The Translation Market is a Services Market: Translation is a services business. In the service industries, the closer the cooperation between the services provider and the customer, the higher is the quality and cost effectiveness of the service, and the better suited the service is to the customer's unique needs. Unlike the manufacturing industry, in which customers buy products made for a large number of generic customers (and hope the product suits their needs), in the services industry, providers and customers work closely as members of the same team in order to provide the customer not with an off-the-shelf product but with a service tailored to the unique needs of the individual customer. This is also true Ð or should be Ð in the translation industry as well. In order for the translation team to work effectively and produce translation which is high in quality and cost-effective, it is very important for all members of the team to be in direct contact and consult with each other when necessary. Although all roles played on the translation team are important, by far the most important role in the end is played by the translator, particularly when specialized skills and background knowledge are required. Thus, if communication between the customer and the translator actually performing the translation work is difficult or blocked, consultation between the translator and the customer becomes impossible. As a result, the effectiveness of the translation process is greatly degraded and the quality of the finished product inevitably debased. This is why, other factors being equal, in-house translation teams generally provide the highest quality translation. But not all companies can afford the expense of maintaining an in-house translation team. This is particularly true for companies whose translation needs are modest or irregular. Nevertheless, any company in need of translation services, can procure high-quality translation at reasonable rates merely by working directly with an experienced and highly qualified outside independent translator.
The Two-Tier Structure of the Translation Market: The translation services market has a two-tier structure, including individual translators in Tier I and full-service translation agencies in Tier II. In Tier I, translators work directly for the organizations they serve as part of a translation team organized and controlled by the client. In Tier II, agencies organize and provide the translation team. As noted on the Translation Process page, full-service translation agencies are best suited for clients who need large, inconsistent translation jobs done on an urgent basis. Independent translators are more suited for clients whose translation needs are fairly modest but arise on a regular basis and for clients who need high-quality, personalized translation services at competitive rates.
- In-House Employees: In-house employees can range from a single secretary who passes on assignments to an outside independent translator to a full translation team. Indeed, authors of materials such as analysts or economists may make assignments directly to an outside independent translator. In such cases, the analyst or economist would will play the role of author, coordinator and checker while the translator plays the role of translator and proofreader.
- Full-Service Translation Agencies: These are generally large corporations with some in-house translators and a large pool of outside registered translators. This form of organization is necessary because agencies must be able to accommodate large, urgent assignments in many languages and subject areas. Agencies aspire to play all roles in the translation process except authoring. The registered translators performing the translation often specialize in some field, but unless the in-house checkers and proofreaders have comparable background knowledge, the danger of translation degradation is very real. Clients can not contact or choose the translators directly. Numerous problems and inconveniences can result. Questions from the client must go through a middleman, which is time-consuming, inefficient and gives rise to misunderstandings.
- Independent Translators: Independent or "boutique" translators work as independent contractors serving a relatively small number of clients, with whom they develop close, long-term business relationships. They place modest constraints on the volume of work they accept within a given time frame to ensure that they are available to handle overlapping assignments from several clients. They tend to serve clients whose unique translation needs are not affected by these constraints. These tend to be clients whose translation requirements are relatively modest but arise on a regular monthly basis. In turn, independent translators also generally provide attractive incentives to their clients in the form of highly professional and personalized translation services at very competitive rates. They are independent because they offer their services to all clients under the same uniform terms and policies. By serving a small number of clients over the long term, moreover, they are able to master the unique needs and preferences of their clients and provide them with personalized, highly professional translation services. For detailed information about how to benefit from the advantages which independent translators can offer, please see the Working with Independent Translators page.
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