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Who’s the Boss? Translating for Direct Clients vs. Translation Agencies

Who’s the Boss? Translating for Direct Clients vs. Translation Agencies

All freelance translators know their success depends on their ability to find, win over, and keep clients. But some translators target specific potential buyers, which can be broadly categorized as either direct clients or agencies. The difference can impact a translator’s day-to-day work, resume, or career progress.

Job Stability

With mass layoffs making headlines worldwide, it’s natural for translators to consider the long-term prospects of working with their clients. Simultaneously carrying out work for several translation agencies can feel tenuous due to the “per project” nature of the assignments. Agencies can typically reassign projects to other translators in their rosters. 

Direct clients, on the other hand, might engage fewer translators at once, giving each linguist more work than an agency might offer. And once a direct client agrees upon a rate for a translator’s work, that rate is likely to stand for a while, whereas an agency’s project managers might ask translators to consider different rates on a project-by-project basis. 


A contract is about more than just rates — it’s also about the nature of the work. And oftentimes, that work is confidential. But discretion can depend on the client. Agencies’ non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) typically prohibit freelancers from disclosing the names of end-clients (for example, on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles), though linguists can describe the nature of the work. Translators working for direct clients, however, may share those names but might not be permitted to publish details related to specific projects.

Direct Relationships

The most effective technique for pursuing potential clients depends on the target. For translation agencies, linguists can usually upload a resume via an online application at any time.

It can be much more difficult to determine whether a direct client is looking for translators, not to mention applying for the role. In many cases, translators report that researching and establishing relationships with potential new direct clients can take significant time and energy, but those who find success say the effort pays off.