1. Home
  2. Buying Translation
  3. Freelancer or Agency?

German Translation Services

Should you buy German translation services from a freelance translator or a translation agency?

German translation services

How to decide the best type of German translation service provider for you:

Choose a freelance translator when:

  • You’ve found a great translator you want to keep working with!
  • Your jobs are not too large
  • Your deadline is realistic
  • Ýou can schedule your translation requirements in advance
  • You only need a single language pair, e.g German to English
  • Your translations deal with very specialized subject matter and you find a freelance translator with the necessary specialist knowledge.
  • Confidentiality is key, and you need to know exactly who has access to your publications.

You're better off with a translation agency when:

  • Your translation project is large and needs completing quickly, by several translators working simultaneously or in different time zones.
  • Your project needs to be translated into several languages (e.g. German-English, German-French, German-Spanish) meaning several translators  need to be involved.
  • Your projects involve other related services.
  • Your texts cover a range of specialist areas not typically covered by a single freelance translator, e.g. marketing & PR, medical trials, financial reports, technical specifications.

Buying German Translation Services from a Freelance Translator

A recent survey by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Linguists shows that around 80% of qualified translators in the UK work as freelancers. You can probably assume that the situation is much the same in the US too.


Well, quite simply, there are very few in-house positions available for translators. Few companies bother with an in-house translation department,  outsourcing translation, along with other important but “non-core” communication tasks.

So you'll have no problems finding a freelance translator!

Finding a freelance translator...

If you want to buy German translations directly from a freelance translator you'll find plenty on the web.

  1. Try a local Google search for someone in your area (e.g. “German to English translation Vienna”).
  2. You can post your translation jobs on translator community websites. Qualified freelancers will then contact you directly, offering their services.
  3. Some freelancers also offer their German translation services on general  online job platforms.

Check their qualifications...

You can do several types of background check on a freelance translator:

  1. Are they a member of a recognised language translation association? Membership usually means the translator has provided proof of their professional qualifications and references.
  2. Is the freelance translator listed with a well-known translator directory? These directories often show the how many jobs the freelancer has done for directory clients, and the willingness of clients to work with them again, etc.
  3. Do they have an online presence? Freelancers are increasingly running websites & blogs and actively participating in social media, all of which gives you a good idea of their reputation & commitment to the profession.

Buying German Translation Services From a Translation Agency

Translation agencies manage your translation projects from start to finish.

They use the best translators for your particular text (technical manuals/legal contracts/financial statements etc.) and project-manage translations over variety of language pairs.

If you use them regularly, then the agency may offer to manage a terminology database on your behalf, to ensure terminological consistency over time. They may also use translation software systems for delivering multilingual content to clients.

Translation agencies come in all shapes and sizes, from independent translators sub-contracting work out, to multinationals and everything in between. Smaller agencies often specialize in a limited range of languages or in specialized fields.

In general, the larger the agency (i.e. in terms of in-house staff), the greater their management role, and the more language combinations, specializations and range of services they’ll be able to offer.

Finding a translation agency...

Start local – it’s always nice to be able to meet up face-to-face. Do a Google search for agencies in your area and then check up each translation agency’s website.

  1. Client references: Look for professional translation services which have been around for a while and can refer to solid client lists.
  2. Certification: Translation agencies can apply for quality of service certification – look for an agency certified according to European or US standards.

There is a saying in the profession that you’re only as good as your last translation, so German translation services providers  - agencies & and freelancers -who've been in business for several years are probably doing a good job.

When the agency and translator are geographically close to your place of business, then it's also more likely that the translator has heard of you or the business environment in which you work – never underestimate the importance of background knowledge!

And the cost of German translation services?

Translation agencies are generally more expensive than freelance translators, but you’re paying for a different level of service.

  • Freelancers only take on translation jobs in their own language pair (e.g. German to English) and specialist field (e.g. medical translation). They usually translate into their native language. Some may charge more and get a second translator to check through their translation before submitting it to the client.
  • Translation agencies usually have a large number of translators on their books and will select the best translator available for your particular needs. The translations will be double-checked – either by another qualified employee at the agency or by a second, freelance translator - also specialized in that field. Where several translators have had to work on a single translation, the agency will make sure that the terminology is consistent. Only then will the translation be sent to the client.


Pay peanuts, get monkeys.

Hardly an original statement, but still valid. A couple of considerations:

Beware of virtual translation agencies – they pitch their services online, offering low costs and speed. They're popping up all over the web, claiming that working online revolutionizes the process of managing translation and reduces cost.

However, the major cost involved in translation is time, so the only way they can make money is by paying freelance translators minimal rates.

Better translators generally refuse to work with them.  

Translators are professionals, often with post-graduate qualifications, so when hiring a freelancer or an agency this will be reflected in the cost.

In most cases, your best bet is probably to use a freelancer for your German translation services. You'll pay more than using an online agency, but you'll probably get a better translation in the end.

I do hope you find this guide to buying German translation services useful. And if you're interested in my German translation services, I'd be delighted to hear from you!


German Translation Tips & Resources

  1. Home
  2. Buying Translation
  3. Freelancer or Agency?

You may also like...

German to English Translation

Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

Find this page useful? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.