As part of my Translation Methods and Skills module in the Autumn, we looked at the advantages and disadvantages of Freelance and In-House translation. In my exam it’s likely that a question might come up about which you prefer and why – in this case you’ll need to go through the pros and cons for both and come to a conclusion. For anyone who wants to know what either profession could offer them, or even for someone sitting a translation exam, I hope this helps!
Here are the points that I’ve researched – PLEASE NOTE: I have neither in-house nor freelance experience, and these points are compiled from articles, books and presentations from experienced translators
Before we get into the positives and negatives, it might be helpful to explain what each term means – what exactly is the difference between a freelance translator, and someone who works as an in-house translator?
A freelance translator is someone who doesn’t work for a specific company doing translation work, they are an independent contractor – there is no contract that says that you work for a specific company. An in-house translator is someone who is an employee of a translation agency or a company with a translation department. They work their ‘full-time’ at the office of that company. (RixTrans 2013)
- Need a lot of discipline – concentrate on task at hand, may work unsociable hours to meet tight deadlines, have to divide your time between translation and business management (finding clients, finances, promotion etc.)
- No fixed monthly income – profit can be unstable, competition might mean you might not always have enough work – HOWEVER possibility for diversification: transcription, editing or even post-editing machine translations.
- Expenses – some expenses would incur either way (e.g. Master’s degree qualifications or ITI/CIOL exams) BUT also start-up costs – computer, CAT tools, printer, maybe separate office space, professional associations (e.g.-> if you join the ITI, you get access to insurance, credit checks and self-certification seals)
- Isolation – depending on your personality, you could feel lonely and isolated HOWEVER some translation associations organise co-working sessions – see ITI Cymru
- Flexible working hours – no ‘boring’ 9 to 5, no travelling to work everyday, can choose when and where to work, working hours can be adapted to fit around childcare or doctor’s appointments, also possible to work around part-time further study.
- More control and freedom – in control of own schedule – can work overnight/weekends if you want/need to, ability to choose what and for whom to translate (if you don’t feel comfortable with a particular job you could turn it down), whether the project is right for you (timescale, difficulty), refuse jobs that are low paying.
- Able to earn more money – set your own rates, diversification, can set your own working hours, direct clients = no middle man to pay (agencies) HOWEVER has to be reasonable competitive price and needs to cover expenses.
- Choose clients – freedom to take on projects you want, can contact potential clients directly and establish rapport/ask questions about the text.
- No client contact – cannot establish rapport, little to no direct contact, have to ask questions through your project manager and questions you have may not be relayed/understood as you’d like – takes longer to get an answer.
- No flexibility – fixed hours, fixed pay and fixed work, unable to choose own projects, repetitive projects might make you bored and you could start to make mistakes/get sloppy.
- Less money than freelance – paid a fixed rate like any job and may not be contractually allowed to take on additional freelance translation or editing work.
- Need to work around company or colleagues working/holiday arrangements – cant organise your own time so easily.
- Don’t need to find clients – job of the agency to find work, can afford to just concentrate on translation rather than marketing, finding work etc.
- Fewer expenses – don’t need to find a workspace, technology and software – possibly only need to pay for travel – train/car etc.
- Possibility of promotion – in larger firms you might have the possibility to become a senior translator or a project manager HOWEVER in smaller freelance companies this might not be possible.
- Support network – ask colleagues for help/advice, ability to learn on the job and have someone check in on you, socialising – take your mind off working.
I have compiled this information from my own teaching and a variety of online articles. To learn more about freelance and in-house translation please see:
- In House v Freelance Translation – ITI
- Freelance or In-house Translator? – RixTrans
- Guest post: Freelance versus in-house translator – Mariana Sasso
- Freelance vs In-house Translators: What Is the Difference? – Lingo-Star
Is ‘freelancer’ a work we should stop using? Is calling yourself a ‘freelance translator’ selling yourself short? Read Lloyd Bingham’s article on: ‘Freelancer’ – the term we should leave behind in 2016.
If you have experience in either industry, which did you prefer and why? If you’re thinking of going into translation, where would you start? Leave a comment below!