In the gig economy of online translation, linguists face a daunting set of challenges. Stable work is often hard to come by. Even with a secure position, it’s often hard to find opportunities that offer compensation commensurate with your experience. Whether you freelance for LSPs or contract directly with end clients, you’re likely to experience a different set of creative and logistical obstacles. Let’s face it: it can be tough for professionals who want to get paid to translate.
The good news is, these challenges reveal just how far the translation industry has come in recent years. Today’s pain points are not the same as a translator’s pain points five or ten years ago.
All players in the localization ecosystem are rapidly evolving. If you’re looking to get paid to translate in the era of cloud computing and continuous localization, it might be helpful to gain some perspective on how the industry has evolved and what really matters today when you’re considering positions that will grow your career as a translator.
Difficulties That No Longer Exist for Translators
Until very recently, technology used to be the most important limiting factor for job seekers and working translators alike. Looking back at the pain points, we see how quickly things can change for translators and their employers. The following frustrations would seem absurd today but used to be commonplace:
Paying for Tools
Even as recently as 2010, translators who wanted to work had to purchase their own licenses for translation software. You had to purchase, out of pocket, whatever tool your end client or LSP used for hundreds of dollars annually. Unless you wanted to purchase multiple licenses, you were limited to contracts with companies that also used your tool.
→ Today, CAT tools are cloud-based and easily accessible. Paying for translation tools is a thing of the past.
CAT Tool Preferences
Understandably, due to the expense involved, many translators held fast to their preferred CAT tools and demanded that clients work with their preferred systems—to varying degrees of success.
→ The market has shifted, and CAT tools themselves have started to converge in a way that makes the latest translation technology equally accessible regardless of brand name. It’s no longer realistic to assume companies will work with your preferred editing tool—but you’re also no longer limited to the jobs that use a particular software.
Today’s translation economy runs almost entirely online, but some translators still cling to an antiquated reality of working offline with their own preferred tools. The drawbacks of this arrangement are obvious. Translators would spend countless hours sending files back and forth, and companies would struggle to pinpoint a single source of truth for translation memories.
→ Now that it’s relatively easy to connect to the internet from a wide variety of locations worldwide, the industry has moved on. Part of being a professional translator is being able to work online in the cloud.
It’s fascinating how the greatest challenge of an entire industry—technology—could eventually become the greatest potential benefit for modern professionals. Instead of worrying about the cost of CAT tools and the difficulty of switching between them, today’s translators can focus on making more important value judgments that shape the quality of their work experience.
What Matters for the Translators of Today
Translators today are asking much bigger questions than “Which CAT tool do you use?” Your career depends on making professional partnerships with employers who respect your work, reward your performance, and value your experience. With the right employer, life as a translator becomes infinitely easier and more efficient—but, of course, those relationships may be hard to find.
By exercising discernment with your potential employment opportunities, you can absolutely get paid to translate for a really good company. Asking the right questions will get you closer to the career you’ve been hoping for. When considering a contract, be sure to inquire about the following:
- Compensation. The big question: How well will you be compensated in this position? Are you able to set your own rates? It’s best to find positions that allow you to get paid efficiently without a complicated invoicing process. Ideally, you won’t depend on your own bookkeeping software to keep up with your translation work.
- Communication. Consider the way your potential employers communicate. Have they opened up a channel where you can speak with other translators and end clients about your projects? Good communication systems are rare and, therefore, highly valuable.
- Resources. Has your LSP or end client provided documentation about the brand that you’ll be translating for? How much have they prepared you to discuss the product or service you’ll be writing about?
- Assignments. You should have a way to preview the work you’re being asked to complete. That way you don’t have to accept jobs in which you won’t be successful or in which you have little personal interest.
- Achievement. Every translator wants to work with a partner who values performance. If you prove over time that you’re a high performer, will you receive some sort of tangible reward? Will you be guaranteed more job offers?
- Relationships. If you do a fantastic job translating for a particular client, you’d want the ability to stick with that client long term. Is this possible with this employer? You’ll be infinitely more successful with a long-term account because you’ll come to understand the client’s brand inside and out.
Get Paid to Translate with Integrity
Everything on the list of “what actually matters” comes down to the character of the employer. Whether they operate with transparency, honor, and respect. Whether they’re willing to engage with you as a human being and a valuable employee. And whether the overall ease of doing business with them is manageable for everyone involved.
Bureau Works offers a unique solution for translators who are looking for stable, rewarding work. We invite our translators to choose their own rates. We provide access to translation memories, term bases, style guides, and glossaries, in addition to an intuitive editor who supports the whole team in working together. Better yet, we don’t force our translators to post-edit. Instead, we let you take the reigns and use our tools to your best advantage. Our localization software automatically tracks your progress by client and by subject matter, which places you in a preferred position for the accounts where you’ve been successful. All of this leads to more jobs for you and a better long-term career ahead.
If you’re looking to get paid to translate in today’s market, don’t settle for jobs that disregard your experience and abilities. Go ahead and break out of the constant gig economy of freelance translation today.
At Bureau Works, we invest in the long-term success of our linguists. We’ve created a unique opportunity where translators are respected and valued for their work. We’re determined to ensure that each linguist on our team is given the chance to be successful, and we have designed our localization software to automatically meet this goal. If you want to start translating along the road of evolving opportunity, join our team today.
Written by Luciana Passos
Luciana is Bureau Work’s COO. She is known as a gap bridger and a heart follower.