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Selecting a Linguistic Resource: Freelance Translators vs. Translation Agency

As translation industry professionals we know there are many differences between selecting a freelance translator or a translation agency for localization projects. Both resources could be the best option depending on the kind of project you need to launch.

Freelance Translators Translation Agency
Cheaper More expensive
Translation only / Editing only TEP (translation, editing, proofreading)
Single language Multiple languages
No Project Manager Project Manager
Takes more time to translate Takes less time to translate
Handle smaller volume Handle larger volume
No DTP, web/software development DTP, web/software development
Identifying Project Needs

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before making the decision on what kind of resource you are going to use. For example:

  • What is my project budget?
  • Do I need translation only or translation, editing and proofreading?
  • Is it a single language project or a multilingual project?
  • What is my project timeline?
  • What is the word count/volume of my project?
  • Do I need desktop publishing (DTP) or web/software development?

Once you identify the scope of your project, your budget and timeline, the type of resource you need for your localization project will be clearer.

gpi-linguistic resource-1

Freelance vs. Agency

Freelance translators will usually cost less since they do the work on their own, so if budget is the main concern that might be your best option. However, if you need to do translation and editing/proofreading, you need to look for two linguists (or a freelance translator who works with an editor), in that case, you need to be sure you use two very experienced and qualified linguists, and the cost will be a little bit higher.

If you need to launch a multilingual project, an agency is the best option. Once you contact the Project Manager of the selected multilingual translation agency, he/she can take care of working on and delivering all languages directly to you, facilitating your work and saving a lot of time.

Also, if the project volume is high and the time is short, as it generally is, in that case, the translation agency is again your best option.

Another benefit of using a translation agency is the use of Translation Memory. Translation Memory (TM) is a database of previously translated content which can be leveraged to reduce cost, increase consistency within the translation and can reduce overall time required to complete the translation. A translation agency will be able to leverage any repeat content segments from with the initial source content and for all future requirements within a language pair.

What about desktop publishing or web/software development? Would it be cost and time effective having a freelance translator do the linguistic work and then contacting a freelance desktop publisher for the design part? In this case it is recommended to use a translation agency since they can take care of all the project requirements and even deliver a final version that has been QA’d and it is ready for client delivery.


When deciding between a freelance translator or translation agency, you need to go case by case, project by project, and evaluate the above mentioned items and questions and answers in order to decide the kind of linguistic resource that will best meet and accomplish your project’s scope and expectations in a timely, profitable and successful manner.