Author: Daniel Douglas Santini
Traduction en français : Federica Bonapace
English translation: Fabiana Grassi


We all know that the world is full of questions that we can’t answer.

Is the Sicilian delicacy made of rice and meat called arancino or arancina? Do you prepare pasta all’amatriciana with bacon or with lard? Why does bread always fall on the jam side? (No, Murphy’s law cannot be applied).

I’d like to add one more doubt, one that has been tormenting me since I’ve started my career as a translator: is it better to work as an employee or as a freelancer? Needless to say, I have no clue. That’s why I can only compare these two situations under several points of view in order to express my opinion.

Let’s see if I’ll be able to solve this impossible mystery!


In the translation industry working as a freelancer seems like a daydream.
You can freely choose where you want to translate and for how many hours a day you want to work.
Some people – including myself – like to work slowly and use every day they have, while others choose to do all the work during the last days before the deadline – at their own risk, I’d say. How you organize your work isn’t important, as long as you deliver the translation before the client’s deadline. Finally, freelancers are free to choose which projects they want to work on.
All of this isn’t possible if you work as an employee for a translation agency. You work 9 to 5 and you translate the documents assigned by the project manager, without having the possibility to refuse a project.

Therefore, everyone would favor the first option. But I assure you that working as a freelancer is incredibly stressful on a mental point of view.

The document is always there, relentlessly whispering from its folder, a faint yet urgent “Open me, open me!” (I’ve often woken up in the middle of the night to correct some sentences). In a translation agency, on the other hand, your mind is set on the project as long as you are in your office, while at home you feel carefree.

So, could you tell me with no doubt which is the best option?


A freelance translator can be paid per word, line or project, according to the type of text. This system obviously entails that the more you work, the more you earn.
In a translation agency you always have your monthly salary, virtually unchanged. It doesn’t matter if in February you translated only a couple of short manuals of household appliances, while in March you worked on an endless treaty on the European hygiene regulations. Every month you’ll get the same salary.

If you put it like that, any translator would choose the freelance career.
Yet, the threat is always lurking in the shadows. My personal experience suggests that there are some extra-busy periods that make you forget your own name, followed by periods of nothingness, during which you’ve got literally nothing to do and you spend your time obsessively refreshing your inbox hoping to receive new mail.

It’s useless, darlings! It’s a never-ending vicious cycle!


Freelance work is perfect for those who despise relating to other people.
A freelancer must take care of all the phases of the work cycle (read here Fabiana’s article that discusses this topic). Yet, he/she rarely has personal physical contacts with clients. The translator’s work is usually carried out via e-mail, with occasional phone calls.

On the other hand, translating in an office everyday can sometimes be complicated.
Let’s not beat around the bush: the perfect workplace simply doesn’t exist.
Among all of your colleagues, there will always be the one that keeps on distracting you to grab a coffee, the one that got up on the wrong side of the bed and oozes negativity, or the one that thinks he owns the workplace and becomes a serial producer of annoying noises (sniveling, nervously pressing the click pen and so on). However, you don’t have many distractions in the office (unless the coffee colleague shows up).

At home distractions are always there: the fundamental football match of your favorite team, the friend looking for the fourth member for the Fortnite squad, the insatiable hunger that inexplicably arrives exactly 12 minutes after you’ve placed yourself in front of the computer screen.

I’ll finish this piece with an apology. I’d set off with the best intentions to solve this tangled mystery, but I ended up with more doubts both for me and for you.
Flat Earth vs round Earth? Console gamers vs computer gamers? Vegans vs meat eaters? That’s nothing!

The real clash of titans is: employee or self-employed?



Did you like this article?

You may also be interested in:

Life as a freelancer

Simultaneous interpreting: what happens in the brain while the interpreter is in the booth?