The EU has long been a promoter of linguistic diversity. It has three procedural languages (English, French and German) and 24 official languages, into which all Directives and Regulations must be translated. In order to carry out its day-to-day business, it relies heavily on translation and interpretation services, which are used to ensure that all member states have equal access to information.
In order to meet its commitments in terms of supporting linguistic diversity, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation has just announced that it is putting a huge translation contract out to tender. The contract covers an estimated translation volume of 556,000 pages per year. It follows the European Parliament issuing a call for tenders in April 2019 for the translation of 445,000 pages per year, along with 76,000 pages for the European Economic and Social Committee, 47,500 pages for the European Committee of the Regions and 40,500 pages for the European Court of Auditors.
Details of the latest tender are shared in this article from Slator, which reveals that the ‘TRAD19’ contract will be divided into lots based on language pairings, with 49 lots altogether. The largest lots cover translation from English to French (33,000 pages annually), English to German (26,000 pages) and English to Czech and Croatian (at 22,000 pages annually for each language).
The huge tenders have been issued in advance of current translation contracts coming to a close over the course of 2019/20. The new TRAD19 contract will run from 1 July 2020 to 29 February 2024.
The EU’s translation needs call for a unique blend of business translation, financial translation and legal translation expertise. The contracts aren’t for everyone. Slator reports that margins tend to be tight, meaning that there isn’t too much scope for profit from the contracts, sizeable though they are. The bidding process also tends to be labour intensive. However, the payoff is guaranteed work from a highly reputable client for nearly five years – a very attractive proposition indeed!
While freelance translators are unlikely to be in a position to bid for the contracts due to their size and the intensity of the tendering process, they nonetheless create opportunities to work for those agencies that will be bidding.
For those of us who work freelance, contracts of this nature don’t tend to be the norm. Even smaller scale contracts can be something of a rarity in the freelancing world. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this, of course. On the one hand, a contract-free existence means an exceptional degree of freedom in terms of working life. Freelancers can largely set their own hours and work from wherever they choose. On the flip side, having no contracts means having no real certainty around guaranteed work and income, with freelancers instead having to trust that their current sources of income won’t dry up – and to deal with the situation swiftly if and when they do.
Freelancing is on the rise. As our tech gets smarter and globalisation makes the world a smaller place, working online from home (or wherever else you choose) has become easier and easier. Add to that the global exposure of job sites such as Upwork and Fiverr and it’s easy to see why freelancing holds such appeal – talented individuals can connect with clients around the world in order to sell their services.
The translation industry already has a mature freelancing market, with well-established global networks (such as that managed by Tomedes, which we’ve spent a decade building up) serving clients around the world. It is networks such as these which enable international business to be conducted so smoothly, with everyone from individual organisations to the EU relying on their expertise.
Are contracts such as those issued by the EU worth the hassle? Or do you prefer to work with smaller clients, with whom you can build up closer working relationships? You can leave a comment below to share your views.