Recent literature has begun to disaggregate groups of the 'self-employed without
employees' to examine in greater detail what determines their working conditions.
This article continues this trend by presenting the findings of a survey of professional
translators and discussing their status as 'homeworkers', 'teleworkers', and 'portfolio
workers'. It reveals that freelance translators enjoy higher levels of autonomy and
control over their working conditions than other comparable self-employed groups.
This is largely because the nature of their expertise and their relationship with
clients create inelasticities in the supply of their skills. The more successful
are then able to use their market position to exert substantial control over areas
like pay and deadlines. In addition, the lack of a traditional career structure means
that many translators have actively chosen freelance work and that even those who
were originally forced into it would not now take an in-house job. The article concludes
that labour market characteristics are a key factor in determining differences in
working conditions between various groups of 'portfolio workers'.