If a translation agency does nothing more than provide translation services, why do translators need them? Why can’t translators simply work for the end-client directly, cut out the middle, and make lots more money? Here are three reasons:
Size of translation projects
Many translation jobs consist of hundreds or thousands of pages of material, perhaps one or more manuals, technical documentation, or legal materials. The end-client, the one that contracts with the agency to do the translation work, wants the job completed too quickly for a single translator to ever do, such as two weeks for 250,000 words of material, and prepared professionally, perhaps printed in full color with graphics and photos. In other words, no single translator has the capacity to provide this scale of service for projects of this size.
Nature of translation projects
Often a translation job will involve translating material into five languages at once, such as with the preparation of an annual report or the manuals for a new software package. Again, the end-client wants it all returned quickly, so no single translator, even assuming that one translator has the ability to translate into five different languages, a virtual impossibility, can hope to finish the job.
Nature of end-clients
End-clients usually prefer to deal with the same organization on a regular basis. This simplifies their own business operations considerably. What this means is that an individual translator cannot reasonably hope to provide all the different services, including various languages, subject areas, desktop publishing, offset printing, and so forth, that an end-client might need during a given business year. Once again, the demands of many end-clients are far beyond what a single translator can provide. So there are the translation agencies. They provide two categories of services. One: they put together the number of translators needed to handle the material in question (and many agencies maintain an in-house translation staff for this purpose, particularly for languages with high, steady demand). Two: they manage the project from start to completion, including project estimates and bids, desktop publishing, layout, and typesetting, localization of content (both text and visual material), graphics, and printing. Translators therefore are a small but essential part of this the overall translation process.