If your company needs an interpreter or translator, you would probably ask yourself whether you should work with freelance interpreters or in-house interpreters? What is the difference between them and which one should your business use? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each one? In this article, Freelensia is going to investigate these questions and provide several recommendations that help you pick the right choice for your enterprise.
WHO ARE IN-HOUSE AND FREELANCE INTERPRETERS?
An in-house interpreter (aka an employed interpreter or a full-time interpreter) works for a specific company as an employee on a full-time basis at the company office. They usually not only interpret but also carry out other roles such as translating, doing administration, sales or marketing tasks, etc. They have a formal employment contract and the company often pays for their social securities and health insurance.
A freelance interpreter (aka short-term interpreter) works independently with a variety of clients, and with no binding agreements to accept all projects from a particular client. They are only hired for a short term when a company has a meeting or event which needs interpretation, and their duty is only to interpret.
IN-HOUSE VERSUS FREELANCE INTERPRETERS
1. In-house interpreters
- The advantages:
- In-house interpreters are always available when you need them. As such, short-notice business meetings are easier to arrange.
- In-house interpreters could be more than just great interpreters. They often know and care about your company, your products, your customers as much as the CEO. These understandings guarantee better and more consistent interpretation quality, which you will not have to pay extra for.
- You can hire in-house interpreters more carefully and ensure that only the best personnel will join with your company in the long term. For instance, the in-house interpreters are more likely to undergo multiple rounds of interviews, take language proficiency tests, and undergo a probational period.
- In-house interpreters will more likely protect your confidential documents. A confidential agreement can still be signed with freelance interpreters but the risk is much higher.
- The disadvantages:
- The monthly salary for an in-house interpreter is high. For example, in Vietnam, a Vietnamese-Japanese interpreter with JLPT N1 is paid 840 USD/month, and a Vietnamese-Korean interpreter with TOPIK 6 is paid 1,000 USD/month on average. By comparison, the cost of hiring a non-interpretational personal assistant or administration staff in Vietnam is around 480 USD/month. This amount represents a difference of around 75% between the two salary levels.
Did you know?
- The above salary ranges are for an in-house interpreter whose main duty is only interpreting. If you want a staff who can interpret as well as has excellent administration skills, the salary will be even higher. For instance, a Vietnamese-Japanese interpreter cum personal assistant is paid over 1,200 USD/month. Likewise, a Vietnamese-Korean interpreter with similar skills is paid more than 1,230 USD/month.
Did you know?
- In-house interpreters are usually familiar with the terminologies of merely a few industries. Besides, they can usually speak only 2 languages at business proficiency. Therefore, you may still need to book an appropriate freelance interpreter when organizing business meetings or events with unfamiliar/new topics or languages.
2. Freelance interpreters
- The advantages:
- The total cost may be lower because you only pay when you need interpretation services. Again, we are going to take the freelance interpreters in Vietnam to illustrate. A Vietnamese-Japanese interpreter with JLPT N1 charges around 170 USD/day on average for general business meetings (please refer to the listings on Freelensia) while a Vietnamese-Korean interpreter with TOPIK 6 charges approximately 120 USD/day for the same interpretation type (please refer to the listings on Freelensia). After calculations, we conclude that it is cheaper to reserve a Vietnamese-Japanese freelance interpreter if your company has fewer than 5 days of meetings needing interpretation per month. For a Vietnamese-Korean interpreter, this number is 8 days per month. Other language pairs show similar results.
Did you know?
In the United States, you should expect to pay more than 400 USD for a Japanese-English interpreter to interpret in a full day business meeting, and 340 USD for a Korean-English interpreter correspondingly.
- Experienced freelance interpreters are excellent communicators and negotiators. They have probably been to countless meetings and seminars similar to your event and can skillfully manage stressful and sensitive situations. There are many examples of freelance interpreters saving a business deal by spotting errors or offering a better way to negotiate the terms under discussions.
- Working with freelance interpreters gives you more flexibility. Whether you want a native speaker of an uncommon language or an expert in a specific field of expertise, you will have an opportunity to look at your options and choose the best fit for each meeting or seminar.
- The disadvantages:
- If you need an on-site interpreter today to resolve a pressing concern, it would be difficult to find a freelance one who could drop everything to meet your needs. In that case, you might have to find a remote interpreter.
- You do not always know if you choose the right freelance interpreter until you start working with them. Compared to hiring in-house interpreters, you may have fewer opportunities to check the background of the freelance interpreters before actually booking them. Online interpreter reservation platforms like Freelensia can solve this problem by allowing you to view their introduction videos and previous feedbacks from clients. This helps you find the most suitable freelance interpreter for your company. You can refer to our blog article Why Should You Use a Platform To Reserve Interpreters? for other benefits of booking short-term interpreters via online platforms.
- Freelance interpreters are insufficiently connected to your brand, your customer base, your people, and your products. Since they may only work with you in one event, chances are they may not work as responsibly and professionally as your in-house interpreters.
- Using freelancers seems cheaper upfront, but the costs quickly add up if you have to go through the middle man every time, especially when you need to hire a large number of them to meet your needs. At Freelensia, we only charge when you actually reserve an interpreter. The reservation fee is only 10% of the interpretation fee set by that interpreter. This fee is much more affordable than that offered by traditional interpretation companies.
WHO IS MORE SUITABLE FOR MY BUSINESS?
In conclusion, in-house interpreters can be a solution for companies whose business partners speak very few languages or companies with on-going interpretation and translation projects. For instance, a manufacturing company may find it more convenient to have an in-house team for the translation and interpretation of their documents and business meetings as they know which countries they partner with. Besides, they can predict both expenses and workload with ease.
On the other hand, companies should hire freelance interpreters when they only have interpretation events from time to time, or their events require a variety of expertise and interpretation languages. For example, if you are going to organize an event with participants from multiple countries, you should definitely go for freelance interpreters. You can refer to our tips to work with a large number of interpreters.