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The Rise Of Translators And Interpreters In The Gig Economy

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at November 11, 2021

Marcin Zgola is an Entrepreneur with 20 years of IT experience and founder of the Wage marketplace, which bridges the gap for solopreneurs.

Most people associate the gig economy with Uber drivers, Instacart delivery, dog walkers and cleaning services or on-demand jobs and services that most people can successfully complete. However, today’s gig economy runs far deeper, with many jobs and services requiring specific skillsets or specialized training. 

While Uber drivers and cleaning services are still very much a part of the surging gig economy, as the founder of a platform for gig work, I’ve observed that the past several years have seen this demographic of workers expand considerably to include writers, proofreaders, video producers, social media experts, website designers and more. In line with those specialized services, translators and interpreters have also found solid ground in the gig marketplace. 

Translators Vs. Interpreters

Let’s first define the difference between an interpreter and a translator. An interpreter is a person who is trained to convert verbal messages from one language to another, such as a sign language expert or someone helping two individuals communicate who speak different languages. A translator is a person trained to convert written text from one language to another. Both services require the interpreter or translator to convert the verbal or written language to reflect cultural terms, expressions and correct meaning. They both must find a way to convey the same message with complete accuracy, considering cultural differences. 

Part Of The Gig Economy

What was once a limited service when companies operated in a far less digital world has since exploded in demand due to advancements in technology. Today, companies are leveraging bilinguals, trilinguals and polyglots to present digital materials across all mediums in various languages, allowing companies to expand their reach and position themselves as global enterprises. 

Translators and interpreters are ideal for the gig economy because their services are not needed daily; therefore, most companies don’t hire them as full-time, in-house employees. Their services are required when a company produces something new — such as a webinar, case study, tutorial, training program, eBook or marketing collateral — and it’s needed in multiple languages.  

From my discussions with translators and interpreters, many are finding the gig economy to pay an equivalent or greater salary as being contracted by a company. Being a part of the gig economy allows them to accept multiple contracts simultaneously to keep the work flowing, versus contracting with a single company and waiting for work. 

Worldwide Demand

A significant advantage translators and interpreters have in the gig economy is universal demand regardless of their geographic location. Today, companies must translate their services to compete on the global stage. For example, a computer manufacturer that produces manuals for setting up and troubleshooting their equipment must offer those manuals in every language for every country it services. Similarly, a U.S.-based company looking to expand into Europe must produce marketing and sales collateral in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish and more languages. 

The same is true for industries not commonly considered, such as book publishing. While large book publishers have teams of translators to accommodate worldwide distribution for best-selling authors, modern-day technology has resulted in a sharp increase in self-published books. Those authors are primarily on their own to reach a broader audience, with publishing in English only reaching approximately 20% of potential readers, according to most estimates. Enter translators who specialize in helping aspiring authors translate the books that took them months or years to write. 

The Impact Of Technology

While translation and interpretation have always been needed, the demand for these services has increased exponentially with advances in technology. Marketing strategies exist today that business executives in the 1980s and earlier never even considered, and they each require translation into multiple languages for maximum impact. For example, interpreters who were once focused on assisting conferences speakers at international events are now producing voice-over scripts for digital conference sessions. Translators who produced pages of translated content for marketing brochures are now translating websites with SEO best practices in mind. 

Advances in technology have required translators and interpreters to adopt new technologies themselves, such as understanding video-recording software and website publishing software. As a result, these enhanced skillsets have made them even more marketable in today’s gig economy. 

Interpreters And Translators For Hire

With workers leaving their 9-to-5 jobs at a record pace for the flexibility of gig work, online marketplaces have become increasingly popular destinations for them to find and secure employment. This can result in steady, predictable income for gig workers who are no longer waiting for work to come to them but are instead navigating opportunities daily and choosing jobs that appeal to them.  

While translators and interpreters aren’t often the type of gig workers we think of first, there is an increasing demand for their services, making the gig economy a lucrative and viable opportunity for anyone who is bilingual, trilingual or polyglot.


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