Kat Kempster, DACH Localization Director, discusses the pros and cons of possible translator career paths: freelancer or in-house?
As a specialist recruiter within the language services space, helping clients to source specialist in-house translators for full-time, salaried roles is a big part of my job.
When speaking with translators, the issue of whether to work on-site or to choose the freelance, home-office path provokes some interesting debate.
Of course, everyone is different and there is no definitive answer to this, but one thing I have noticed is that the allure of freelancing is often considered the default ‘superior option’ until the pros and cons of each are weighed more carefully in the balance.
Let’s have a quick look at some of the more important factors under consideration:
- Flexibility (+)
You have no set schedule other than the deadlines themselves, and thus can (in theory) work whenever and wherever you want. On the train, weekends or in the middle of the night, for 15 minutes or 8 hours… as long as deadlines are kept and you are contactable for project updates or changes, freelancing definitely offers a more adjustable schedule.
- Control Over Who You Work For (+)
As long as you can manage the communication across time zones, you can work for any company located anywhere in the world. Career freelancers tend to build rapports and relationships with agencies whose workload, subject matter and general expectations is synergistic with their own, and this can be a lot harder to achieve within the narrower field of in-house work.
- You’re Your Own Boss (+)
You control the quality of your work, how well you utilize your time and your rates. If certain agencies or employers have what you deem to be unrealistic or changing standards/expectations, you are free to turn down the work and find a better match.
- Become an SME (+)
Choosing your own projects can allow you to be selective about which subject matters and industries you specialize in. This allows you to become an expert, develop a more efficient and competitive service, and build value as a resource.
- Finding your own projects (-)
Being a freelancer means constantly being on the search for new and better jobs. Freelancers with ties to certain industries can also be hit by seasonality (e.g. financial). You also have to deal with clients personally, working on your entrepreneurial skills which may not be one of your strengths!
- Lack of Office Network (-)
Without an office environment it can be harder to get daily social interaction, easier to feel isolated and more difficult to build your network. Freelancing can be a lonely world if you are not able to fill your life outside of work with other social projects, and keeping in touch with local meet-up and industry networking groups can be trickier than it sounds.
- Job Security (-)
This may be the biggest issue with freelancing. As strong as some agency relationships may feel, change is always possible. Whether it’s a new vendor policy, lost client relationship on the agency’s side or a cheaper competitive option, security is not a part of freelancer life. Add to that the risk of taking a vacation or turning down work, and it can be overwhelming. Planning more than a few weeks out for travel, training, or personal time can be difficult.
- Job Security (+)
As an in-house translator or reviewer, you will you have a consistent source of income with predictable cashflow and stability on which to base your financial planning and decisions. You also aren’t dealing with the stress of hunting for, bidding on and winning your next project. It will (hopefully) arrive right on your desk.
- Benefits/ Paid Leave (+)
Whether it’s health insurance for yourself and your family, a pension scheme or paid vacation and sick leave, this aspect is obvious and full-time employee status is the clear winner. Not to be taken lightly, these are big issues that collectively can be worth thousands on top of annual salary.
- No Dealing Directly with Clients (+)
Most in-house translators rarely have to worry about customer relations, account management or gaining new clients. Most of the time, all you have to worry about is doing what you do best – translating. There may be some client interaction to understand expectations for specific roles, but the stress level of client interaction is a whole level down from a freelancer who is depending on every individual relationship for income.
- Access to Tools and Resources (+)
Typically in-house translators will save on the cost of their own CAT tool licenses, as well as not being required to pay for a range of software applications in order to meet the needs of a spectrum of individual clients. They will also have quicker access to other resources, such as a DTP department (and of course the PMs themselves), which can accelerate project completion with easier communication on finalizing details.
- You Don’t Get to Choose Your Projects (-)
As in in-house resource you lose a lot of control over the subject matter you’re working with. With some LSP employers, there can be some stimulating diversity or some very narrowly-defined recurring projects and specialisms. This can be the case with corporate (client-side) employers too – work full-time for a bank and don’t expect many creative advertising projects, or work in a mid-sized e-commerce business and be the go-to language resource for everything that ever needs translating – websites, legal documents, HR paperwork and more!
- Productivity / Set Schedule (-)
Some translators may find it hard to be at a desk translating for eight hours a day and dislike the distractions of office whispers, constant background noise etc. With that said, many freelancers will agree that there are plenty of distractions in the home also – particularly for those who choose a freelance path because of young children at home! So sometimes a three hour project can stretch out into a six hour marathon.
So there’s a lot of different aspects to consider… Both paths have their benefits and their challenges.
As the translation industry continues to grow, a surprising number of LSPs are hiring in-house linguists in a return to an on-site model for key languages and reviewer resources. On the client-side, in-house roles continue to exist and pay well, but can be harder to find.
If you’ve worked on both sides of the fence and have an opinion to share, we’d love to hear it! Equally if you are a freelancer considering an in-house career, get in touch to learn about the roles Adaptive is currently looking to fill!
Kat Kempster is the DACH Recruitment Director at Adaptive Globalization. She recruits on behalf of LSPs from boutique agencies to multinational MLVs, specializing in the DACH and Eastern European regions. Feel free to reach out to Kat on LinkedIn to connect.
Tel: +49 30 88 49 29 57
E-Mail: kat.kempster (@) adaptiveglobalization.com
Article originally published here.
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