> > Freelancer or Agency?

Do I  buy German Translation Services from a Freelancer or an Agency?

If you need German translation services, you're options are to go to either a freelance translator, or a translation agency.

So which one is better for your purposes?

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.

Choose a translation agency when:

  • You have a large translation project to be completed quickly by several translators working simultaneously or in different time zones.
  • Your projects need to be translated into several languages (e.g. German-English, German-French, German-Spanish) so that several translators  need to be involved.
  • Your projects involve other related services.
  • Your texts cover a range of various specialisms 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, there are simply very few in-house positions available for translators. Few companies bother with an in-house translation department and outsource translation, along with other important but “non-core” communication tasks.

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

Finding a 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.

Checking 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 an 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!

What About The Cost?

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:

  1. Beware of virtual translation agencies – they pitch their services online, offering low costs and speed. They are 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.  
  2. Translators are professionals, often with post-graduate qualifications. When hiring a freelancer or an agency, this will be reflected in the cost. Still, it probably is no more expensive going directly to a qualified freelancer for your German translation services than to an online agency - and you'll probably get a better translation in the end.

I hope you find this guide to buying German translation services useful. Feel free to browse through other articles in this buying translation series:

Top of Page

> > Freelancer or Agency?

Affiliate disclosure

I occasionally recommend products & services, and if you buy something through one of those links, I receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. To learn more, please see my affiliate disclosure document.

What visitors Say

"Liebe Joanna, ich möchte dir ganz herzlich für die vielen nützlichen Informationen danken. Es ist extrem hilfreich. Vielen, vielen Dank!" 
Silke, Germany

"It's really great to see a website dedicated to the translation of only a single language. There are too many general websites around on the web."
Roshni, India

"Thanks, your website is really helpful to read about advice on getting started as a German translator....very grateful!"
Georgie, UK

"Ich bin auf deine Webseite gestoßen und finde die Seite super. Informativ, lebendiger Schreibstill. Danke für deine inspirierende Seite! Beste Grüße!"
Feng, China

Tell us what you think!