In the era of the gig economy when our industries rely more on contractors and temporary workers than permanent employees, freelance and independent translators have become a small part of it that is simultaneously growing in number. Despite the challenges of artificial technology learning to replace human roles in many production and service sectors, including translation, non-permanent workers are still very much needed, especially for data suppliers in AI development.
In the past few decades, the concept of remote working has been globally accepted as one of the most effective and cheaper methods of resourcing compared to traditional methods. Along with the significant increase in internet bandwidth, many companies have proven that remote working methods are now more reliable and faster in terms of hiring. As is the case in many other industries, translation services today rely on resources like this and can generate millions of dollars in revenue with lower overhead costs.
From the workers’ perspective, the remote working method offers many benefits in exchange for services provided from home. The flexibility of working hours, reduced stress due to commuting and office pressures, and work-life balance are the top reasons why this kind of working scheme is more desirable, especially by millennials and younger generations who are more concerned with a healthy working environment than with retirement security.
Particularly in translation work where volumes are not constant, this style of working is considered best practice that many language service providers now rely on remote workers and independent contractors to provide them with the necessary services without the need to incur additional costs for extra office space or other entitlements that reduce a large portion of a company’s revenue.
Co-Working and Working From Home
Remote working systems are more common now than ever before. Support systems that have been developed for greater practicality are proving to be effective in supporting the billions of information exchanges and other types of interactions that occur every day. Not only on the local network, but this work scheme is also practiced by global companies to make every office task run in real-time all over the globe.
For translators, the remote working environment is actually nothing new as most translators have been working remotely for a long time. The number of translators who work independently is much higher than the in-house translators who are involved in office socialization. Therefore, it is not surprising that these independent translators have been accustomed to this culture and are well-versed in working from home long before this type of work became popular in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As time passed, the remote work culture created two different types of arrangements based on where people work. ‘Working from home’ is the first and also the oldest type of remote work where people actually work from their homes. Translators, designers, individual consultants, and writers are some of the jobs that embraced the concept of working from home before it became mainstream today.
In the past, when the internet was yet to be invented, the organization and coordination of work were done through phone calls and letters. There were also some jobs that required occasional visits to the office, like once a week to hand over and request for the next package of work.
After the internet era, remote working models rely on the use of the cloud, networks, and apps. During this time, both employers and employees may never meet in person but can still coordinate effectively. In this era, coworking spaces have emerged as a solution to provide freelancers and self-employed workers with a temporary workspace with a reliable internet connection and a professional environment that is absent in work-from-home schemes. It is seen as a middle ground that can accommodate a professional environment with lower overhead costs.
Pros and Cons of Working from Home for Translators
Working from home as the earliest type of remote work offers lucrative opportunities for independent contractors, including translators, to effectively self-regulate their working hours, workload, and income. Freelancers, for that matter, can also decide when they will or will not work without the hassle of prior notice to employers, making it particularly lucrative for those who pursue a work-life balance.
Another benefit is that a home office can be customized to suit personal preferences. Freelance translators can also focus more on their work without having to deal with stressful travel experiences and internal office pressures due to conflicts with superiors or coworkers.
Despite these advantages, some freelance translators often express concerns about this kind of working scheme. For them, working from home seems to isolate them from the outside world which often makes them feel prolonged loneliness.
Independent translators who decide to work from home often face other challenges such as poor time and work management. Instead of having a work-life balance, they are often immersed in work and unable to control healthy work habits. These freelancers often take more than an effective eight-hour day and work on weekends. This work obsession can damage not only their physical health but also their mental health, especially for those who are single and living alone.
Coworking spaces may have been created to solve that problem. Business owners may see the lack of work-from-home schemes and try to provide a win-win solution to give freelance translators a space to socialize, or at least a space to escape the isolation of home. These shared workspaces also allow independent translators to organize meetings with other translators or even allow them to network better compared to work-from-home schemes.
The less isolated workspace and the opportunity to meet more people also give independent translators better motivation and productivity. They also get better at managing their working hours because of the office-like exposure that they have to finish and leave at a more coordinated time.
However, coworking spaces are not without their drawbacks. There are some drawbacks such as the absence of a dedicated space and private areas that may feel uncomfortable for some people. While the costs incurred range between renting a private office and working from home, the use of coworking spaces certainly requires greater transportation costs for those living in rural areas where such spaces are not available.
Among such advantages and disadvantages, the decision between working from home and coworking spaces is all about personal preference. For translators, especially those dealing with the translation of non-confidential documents, co-working spaces can be a solution that offers some benefits not available elsewhere. However, a combination of working from home and a co-working space also seems to be effective and best suited for maintaining a work-life balance.