Should You Work with a Freelance Chinese Translator ora Chinese Translation Agency? – What are the Pros and Cons?


When working freelancers and translation agencies, you should know 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

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 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 costof translation is lower than agencies. They’re also doing the translation themselves and are experts intheir niche. But the cost can be debatable in this area. Some freelancers do charge higher or almost the same asthe 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 needan 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 hasthe 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 ofspecialization. Some are jack-of-all-trades and may deliver poor quality of translation andunderdeliver the tasks. Unlike an agency, they can help you find translators that fit your niche. Jobsites are the right placesto find talents. But amateurs are there, too, and most likely offer low prices with less or no experienceor 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.

Looking for the right Chinese translation service provider?

Whether you work with a freelancer or a translation agency, your decision is based on the scope and budget. Always go for quality rather than chasing for low rates. Poor translation will reflect your brand’s image and professionalism. Google and other search engines will give you all the information you need about an agency and even a freelance translator. So, make sure you do your homework and look for client testimonials and reviews.

READ MORE >> 5 Powerful Tips from Professional Chinese Translators for Successful Translation Projects

Remember that working with a freelancer, agency or in-house translators are all good options. Whatever fits your needs, the decision is yours.

Just a recap of our previous post, the pros, and cons of working with freelance Chinese translators are as follows: Limited specialization

Working with a Chinese translation agency – pros vs. cons

Chinese translation agencies are composed of translators, linguists, layout artists, graphic designers, proofreaders, editors, and others. In a nutshell, you have a team of translators and other skillful people to work on your projects in different sectors.

If you work with a translation agency, you enjoy access to a spectrum of language solutions such as translation, localization, software localization, DTP services, voice-overs, video translations services, and others.

How can you make the most out of this arrangement? Here are the perks.

The Perks (Pros)The Limitations (Cons)
Low costLimited languages
Expertise in your nicheSlow turnaround time
More transparencyLimited specialization

1. Structured, streamlined workflow

In general, the project manager is the middleman in this work arrangement. Most of the communication is between you (or your in-house liaison or in-house project manager) and the agency’s project manager.

The project manager is in charge of assigning tasks and also ensuring that the workflow is being strictly followed by the team of translators. Agencies can divide the work and can accommodate as many projects.

If you’re a big company and you have a ton of projects that needs Chinese translation, then you’d have to outsource them to an agency rather than a freelance translator. They have more people and the capacity to meet your deadlines.

2 Availability of people

There’s always someone to handle translation tasks when you hire an agency. In as much as you enjoy communication with the project manager, the translation agency carries off the weight on your shoulder in hiring and finding the right people.

Don’t have an idea about how to choose a translator? The agency will do it for you. They have class A, B, C, translators and can provide you sample translations from the team to help you make a choice.
If a translator isn’t available, they can always find out to finish the work without compromising the quality and turnaround time.

3 A host of services and quick turn around time

In connection with the first and second pointers, working with a translation agency means you get to avail of other services aside from translation. If you’re considering long-term business goals, you might also need other services like Chinese translation of your videos and blogs. Translation work is also paired up with multimedia projects like voice-overs and subtitling.

Agencies are also well-equipped with translation tools. The team uses specific tools to efficiently work together. For example, translating approximately 20,000 words with a fast turnaround time is possible with AZ-Loc because the team already has a system or workflow.

The translators also use the CAT tool and other software to assist them during the translation process.

The limitations of Chinese translation agencies

Now let’s move on with the cons of working with agencies. While you’ll enjoy the streamlined workflow, zero-project management on your part, availability, and quick turn around, there’s a price to pay for these benefits.

1 Cost is higher than the freelance translators

As they say, you get what you pay for in a service. This is true when working with an agency. You have to be deep-pocketed to maintain the projects. That’s why most corporations and medium and large-sized companies are capable of paying the costs.

You’re paying for the quality of work and overhead expenses, too. Management and consultation are also part of the services. Keep in mind that high cost doesn’t mean that the translators are experienced. So, make sure you compare rates and chase the quality of work.

Don’t be intimidated by the costs. The rates vary from one agency to another. Plus, if it’s your first time to work with a reliable agency, you’d be given welcome prices or discounts (just like AZ-Loc team, we offer 25% off on your first translation with us).

2 Less control on decision-making when hiring translators

As mentioned in one of the pointers above, the translation agency can help you find translators to
handle your projects. But this is also a limitation for you on your part. You have less control over the people who will handle the work.

Other agencies are considered and will include you in choosing the right translator. You still have the right to approve or reject their suggestions. At AZ-Loc, for example, we ask clients’ approval in case we need to look for another translator if their first choice isn’t available.

3 Complexities as layers and silos increase

Compared to hiring and working with freelance Chinese translators, you can exchange emails back and forth in just a few days and utilize them to get things done. But when you work with agencies, communication can be more complicated. Some agencies will get back to you between 24 and 72 business hours.

At AZ-Loc, for example, the team’s email management system is streamlined, so expect a reply within the day or within the next 24 hours.

Consider the layers and middlemen involved – from project managers to linguists to specialists – so you have to be patient with your point person such as the project manager in the initial exchange of emails.

When to work with a Chinese translation agency?

You only need to consider these things.

First, if you need to work on translation projects in more than five languages, then an agency is a good option.

Second, you don’t have time to micro manage projects, and you want to focus on your business.

Third, you have documents that need translations for about 4,000-5,000 words per day or more.

If you’re dealing with a high volume of work, an agency is the best solution. If you need additional services like localization, voice-overs, and DTP, an agency can accommodate as many projects as possible simultaneously.

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