Poll: What would you consider the biggest barrier to becoming a freelance translator nowadays?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 15:36
Feb 21

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "What would you consider the biggest barrier to becoming a freelance translator nowadays?".

View the poll results »


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:36
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Feb 21

A lousy market that is getting worse. I keep reminding myself that I'm lucky to have clients who still value good translation and are willing to pay for it.


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Finding clients Feb 21

This appears to be the issue most affecting newly qualified translators. I get the impression that translation degree courses seem to be focusing more on theory and technology than on the business side and acquiring and keeping (worthwhile) clients.


Teresa Borges
Local time: 23:36
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Feb 21

The wording of this quick poll is flawed. For instance, I can’t understand how “Being able to run a good freelance business” or “Tech knowledge or training” could be barriers to become a freelance translator nowadays. I agree with Muriel and Neil that a lousy market does not facilitate finding good clients…


Gitte Hoveds (X)
Local time: 00:36
Danish to English
+ ...
None of the above Feb 21

I think all of those things would be an advantage if you want to start up as an independent translator.


Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:36
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
Self-discipline to work alone from home Feb 21

And the lousy rates and long payment terms in our industry, compared to other professionals in my country.

When that's said, I still love it!

[Edited at 2018-02-21 09:31 GMT]


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:36
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Finding GOOD clients Feb 21

I assume that anyone trying to become a freelance translator will have taken all the necessary steps to gain proficiency to do what is required. Being bilingual or sesquilingual won't cut it.

However the presence of quick-buck-seekers in this trade has become so massively pervasive, that the number of frogs a translator has to kiss to find a prince has mushroomed.

Too many translation "clients" nowadays are willing to pay peanuts merely to rent a scapegoat. They don't care if the service they get is not any better - and often worse - than free, online, immediate automatic translation, as long as they have a human being they can BLAME for low quality.

Others have read clever advertisements, and bought into the idea. Language skills are passé. They cling to the firm belief that anyone who has bought Trados will deliver what they want for a comparatively small pecuniary consideration.

Others know nothing about translation, however they discovered that it is a market where end-clients often agree to pay up-front - since the deliverables cannot be sold to anyone else - and suppliers usually don't mind getting paid a few months later without charging any interest.

So newcomers may take a (possibly long) while before they realize that the truly professional translation marketplace is a very different niche, located deep within the widespread misery they see at first.

I kinda pity the translation end-clients. Clever web developers can make the web site of a file-pushing, bottom feeding translation agency look exactly like - or even better than - a thoroughly professional, value-adding one. The proof is in the pudding.


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:36
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Other Feb 21


Some people are resourceful, others are not.
Some people are not cut out for what we take for granted.
Resourceful people are more suited to being self-employed, which is what a 'freelancer' is.


Barbara Cochran, MFA  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, Seems To be Getting More And More So Feb 21

Muriel Vasconcellos wrote:

A lousy market that is getting worse. I keep reminding myself that I'm lucky to have clients who still value good translation and are willing to pay for it.

One of the translation project sites I visit actually publishes what other people have bid on any given project, and their bids are so low they seem to be almost non-existent!

And the low rates often offered by many agencies anymore don't seem to reflect all the knowledge and often all of the education that is part and parcel of the profession.

[Edited at 2018-02-21 16:03 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-02-21 16:04 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-02-21 16:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-02-21 16:06 GMT]


Jason Cronin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:36
Spanish to English
My $0.02 Feb 21

An emerging tech field with an unfortunately uninformed client base, and a supplier market that is saturated with chop shops that will gladly take money from those clients and return a subpar product. Unlike things like SAAS software, or a car, or a refrigerator, it can be very difficult for the paying customer in this industry to discern chop-shop work from genuine translation/editing, but I believe that this will change as the world continues to globalize and customers become more discerning. Until then, these translation "companies" which are many times just a project manager behind a computer with little linguistic knowledge will continue to undercut and outbid freelancers trying to make it happen. Certainly easier to "become" a freelance translator if you have another stream of income to depend on for the first 5 years or so.


Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:36
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Certainly finding good clients. Feb 21

Some of the aspects mentioned may be significant too, but some of them are a mere excuse and do not reflect reality:\
1. Client-finding - certainly the hardest part, above all in the beginning, for several reasons already mentioned by the colleagues in this poll.
2. Being able to run a good business: It may be very helpful, but not necessary to succeed professionally.
3. The self-discipline required: Also very important, but it's acquired by all who make the decision, either in a planned manner or in a forced manner, i.e. it may be a consequence if it's not planned.
4. Money to get started: Maybe to buy a computer. What else?
5. Translation-specific education: absolutely unnecessary in our area, and many times it interferes negatively instead of helping.
6. Tech training: It may be helpful if one feels they need it. For most of us, it's self-learning.
7. Field-specific training: Here is a very important one. This helps a lot, really, but it's not a barrier, unless you want to work in a specific area you're not prepared for.
8. Family support: Also important, and takes some time to be at ease. But it also happens in time, and it's only a barrier if you have an incomprehensive PIA at home.
9. Cultural or age-related considerations: may be a factor in certain areas/countries, but to be a barrier, it has to be pretty serious.


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Poll: What would you consider the biggest barrier to becoming a freelance translator nowadays?

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