Working for free

2nd September 2016

Translation services have become the latest sector to fall victim to the ‘work for free’ model, thanks to Google Crowdsource.

Google Crowdsource is an app that asks users to perform brief tasks that will help improve the quality of Google services like Maps, translation, image transcription, and more. Google Crowdsource asks what languages people are fluent in, and then asks them to translate, or improve the translation of various phrases and other translation requests. Surprisingly, Google (one of the most profitable companies in the world) isn’t offering any sort of reward or payment for improving their translations; i.e. in other words, working for Google. Instead, Goggle suggests that people will work for free knowing they “made the internet a better place for your community”. That might be true but, personally, I have bills to pay.

The work for free model has been perfected by The Huffington Post, for which AOL paid $315 million to acquire in 2011. The Huffington Post, as you’re no doubt aware, is an online news aggregator and blog founded by Arianna Huffington that publishes content from its many contributors, from industry experts to celebrities. The amazing part of the Huffington Post’s success is that none of these contributors get paid.

It is arguable that as other content providers charge for publishing external content, the deal offered by the HuffPo is pretty good – they publish your content for free, you get the fame and adoration! The idea is that your work will be seen by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people and therefore lead on to actual paying work …

However, this has led to the working for free model being subverted somewhat and touted as a very good deal for content creators in other areas. The phrase ‘getting your name out there’ has become the bane of many writers lives, as they are constantly asked to submit an article that might be seen by hundreds of people at most and lead no-where. Meanwhile, the website owner has a stream of free content it can publish and rake in the money from advertising. In a similar vein, many photographers have been asked to do a shoot for nothing as ‘putting us on your CV be great for your portfolio!’.

As previously discussed in regards to the crowd sourcing trend, the work for free model isn’t one to inspire confidence. While many contributors will no doubt have a sense of pride and ethics in their work, there are no comebacks if things don’t work out – it’s hard to take someone to task over something they did for nothing as well-mannered critique can easily be seen as unappreciative. There’s also the fact that in today’s economic climate of zero hour contracts, profiting from someone else’s work, while offering no payment whatsoever has a somewhat ‘icky’ feel about it.

While the work for free model will no doubt continue for the foreseeable future, professional translation will always have a place in today’s global marketplace, despite the attempts made by Google to improve their machine translation services.

Foreign Tongues provides commercial quality translation services to our Clients, across a diverse range of sectors and subject matter. Let Foreign Tongues provide you with the free, no-obligation, quote for your next project and see how working with an experienced language provider will benefit your company.

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