Guest post by Alina Cincan, Inbox Translation
The Freelance translator survey 2020 report published by Inbox Translation looks at the translation landscape, touching on several areas that are of interest to freelance translators, from routes into the profession, use of professional tools, rates, professional development, and more.
This article explores some of the key areas and findings, and compares the results of the survey report (which was open to freelancers all over the world) to those applicable to Eastern European countries*.
*as defined by the UN and comprising Belarus, Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, and Ukraine
Experience and education
Most respondents (23%) stated they have between 5 and 10 years of experience. In Eastern European countries, 30% of the respondents have between 10 and 15 years of experience.
In terms of education, a degree in languages is the most common qualification obtained, but with a larger proportion of respondents ticking this option in Eastern Europe (50% compared to 39% worldwide). Fewer translators from Eastern European countries have come to the profession with no formal degree (4% compared to the 7% overall). The figure below shows the differences (and similarities) when it comes to freelance translators’ education background.
As it can be seen in the figure above, fewer Eastern European translators stated they have no specialist areas, but more (almost double) specialise in more than five areas as compared to the overall sample surveyed.
When looking at the top areas freelance translators specialise in, there are more similarities than differences: the overall data shows that law, advertising, business, and medicine are top specialist areas; for Eastern European translators, the top areas are law, business, medicine, and engineering.
44% of freelance translators work part-time, with a lower percentage among Eastern Europe based translators (36%). The reasons for working part-time revealed that almost twice as many Eastern European translators work part-time due to having a full-time job as an employee (34% v 19% overall). Similar percentages when it comes to balancing work and family time (21% and 24% respectively).
Using computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools
Similar to the overall findings, more than half of the respondents use CAT tools frequently. Asked about their reasons for not using CAT tools, the 20% who reported not using such tools stated that they have no need for them as the main reason (44% of the worldwide freelancers and 52% in Eastern Europe).
Perks and challenges of working as a freelance translator
The ‘free’ in ‘freelance’ stands for FREEDOM! At least that is what most respondents (no matter where in the world they are based) said they love most about their job – freedom to choose their clients, their location, their projects, and their working hours.
As expected, freelancing does not come without challenges. And the findings show that translators all over the world, but also those in Eastern Europe, see ‘low rates of pay’ as the main challenge (the percentage was 59% in both groups). While overall findings revealed ‘difficulties in securing enough work’ as the second most important challenge (32% of respondents), for translators in Eastern Europe this is ‘work-life balance’ (41%). The third most important challenge is the same for both groups, i.e., ‘the increased use of machine translation’ (27% overall, 25% Eastern Europe based translators).
This is one area where there was a massive difference between the overall results and the answers from respondents in Eastern Europe. While 47% of freelance translators are members of a professional body, the percentage is much lower in Eastern European countries (14%).
The figure below looks at the reasons behind not joining a professional translation body.
Continuing professional development
The findings in this area revealed that, in general, freelance translators invest time in CPD, with only 10% reporting not doing any. Comparing the answers from translators in Eastern European countries to those obtained overall, it can be observed that they are very similar, as seen in the figure below.
Working with translation agencies
79% of overall respondents and 78% of Eastern European respondents work with translation agencies, and most translators in both groups (62% overall, 70% in Eastern Europe) stated that ‘low rates of pay’ is the main challenge when working with this type of client.
Before accepting work from a new agency, the vast majority of translators perform checks on potential clients (only 8% of overall translators and 10% of those in Eastern Europe do not perform any checks).
Working with direct clients
Again, a lot of similarities between the two groups when it comes to working with direct clients, which 81% of translators worldwide and 77% of those in Eastern Europe work with. If ‘low rates of pay’ was the main challenge when working with agencies, ‘higher rates of pay’ is seen as the main benefit of working with direct clients (74% of overall respondents and 80% of those in Eastern European countries). Translators seem to be less diligent when it comes to checking potential direct clients, with 19% of all translators and 23% of those based in Eastern Europe stating they do not carry out any checks before working with a new client.
Where clients find translators
When asked how their clients find out about their services, ‘referral/word-of-mouth’ was by far the most used method.
While 40% of all respondents have a website, the percentage is lower among those in Eastern Europe (24%).
Rates and surcharges
On average, rates charged by translators in Eastern Europe are 43% lower than the rates reported in the overall findings.
In terms of surcharges, 59% of all respondents and 71% of those based in Eastern European countries apply a surcharge in case they have to meet tight deadlines. There are also translators who never apply surcharges (21% of all respondents, 14% of those in Eastern Europe).
Professional indemnity insurance
When asked whether they have professional indemnity insurance (PII)/professional liability insurance (PLI)/errors & omissions (E&O) or similar, 24% of all respondents said they have one of these forms of insurance. The percentage among the translators in Eastern Europe is much lower (5%).
Personal profile of freelance translators
As revealed by other industry surveys, the translation field is dominated by women (76% of all respondents and 69% of those in Eastern Europe identify as female).
Most of the respondents are aged between 35 and 44.
40% of the respondents worldwide and 44% of those in Eastern European countries have pets (cats are the most popular, followed by dogs – in both groups).
Translators in Eastern Europe are less active when compared to the overall findings (with 18% of them never undertaking any exercise and 26% only doing so occasionally). Among those who exercise regularly, while brisk walking and yoga, followed by jogging and strength training, were voted as the preferred forms of exercise by the overall population surveyed, Eastern European translators favour strength training, followed by yoga and aerobics.