The translation industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, adding new companies, services and translators at a breakneck pace. The more time I spend in industry, the more I seem to contemplate what type/size of translation agency is the “best”. I put best in quotations marks, because the definition of that is subjective, and varies from person to person. Since every translation buyer has different needs, I think it is important to examine the pros and cons of working with a large agency, versus a small business/agency.

Big Agencies

A big agency typically has higher revenue and a larger employee and translator roster than a small to mid-size company. This is a typical large corporation with a lot of layers and employees.

Pros:

Bandwidth – A large agency will typically have more internal and external resources to handle out of the ordinary projects (rush, or high volume in a small amount of time). With a larger bench of internal and external resources, it is easier for a large agency to say yes to an out of the ordinary request.

Price – piggy backing off bandwidth, a pro for a large agency is price flexibility. Given the likely volume of work they have, they can be more flexible in pricing. They might be able to sacrifice price in a given situation to win a customer, or a large volume project.

Cons:

Consistency – this comes into play for translators, and even internal company resources. With such a large company, there is virtually no assurance that the same translators will be working on the same end customer. That can lead to inconsistency in translations, which can be very problematic. Also, we’ve heard from our customers that when they would send a project to a large agency, it felt like the project went to a black hole. It was nearly impossible to pinpoint their project manager, and they had no idea who was working on their project. That is a big issue.

Price – as we have said time and time again, when paying a certain price, there is a reasonable expectation of quality. If you receive a quote from a large agency that is 50% lower than a cost received from a small agency, it should raise a red flag. You will want to dig deeper into each price, and see what services you are getting, and more importantly, what services you are not getting.

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Small/Mid-size Agencies

A small/mid-size agency is more of a tight knit group, and they typically work with a smaller roster of translators, with more focus on quality and customer service. They are typically nimbler, having more direct contact with clients.

Pros:

Agility – the chief complaint we hear about big agencies, from customers who have worked with them in the past, is that things do not happen fast enough. For example, if there is a quality concern, it would take the large agency days to acknowledge it and rectify it. At a small agency, that can be resolved with a simple phone call or email to your project manager, and they will fix it as quickly as possible. This also lends itself to the consistency mentioned before. Having the same project manager on a customer will help save time and costs, as the PM has learned the account, and can rely on experience in problem solving.

Consistency – not only is having a consistent PM important, but also having a dedicated base of translators. The Argo RCP report offers extreme transparency as to what translators are working on your projects.

Cons:

Bandwidth – Typically, since small agencies will work with a more core team of translators, they may not be able to handle an out of the ordinary request as easily. It might incur additional fees or time to make the out of the ordinary project flow smoothly, where a large agency may not have to make those concessions.

Specialization – Smaller agencies typically have a couple of areas of expertise in translation. For example, a firm might specialize in medical translation, or legal translation. That means that they may not be a fit for every customer.

Again, every translation buyer is different and has different needs. In my opinion, most of the time a small agency will outshine a large agency in terms of customer service, responsiveness, and creative problem solving.

Need help in finding which kind of agency is best for your project? Contact Argo today to get a straightforward answer.

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