Explaining that “Freelance” Doesn’t Mean “Free Services”

Any person who works as a freelancer, whether a freelance writer, a freelance translator or freelance computer programmer, obviously does not work for free. The term “freelance” simply describes the person who sells services rather than one who works for a company earning an hourly wage. However, people may erroneously assume that terms like “freelance translation” or “free quote,” indicate free translation or free interpretation, without thinking much more about it.

While the term “freelance” may occasionally cause confusion, marketing oneself as a freelance translator or interpreter has advantages. A freelance translator can market themselves as an individual, which gives the client a sense of personal interaction they may not find at a large translation company. A single freelance translator or interpreter may not be skilled in dozens of languages, but can emphasize their expertise in their language combination and area of specialization, which can enable them to specialize in a very specific area of translation or interpretation work.

Quotes depend on the language pair, but a one-time client may not be aware of that detail and may feel tricked if the rate for translation between their languages is much higher than other translation quotes they’ve received. Asian languages, such as Chinese and Japanese, may contain a lot of information in a single character. If your client will be charged a higher translation rate for a certain language pair, explain why. If the client knows the language contains a lot of information in each character, for example, they will better understand the higher rate.

A freelance translator may not work for a translation agency directly, but that does not indicate a lack of language ability or professional quality. Whether a translator has grown up speaking two languages or studied a second language later in life, a commitment to the translation industry requires a willingness to constantly improve language skills by constant exposure to both languages; in addition, the translator or interpreter must be knowledgeable on research methods for finding specific information and in locating appropriate language equivalents. Both translators and interpreters are also ethically bound by an obligation to maintain confidentiality.

Do you work as a freelance translator or interpreter and have people sometimes assumed you offer free language services as a result? What do you think the benefits are of working as a freelance language professional? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!



Nisar, the dynamic force behind Translation Excellence, stands tall as its founder and CEO. This isn’t just any company—it’s a global heavyweight in boutique language services. Hailing from the vibrant city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nisar brought his passion and expertise to the U.S. shores in 2001. In the realm of languages, he’s a titan. With 19 years under his belt, he’s worn hats from a linguist and instructor to a cultural bridge-builder and curriculum craftsman.

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