Agencies Vs. End Clients
When working as a freelance translation professional, you can work with end clients or with agencies, and each has their own advantages and disadvantages.
When you pack you bag and hang out your shingle as a freelancer in the language translation business, you quickly find there are two basic kinds of clients that are available to you: Agencies, and what are known as “end clients” – a.k.a., individuals or personal clients. Most freelance translation professionals will tell you the same story when it comes to clients: They much prefer working with individuals or end clients, but most of their business comes from agencies.
There’s a simple reason we all want end clients – they pay more and tend to be less fussy. There’s also a simple reason they’re hard to land: Most freelancers don’t have the skill or resources to run effective marketing and sales initiatives, while agencies do. Thus, agencies tend to scoop up the clients, and we have to deal with the agencies in order to get a portion of that work. If you’re new to freelancing in this industry, here’s a few tips on dealing with both kinds of clients.
The Competitive Bid
One reason people like working directly with clients is the higher pay: People going directly to freelancers tend to be willing to pay more, either because they aren’t aware of the lower prices most agencies offer (due to higher volume) or because they’ve had a bad experience with a sloppy agency that lowballed pricing because they hired awful people.
But most clients are willing to accept the occasional quality problem in exchange for the better pricing, so you’ll often have to resort to presenting proposals to agencies for work. The key here is the Holy Grail of proposals: The so-called “competitive bid.” A competitive bid is neither the lowest bid in the process, or the highest. It’s in a “sweet spot” that can be difficult to identify. One rule of thumb you can use is to ask yourself what you would charge the end client, and then discount it by 10%.
When working with an agency, remember you won’t win every bid, no matter how good your relationship is with them. However, it’s a good idea to track your bids with the agencies you work with. Look for trends – if you’re winning more bids with a certain agency, shift your focus there. If you never win bids at an agency, consider contacting them and simply asking why. If your pricing is too high for them but already too low in your own opinion, it’s good to know so you can stop wasting your time.
Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons to both models. End clients pay better? Yes, but they also expect personal attention and can be difficult with schedules, and there’s no buffer between you and them. Agencies can be a pain to slog through with procedures and paperwork? Yes, but they also provide steady work and pay on time – while many end clients can be difficult to invoice.