What is a Freelancer?
A freelancer or freelance worker is a person who is self-employed and not committed to a particular employer for a long term period.
Working in the environment of their own home, they can work with several agencies and companies at the same time without anybody rushing or stressing them. According to 20 Advantages of Freelance Work, others benefits might be:
• Flexibility of hours
• Work load control
• Quality of work
• National exposure
• Tax benefits
Nice, isn’t it?
Where is the downside?
It is easy to be found!
More and more businesses are becoming open to the idea of using freelancers to get work done as it saves them money without having to make a permanent commitment as they do with employees. This means competition, lower prices and rates bordering on the ridiculous. In latter times this phenomenon became worse because of the wide range of possibilities that an agency has on the market.
Companies in Ireland have the possibility to choose rates and prices freely without any limit and without any rule to check. This freedom is applied to take advantage of professionals, as there will always be some other freelancer who will be willing to do an assignment for a few cents less.
This is creating serious problems for professional freelancers who have been working in the business for years. In fact, many freelancers who think about this new opportunity of work (created mostly by the crisis) give very low license fees in their resume only to grab a job, just one. This leads to most companies giving work to new and maybe not as qualified translators in order to save money.
I wonder whether customers are happy to save on the quality of their translations when by just spending a few more cents, a professional could have provided them with a much better result.
Agencies are popping up like mushrooms because of the almost total absence of rules to be vigilant on this market.
To find out more about this problem, we interviewed two freelance professionals working for big companies in Ireland.
Freelance Translator No.1
For how many years have you been working as a freelancer?
I am working as a freelancer since 8 years. I have started when I was fired; I was looking for a new job opportunity and searching on the web I found out that several people were working from their home for more and more companies.
How has your start been?
It’s been very difficult. In the first two months I have sent a lot of CVs to different companies without receiving any response. It had been very sad. My first Freelance job opportunity was after four months of desperate searching: a company was looking for a translation from Russian to English.
They contacted me asking my rates per words, I was not established in that field so I just tried with 10cent/word, I didn’t know if it could be right or not, in fact they said that those rates were too much high and pretentious for a “BEGINNER” and they didn’t want to discuss rates any more. That was the last time I have heard from that company.
What did you do after that?
I just kept going and re-tried with other companies until a day a new agency contacted me asking for my rates. This time I reduced them from 10 cent to 8 cents per word. They accepted and so I could start my experience as a freelance translator.
For how many companies are you working at the moment? Did you meet other agencies who were looking for lower rates?
I am working for multiple companies and agencies all around the country and many times they asked me if I could reduce my prices because they were looking for quotes around 5 or 6 cent/words, no more than these. Once I refused them, they continued by saying that if I had not accepted these prices they would try with someone else.
Did you succumb at that?
Yes, I did. In my opinion is never a good choice leaving a job also if the job is not well-paid. I know it is just what these agencies and companies want but I will never refuse any job. I need work. I know a lot of my colleagues are having problems for that reason, they are surely right because more and more translators are doing what I have done and this a pity for all the professional translators and for all who are working as freelancers for their job. It is an injustice that translation companies can manage fares and quotes how they prefer without any control. Does somebody do something to stop them? No, not at all. Then, I think that until when the law will find a good way to prevent this horrible practice, all of those who wants to be freelance translators must know the difference between a job and a good one, but only they, at the end, can decide if or if not accept low rates.
Freelance Translator No.2
For how many years have you been working as a freelancer?
I have started one year ago
How many languages do you speak at the moment?
I speak 6 languages: German, French, Spanish, Dutch, English and Irish. Most of them very fluently.
Which one is the most requested?
Spanish, without no doubt. Although for some time I started to work very much in German and Dutch.
Have you ever had any problems with agencies?
I struggled to find agencies willing to pay 8 cents per word for standard documents and 10-12 for documents that included a technical or legal or statutory language. Some have interrupted the conversation immediately once seen my prices, others have tried to contract, while others have responded with a “Thank you, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.” This was very daunting but I didn’t give up and I have never fallen below which were my initials rates. It took a while but eventually I was able to rely on those that I think are the minimum wages for those who do this type of work. I personally contact all the agencies that I had been rejected because of my rates “preposterous” and explained that there may be translators ready to do the same translation for few pennies they will never find someone who will work with professionalism and that takes care of every detail of the minimum using figures so derisory. Lower is the price lower will be the quality of the translation. It’s simple. Of course I’m not working much at the moment also because of that, but the few jobs that I get are paid appropriately.
Could you suggest any solution for this situation?
For me, we could try to impose a payment limit under which an agency cannot get off. A limit that is honest and that looks to the cost of living in the country of origin of the translator, and especially at the detail and delicate politically and economic time.
Few rules to follow will be enough to ensure the creation of a single global market in which the competition between the various agencies does not adversely affect the choice of the translator.
Competition is ok, but on prices to be offered to the customer and not on the downward payment to the freelancer. This would be a “freelance” marketplace.
Please look at these interviews only as interviews and as a starting point for a discussion on this topic, not as absolute truth. They are simply the opinions and thoughts of two translators.
Author: Giacinto Sannino