Today, it has been said, we live in the Age of the Entrepreneur. Every day we hear about exciting new start-ups, and the business models of many localisation firms rely heavily on outsourcing to self-employed freelancers for all sorts of activities, from transcreation and blogging to transcription and straightforward translation.
The word ‘entrepreneur’ itself is a loan to English from French; the literal translation would be an undertaker (one who undertakes, rather than a chief mourner!). In other words, not just a thinker, or someone who comes up with a profitable new idea, but a doer – one who takes action, starting the businesses that make things happen, whether or not it is truly innovative.
In the UK alone, between 2001 and 2017, the self-employed grew from 12% to 15% of the workforce, as access to broadband and home working hit every industry. These home-workers may not be breaking new ground in the same way as Elon Musk and other rising stars, but in their own way – abandoning the security of traditional employment for the rough and tumble, risk and responsibility of sole trading – they are just as much pioneers of a new way of working.
Some people have compared this increase in people striking out on their own to the old ‘cottage industry’ model, which pre-dated the industrial revolution with its collection of the workforce into central urban locations. Entrepreneurial language-smiths can now work from anywhere in the world – meaning localisation agencies have easy access to native speakers not displaced to the company’s home country, but with a living connection to their own community and culture. This is invaluable, especially in fields like transcreation.
Like the original cottage industries, the new ways of working have their dark side as well: although most freelancers are willing partners, enjoying the flexibility of being their own boss, there has been controversy around apps and businesses exploiting the “gig economy” to employ workers while denying them rights and benefits. And in a global economic environment which is still rife with uncertainty, the price of freedom to work the hours you want is the risk of not having enough to do.
With thousands of events across 170 countries to support and engage entrepreneurs, Global Entrepreneurship Week is a chance to celebrate and recognise the contribution of everyone setting up in business for themselves – something which takes bravery, self-confidence, long hours and hard work to do alone, often juggling demands from multiple different stakeholders just to keep your head above water. This is our chance then, to shout out to our freelance partners and true entrepreneurs everywhere – we salute you!