When working as a translator, you have a few job options available to you. The main ones are: working in-house at a translation agency, freelancing, and working in-house for one particular company. So far in my career I have done the latter two. There are pros and cons to both, some of which I discuss below.
One of the major advantages of working in-house for a company is that you know exactly what you will be paid at the end of the month, and this payment will be on time. By contrast, the disadvantage for freelance translators is that this sum will vary, as will the payment terms: some clients are happy to pay immediately, but many ask for a 30- or 60-day payment period after receipt of invoice. There is also no guarantee as a freelancer that your client will pay on schedule. As an in-house employee, you will receive benefits including holiday pay, sick pay, and a pension. When working freelance, it is recommended that translators put money aside for these benefits, plus their tax bill!
In theory, freelance translators can be flexible in picking their hours to suit them – they don’t have to stick to a Monday to Friday 9-to-5 routine (although I try to!). An in-house employee will have set hours. They may have a certain amount of flexibility, e.g. being able to start their working day at any time between 8am and 10:30am, but will still be expected to work a certain amount of hours in a day or week. Having said this, in-house staff are not necessarily expected to work weekends, whereas a freelance translator having a slow week may decide that the project that landed in their inbox at 4pm on Friday, due at 9am on Monday, is perfect to top up their income for that particular month.
As a freelance translator, you are your own boss. This means that if you’re offered a translation project, you have the option of turning it down. If you work in-house, you have less choice in the matter. This may result in the freelance translator working on a greater variety of texts in their specialism, which, in my opinion, makes work a bit more fun. When it comes to finding a specialism, the in-house employee will become specialised in what the company that he or she works for does. A freelance translator will be able to carefully select and refine their specialism depending on their educational and training background as well as the projects that they choose to accept.
Those are three of the many issues that a translator will face when deciding on their career path. Are you reading and have something to add? Feel free to leave your comments below!