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Freelance translation: what is ethical and what should be avoided

Recently, ethics issues have been discussed mainly in connection with the “unethical behavior of some translation agencies” or the unethical treatment of translators amharic to english of other legal entities. Ethical issues—whether professional or business—are often raised when it comes to rates, contracts, terms and conditions, or the use of technology. Of course, it is good that these points are discussed, but we also should not forget how ethical we are as translators and interpreters.

With this article, we would like to encourage you to reflect on a number of business ethics components and evaluate how you apply them to your translation services, whether freelancing or employed by a company. Have you ever analyzed how ethically you conduct your business?

Ethics of finance
It’s easy to go down the wrong path, assuming that moral and ethical principles in the financial environment are only relevant to large companies, and freelancers are more focused on making enough money to cover their needs. While conscientious translators are hardly prone to bribery, tax evasion, or circumvention of anti-corruption laws, we do face a number of ethical challenges in the area of ​​finance. For example, even thoughtful budgeting can be attributed to ethical issues. A well-designed budget that includes a line of business development expenses is a factor in ethical growth. Any business that focuses primarily on making money without paying attention to its other elements is ethically unbalanced, whether it be an international corporation or a freelancer’s home office.

Ethics of Human Resources
Again, it’s easy to talk about human resource ethics if we’re talking about big corporations: how they treat employees, whether they care about them, how interested they are in motivating them to work for mutual benefit. And when it comes to a freelance translator, what are the resources? It takes time to get used to considering yourself as a worker in front of you as the head of your own activities. It takes even more time to realize that we are often not the most ethical workers. It is very important to approach yourself as an employee from this point of view and keep track of working hours, so that overtime is properly rewarded, that there is always a good development plan and a program of incentives and incentives. Seriously think about it: isn’t that what we usually expect from an employer?

Sales and Marketing Ethics
When dealing with large companies, it is easy to distinguish between well-executed sales and marketing and unethical deceptive behavior. Do we apply the same rules to our own translation business? Do we honestly advertise services and skills of the highest quality, or do we sometimes pretend to promise the customer something that we ourselves are not sure about? Can we say that the principle of taking any orders, always saying “yes” and avoiding any “no” is ethical? Have you ever conducted an ethical audit of your own marketing materials?

Production Ethics
At first glance, it is not clear how to shift this principle to the service sector. In fact, the ethics of production here means the quality of materials, procedures and results. But even the very process of translating documents can be marked by the unethical behavior of the performer. How about confidentiality, impartiality, or turning to Google Translate for another boring contract? Is using free online character recognition tools considered unethical when it comes to client documents, or is it just a matter of convenience?

Ethics of property, property rights and intellectual property
The ethics of property is becoming an increasingly topical issue. This is evidenced by recent incidents of Internet copying of one translator’s data, simply taken and pasted on a couple of other pages, as well as cases of a pseudo-agency copying the profiles of registered members of the Proz site to support their dubious activities. Taking inspiration from a colleague’s website or looking for motivation in someone’s motto is one question, but when does it cross the line and become morally illegal? Is it ethical to take photos or images with copyright and embed them on your blog? Is it ethical for a colleague who writes articles for translators or conducts training sessions for them without having their own success in the translation experience?
Technology Ethics
Many translators in their free time are interested in various technologies, research them and look for ways to apply them in their work. It is noteworthy that neither the legal law nor the rules of ethics have yet developed standards for the treatment of technology. You can start with a very theoretical argument: is it ethical at all to apply any technology to texts without the knowledge of the customer? Or is it only bad if entire files are run through programs? And when a program does not have protection (for example, there is no antivirus on a computer) – does this only carry a danger or is it also at odds with the norms of ethics?

We hope we have given you the appropriate thoughts. Now it would be useful to do the following:

Conduct a thorough ethical audit in these six areas;
Mark for yourself the parts that you would like to improve, and write down how you will achieve this;
Write your own business code of ethics.