21 May 2020

Spring 2020 Pulse Survey results

The results of the Spring Pulse Survey reveal the early work impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These were two of the main findings from ITI’s latest Pulse Survey – the Institute’s twice-yearly snapshot of what its members are experiencing in the marketplace – which this time was carried out shortly after lockdown began in the UK.

16% of respondents said there had been no impact on their work, while 9% had seen more work coming through.

15% said they had experienced problems working as a result of children being at home all day.

The challenges facing interpreters were more pronounced, with 82% dealing with less work and 25% facing pressure from clients to reduce rates. However, 16% had seen an increase in online interpreting assignments.

Only 28% of respondents felt positive about their work and prospects in the current environment. The positivity rating has been falling since the Autumn 2018 survey (63%), with the most significant decrease taking place between the two most recent surveys (down by 24% from Autumn 2019).

44% of respondents said that the amount of work coming from existing clients had reduced over the last 12 months (versus 36% autumn 2019), while 62% said they had gained new clients over the last year (compared to 52% in the previous survey).

When asked what were the most challenging aspects of their role in the current environment, political/cultural/societal factors such as Brexit and COVID-19 were referenced most frequently, moving up from fourth position when this question was previously asked in 2018.

What do you see as the most challenging aspects of your role in the current business environment?

% respondents

Challenging aspects of role


Political/cultural/societal factors e.g. Brexit, COVID-19


Finding new clients


Clients/potential clients have a poor understanding of what the job involves


Business aspects of being a successful freelancer


Keeping up to date with translation/interpreting technology

Catherine Park, Pulse Survey project manager, comments: ‘These findings highlight the downturn in work that the current situation has created for members, however with a significant minority of 25% either experiencing no change or more work in the early weeks of the pandemic.

‘Further challenges have been created by some clients wanting to cut rates, but the situation as regards gaining new clients has remained fairly buoyant over the last 12 months – possibly because many of the gains occurred earlier in this period and also some specific types of jobs may have emerged due to the pandemic.'

There were two main questions in the survey looking at areas independent of the current COVID-19 situation – translation/interpreting technologies being used by respondents, and the types of ethical dilemmas they had faced over the last three years.

In relation to translation/interpreting technologies, the following emerged as the most commonly used:

Which of the following technologies do you use?

% respondents

Technology used


Translation memory software


Machine translation


Glossary management tools


Quality control tools

The following were the most commonly experienced ethical dilemmas:

In relation to which of the following issues have you faced ethical dilemmas in the last three years?

% respondents

Ethical dilemmas faced over last 3 years


Rates/conditions asked to accept


Work opportunity arises that is not specialism/limited knowledge


How a client/potential client conducts themselves


Nature of products/services offered by client

(36% had not faced any ethical dilemmas over this three-year period)


The next Pulse Survey will take place in the autumn.