Autumn 2023 Pulse Survey results
ITI’s most recent Pulse survey shows a further decline in members’ positivity towards the business environment, no doubt fuelled by the current economic climate and concerns about the impact that generative AI may have on the profession.
The number of respondents saying they feel either ‘very positive’ or ‘positive’ about their work and prospects fell to 38%, the lowest level since the depths of the pandemic in Autumn 2020.
Members who are interpreters, or both translators and interpreters, are significantly more positive about the outlook, with 53% either ‘very positive’ or ‘positive’, compared with just 35% of translators.
The number of respondents gaining more work from existing clients fell to 11% (17% previously) and 46% said they had seen a decrease in the amount of work from existing clients (vs 41% previously)
On a more positive note, 63% of respondents have gained business from new clients in the last six months. This indicates that despite the challenges, members are showing high levels of resilience and are diversifying their client base.
57% said that earnings per word/contract/hour had remained much the same over the last 12 months (vs 52% in Spring 2023). And, while 21% said earnings had reduced overall (vs 24%), only 22% said earnings had improved (also vs 24%).
Members continue to look for ways to mitigate the economic challenges they face, many by seeking more clients and diversifying. The number of respondents either having to look for supplementary work outside the profession, or reducing the number of hours they work on translation/interpreting has also increased.
In this edition of the Pulse survey we asked, for the first time, about other services that translators and interpreters offer. Only 13% offered no other services. Unsurprisingly, the additional services most frequently offered were proofreading (72%) and editing (54%). It will be interesting to track these trends in future surveys.
The impact of generative AI
Given this year’s developments in generative AI and the increase in the number of users since the last Pulse survey six months ago, we wanted to use the opportunity this time to gauge how ITI members feel about the technology and how they think it might affect them and the profession.
Respondents were asked to score out of five how confident they felt in their understanding the impact generative AI is likely to have on the translation and interpreting sector. The average rating was 2.8 out of 5 (3 for interpreters).
83% of respondents are not currently using generative AI to assist them in their work. Of the 17% who have begun to use it, applications included generating ideas (especially for marketing), terminology research, repetitive administration tasks, summarising content, and providing suggestions for revision.
Respondents were then asked to rate on a scale from 1 (very negative) to 5 (very positive) how they felt generative AI would impact on the translation and interpreting sector in the long term. The average score was 2.3 indicating a degree of pessimism that is probably to be expected when understanding is still limited and there is little in the way of hard evidence.
These findings, along with the open-ended answers received, will be used to inform the ongoing development of ITI’s AI action plan, and will be considered by the AI working group.
ITI is keen to support members as they adapt to the changing business environment, so we asked about the types of training they felt they would benefit from. All these ideas will be considered as part of ITI’s ongoing training programme.
Notably, 50% of respondents would like to learn about how to demonstrate their value as a human translator/interpreter so this will continue to form a key plank of our advocacy and CPD programme.
Having a good understanding of marketing tools and techniques is a necessity for all freelancers and businesses and so we will be expanding our training programme to provide the business skills that translators and interpreters will need to flourish in the coming years.