Should you choose a translation agency or work directly with interpreters and translators?

Should you choose a translation agency or work directly with interpreters and translators?

 By Eva Xu, Senior Interpreter and Translator (Mandarin Chinese and English)

Two weeks ago I had a very enjoyable cooperation with a direct client and a not so pleasant one with a translation agency. So I am trying to put myself in the shoes of a company manager who needs documents translated into a different language. Who would I choose? Direct translator or translation agency? The advantages of translation agencies would of course include:

Advantages of using a translation agency
  • ‘The Eight-Power Allied Force’: Most translation agencies would have registered translators covering over 10 major languages. So for a document that needs to be simultaneously translated into several languages, it would be easiest to hand it to a translation agency.
  • ‘Rain or Shine': Translation agencies usually have a few translators registered for any one language. So if the initial translator cannot finish the task due to various reasons, there is always someone else available as a back up. We’ll leave aside the style of translation done by two people for now.
  • ‘Flow Line Production’: There are divisions between quoting, accepting projects, delegating work and invoicing etc.

However, there are also disadvantages born out of translation agencies. Many clients must have had the experience of spending weeks and countless hours on the phone looking for the translator who worked on a project, only to be redirected between different phone numbers and different operators. Also, due to the nature of the ‘flow line production’ of translation agencies, it is difficult to decide which link is responsible if something goes wrong. I personally believe as long as the document only needs to be translated into very few languages, the best approach would be to work directly with a translator.

Advantages of working directly with an interpreter or translator
  • ‘Best value for money’: Direct communication safeguards the quality of the finished product. Especially in areas such as advertising, marketing and literature translation, having smooth and direct communication with the translator is crucial to the quality of the final translation. Without the cost on an office rent or administrative staff salaries the rates of freelance translators are always lower than translation agencies. Lower cost, better translator, finer product, why not?
  • ‘Once and for all’. Translation is a relatively stable career. Once the initial cooperation is established, it is very likely that it will continue for a long time. Also, good translators are always organized, so clients don’t need to worry about late submissions or missing invoices etc.
  • ‘Good harvest irrespective of drought or flood': Working continuously with one translator means the quality of translation will always be stable and reliable.

It’s definitely a win-win to work directly with translators. All you need to do is spending a little bit of time and energy to establish the initial communication and cooperation.


About the Author:  

Eva is a professionally trained interpreter and translator with over 10 years of cross-industry experience, supporting leading organisations that require effective language solutions. Passionate about cross-cultural communications she bridges Chinese-English engagements with both accuracy and impact.

Throughout her career Eva has worked with multiple political leaders and departments. She works across ministerial level meetings, European-Chinese bilateral trade negotiations and UK-Chinese relationship development engagements. Eva is also a freelance interpreter for several United Nations agencies.

With a degree in law herself, Eva regularly works with the supreme courts of China and the UK, interpreting for exchanges between chief justices of both countries. She has also interpreted in high profile arbitration cases with a number of top legal firms.

Eva also specialises in banking and finance topics, working for leading commercial organisations and interpreting for executive training courses at prestigious European business schools. She also has extensive experience in the automotive, retail, architecture, education and technology sectors amongst others.

Having worked as a programme director for an American NGO, Eva is particularly interested in assisting civil society organisations. She works with large NGOs and charities in the UK to achieve their visions in fields such as environmental protection, legal reform and rights campaigning.

Get in touch with Eva Xu, Senior Translator and Interpreter (Mandarin Chinese and English), He and Partners at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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