ProZ.com "state of the industry" reports take a look at some of the changes that are affecting translators, as told by translators. The reports include discussion of the trends, obstacles and opportunities to freelance work in the translation industry today, and how freelance translators are dealing with these trends.
These reports are free for all full ProZ.com members. Non-members have access to the report abstracts shown on this page.
Commenting on the impact of the Internet and other factors leading to accelerated globalization, Thomas Friedman, in The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, wrote, "The world has been flattened ... global collaboration and competition – between individuals and individuals, companies and individuals, companies and companies, and companies and customers -- have been made cheaper, easier, more friction-free, and more productive for more people from more corners of the earth than at any time in the history of the world."
These changes, of course, have also affected translation. As companies have gained increased access to new potential customers around the world, the need for translation has increased. The translation industry is a healthy, growing one.
Other features of this flattened translation world are, for instance, the increased turnaround times translation projects demand. It is easier now too for clients to find the right professional for the job, in less time. With advances in content management, the use of translation memories, improvements in machine translation, more effective online and offline resources and many other factors, human translators are now more efficient. They are more specialized. They are, through this heightened productivity and specialization, able to provide increasingly higher quality.
Last year, ProZ.com's first "State of the industry" report for freelance translators was compiled, and was first presented at the second annual Translation Day virtual conference. In it, several main trends affecting translators were identified, along with ways in which translators were dealing with, or taking advantage of, those trends.
A year later, has much really changed?
Yes and no. Many of the trends discussed in the 2010 report continue, though some have made greater leaps than others. Advances and setbacks both within and outside of the translation industry are impacting the way in which freelance translators work. Technological advances, for example, are made at a pace with which it is at times difficult to keep up. It is clear, however, that many translators are taking advantage of these changes and others to not only survive but thrive within the industry.
Not surprisingly, then, many of the trends covered in last year's report continue, some perhaps more noticeably than others. Some of these trends show a high level of interplay; that is, it is difficult to talk about one without addressing the other. For example, specialization as a trend plays closely into productivity, quality, and translation price. For the purposes of this report, though, the main trends we will be looking at can be grouped like this:
Freelance translator reactions to these trends are included throughout the report, but we will finish with a summary of ways in which a translator can best get ahead and stay there in the current industry.
It has been said previously that translation was a “cottage industry”, in the sense that there were many individuals working in translation in a separate fashion, isolated, each producing his or her own product, with not much in the way of overall standardization. A translator’s reach with their service was also more limited.
If this was the case before, it would appear that translation is no longer a cottage industry. Over the past few years there have been some important shifts in the industry, and advances both of the technological and social type that appear to be bringing fragments closer together-- translators and translators, translators and clients. Some members have used the term “industrial revolution” to refer to these changes. Now, I don’t think that term has been used to say what it means in the strictest sense, of course, but rather to relay the impact these changes are having on the industry.
Translation is happening faster-- both the actual translation and the turnaround times for projects. Demand is up, and the demand for quality is increasing. Translators are adding more services to their offer of translation and cornering their niche on the market, while beginning to work more closely with their clients.
Some of the trends outlined in this report represent important challenges to freelance translator work. Others represent an opportunity for each translator to better position themselves to thrive in the industry.
The main trends this report covers can be broken into six different areas. Those are:
After discussing these areas, we will also take a look at a 4-part strategy for freelancers to survive and thrive in the industry.
Access to these reports is free to all ProZ.com paying members.