In-House Translator vs Freelancer Sharing impressions

  • Greater than 3 minutes, my friend!

    I spent more than seven years as an in-house translator in two international companies. Becoming a freelancer has always been my dream, so finally, when the moment came and I was mentally and financially prepared for the adventure, I quit my job and started my freelance career.

    In theory, I more or less imagined what was waiting for me, but I must say that there were many surprises too. I would like to share my impressions of my first months of independency.

    1. Clear duties vs Multitasking. When you work in a company you´re just a translator. Period. If you are a freelancer, you are also your own accountant, lawyer, marketing manager, business development manager, sometimes even web designer and HR. Jack of all trades!
    2. Monthly salary vs Financial juggling. Becoming a freelancer, you change your convenient monthly payroll for not knowing how much you will earn each month. Well, I admit there are many successful translators who always have clients and projects, so they make their living without any problems, but when you are a newbie, it really becomes an issue. Therefore, I would recommend to be prepared financially and to have some savings or other support before starting as a freelancer. By now, I can´t complain as I have enough work, but it was rather tough at the beginning.
    3. Surrounded by people vs Always alone. In any office, whether big or small, you have colleagues. You may like them or not, but they are there, so you are obliged to communicate. If you like chatting and enjoy being with people, don´t become a freelance translator. This is a solitary job and you will spend most of the time sitting alone in front of your computer. Well, if you really miss communication, there are alternatives, such as shared offices, for example. As for me, I even prefer to be alone, as I can concentrate better on what I am doing. If I am eager to chat, I always have my friends or I can share my thoughts online too.
    4. Knowing your company vs Knowing many. In this point, I refer to the rules. While in-house translators should be familiar with specific terminology or stylistic rules used in their company, a freelancer should take into consideration all recommendations and style guides coming with each new project. First, I found it rather difficult to remember the requirements of each particular client and I had to study the documentation again and again. Now I got used to it.
    5. Fixed working schedule vs Nothing fixed at all. Though I try to work only till afternoon (as I am also a mother, so I have to take care of my kid´s activities after school), sometimes it is quite difficult to set up the limits. As you know, projects can enter any time, and it costs a lot to ignore your phone or e-mail when you decide to take free time or during weekends and public holidays. Surely, everybody has tricks and tips how to avoid the pressure and not to think about your work the whole day. I am still struggling with it.
    6. Your professional growth depends on the company vs All depends on you. In a company, there are so many factors to influence your career, and you can do nothing about them. When you are a freelancer, all your growth is up to you. The Internet is full of useful resources, courses, forums and documents to study and to progress. You learn, you obtain experience, you earn new important clients, you grow and you raise your income. Everything depends on you.

    There are many advantages of being a freelancer and many disadvantages too. Certainly, each translator could remember more differences besides those I´ve mentioned. The choice is always individual, but I personally don´t regret that I left my comfort zone and took this leap.

    Natalia Sgibneva

    About Natalia Sgibneva

    EN-RU and ES-RU profesional translator and interpreter. Key areas: marketing, technical translations (mostly energetics, engineering and transport), tourism, fashion.

    2 thoughts on “In-House Translator vs Freelancer

    1. Hi, Natalia! Thank you for sharing your experience. Personally, I have always been curious about what work is like for an in-house translator. I considered applying for an internal translator position in the past – but never obtained one because the offer for this role in my country is not that high – so I can imagine all the pros, but as you say nothing is black or white, and freelancing has its silver linings too! I hope you get to a point when you don’t miss your old job and are able to wrestle with difficulties successfully 🙂 If you ever need tips or just want to share the joys and sorrows of a freelance life, you are welcome to post on The Open Mic forum as well

    2. Hi Natalia, thanks for the post. I have been in both sides too. Worked as an in-house translators for a localization company then started my freelance journey after 3 years. Now, after about 8 year freelancing, I still prefer it to the in-house position. Now, I can plan my business and fix its issues without the hassle of decision making from a top management. I think after all these years, I am no longer able to work as an in-house. However, it is a personal decision in the end. and a preferred personal style for each of us. Thanks again Natalia for sharing your experience.

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