Lesson 63: Translation market research: what areas to include?

Lesson 63: Translation market research: what areas to include?

Last week I tried to convince you why doing a proper translation market research is an important step for your business. This week, we’re digging deeper! I’d like to look at eight areas that I found necessary to research and talk about them a bit more in detail. And next week we’ll discuss where to find reliable information.

Market trends and demand

Perhaps the most important area for a freelance translator or interpreter to research is market trends. By looking into what’s happening in a wider business context, you can make predictions of where the market is going to grow, in other words, which sectors and businesses may need your services. For example, I know that the Polish IT industry is booming and reaching out to their English-speaking clients, so I can be pretty sure that the demand for Polish English IT translation will continue to grow. What are the trends in your markets? Which sectors are developing and growing? Which are not the safest bet? Answers to all these questions will help you build a sustainable business.


Of course, clients keep your business going. Market research should look at your existing clients and prospects. When comes to existing clients, you may want to find out if they’re getting the right level of service, whether they need anything else translated or maybe if they appreciated additional services. Researching your prospects means finding out who they are, what they do and what they need. By looking into this area, you’re more likely to know where to find clients and how to convince them to use your services.


By saying competition, I mean healthy competition, in other words other suppliers providing similar services to your potential clients. It doesn’t always mean they’re enemies (and I think this calls for a separate article, don’t you think?). By researching your competition, you can find out what they’re up to and even more importantly – what they AREN’T up to. This knowledge is likely to help you improve the scope of your business. When looking at competitors, you can often find…


I’m sure you’ll agree with me: as freelance translators or interpreters we’re not always able to provide to our clients just by ourselves. There are bigger projects, multilingual projects, requests in other directions, or even other languages. By researching potential partners, we’re building a network of reliable co-operators we can turn to. For example, I know who to refer for medical translation, sworn translation, websites, SEO, etc.

Rates and charges

From a more practical perspective, market research can be truly enlightening when comes to rates and charges for translation and interpreting services. You can look at existing resources (more about them next week), or you can try to do your own little research. To learn whether you’re charging enough, take a look at websites of colleagues or agencies, or even arrange a Mystery Shopping experiment. All you need to do is to set up a simple Excel spread sheet to compare the data.

Professional organisations

I strongly believe that researching all professional organisations (translation-related and in our fields of expertise) is a must. It’s important to look at the costs involved, benefits, events… Just to make sure you’re not missing out. When I was starting in the profession, I felt the urge to join every professional association I could find. It was only because a very structured approach I forced myself into that I actually wrote down all pros and cons of each organisation and got myself a plan of action.

Qualifications and CPD

You may have already noticed that I’m a real CPD addict and a qualification maniac. I’m always searching for new courses, qualifications, exams, webinars, seminars and more. I think it’s a good strategy, but what I’m still missing here is a mechanism by which I can choose what to concentrate on (but that’s entirely my fault!). However, I do recommend keeping track of what’s offered. An Excel spread sheet seems to suffice. If you’re just entering the market, you may want to find out which qualifications are required or necessary to work as a translator or interpreter in your country.

Legal/regulatory/tax requirements

Even if translation or interpreting seemingly doesn’t expose us to lawsuits, it’s essential for every business and in every domain to do a basic research on the legal, regulatory and taxation provisions. This includes business formation, insurance, tax-deductible expenses, etc. When comes to these serious matters, I do recommend you actually get professional help, but I’ll be exploring this topic more in detail next week.

Right, so these are my essential market research areas. What would you add?


  1. Yael Cahane-Shadmi , on Sep 13, 2013 at 18:41 Reply

    I think there are two more areas that translators can research. The first is translation technologies – we should all be aware of them, know if they’re useful to us and then decide which product to buy.
    The second is translation blogs and online translation forums, groups and communities – not only do you get a lot of useful information about our profession, but you also get to meet many interesting people.

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Jan 3, 2015 at 21:18 Reply

      You’re right and these are good areas, but I wouldn’t necessarily include the technologies in market research, just in regular research of methods I would like to adopt. As to the blogs, I would use them as a source for some of the areas mentioned, like competition 🙂

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