Save the Date—The 1st ProZ.com Virtual Conference for Remote Interpreters

On March 30th, the conference will focus on a selection of learning materials for language professionals and bilinguals interested in entering the remote interpreting market, and resources and platforms to help grow your remote interpreters' business.

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Trends in the language services industry: Outlook

Freelance language professionals' outlooks on the future of their work and careers run the gamut, of course. But in general, positivity is up and negativity is down from 2020. The percentage of language professionals who would recommend their line of work to someone who is currently weighing their career options is also up slightly, which is good-- the industry will need all the new talent it can get.
 
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Trends in the language services industry: Clients

Let's take a look at freelance language professionals and their clients.
 
In 2022, a higher percentage of translators reported not having any "regular" clients at the moment: 15%, versus less than 10% in the previous 14 years. Of course, "regular" is somewhat subjective, but it might be slightly more meaningful than a simple total number of clients. The largest group, between 20 and 30% over the last 14 years, report working with 4 to 6 "regular" clients at a time. 
 
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Trends in the language services industry: Income, planning, investments

So let’s talk money.
 
One tendency is to focus too sharply on rates. To be fair, a successful freelancer pays attention to their rates, charges accordingly for their work, and sets rates which allow them to deliver good work and make the living they want to make. However, it can be easy to miss the “income forest” if one is staring too hard at an individual “rate tree”.
 
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Trends in the language services industry: A demographic interlude

Because everyone likes a nice chart or graph, right? Here we go.
 

Years in the industry

 Respondents to surveys and other participants in this report are a relatively “mature” crowd in terms of professional experience. Almost half fall into the range of between six and eighteen years in the industry.
 
Surveys outside of the ProZ.com site indicate the percentage of newer language professionals may be higher than shown here, however, with 10% having been in the industry for just under two years, and another 10% in the 2 - 4 year range.
 
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Trends in the language services industry: Turnover and Attention Economy

You win some, you lose some

 

The percentage of people who are leaving the industry had declined somewhat by 2019. Just under 21% said they were planning on leaving, or had already left the industry. There was a small uptick in this percentage in 2022, to 23%. 
 
Now, bear in mind that these percentages include people who are considering leaving but who have not yet left, and they also likely leave out some who have already left as well. In 2022, roughly 37% of freelance translators and interpreters reported knowing friends or colleagues who had left the industry in the past couple of years.
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Trends in the language services industry: The continued rise of the remote interpreter

There was probably a sort of Golden Age of the Interpreter, where technology had gotten good enough to support and facilitate an interpreter’s work, but where for the most part the interpreter needed to be on site. So you saw a lot of interpreters traveling here and there, near and far, to work at conferences, job sites, business meetings, court hearings, and so on. It sounds almost glamorous, doesn’t it? 
 
Tech advances then reached a point where those plane tickets and travel expenses began to dry up, as it became easier and easier and more and more cost effective to bring the interpreter onto the scene either over the phone or virtually. Not only can remote interpreting be more cost effective, it can also be safer-- think of military applications, war zones, language support during epidemics, and so on. Smart phones allowed us to go mobile with a distant interpreter, and platforms geared towards finding and engaging with a distant interpreter began to pop up across the internet.
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Trends in the language services industry: The need for experts on tech applied to language services

In a previous industry report, we touched on the dynamic of machine translation and the translator, machine translation and the company or client, as well as the segments of freelance translators who were:
 
  1. Embracing MT and MTPE
  2. Diversifying within the industry
  3. Diversifying out of the industry
     
As we saw a moment ago, some translators are getting trained or training themselves in the application of post-editing and dedicating at least some of their work efforts to these projects. Some translators are diversifying the services they offer within the industry, and others are transitioning out of the industry altogether. We’ll look at these last two groups in just a moment, but first, let’s look at this from a different perspective.
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Trends in the language services industry: Machine translation, part 2

Actual post-editing work (MTPE)...

 

Quotes from language professionals:

I'm training automated translation engines and I therefore know firsthand these need to be 'tweaked' to deliver proper suggestions.
 

I am used to post editing now more than ever, and that has been a significant contribution to the number of words I am able to translate per day.
 
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Trends in the language services industry: Machine translation, part 1

Machine translation and post-editing. Won’t it just go away on its own?

 

In order to look at machine translation (MT) here, we will use three different categories: 
  1. MT applied by translators, 
  2. MT applied by clients or others who are not the translators, and 
  3. Actual machine translation post-editing (MTPE) work.
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26 hours of interpreter training added to ProZ.com Plus membership

26 hours of interpreter training has been added to the basket of goods, services and resources available with the ProZ.com Plus membership subscription.

As discussed in this year's language services industry report, many interpreters are getting involved in translation. And even more translators are getting involved in interpreting.

In 2017, ProZ.com began, through its partnerships, providing direct paid work for those in the remote interpreting world. Support, project management, and payments are handled by the ProZ.com team in order to facilitate this work and to keep up the quality and consistency of the service provided. In 2022, the average earning from this single channel of work was 2,791 USD among those interpreters who were working. The ProZ.com team intends to increase that average while increasing the incoming work and the number of interpreters who are getting work.

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Trends in the language services industry: Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence. Forget whether it's really intelligent, it's here. What is it doing?
 
Quotes from language professionals:

An interpreting contract was cancelled because AI was implemented to LIVE translate & subtitle a news show where I was working.
 
Technological advances are not only exciting, but greatly impact the development of our industry. We need to adapt and transform ourselves, since technology is dynamic as well.
 
I am not extremely worried about technological advances, on the contrary I am trying to specialise so that I can make them work to my advantage.
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Trends in the language services industry: What, me worry?

What concerns freelance language professionals most at the moment?

 

There is a lot to worry about, and everyone’s situation and career path is different. But there are recurring concerns that come up over and over in general among freelance language professionals. Most of the concerns themselves are the same, and most of them are shared concerns with freelancers in any industry, but by paying attention to changes in priority or prevalence it is possible to get a feel for what, if anything, is new.
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Trends in the language services industry: general industry trends

The events we've looked at so far probably took most of us by surprise. General trends in the language services industry are much less surprising if you have been in the game for a while. We can say that some of these trends have been intensified over the past two years or so, but for the most part they were all pre-existing. In general, we can say that:

 
1. Demand for language services continues to rise.
  • Content creation continues to grow exponentially,
  • Spending on language services will continue to increase,
  • More languages are being added to the demand in order to reach more people.
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Trends in the language services industry: Global concerns, part three

The Great Resignation, The Big Firing, and Other Epic Names

You have probably read terms such as The Great Resignation, The Big Reshuffle, The Big Firing, Quiet Quitting, and others which are commonly being thrown about nowadays, and which make for great clickbait in our news feeds. While the media coverage seems to focus mostly on these phenomena as they affect workers in the regular 9 to 5, it is important to keep in mind that they are also feeding into the pool of available freelancers in many industries, including language services. Many employees leaving their 9 to 5 jobs are going into freelancing; one estimate is that in the United States alone, 50% of the total workforce will be (at least partially) freelance by 2028. Having gone remote during the pandemic gave a large segment of the population a small taste of one part of the freelancing life, and most are currently grappling with remote work vs. back to the office. So now you have both necessity and desire fueling a shift to freelancing as a way of life.
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