What are the benefits of working with direct clients?

Editor's note: This blog post was written by Andrew Morris - and posted as part of the Translators and Interpreters (ProZ.com) group on Facebook. It has been edited for use here. Direct clients also might be known as end clients or end customers. They provide language work directly to the translator without use of an agency, LSP or other intermediary. 
So what are the benefits of working with direct clients?

I can think of five, which relate to: money, competition, working conditions, relationship and creativity. Maybe you can add more of your own.

First up is money. Direct clients pay more, and in some cases a lot more, than all but a handful of elite agencies. Most of the time you can double what your favourite agency pays you, unless they’re a particularly generous agency and value your work highly, in which case you can merely add on 50% of your own rate.

That’s natural enough, as you’re doing your own marketing, and in some cases wining and dining, so all that money that usually goes to support agency staff, premises now comes to you.

Second is competition, or lack of it. Unless you screw up big time, your average direct client is going to reward quality work with loyalty. People want easy solutions, so if you make it easy for your client by producing the goods to spec and going the extra mile, they’ll stick with you.

Ok, once in a while a new HR person will swoop in and want to replace you with her favourite, but in general you’re not playing to win against other freelancers. You’re their (wo)man and they keep coming back to you year after year. And while they’re doing so, they’re certainly not scouring Fiverr, Craigslist or lists of cheap translators in some country far across the globe.

Just like you're not constantly searching the internet for cheaper alternatives to your favourite brands, or restaurants.
Working conditions
Third is working conditions. Now and again direct clients can experience a planning disaster and try and call on you for ultra-urgent work to save themselves from impending catastrophe, but in my experience the vast majority of direct clients are organised and give you weeks’ notice (sometimes months) of their workflows if it’s about a big event.

In other cases, they might well give you a text without prior announcement, but it’s often for next week, or “whenever you can”. I hardly ever get put in difficult situations where something is needed by yesterday. And when I do, I can usually fit it in anyway because all my other clients are chilled.


Fourth is relationships. Now while you can of course build up friendly relationships with project managers, there’s a high turnover as it’s pretty low-paid work, and I’ve never known a PM stay in place for a decade. (If you know of exceptions, great, I’m happy to hear it).

But when you’re dealing with direct clients, you’re often in touch with the decision makers, people invested in their company, who stick around. Also, because you're one professional talking to another, you’re working with them rather than for them, on various projects.

They treat you politely (as long as you do the same) and are very appreciative of rapid work, or you going out of your way to help. By contrast, many PMs simply expect that, or can turn to the next person in the queue if you don’t step up… In other words, with direct clients you’re far less dispensable.

Finally, direct clients will often turn to you for your opinion, draw you into the creative process, so that you have to think out of the box and come up with solutions, slogans, and even layout advice (although all my clients usually have their own graphics teams).

For me those five are a winning combination… But of course that brings its own challenges too…
P.S. if you find all these qualities in your favourite agency, then that's just wonderful. This isn’t a competition between direct and agencies… it’s not either/or, but both/and, if you want it to be. These posts are supposed to be about opening perspectives, not pitting one way of working against another…
The facebook group boasts over 54,000 members as of this re-posting. Joining is free for those registered at ProZ.com. Morris, a published author, translator and agency owner, moderates the group and often sparks discussion with posts like this one.

Topics: freelancer, directory, membership, translation industry, facebook, marketing, rates, finances, direct clients

Mike Donlin

Written by Mike Donlin


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