In short, I don’t like the way most translation agencies work.
Many translation agencies outsource work to translators they don’t know and often haven’t even tested. At the same time, the agencies rarely care how experienced or specialised the translators hire are – as long as they’re cheap and available immediately. Many agencies give their clients the impression that the work is done by good and specialised translators. It’s an open secret in the profession that agencies will send the first one or two jobs to a more competent translator, who will probably have higher rates. Later jobs, however, are sent to other translators, who presumably charge less. I’d know – I’ve fallen into that trap a few times back when I used to work for agencies. I would always be sent the first projects for a new client – essentially paid test translations, used to win a new client. But then I wouldn’t get the later jobs for the same client, or only be sent the work after someone else messed up and the client complained. That happened very blatantly more than once, and that was then the final straw – I’d had enough of translation agencies.
The other issue is that translation agencies rarely have the opportunity to ask the client questions or propose alternative suggestions, or share their ideas on how the content might be improved. But this close collaboration is exactly what my clients love about working with me. Done right, translation is creative work. This demands a certain degree of communication between the customer and the person who translates your texts into English. Ultimately, it’s in the client’s interest to help the translator produce the best work possible.
Compounding the above issue, agencies rarely allow the translator and reviewer to discuss their choices. This is largely considered too slow and costly. That’s when qualified reviewers are involved at all. This means it is almost always impossible for the translator(s), reviewer(s) and client to discuss any questions that arise during the project. The results, sadly, speak for themselves. Think broken, clumsy, inelegant English that makes it sound like you’re being conned or bored to death.