In-house or freelance translating? It’s up to you!

Hi, dear followers! How are you doing? I know I’ve been absent from the blog – it’s been three weeks since my last weekly post. I’m sorry! Working a lot, no time left for writing, unfortunately! 😦 This week is less busy, so I promise there will be a post on Thursday. Stay tuned!

For now, we have another translated post. This time, from Portuguese into English, for a change. The source is Traduzir in-house ou traduzir como freelancer? Só depende de você! Today’s translator is Viviane Real.


When I got Carol’s invite to take part in her guest posts, I immediately decided to talk about how I see the possibilities of ”working freelance” vs ”working for a translation company”’. However, only after learning that translator Mariana Sasso had chosen the same topic and after reading her text did I start to think about how to approach different aspects from those she had already tackled in her post. So, in this text I’ve tried to talk about the same subject from a different point of view and I hope I was able to pull it off. 🙂

The first time I came across these two kinds of professional possibilities was right after I got my Master’s degree and entered the translation market.  An agency was offering both internal positions and freelance opportunities. Since I didn’t have any experience and was eager to get in the market, I applied for both. I ended up being selected for one of their internal positions so my first experience was as an in-house professional translator.

The experience as an in-house translator was, undoubtedly, invaluable, since it allowed me to take my first steps in the profession and to learn how the technical translation market works. I can also say that this job helped me to complement the sound education my BA in Languages specialized in Translation provided me. Back then, in my opinion, one of the biggest advantages of working in-house was the stability and safety provided by formal employment. In fact, I used to be quite wary of the possibility of working and making a living as a freelancer. I used to think to myself, ””Is it possible to make enough money working from home? What if there is no work? What if there are no clients? What if…?”.

I worked at the company for almost a year and when I left, my second professional experience started: this time as a freelancer. To my surprise, the fears of being self-employed I used to have before soon became meaningless, because right from the start, I can say that there was always frequent and uninterrupted work. Soon, I came to notice some aspects that, in my opinion, are advantages over in-house work. As a freelancer, I could truly dedicate myself to what I like the most: translating! That might seem obvious, but it isn’t. As an in-house translator, besides translation itself, professionals are also responsible for several stages through which the text must go until and after its final delivery to the client: revision (comparing the original to the translation), proofreading (reading of the translated text only), implementation of updates/corrections/alterations/client feedback, etc. These changes are not motivated only by problems with terminological or linguistic quality. For instance, the client frequently asks for changes in the source after the translation has started or even after delivery, thus an update is necessary so that it matches the new source. Some other times, even though the client or reviser often recommends important alterations that improve the overall quality of the final text, there are situations when the suggested changes are questionable in terms of relevance, such as replacing a noun phrase with a verb phrase – ”chocolate cake” becomes “chocolate flavored cake”, and it is up to the in-house professional to accept/reject and implement or not these modifications (bearing in mind that in case of rejection, it is necessary to justify the decision). It is important to highlight that I don’t think these post-translation stages are less important, and I believe that enjoying or not these other tasks depends on the translator profile. Now I know I am one of those professionals who don’t like them. Thus, one of my first and happiest discoveries as a freelancer was that I could just translate and feel free to refuse working with revision, implementation, updating, etc.

For four and a half years, I worked as a freelancer. During this period, I started and kept solid partnerships with some companies and was also able to focus on technical areas I like the most, namely IT and marketing.  After that, I felt the need for a change, for doing something different so I started to consider the possibility of getting back to in-house translation. Even though there were not many problems with the freelance translator routine and work remained plentiful, the “wind of change” was blowing again and I decided to follow it.

I got back to working as an internal translator for another company. I can say that, in this second in-house experience, I missed the time when, as a freelancer, I used to ask to take a look at a text before accepting the job and if it was a gyratory crusher’s hydraulic pump, I could simply refuse it and wait until something less “overtly technical” came along. This time, besides the impossibility of refusing texts about themes I was not quite familiar with and the endless demands for alterations in translation that I mentioned before, another side of working for an agency started to really get to me: the lack of subject variety in the material to be translated. I reckon it is appropriate to mention the importance of text variety in order to keep the technical translator’s work routine a healthy one. In my opinion, translators rest from one translation not only after it’s delivered and they can take a day off. When we start working on another text about a whole different subject, in a way, we are taking a break from the previous one. However, in a translation agency, such variety is rather limited, for the company has their client portfolio and naturally, those with the highest demands will take up most of the staff time. Generally, texts from the same client tend to be about the same subject. So, for a few more months I implemented countless relevant and non-relevant alterations and translated the same old things all day every day, until I realized that life as an in-house translator was not fit for me anymore or I wasn’t cut out for it, or both. In less than a year, I decided to go back to my freelancer life and that is how I do business today.

It’s crystal clear to me that affinity (or lack of it) for freelance or in-house work is really a matter of personal preference, without absolute advantages or disadvantages, just like Mari Sasso stressed on her post. In spite of the benefits, such as interpersonal relationships with coworkers and guarantee of frequent work provided by the company contract (which Mari Sasso also pointed out), in order to assure my own satisfaction and good professional performance, the most crucial facts are having the power to decide whether or not to translate a particular text; being able to dedicate exclusively to tasks I enjoy and knowing that I will always profit from subject variety. Nevertheless, I admit that another professional might have a totally distinct experience, appreciating the advantages of life in a company, which surely are real.

Currently, even when I am capable of understanding very clearly that I ”wasn’t born” to be an in-house translator, I see that both experiences I’ve had as such in addition to both freelance experiences were equally necessary and relevant to make me come to this conclusion. I believe that, if I hadn’t given myself the right to change when I was longing for it, even though I was satisfied with being a freelancer, then I might still be flirting with the idea of getting back to working in-house. In other words, I believe that some “certainties” are just conquered after we give ourselves the right to try out different options and possibilities. Therefore, for beginning translators who are still entering the market or for those who know only one of these sides, I’d say it’s necessary to experiment with both in order to find out which one suits your professional profile better.

Thank you, Viviane, for kindly volunteering to translate a post for our blog! 🙂

About the translator
10721040_755978441140302_412829723_nViviane has a degree in Pedagogy by the University of São Paulo. She holds a Cambridge Proficiency as well as CELTA and DELTA certificates which have helped her build a 13 year career in English Language Teaching. In 2013, she felt it was time for a change and started a course at PUC-SP to become an Interpreter and this year, she joined the DBB course for translators. Nowadays, she is a freelance translator living in Jundiaí, SP, Brazil.

2 thoughts on “In-house or freelance translating? It’s up to you!

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