Interview with a Direct Client

Translators are always on the lookout for direct clients. Direct clients are seen as the next step after freelancing for translation agencies for many years. Finding a direct client, however, is harder than it sounds. Most clients tend to turn to translation agencies and rely on them to find the right person for the right project. Or, at least, this is what it is expected from them.

I recently had a chat with my single direct client, a chat that ended being more like an interview. Hearing a direct client’s side of the translation story has been proven more fruitful that I ever expected. And, so it begins:

Explain to me, why an e-commerce and e-marketing oriented company is in need of translations.

We were not to begin with. As our company grew, so did the number of the projects, You see, in the field of tourism and hospitality, here in Greece in particular, hoteliers tend to copy each other. In other words, if one finds a company with a proven record of successful projects that generates clicks and these clicks are transformed into revenue, the reputation of this company swiftly travels in even the smallest circles of the field. This is exactly what happened with our company. In order to generate revenue for our clients, they needed a change in mentality. Most of their sites were amateur, so you can imagine the sites’ texts. A professional copywriter was introduced and translators had to follow.

Have you ever collaborated with translation agencies? Please, share your experience.

Yes, with three different ones in fact. One was based here in Crete, the second one in Athens and the third one abroad (outside of Greece).  In the beginning, I thought that choosing a local agency will be most beneficial, as it was near our offices and the communication would be much easier. From that aspect, all went great.  I never expected what followed to happen though. We received the finished text for a site; we uploaded on the client’s website and we thought we could move on to the next project. Not long after that, the client was on the phone to us, complaining about the poor quality of the site’s content. The hotelier was right to be furious when there were things like Νεανική σουίτα for Junior Suite! Clearly, the chosen translator was not the right one. You know, everybody makes mistakes, everyone! What frustrated us the most, however, were not just the occurred errors, it was mostly the agent’s attitude. The translation agent never acknowledged those errors and inaccuracies. The result was that the texts were translated again by translators working for the Athenian agency (the second agency we collaborated) and we never worked with the local one again. We did not have many problems with the one in Athens. The only problem was mainly their time-management. They never seemed to deliver on time and time costs clients and revenue to us, so we started collaborating with the agency abroad. Deadlines kept, very good translation quality but too expensive for our market, so after a while, we had to find another solution.

Surely not all agencies are like the one you described. It is probably the worst possible scenario that could have happened to you. Did you lose that client then? What was the solution to your problem?

No, luckily we did not. But we need to be careful, we do not want rumors to start and spread that we do not collaborate with the right professionals. The solution? Well, we decided to look for freelance translators rather than translation agencies.

Finding the right freelance translators is as difficult as finding the right translation agencies. An ideal translation is a mirror that reflects its ideal translators. So, a fantastic translation agency is the one that outsources fantastic translators. Besides, it could have been a freelance translator playing the role of the agent in your story. What do you think are the advantages and the disadvantages of using the services of freelance translators instead those of translation agencies?

I have to admit, it takes a little more time for us to organize all the freelancers. We need lots of different ones, as a translator does not speak all the languages of the world! Also, they are not always available to take on new projects, but we would rather wait in a queue! This could affect our deadlines, but we do not set ours unless we consult them first. You see, now that we have completed so many projects using their services with no problem whatsoever, we are reluctant to look elsewhere. A site is a living organism, really, and whatever is uploaded it goes online, where billions of eyes can see it. We need to be sure that we avoid any experiences resembling the one I described earlier. Our translators are hand-picked.  This is why we ask them to recommend colleagues of theirs that could help us with less popular languages. So, we get new translators using the word-of –mouth method.  We research their background, they have to have some sort of experience in the hospitality field gained by having worked for a hotel, large or small-it does not matter-, for a travel agency, etc.  They need to be familiar with the terminology! A direct contact with them is another advantage. It gives us the power to change things on the sites quicker and the deadline’s issue is miraculously solved. Adding to the latter, their prices are much lower than those of the agencies.

What do you plan to do in the future?

We will try to collaborate with freelancers, for sure. In case problems arise, however, we may need to replace some of them and find others instead. And for projects that require less popular languages and our translators cannot help us, we may have to turn to translation agencies and hope for the best.

Such an exciting conversation! I find chats with colleagues and clients rather fascinating. It turns out that there more aspects on matters I have never thought about and the stories they tell could keep me as interested as the movie Interview with a Vampire!

To translators: Do you prefer to work with direct clients or agencies? Why?

To translation agencies: Do you think clients will start looking for freelance translators in the future?