Differences between freelance translators' and staff translators' work
While the “translation craft” in itself doesn’t vary significantly whether you work as a freelancer from home or as an employed translator, there are significant differences not only in the work environment of a freelance translator vs a staff translator, but also in the kind of work you do.
Freelance translator vs staff translator – staff translators’ “typical” work
The company you work for
Looking at the working conditions of a freelance translator vs staff translator,: Say you are translating for a medium size to large agency; a company that has regular dealings with Germany, Austria or Switzerland; a multinational company or a company that receives foreign language documents on a regular basis, to give but a few examples of working scenarios. In any of these situations, it is likely that a translator will only have to work on a restricted amount of subject matters and specialisations. If you work for an automobile manufacturer, your documents will relate to cars, working in a solicitor’s office, you will mainly deal with legal texts, if you work in a large agency that has a number of staff translators with identical language pairs, they will have different specialisations, so that each individual will only deal with their own specialist subjects.
There tends to be more “continuity” for in-house translators, working on “more of the same”. Also, larger companies and agencies tend to be involved with large-scale projects. A typical example is the translation and localisation of an English website into multiple languages, like German, Italian, Spanish and French. Large projects mean long-term work within the same vocabulary set used, lots of repetitions which make the use of CAT tools profitable and lots of colleagues working on the same project, so you can discuss issues of comprehension with them.
Freelance translator vs staff translator working conditions
Another difference to the self-employed environment is the hardware and software and related training you may have access to. When working for a large translation agency, you will have access to a variety of CAT tools, and you will be trained in the use of them. Your computer is probably younger than that of a freelancer who will only replace his when it’s absolutely unavoidable. Younger computers tend to be faster and your employer is likely to have the latest software updates, so that there are no compatibility issues.
Kent State University also has a useful guide for translators.