Working as a Translator: Freelance or Direct Employment?

As a translator, I have asked myself this a thousand times while I was going to school and I had to work out the answer when I got my degree. Right now I am going to outline some advantages and disadvantages of both situations so that everyone can come to the conclusion that makes the most sense for them.


Being an autonomous, or as it is referred to in the industry, “freelance” translator in an interesting choice from the point of view of comfort and organization of your time. Since you don’t have to go to an office at a specific time, you can work comfortably from your own home and decide the schedule and working conditions for yourself. It also the important advantage of income: once you have established yourself in the market, the jobs you will receive will allow you to earn more than with a monthly salary at a company.

On the other hand, independence has its price. When there is a lot of work and you are tempted to take on more, it is hard to know where to draw the line and decide, for example, to take a break instead of working all weekend. We also shouldn’t forget that unfortunate circumstances can always arise when it comes time to collect on a payment, since the translator him/herself is the one responsible for the organization of how much he/she has worked and how to receive the money that is owed.

Lastly, one of the essential topics for this subject is the social aspect. Working alone at home can be productive, since you are relaxed, but we can’t forget that a group setting is what nourishes us and helps us grow.

Direct employment

As far as direct employment, without a doubt its greatest advantage is security, both in the source of work and in the simple fact that you know there will be some money coming into your account every payday. Likewise, some people enjoy having a structured workday and the ability to check out of their professional responsibilities when the end of the day comes. Another irrefutable positive aspect of direct employment are the benefits associated with most jobs, such as a health care plan, among other things.

However, this working relationship takes away some of our freedoms as far as the chance to make certain decisions and, as a result, limits us. In certain working environments it is difficult to grow, whether in regards to salary or professional development. Additionally, having a set schedule presents difficulties in solving personal situations, whether they involve going to an office to file some paperwork or taking a nap after lunch.

And now revisiting the social aspect, it is the greatest advantage of working as a direct employee, from my point of view. Group work is completely gratifying, as it allows us to learn and, at the same time, to share our knowledge. This setup keeps us from being isolated, which is a vice that is all too common in our profession.

So what is the right choice?

How do we decide? That decision with be the result of many factors: our age, our economic situation, our confidence in ourselves, the translation market where we live, the path we want our career to take, our goals, and, fundamentally, our own will.