The traditional translation agency: the old school giant
Let's immediately turn the story upside down: even if a client chooses for a translation agency, the texts will most likely be translated by a freelancer. Translation agencies don't hire translators as employees. Some agencies (but not all) still keep an in-house team of revisers who check the quality of incoming translations, but translation work done in-house is very rare.
There are good reasons for this: traditional translation agencies sell the idea that they can offer all language combinations within short deadlines. That means they need a large database of translators: usually around 200 to 500 freelancers. They also try to work with native speakers as much as possible, who often live in their country of origin. It's only normal then that a translation agency can't hire them all.
This way of working also has its disadvantages. With such a large database, it's impossible to know and test all the freelancers. The agency will only be certain of the quality of the translators it works with on a regular basis. From the client's perspective, that means that the agency takes the risk of sending the assignment to an unknown freelancer whenever the usual suspects are busy with other projects. That risk still exists with a second or a third assignment. Satisfaction with the first assignment is, in other words, no guarantee for satisfaction in the future.
Furthermore, a generic translation agency doesn't have many selling points that allow it to stand out from the crowd. That means they often choose to offer low prices and need to keep the costs as low as possible. Budget cuts usually hit freelancer rates first, which means that freelancers working for them are often inexperienced or don't have the right qualifications.
When a freelancer has gained a better understanding of the translation sector, has a good client portfolio and/or has developed a specialization (e.g. medical or financial translation), he/she will work more often for the client directly instead of through an agency.
This offers several advantages: the client knows the qualifications and experience of the translator, with a second assignment the client knows exactly what to expect, and in case of issues with the text the translator can consult the client directly.
However, disadvantages are that freelancers usually offer only one to three language combinations and are very limited in time.
The specialized translation agency
At Word Atlas we wish to combine the best of both worlds. By choosing one niche and a limited number of language combinations, we can deliver larger projects without putting quality at risk. All freelancers have been tested and recommended by their colleagues. They have a master's degree in languages or translation and several years of experience. That's our way of guaranteeing professionalism and quality.
Clients will have one contact person when sending in an assignment, but when the translator has questions about the text, he/she will consult with the client directly. We believe in a transparent approach. Clients can always ask for the name of the translator to check his/her public profile on LinkedIn.
For more information on our working method, see the page About us.