I'm partnering with translation agencies! - José Henrique Lamensdorf - translation - tradução

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I'm partnering with translation agencies!


(or perhaps restoring the upside up)

A business partnership may be seen differently from either side, but it will remain a partnership.

There is a widespread notion of a translation agency being the end-client's agent, who will scout the market for translators to fulfill that client's needs, when and as long as these exist.

This is clearly not a business partnership: the end-client's core business is not translation, otherwise they would be seeking translators directly. They'll call the translation agency when they need translations, just as they'll call in a plumber when they have leaking pipes, as long as they are not in the plumbing business either.

So there is no partnership between a translation agency and its clients. They are on different sides of a fence, over which one throws originals, and the other bounces back with translations. It is a supplier-client, on-demand relationship. Of course, exceptions will be exceptions.

For the past few decades, translation agencies have seen translators as their vendors, suppliers, service providers, whatever. Many use such words in their agreements with translators, but never partners.

This is probably the outcome from two situations, namely:
  • the quantity of bilinguals, polyglots, and even sesquilinguals worldwide, now and then doing translation work for translation agencies, by far outnumbering the truly professional translators; and
  • the quantity of organizations worldwide reselling translation services from third-parties at a profit - I call them file-pushers - by far outnumbering the truly professional translation agencies.

It is easy to draw the conclusion that truly professional translators and truly professional translation agencies nowadays are numerically the exception, rather than the rule. Hence I am an exception looking for exceptions.

I can't believe that the number of truly professional translation agencies isn't significantly larger than those few that have been my business partners for the past so many years. So my goal here is to find more translation agencies worthy of this status, and make them my new partners.

A partnership? Between translators and translation agencies?

Yes, this setup existed before the Internet, when either one had to drive across town carrying printouts or floppy disks. Sometimes mail was involved, but not so often. Whenever feasible, partners would take that chance to meet, and personal contact would strengthen their partnership.

These times are gone. Now I have partners in places where I've never been, and most likely never will. We do our best to strengthen our partnership via e-mail, and occasionally Skype.

In order to show how pervasive this new way is, one of my partners - a translation agency - is located within walking distance from me, less than two miles away, according to Google. We've been partnering for a few years already, but I've never been there, and they've never been here. We never met face to face!

So it's normal - according to current standards - to gape in disbelief at the idea of translators and translation agencies being business partners. Yet why not?  seems a perfectly sensible question, considering that:
    • Both have the same core business: translation;
    • Both serve the same end-client in one supply chain;
    • There are cases when one plays the other's role (an agency having in-house translators; a translator single-handedly managing complex jobs);
    • Both cater to the same market; and
    • Each one is in a position to leverage the other's results

This is my proposal to translation agencies
willing to partner with me.

Be my guest to check out the two tables below (What do you get? / What do you give?).

If you - as a translation agency - consider it a fair deal, please get in touch with me!


According to the Proz Community Rates, my net rate for translation is in line with the average adopted by a few thousand translators working in the same language pair.
You won’t have to worry about timely delivery from me. Since I began translating professionally in 1973, the only occasion when I delivered (two hours) later than agreed was because the client had me working on their online CAT tool, and their server was much, much slower on weekdays than on weekends, when I tested it.
If I am unable to cope with some specialized subject area, I’ll tell you right away. I’ll never attempt to wing it. Whenever possible, I’ll refer you to a specialist translator whose work I know as dependable.
Yes, everybody promises that. The real issue is in determining WHO sets the bar. Total Quality gurus established that quality should be defined by the end-client. As I am not super-human, my work is not point-blank presumed to be 100% free of defects, only 99.9%. According to my track record, I’ve solved all the (few) quality claims I’ve had so far within a couple of hours from the moment they were made.
As a house policy, I don’t re-outsource any job I can do. After all, I am a translator, not an agency. If I must re-outsource any job or part thereof, you’ll be given the option to hire my carefully selected vendors directly. If you want me to mediate their work, as long as it is lesser than mine in the same project, I won't surcharge you for the supervision.
When I have to make decisions, I always imagine a webcam in my office and another in my mind. No, technology hasn’t got there yet, but I hope my client would be proud of their choice, if only they knew my reasoning and what I did with it.
Some clients are overly anxious to get my NDA signed. I can’t imagine a reason why I should jeopardize my business by making public anything that has been entrusted to me in confidence, regardless of any signed document. Be my guest to take it for granted, considering my own policy on the matter.
Most – if not all – dubbing and subtitling jobs for TV/cinema are handled by specialized studios. When video jobs are assigned to translation agencies, they tend to be corporate video, i.e. institutional, training, or product launch videos for companies whose core business does not include video production. You can count on free guidance regarding such projects, often a challenge for mostly text-focused Project Managers.
I am a highly skilled DTP operator with the defunct Page Maker, which I have been using for 25+ years. Now I serve ALL DTP apps (and a few others, too) directly on (live/editable) PDF file, by using Infix, which integrates translation and DTP adjustments in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
Finally, I chose NOT to be a translation agency, but only a translator. You can read my views on the difference here.Therefore I have no interest whatsoever in ‘agenting’, and see no point in selling my services directly to clients if – by my own personal option – I won’t be able to serve them with anything beyond what I can do myself.


To the best of my knowledge, my rates are fair for the value I deliver. They are about the same as those adopted by fellow translators that I know and whose work I recommend. Some variations may occur on account of payment terms. If you are merely scanning in the market after the cheapest translator, you need suppliers, not partners. I wouldn't be the ideal choice for you.
Would you ever consider me - a translator, not a dentist - to treat your teeth? Of course not in a thousand years! Then why should you   use me as a money lender, instead of your bank?
That’s what happens when you push payments for translation services into the future. I keep financial costs separate from translation costs and, while striving to offer the best translation services I can, I don’t care if I get rated as the most expensive money lender around (especially because I live in Brazil, where monthly interest rates are two digits in %).
Of course, payment may take a couple of days. If we have a lot of traffic, we can pack together the payment for all jobs done at every 1-2 weeks, but not more than that.
Too many translation agencies demand Trados absolutely, even when any CAT tool will be useless. I won’t delve into the reasons for that; the fact is that I don’t and won’t have Trados.
I have WordFast Classic, and will give you free repeated segments when they amount to something relevant. I have no objection to using a portable license you provide for any CAT tool; have done it with MemoQ, Passolo, and Memsource so far.
I am careful at work, so every segment deserves the same attention, unless it’s an obvious verbatim repetition. Therefore I give no discount on fuzzy matches.
My non-disclosure policy prevents me from revealing the identity of my past and present clients. Anyway, I don’t want them to be pestered by prospects with questionnaires, phone calls etc.
A few past clients who volunteered their opinion on the Proz LWA should suffice. As I’ll be working from my office, you are safe that I won’t be snatching your silverware.
I keep a strict time management system, which enables me to meet my deadlines. While I can – and will – always try to deliver earlier than promised, please, don’t try to make me promise anything I’m not sure that I can deliver. My motto is, “I prefer to deliver two days early than two hours late."

So if you - as a translation agency - consider the above a fair deal, be welcome to get in touch with me!

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