It’s perfectly possible for them to work alongside each other and cooperate. That’s because they each serve a different kind of customer. So the choice of who to work with will depend on your needs as a customer. A translation agency isn’t automatically better than a freelance translator, and vice versa.

Freelance translators

Got a weekly blog post or regular newsletter that needs to be translated into, say, Dutch or French? Then you could definitely hire a freelance translator. Ideally two of them, to make sure every translation is proofread. Because translators are only human, after all. And you wouldn’t want a typo to sneak into your most important press release of the year… With a proofreader to keep your brand safe from harm, you can rest easy. Do remember to look for backup for any translations you might need during the holidays. Maybe your usual translator can recommend a skilled colleague who could help you out?

Translation agency

Do all your different business departments need a steady stream of translations into a range of languages? A contract teeming with legalese on Monday morning, followed by an internal HR policy after lunch? A product catalogue on Wednesday and a daily dose of catchy marketing content? In that case, partnering with a translation agency might be the best choice.

One of the agency’s project managers will take the work off your hands. They’ll make sure your text is assigned to the right expert, keep your translation memory up to date and even deal with the tedious admin side of things. All that’s left for you to do is to approve the budget and deadline they propose: the rest is taken care of behind the scenes. Which means you’re free to focus on your own work. And relax!

Availability: always on call during office hours, or are your translations less urgent?

Availability may also play a role. Does your freelancer invariably take a month off over the summer, or do they love to hit the slopes in winter? Then perhaps you’d rather work with a translation agency. Is one of the agency’s project managers or translators on holiday? No problemo! A colleague will simply take over. The difference to you—zip, zilch, nada!


Whether you decide to hire a freelancer or a translation agency, always keep these rules in mind:

  • Only work with native speakers
  • Hire different specialists for different types of text. Never ask a legal translator to translate fashion copy, or the other way round.
  • Localise your translations, unless you want to be caught with your trousers down… Or worse – your pants!

To sum things up: the customer is king

So whether you’re better off working with a freelance translator or an agency depends on a range of factors. Do you have the time to build a network of freelancers, or do you barely manage to get through your own to-do list as it is? Are you mainly looking for translations of similar texts, or do you want to be able to order a translation of your financial report into Spanish one day, and then have a Facebook post translated into German the next? Should your translation partner be available 24/7, or do you not mind waiting a few days for the translated result?

These are the most important aspects that will determine your choice. Translation agencies aren’t automatically a better option than freelancers, and vice versa. Your needs will determine what’s best for you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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