A translation agency is a company whose employees manage all aspects of translation projects. This may include project management, quality assurance, graphic layout, IT-related tasks and more. A translation agency may also employ some in-house translators. But generally, most translation agencies will use their own special network of freelance translators, who work from home or in shared offices around the world.
Many translation agencies – also known as language service providers (LSPs) – generally use freelance translators who only translate into their native language. In other words, they translate from a foreign language (the source language) into their native language (the target language). This is because people most often have the best and most in-depth understanding of their own native language, which in turn helps to ensure the best possible translation quality.
Many translation agencies also prefer that their freelance translators live in the target
language’s native country. This is to ensure the translator has as much understanding and feel for the native culture, language and market as possible.
This in turn means that a translation agency with international reach needs to have a large
network of freelance translators who are located all over the world.
Now, having read this much, you may be wondering about some more things.
For instance, how does a translation agency manage such a large network of freelance translators?
Who recruits new freelance translators to the network?
How is the selection process carried out and who manages the suppliers?
Read on to get the answers.
HOW DOES A TRANSLATION AGENCY MANAGE SUCH A LARGE NETWORK OF FREELANCE TRANSLATORS?
Well, they couldn’t do it without vendor management. A translation agency employs one or more people to be responsible for managing, expanding and maintaining the company’s network of freelance translators. Before we look at a vendor manager’s specific tasks, let’s find out what
exactly vendor management is.
Vendor management covers the process of initiating, developing and maintaining a good
professional relationship with the suppliers of services that a company needs in order to carry out its daily work. For a translation agency, these suppliers are freelance translators.
Without them, a translation agency could not exist. It means that a translation agency vendor manager is responsible for maintaining the network of freelance translators who collaborate with the translation agency and for expanding this network with suitable professionals.
WHAT DOES A VENDOR MANAGER DO?
A vendor manager’s tasks are multifaceted and diverse. The daily work may involve selecting freelance translators, negotiating contracts with new freelance translators, carrying out
thorough onboarding, carrying out quality and risk analyses, and acting as a link between the freelance translators and other employees in the translation agency.
Selection of freelance translators
A translation agency’s vendor manager has the overall responsibility for selecting freelance translators. In other words, the vendor manager is responsible for selecting new translators for the existing network of freelance translators as well as translators for specific customers or tasks. The vendor manager has the complete overview of the entire group of freelance
translators that the translation agency uses and is therefore in charge of establishing the
answers to some core questions about each individual translator:
- What is the freelance translator’s area of expertise?
- Which specific language competencies does the freelance translator possess?
- What prices does the freelance translator charge for his or her services?
- What is the freelance translator’s general level of capacity?
The translation agency’s vendor manager possesses all of this knowledge about every single freelance translator who collaborates with the translation agency. The vendor manager uses
this knowledge to find the most suitable freelance translator for specific projects and to identify any missing resources in the agency’s freelance translator network.
The freelance translator selection process always includes a test and approval process. When the vendor manager is in contact with a freelance translator who wishes to join the translation agency’s network of freelance translators, the freelance translator’s competencies are tested. The vendor manager manages this process, sending a test assignment to the new freelance translator, and based on this test assignment, the vendor manager assesses the translator’s
linguistic and professional translation competencies. The vendor manager also assesses the overall quality of the collaboration:
- Has communication between the vendor manager and the freelance translator met the translation agency’s expectations?
- Were responses and response times satisfactory?
- Did the freelance translator’s approach to the task and handling of the task meet
If the freelance translator has carried out the translation task satisfactorily, he or she can then be included in the translation agency’s network of freelance translators.
When the translation agency negotiates a contract with the new translator, the vendor manager plays a crucial role. This is because the vendor manager possesses the expert knowledge about the translation market and is aware of market trends, follows developments, knows about prices and other essential elements in a supplier contract and thus has a finger on the pulse of the
This means that a translation agency’s vendor manager is often the best person to manage
contract negotiations with freelance translators.
Once the contract negotiations are settled and the new freelance translator has joined the
translation agency’s freelance translator network, the vendor manager will carry out thorough onboarding with the new translator. Overall expectations and agreements will be clarified in connection with the preliminary negotiations. Once this is done, the freelance translator can be incorporated into the translation agency’s flow of translation projects.
The vendor manager ensures that the translation agency’s project managers are informed of the new freelance translator’s competencies and areas of expertise. The vendor manager then guides the project managers who manage customer accounts and projects that match the
freelance translator’s competencies. The vendor manager assists both the project managers and freelance translator with the first assignments, to ensure that the translation agency and
freelance translator’s collaboration proceeds smoothly.
Analyse, analyse, analyse
Once the collaboration between the freelance translator and the translation agency is fully
underway, the vendor manager analyses the collaboration on an ongoing basis. This includes various analyses and assessments of quality, communication, punctuality, flexibility and other parameters.
For example, the vendor manager regularly tests the quality of the freelance translator’s specific translations. This makes it possible to track whether the freelance translator is supplying
translations of a consistently high quality. In addition, the vendor manager closely monitors the freelance translator’s punctuality and accessibility.
By carrying out ongoing analyses, the vendor manager gains an overview of the individual
freelance translator’s work over time, and can also monitor and determine whether certain
matters relating to the freelance translator’s collaboration need to be looked at in further or discussed.
Having read this blog so far, you will have learned that a vendor manager has to be able to carry out various types of analyses and must have good business acumen in relation to contract
The ability to communicate is another important competency that a vendor manager must
possess. The vendor manager functions very much as the nerve centre for the daily
communication between freelance translators and translation agency’s staff, especially when agreements must be made in relation to special assignments. Here, the vendor manager’s role as a communication channel often comes into play. Special assignments include projects with special topics, special processes or tasks that have extraordinary scope. In such cases, it will
often be necessary to make special agreements between the customer, the translation agency and the freelance translator.
Sometimes the vendor manager can also function as a kind of intermediary. For example, with discussions between the freelance translator, the translation agency and if required, the
customer. These discussions can be about specific content, use of terminology or discrepancies.
HOW DOES A VENDOR MANAGER RECRUIT NEW FREELANCE TRANSLATORS?
A vendor manager recruits new freelance translators in several different ways and by using
different channels. For example, the vendor manager assesses all of the unsolicited applications that are sent into the translation agency by freelance translators.
Today, networking and social media play a significant role when a translation agency recruits new freelance translators to its translator network. A recommendation from a translation
colleague, who perhaps already works for the translation agency, is often extremely valuable and key to a translator getting his or her foot in the door. This means that the vendor manager often communicates with potential freelance translators via social media platforms like LinkedIn, or uses websites that are specifically created for the translator community, like Proz. The vendor manager either proactively searches for freelance translators or receives enquiries from
freelance translators who wish to join the translation agency’s network of freelance translators.
HOW DOES A VENDOR MANAGER PERFORM SUPPLIER CARE?
The relationship between the translation agency and its freelance translators is by no means a one-way street. Just as a translation agency wishes to recruit the most talented freelance
translators and thus continuously analyses their performance, the translation agency also wishes to carry out supplier care in relation to all of the freelance translators in its network and ensure that the collaboration remains interesting and rewarding for the individual freelance translator.
What exactly does supplier care mean at a translation agency?
It means many things. In addition to positive and open dialogue, where the vendor manager
listens to the freelance translator’s wishes and needs with regard to the collaboration, different initiatives can help to ensure there is an excellent supplier/client relationship. This can be achieved through good communication channels (e.g. a newsletter specifically aimed at
translators), including translators in internal or external events or by having a distinct translation community.