Working from home has become a lot more widespread since the pandemic, even if it continues to divide opinions. But did you know that many linguists have been working from home since long before coronavirus reared its head? This is due to the unique nature of the translation industry and the need for agencies to cover many different languages.
On today’s edition of the blog, we are going to take a look at why so many translators work from home and consider the pros and cons of this set-up. We will also take a look at some hybrid solutions we use to maximise productivity and well-being. So whether you’re a translator yourself or just interested in learning more about how the industry works, keep reading to learn more!
Why do translators work from home?
Homeworking is a necessity in the translation industry. This is because most agencies – unless they are highly specialised – tend to offer services in dozens if not hundreds of different language combinations. That means they need to work with linguists who master all the different languages their clients could need. And not just that – remember that translators always work into their native language. So it’s not enough to have one language cover all translations between Danish and English, say. The agency needs at least one DK-EN translator and another EN-DK linguist.
Keeping all these linguists on the payroll would be very expensive, and not very sensible either. An agency’s demand for a certain language pair can fluctuate greatly over time, so employing a translator full-time without knowing how much work you will actually have for them to do is not always the most beneficial business model.
Instead, most agencies therefore choose to work with a large network of freelancers, in addition to perhaps a core team of in-house translators who can cover the agency’s specialist language pairs. Translators, in turn, usually collaborate with multiple agencies, allowing both parties to respond and adapt to shifting demands and use their time in the most efficient way.
That being said, some large corporations have their own in-house translation teams, and translators can also seek jobs with international organisations such as the United Nations or the European Commission, which have huge translation needs. But most translators outside of these places work freelance from home.
What are the pros and cons of working from home as a translator?
Besides making it easier to adapt to demand, working from home offers a number of additional pros and cons. Let’s take a look at some of the main ones:
Flexibility: Homeworkers can organise their time however they like. Morning larks can get up at the crack of dawn and finish up by lunchtime, while night owls can burn the midnight oils until the wee hours of the morning. Freelancers also have more autonomy when it comes to choosing what jobs they do or do not want to take on, and agencies can be sure to find the right person for the job every time. This is very important when it comes to placing legal, medical and technical texts, for example.
Better Work/Life Balance: This added flexibility makes it easier to fit exercise, errands and other commitments into the day, ultimately giving translators a better sense of agency over their life and boosting their well-being. Translators can also choose how much they want to work and earn depending on what else is happening in their lives. Since the pandemic, research into homeworking has even found that it boosts productivity as well.
The World is Your Oyster: Working with linguists all over the world means agencies can more easily find the exact skills they need. For example, they can work with linguists who speak Quebecoise French or Mexican Spanish if needed, or linguists who are familiar with UK laws and conventions rather than the US. Linguists, in turn, have a bigger pool to draw from when looking for work, helping their business to remain sustainable even if demand may drop from a regular client.
Difficulties Collaborating: Sometimes translators need to work together with a proofreader or editor, and they might need to ask the client questions about the task. When everyone is spread across different countries and time zones, this can be difficult and having to wait for email replies can slow things down. This can also lead to acrimony when sharing difficult feedback virtually.
Loneliness: Although many translators thrive on the added focus that homeworking allows, it can sometimes take a toll on their mental health to be in their own company all day. Without watercooler chat or coffee breaks with colleagues, the days can sometimes drag on, and more extroverted types may find this a challenge.
Ergonomics: Office-based employees have managers and HR departments to make sure their set-up is ergonomically correct, but freelancers needs to take care of this themselves. This can be challenging if space is tight and if expert advice is not available. Bad habits can be hard to shake once they have been developed.
Despite the cons, there are a number of hybrid solutions that translators and their agencies can use. Messaging tools like Slack and Skype are great at helping linguists feel connected with their colleagues and for enabling collaboration across roles. Although not all agencies use these tools, the best ones make sure to connect their linguists when necessary and help them work together and get to know each other.
Co-working spaces are another great option. These innovative centres allow freelancers and other homeworkers to rent desk space and work in a shared environment with other creatives and professionals. This is a great way to both stave off loneliness and to network with others in the local environment.
Here at COMUNICA, we often invite our linguists to come and spend some time working from the office, and many have taken us up on the offer. Not only does this give them the chance to enjoy some time working in the sunny south of Spain, but it also gives us an opportunity to get to know them better, to develop closer bonds as a team, and to help fine-tune our collaboration going forward.
Home and hybrid working with COMUNICA
Are you a freelance translator interested in collaborating with COMUNICA? Check out our translators page to find out more about working with us.
Or, if you are in the early stages of your career, you could also consider our internship programme. Homeworking can make starting out as a translator daunting, as it can be difficult to know who to turn to with questions. But an internship gives you the chance to learn the industry from within before breaking off on your own.
We also have four desks at our office in the south of Spain which we rent out to remote workers, so if you ever find yourself dreaming of an office in the sun and close to the beach, you may be interested in coming down and joining us for a while? Our new office in Copenhagen also has three desks available, located in the quaint and historic part of the city. For more details about prices and terms, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any other questions about our network of linguists and how we collaborate, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!