work on your projects. Google it, and done. The search results will give you millions of pages, a mix of agencies and freelancers, you can choose from.

But the question is, should you work with a freelance Chinese translator or a Chinese translation agency? There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to language services.

But your circumstances and budget will also determine which one is appropriate for your business needs.

READ MORE >> How to Select the Right Chinese Translator for a Project

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It all boils down to the scope of the project, timeline, and scale – big or small – you can work with either of them. But with pros and cons, too.

Let’s explore first what’s like to work with a freelancer.

Working with a freelance Chinese translator – pros vs. cons

Freelance Chinese translators are usually one-man (and woman) team. They work for themselves and also takes charge when it comes to finding clients. Some work on an ad-hoc basis, while others accept fixed projects. Then move on to the next client.

In a nutshell, they have to keep up with all the marketing, sales, translation, taxes, and flexible hours. Plus, they have to make sure their rates are competitive in the market. You’ll find a ton on Proz.com with hundreds of profiles and samples about their work.

Now how can you make the most out of this arrangement if you hire a freelance translator in China? Here are the pros or benefits for you.

#1 Lower cost

As a business owner or entrepreneur, working with this translator will give you an edge on rates and quality.

Most Chinese translators are also open for negotiation and can offer custom rates. In short, the cost of translation is lower than agencies. They’re also doing the translation themselves and are experts in their niche.

But the cost can be debatable in this area. Some freelancers do charge higher or almost the same as the cost of agencies because they also offer other services such as editing, proofreading, and among others.

#2 Expertise in your niche

You can choose a freelance translator who can handle the same projects related to your industry since they are familiar with the terminologies and rules.

This is an edge for you. For example, if you’re in the biotechnology industry, and you need a translator who is also familiar in this niche and can translate words and terminologies in the right context.

#3 More transparency

No silos, no middlemen. You’ll enjoy the transparency with your translator and communicate with them directly about the translation work. Request for a sample translation or a test translation, and get things done.

A freelancer will have more focus on your project, and also you get to enjoy the flexibility and reliability you need throughout the process. You need to change a few lines, it can be done in a jiffy.

The limitations of freelance Chinese translators

Generally, cost, quality, and transparency are the perks you get when working with freelancers. However, there are also limitations and disadvantages. If you’re a growing company, you also need an extra set of hands and eyes to work on your documents.

If you have a large volume of work and you need editors, proofreaders, graphic designers, and layout artists, then a freelancer may not be the best option for you. If you need to translate projects in multiple languages, then a freelancer can’t accommodate the tasks on hand.

A more comprehensive solution or arrangement is the best way to cover other areas of expertise. One has to take charge of your website, the other translator needs to translate printed-ads, the other manuals or technical guides. So, the disadvantages are as follows:

#1 Limited languages

If you’re planning to expand your languages and audience, a freelance can’t accommodate your translation projects. Freelancers are skilled at one or two or three languages. And not everyone has the pleasure of studying in-depth with all of them.

When it comes to your Chinese translation projects, a freelancer could be more proficient with Simplified Chinese than the Traditional version. Finding someone fluent at both is a rare find.

A translation agency can provide you more skilled translators and help you pick the right one for your projects.

#2 Slow turnaround time

Most of the freelance translators don’t have sub-contractors, so if you’re after a fast turnaround, you may not get it when you work with them.

If you have a large volume of work with a looming deadline, you’d instead choose an agency to get things done. Plus, they always have contingency plans and can outsource translators anytime.

Again, for quality of work, you’d opt for a freelance translator since it’s stable. But also, some of them will politely decline if they can’t deliver the job as you have requested.

#3 Limited specialization

You have to be careful as well in choosing freelancers who may spread themselves thinly in terms of specialization. Some are jack-of-all-trades and may deliver poor quality of translation and underdeliver the tasks.

Unlike an agency, they can help you find translators that fit your niche. Jobsites are the right places to find talents. But amateurs are there, too, and most likely offer low prices with less or no experience or specialization.

When to work with a freelance Chinese translator?

You only need to consider these things. First, if you’re only working with one language like Chinese. Second, you have the time to monitor their work and enjoys the transparency. Third, you only work with about 3,000 – 5,000 words of translation projects from time to time.

Beyond that, if you need to translate more than 5,000 words, from 10,000 words to 20,000 or more, a Chinese translation agency is your best bet in terms of speed, quality, and deliverables.

Stay tuned on our next post to learn the pros and cons of working with a Chinese translation agency.

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As we are constrained by resources, we will only serve those deserve our attention and time. We will only focus on clients who are already decided which projects to prioritize and understand the importance of translation and localization efforts.

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Maria Krisette Capati

Krisette or "Sette" for short is a professional writer and copywriter who loves to cover disruptive technologies, digital trends in China, and a myriad of geeky and innovative topics. She's the Content Strategist at AZ-Loc and currently manages the English website and in-charge of the social media channels. She has been writing about China markets, business, and startups since 2012. She has gained her expertise as a China internet specialist and is fascinated by its business ethics, language, and culture. She's a major of Business Management and Entrepreneurship and an advocate of faith-based non-profit organizations. When she's not writing or dabbling with Sophie and the team, she satiates her wanderlust as a digital nomad. 

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