5 translation agencies that give translators nightmares

Which translator has never pulled his hair out working for a translation agency? Discover five types of translation agencies to be avoided at all costs.

Translation would be a fascinating profession, a linguistic art, a formidable challenge to Babel’s curse, a bridge between cultures, if it were not for five types of agencies to be avoided at all cost. Why? Because they turn what should be a bridge into a precarious rope ladder on which the hapless translator swings between polyglot dreams and waking nightmares.

1. The serial-quoters

These are those translation agencies who somehow always manage to request quotes that are as complicated as possible, for example, translations of documents in a variety of different exotic formats which require a tremendous amount of time to figure out. Will you be including this lost time in your translation invoice? The amazing thing is that some kind of problem always arises for reasons only God knows. So you finally submit your quote, and they tell you they’ll check with the client. Then you stay glued to the phone and the computer for the rest of the day, waiting for them to confirm the job. Which never happens, naturally. And, just like that, a day’s work was wasted.

2. The rush translation addicts

In second place, we have those translation agencies whose clients, for mysterious reasons, are always in a hurry. And by “in a hurry” we mean, “we need this translation done yesterday”. Plus, since everything is always super urgent, urgent becomes the new normal, and the “rush” rate no longer applies. When it comes to translation agencies specialising in the pharmaceutical industry, they most definitely have a deal with their client companies that consists of inducing translators to regularly consume tranquillizers and painkillers. This methodology also applies to agencies who work with the coffee and energy drink industries. But the others, what’s their excuse?

3. The penny-job fanatics

If you specialise in legal translations you’re no doubt quite familiar with this type of agency. We’re talking about those translation companies who only send you jobs that are 200 or 300 words long. You guess it’s worth it even if you’re losing money at the beginning (since short translations are not profitable), because maybe some day they’ll send you something bigger and more appealing. And yet, that never seems to happen.

4. The rewrite sharks

There are also those agencies who daily ask you for urgent rewrites of horrendously poor translations. It’s the perfect business plan! Since they know they’ll have to pay for an editor, they offer very low rates to incompetent translators or shamelessly resort to using machine translation engines. And then they hire you to “check” these “translations”. The problem is that the proofreading/editing rate is worth it only if it consists of fixing a punctuation mark here and an error there. But if it means basically rewriting the translation, it’s a money-losing proposition.

5. The short-changers

Lastly, we have those translation agencies who try to cheat you on the word count. This is particularly common with agencies working in the field of legal translations with clients who pay a fixed rate per document. In such cases, all the documents have between 100 to 200 words, and the rate remains the same for all. Unless you quickly realise that these documents don’t actually have 100 or 200 words, but instead quite a few more, you end up feeling petty to be haggling over a few miserable words.

Five types of translation agencies that will make you swear off this noble profession (not to mention the late payers)! If you know of others, let us know!

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