Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Freelance or In-house Translator?

Over the past few years, we have received a constant flow of e-mails from both new and potential providers asking about freelance versus in-house vacancies. What is the difference between them and which one should we as a translation agency use? What are the pros and cons for each of them? Although there seems to be no precise answer, the interest has made me eager to investigate this question in more depth.

There are many benefits of working as both staff and freelance translator. But before going into more detail about the pros and cons of working with the two kinds of translators, I would first like to explain the difference between each of them.

Note that the term "in-house" does not normally describe a translator who works from home and on a “from time-to time” basis.
  • An in-house translator is a translator who works for a specific company as an employee on a full-time basis, usually at the company office.
    Some of the advantages include a regular workflow and set schedule as well as a salary, often with additional benefits such as healthcare and paid vacations.
  • A freelance translator is a translator who works as an independent contractor from home or a private office with a variety of clients and with no binding agreements to accept all tasks.
    One of the advantages to being freelance is a more flexible schedule.

Working as in-house or freelance translator



No need to worry about new clients.*
You do not have to be 2 (or more) in 1. Which means you do not have to be equally good at translation and key account management. You do not have to spend time on finding new customers. All you have to do is to translate and to satisfy the linguistic needs of pre-existing customers!

No need to  worry about Customer Relations Management.
You stay behind the scenes and do not have to invest time in CRM. This sets you free to do your main job – translate.

No need to worry about finding the workplace, PC and software needed for job.
Latest CAT (computer-aided technology) softwares don't come cheap, and that might be an issue for freelancers. But not for an in-house linguist: all equipment, as well as a workplace, is usually provided by your employer.

Constant source of income, annual leave and insurance.
This is the greatest advantage for in-house translators. Freelancers may be able to work whenever they want, but finding time for a vacation can be a big headache.

You can be promoted.
True, this does not happen that often, but working in-house could always open new doors in your professional life.

Become an expert of specific field.
Working for one company could improve your knowledge in specific subject, which allows you to translate faster and deliver translations of better quality, as you don't have to spend time searching for specific terms and expressions. Freelancers sometimes don't have any other choice than to accept everything that comes their way.

Your talents will be used solely for translation.
As described before, freelancers have to take on many different tasks, including invoicing, basic project management, key accounting and other business related activities, but in-house translators can focus on translation only.
Work whenever you want
The biggest advantage for a freelancer is that he/she does not have to wake up and go to work every morning, sit on the train or in traffic jams; simply does not have to waste time and money on the "9 to 5 grind". A Freelancer is the leader of his/her own life. Note, however, that this may often mean taking on tasks that requires working overnight or on weekends: it all depends on how you plan your schedule.

The ability to choose what and for whom to translate/ to choose the most profitable and best jobs for you.
A freelancer can always decide if he/she would like to take a project on or not. If the project appears too difficult or the deadline is too tight, a freelancer can always turn it down with a perfect excuse — sorry, I'm working on another project at the moment, or by explaining that it would be possible to take up the task if the deadline and/or rate was more flexible.

You can refuse any job you don't like.
This may not sound very positive, but freelancers sometimes refuse jobs from clients that do not pay on time, have low levels of communication etc.

Flexible working time.
A freelancer can decide when, where and for how long to work.
A freelancer can also translate for different industries (not obligatory).
Many freelancers work for different clients in various industries. This enables them to learn new skills and apply them to other projects, too.

Note that in-house translators (if stated in their employment agreement) may be able to take some freelance jobs from other clients, while freelancers do not normally get the chance to try being in-house linguists, even occasionally.

There is therefore no precise answer to the question of whether it is better to be an in-house or freelance translator. The most important question is, what are your own priorities? Freedom and flexible hours or stable income and insurance? Freelancers are like small businessmen with their own clients, CRM system and quality control, but this can be an unstable lifestyle to maintain.

A US survey has found that very few translators ever go in-house. Moreover, the vast majority continue to work as freelancers for the duration of their careers. This system is more common in US-based companies and less in Europe.

Having all your team based in-house limits a company to less specialized language combinations than can be offered using a larger stable of freelancers: offering services in 150 language combinations would result in extreme office expenses!! An in-house team for a “one-stop” translation agency is almost impossible.

In-house translation can however be a solution for companies that are not related to the language business. For instance, a manufacturing company may find it more convenient to have an in-house team for the translation of their marketing materials or instruction manuals, as they know which countries they export to and can predict both expenses and workload.

As a language service company, we combine the best of both worlds and work with both freelance and in-house translators. Only in this way can we offer the best quality service. Our project managers are specialists (linguists) in most common language combinations, and allow us to fulfil the last step in our quality control - the project manager gives the last check before sending the translated and proofread translation project to the client.

RIX Translation Service Agency
About the author

RixTrans ( – rapidly growing translation agency providing innovative language solutions.