Why Translators Can Survive Tough Economic Times

Kevin Hendzel, spokesperson for the American Translators Association, says the translation industry is growing.

In a recent Fox Business article (“The ‘Great Invisible Industry’ That Speaks Your Language“),  Hendzel said: ” This is the only industry that grew through the recession, because globalization continues to accelerate and demand continues to grow.”

As a freelance French to English translator based in South Africa, I couldn’t agree more. With Francophone Africa being seen as a final frontier by many investors, having an ‘in-demand’ language pair and being well placed from a location point of view has meant not only surviving tough economic times, but has in fact helped to expand my business.

South African Rands

That said, location and language pairs are not the only two important factors and Hendzel mentions this in the article. The key is specialisation. Providing a niche service concentrating on legal translations has allowed my business to grow. I’ve been able to set myself apart and obtain new business contracts, and this is only because I offer a complete set of services to potential investors

That said, there are other important points to consider, especially when competition is tough.  Marketing, of course, is one of them. But that’s a subject for an entirely different post.

However, the following points in the article are worth remembering, because they offer positive reminders of the opportunities available to us as translators:

  • According to the ATA, there are 13.5 million translators and interpreters (I would of course assume this is in America alone) and the industry is growing at 13% per year
  • The federal and local US governments collectively spend almost $2 billion per year on translation services
  • Freelance translators earn between $25 000 and $175 000 annually, with UN translators earning up to $200 000.

What I especially like about the article is where he says, “”It’s one of those great invisible industries, and a great enabler of international commerce.” I quite like officially living out Mr. Adam Smith’s idea of la main invisible.