It’s easy to believe.
We all want to believe that if we can’t do something, it must be someone else’s fault.
Can’t stop eating Twix bars? Well, it’s the fault of the vending machine guy who keeps stocking the machine.
Don’t have time to read a book? It’s my family’s fault for taking up all my time.
Can’t find any work? It’s because translation agencies are screwing hard-working translators out of a decent chance at a paycheck.
It feels good to be the victim.
That’s why there’s so much hate in politics, for example. Everybody is trying to play the bigger victim card.
There’s a problem, though. A victim, by his very nature, is powerless.
And when you become powerless, or have the feeling that you are powerless, you might as well sit down and give up, because you won’t accomplish anything in that state of mind.
Read waste your time on any translator forum and you’ll see it soon enough yourself. Translators bashing on the current state of translation; but not only that, pretty soon the argument will turn to finding a scapegoat.
And nine times out of ten, that scapegoat is translation agencies.
Why the Hate?
Like I said earlier, people like to find a scapegoat; one that is easy for the tribe (group/crowd) to join against. And translation agencies fit into that role perfectly.
Translation agencies are a middle man.
They are neither the translator nor the client. For the most part, they are a facilitator, bringing both sides together in a way that might not have happened without them.
Translators hate that. It is like a slap in the face to a translator, because it shows that the sole proprietor can’t do everything himself like he believed when he started out. Translation agencies are positioned to find clients. That’s how they stay alive. So they’ve used their resources to become good at that part of the game. Most translators don’t have that ability, especially if they’ve only just recently started out.
Translation agencies want to make money.
Most people look at the world like a pie, like the one below.
And the way most people interpret the pie is by claiming that if one person gets a bigger piece of the pie, then that means that they automatically get less.
So if a middleman company gets some of the client’s money up front, that automatically means less for the translator.
What translators fail to realize is that without the translation agency, the translator would likely not be translating for that client in the first place.
Translation agencies want to make money.
You’d think that translators, entrepreneurs in every sense of the word, would understand that translation agencies want to make money.
And that it’s OK.
But translators that complain about translation agencies forget that everyone wants to make money.
The agency wants to make money.
The translator that does the work wants to make money.
And the client that requests the translator is usually requesting the translation in order to make money with the translation.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money. There is nothing evil about a translation agency wanting to maximize profits while minimizing losses.
I would hope that every freelance translator is doing the exact same thing.
Well, this translation agency screwed me once.
Most translators that hate translation agencies as a whole base their feelings on a single experience they’ve had with a translation agency or getting scammed by one.
“This one time, this one translation agency screwed me over, and now I know that all translation agencies are evil.”
It’s usually some variation of this.
Here’s the thing, though.
Translation agencies are just like everyone else.
There are good ones, bad ones, and average in-between ones.
Just because you’ve had a bad experience with one does not mean that you will have a bad experience with all translation agencies.
Plenty of translation clients have had problems with translators. But how unfair is it/would it be if these clients swore off all translators forever, claiming that all translators are the devil’s spawn?
Not very fair.
It’s Time to Change Your Frame
So instead of seeing all translation agencies as evil incarnate, change your frame.
Change how you view your relationship with these agencies.
View yourself as a partner, not a competitor.
If you’re a translator, realize that agencies can be a great partner for helping you increase and improve your business, rather than taking business away from you.
The reason is because translation agencies don’t necessarily do the translation work they receive from clients. They actually need translators to do the work. And you can be that translator.
In essence, the translation agency is doing the marketing, finding clients, and then taking a small cut to have you do the actual translation work.
Translators sometimes think that they should get paid more because they are the ones doing the translating.
What they forget is that being a freelance translator is not just about translating. Sure that’s part of it. But a lot of time spent by a freelance translator in his business is doing the other things:
And if you can have a partner take care of one of those “other things” like marketing, it frees up time for you to focus on the other aspects of your business that need to be done.
You don’t have to live or die with translation agencies.
As a freelance translator, the majority of your income probably comes from translating. I’m guessing that’s a reasonable assumption to make. But what some translators who are just starting out fail to realize is that your income doesn’t have to all come from the same client source.
It’s OK to work for translation agencies while also cultivating a staple of direct clients. Your client list will always be in flux.
You’ll have direct clients come and go and you’ll have translation agencies that you work with faithfully who decide to drop you or pick you up.
It’s important that you stay flexible. If you tell yourself that you will only work with direct clients or that you will only work with translation agencies, you’ll be missing out on a whole area of possible income.
Cast a wide net.
There are thousands of translation agencies over the planet.
No matter where you live, there is a translation agency relatively near you. And even if there isn’t, the Internet makes it seem like there is.
And because of that, you can potentially contact thousands of agencies to find work. You don’t have to stick to the agencies closest to where you live, or to those that are only based in your home country.
You can work for an agency in China.
You can live in Sweden and do work for an agency in Argentina.
As I said, there are literally thousands of agencies throughout the globe; most of which need translators.
If you have a bad experience with one, look for another one.
Find one that you are comfortable with.
But whatever you do, don’t write off working for translation agencies. They could very well be what you need to get your freelance translation career moving in the right direction.
P.S. Be sure and read my book for more tips on succeeding as a freelance translator.