February 16, 2021

Agencies, translation management systems and the human touch

Translators are always seeking new clients. Some prefer to work with direct clients and others with agencies. In my case, I mainly work with translation agencies or LSPs and have a few direct clients. But what are my selection criteria and the thing that makes me decide to work for them? Today, I would like to share a couple of insights I have gained when looking for agencies for the last ten years working as a freelance translator.


The human touch

The most important aspect for me is the human touch. Some agencies put a wall between them and the translators who are already providing their services or would like to do so. While agencies see this as an advantage regarding productivity and efficiency, many translators see this as a bad practice. Why? Because translators like to see that there is somebody behind all those systems.


Translators are not a commodity

When an agency or LSP provider asks me to register in their online translation management system (usually XTRF), I refuse. For me, filling in neverending sections with information about my experience, education and rates is useless and a waste of time. In my experience, nobody from the company is going to read it or cares about it. And what is worse, many of us fill in those fields and never have news from these agencies again.

Since 2007 (so far), none of the agencies I registered with that use a translation management system has replied to me, even to say that they are not interested in my profile. Then, what is the purpose of registering in their systems? A mere formalism?

When working or registering with an agency, I like receiving an email from the vendor/project manager or Human Resources addressed to me with a «Dear/Hello Alexia» (not «Dear Vendor,» «Dear Linguist» or «Dear Translator») followed by a tailored message. That shows the person knows who I am and that, at least, has read my CV. Moreover, I love when it is clear that the sender has taken some of his/her time to write and send me that email. As a person who is going to do her best to deliver a high-quality service in case a project goes ahead, I like knowing that the other person cares, even if it is only a bit. It does not mean that we will become best friends, but having a good relationship with your providers matters, in particular, when problems occur.

Translators are not a commodity. If the agency that contacts you work does not care about who you are, they are treating you another translator in their database. As simple as that. 


The importance of building trust

I believe that treating your collaborators (either in-house or freelancer) in the right way makes a huge difference in the way they work. Agencies need to build trust and keep their translators happy. If they do so, translators will do their best to help them solve their problem. But we cannot forget that rates (and payment terms) also play an important role here. The moment the translator is offered a project at very low or ridiculous rates, that trust is gone. It does not matter how good or «solid» the relationship between the agency and the translator may be. The same happens when a translator delivers a low-quality service or misses the deadline. Once trust is gone, things are not the same.

For me, having no human touch means not caring about your collaborators. During the last years, I have become very selective just because of that. I do care about my clients and go the extra mile to help as long as our relationships are based on truth and honesty. And that starts in the first contact.

For example, I started working with another agency not long ago. I had a Skype interview with one of the project managers and the vendor manager at the same time. Both had previously read my CV and checked my profile. They use a translation management system and asked me to register on their system after the interview. Since then, every time I am assigned a new project, they send me a tailored message. That is the human touch. And that is what makes me be willing to collaborate with them.

You may think I am an idiot but, it this virtual world, I still prefer to be a bit old-fashioned and believe that human factor is the key to success.

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