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COVID-19 Freelancer Survey Data - Open Responses

We asked freelancers to share any additional feedback on the situation for them during the COVID-19 pandemic: how it will affect their business, or any other shifts in demand, technology, or business practices.

A selection of the 250+ comments we received is included here, organized into four themes.

Challenges in the Industry

“The translation market often slows down long after other businesses have picked up again. We remain busy during a crisis because clients need crisis communication, but after the crisis it takes a long time before clients spend money on translations again. So I am okay now, but worried for the future!”

“Translation jobs depend on running economy. If the economy is in the crisis, translation jobs and orders are the very first canceled because of saving and minimizing costs and expenses.”

“Jobs are scarce, and many times clients focus on lower prices instead of experience and quality.”

“I have the technology that aids me to provide optimum remote work but the jobs I have seen are for MT post-editing, which tells me that companies are shifting to machine translation and leaving the rest to the human translator for a low payment.”

“With California bill that really hurt the freelancers leaving them without work, and the pandemic, I have not seen any work in a while now, and my family barely survives these days.”

“Like all freelancers, we are treated as disposable.”

“As we are at ‘the end of the economic chain,’ there is not much to do since when businesses go down, so do we...”

“LSPs are basically working on bogus self-employment schemes and treating people like slaves. The interpreters are unable either to unionize or set up a co-operative type of businesses.”

Learning New Tools and Workflows

“The interpreting part of my business has been dramatically affected by the pandemic and I imagine I will have to become proficient in the use of technologies for remote interpreting.”

“In the case of CAT tools, they are expensive and considering the circumstance, it is not possible to buy a license when there are other priorities (paying bills, buying food supplies, following medical treatment, etc.). We can only work with the tools we already use (some free) and may miss the chance of increasing our income.”

“Interpreting will have to adapt the most (no physical conferences for 2 years) so technology/video.”

Future of the Industry

“I feel the biggest shifts in the translation industry will continue to be those already in motion prior to COVID-19, namely, consolidation of the industry among large, international agencies, severe downward pressure on rates, increasing use of machine translation, etc.”

“Slow return to a ‘new normal.’”

“Tourism and travel related work will dry up for a long time.”

“Post-editing will probably be even more widespread during and after the crisis.”

“We will simply have to survive the time with few jobs. I am sure one day it will be back to normal, almost like before. But I am afraid this day is still very far away.”

“More freelancers will learn the importance of money management. And more language-related freelancers will have newfound appreciation towards their profession.”

“LSPs will happily seize the opportunity to exploit freelancers more than ever before, in particular in the US and the UK, by offering ever more ridiculously low rates. Because quality does not matter to them but only maximizing their profits.”

“It is likely that demand for language services will surge as economy recovers, including postponed demand, and it may prove challenging to meet this demand if the increase is too sharp.”

“Freelancers with a lot of experience and good track records are going to be more in demand, especially if they take advantage of technology. Good translation still means research and machine translating doesn't involve research or a complete understanding of the product. Hate to say it, but COVID-19 like other plagues is the culling of the weak.”

“Video conferences will become much more common than face-to-face meetings; people will no longer come around to pick up a (sworn) translation and pay cash.”

Government Aid or Support

“Most governments haven't taken jobs such as translators, interpreters, language teachers into consideration when drafting and enabling measures to support workers and professionals during the pandemics.”

“The aid provided by the government requires not making any income, which is not a realistic demand since freelancers risk losing clients if they aren't available when those clients do have work to offer. I will be more likely to accept jobs that I would have refused in the past for different reasons (content, post-editing, lower rates, etc.)”

“I am very scared about my future as a freelancer in my country because of rash government decisions.”

“Freelancers do not get sufficient financial support from the French government; employees get sufficient support in my opinion.”

“There is very little government financial support for freelancers unless you are a national of the county of domicile at the time of this pandemic. I do not qualify for support as as foreign national temporarily domiciled in another country at the outbreak of the pandemic.”

“Supposedly the US government's relief measures extend unemployment benefits to freelancers, but it's of no use to me. I don't think it's possible to get assistance as long as you're still working, even if you've lost significant income. And I don't have any proof that my loss of income is due to the pandemic, because it's not as if I had jobs that were lined up but then cancelled. It's unjust that freelancers pay higher taxes in the US and don't get employer-subsidized health insurance, and yet we also have little access to financial assistance.”

“In the UK, freelancers have yet to receive support. Many of us will lose everything.”

“No support at all in Brazil. Very difficult situation.”