Freelance translator versus in-house translator

Published on 07/07/2021

Whether you work for a large multinational translation company or a small agency, it is the translators in their soliloquy at the computer who are the real architects of a good translation.

The general public.knows little about the translation profession. When most people think of a translator, they think of a literary translator. However, the market for editorial translation is very small compared to that for medical, legal, financial, commercial or technical translation.

People often are also often unaware about the fact that a great part of translators work as freelancer. 

1. Business models of translation companies

Business models of translation companies

Before weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of working with a freelance or in-house translator, you will need to know how translation companies work.

In general, we can say that there are two types of translation companies. Some companies have freelance translators as staff to do the translations. In other companies, the in-house team consists of project managers and the translations are done by external providers.

As for former companies, they tend to work only with a few language combinations and their preferred clients are large translation companies.

In reality, most translation companies fall somewhere between these two extremes of translation company business models. In this way, some language combinations will be done internally and others will be done externally.

2. Specialisation: freelance translator

Specialisation: freelance translator

One of the characteristics you should look for in translators who do your translations is that they are highly experienced and specialised in the regarding field.

If your company belongs to the bio-health sector, it’s very important that the translator is specialised in medical translation. The field of medicine and medical devices involves the use of specialised language.

For that, most translation companies will tend to use their in-house translators. The translation company may be able to work with an external translator who is highly specialised in your field, but they will always prefer their in-house over the external providers..

3. Commitment: in-house translator

Commitment: in-house translator

Whenever you hire a professional, you should be sure of their commitment so that they carry out your projects in the best possible way. In this sense, the more important we are as a client to that professional, the more commitment we can be expected.

From this point of view, I believe that in-house translators feel a greater commitment to the work they do as they only have one client: the company they work with.

When in-house translators make mistake, don’t work properly or doesn’t do their job as expected, they are at risk to be fired.

In the case of freelance translators, one of the factors that will affect their level of commitment will be the percentage of their annual turnover that you assume. Don't ask freelance translators for the moon and the stars when you hardly give them any work!

4. Technical support: in-house translator

Technical support: in-house translator

On a technical level, you can expect a better service when working with an in-house translator. In-house translators will be part of a team. In general, translation companies will have a technical manager who supports the company's translators.

Freelance translators’ workflows, on the other hand, may vary a lot. There will be those who are barely familiar with the purely technical aspects of translation, relying in turn on the translation agencies they work with.

Others, especially those working with direct customers, will have had to resolve the technical issues involved in maintaining this type of direct business relationship.

5. So, do I work with a freelance translator or an in-house translator?

So, do I work with a freelance translator or an in-house translator?

There are few absolute truths. As I have explained, depending on the characteristics of our project, we may be interested, a priori, in working with one type of translator or another.

Regardless of the various factors we have outlined here, the most important element to take into account, whether in-house or freelance, is their professional skills: that they translate into their native language, that they have a degree in translation and interpreting, that they do a final revision as a quality control check..

If you want to know more about how to assess the degree of professionalism of a translator, I recommend my blog: “How to distinguish a translator from a non-professional”.

Josh Gambin's picture
Josh Gambin

Josh Gambin holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.

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