Chasing Status: The Sustainability of the Freelance Translation Profession in the United Kingdom



Partners and collaborators

Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL)


Despite the value of the language services industry, there are growing concerns about the long-term sustainability of the translation profession in the United Kingdom, especially in light of technological developments like machine translation. In particular, both new and experienced freelance professionals have anxieties over rates of pay, status, and working conditions. Yet, freelance translators often express considerable satisfaction with their work despite the challenges that they face, pointing to an interesting paradox between motivations and satisfaction.

This project has involved a large-scale survey of professional translators (n = 330) and focus groups (~12 hours with 28 participants in total) with members of regional networks of the Insitute of Translation and Interpreting across the United Kingdom. The data are helping us to better understand the various factors playing into the current professional climate in terms of working conditions, income, and changing practices and workflows. This research will provide much-needed practitioner-focused data on the oft-neglected human side of the industry, all too frequently masked by financial data and bold claims about technological breakthroughs. The rich data that we have collected will provide a strong foundation to effect change and support a sense of ethical responsibility relating to the long-term sustainability of this vital economic industry.

The outputs from this research will bring to light both the opportunities and challenges facing professional translators amid the unique social, economic, and political conjuncture at play in the United Kingdom. The findings are being fed back into the industry in various forms (conference presentations, reports, articles, etc.) with a view to reaching a broad cross-section of language service providers, freelance translators, and regional and national association leaders. It will therefore serve as a springboard for further research exploring the complex agency relationships between key stakeholders (clients, language service providers, freelance practitioners, technology developers) and understanding the factors contributing to the status quo.


Events disseminating or drawing upon this research are listed below.

9 July 2024

Knowledge exchange meeting with representatives from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), and Association of Translation Companies (ATC), led by Callum Walker, Joseph Lambert, and JC Penet.

4-5 June 2024

Presentation: “ITI Members Speak Up: Perspectives on the Translation Profession”, delivered by Callum Walker, Joseph Lambert, and JC Penet at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) Conference 2024 (Edinburgh, United Kingdom).

17-19 April 2024

Presentation: “Researching the State and Sustainability of Freelance Translation: The UK As a Case Study”, delivered by Joseph Lambert, JC Penet, and Callum Walker at the 2nd International Conference on Translation and Cultural Sustainability (University of Salamanca, Spain).

15 March 2024

Presentation: “A Changing Market: Money, Status, and Technology”, delivered by Joseph Lambert and Callum Walker at the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) Translators’ Day 2024 (London, United Kingdom).

4 March 2024

Guest lecture: “Value, Status, and Satisfaction in the UK Translation Industry”, delivered by Callum Walker and Joseph Lambert at Queen’s University Belfast (Belfast, United Kingdom).

26 February 2024

Guest lecture: “Sustainable Well-being for Professional Translators and Interpreters”, delivered by JC Penet at Queen’s University Belfast (Belfast, United Kingdom).


Publications and outputs derived from or related to this research will be added here as and when they are published. We anticipate that the first outputs will start to appear towards the end of 2024.