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Setting Yourself Up for a Successful Interpreter Career

Interpreting Annie Pagano on Feb 23, 2017 8:30:00 AM

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You are fluent in multiple languages, pass a couple language services providers assessment process, and then, you wait…and wait….and wait for the assignments to start rolling in. Life as an independent contractor/freelancer isn’t always as easy and glamorous as one may think. The freedom to create your own schedule and report only to yourself is enviable by many but that doesn’t mean the work will be easy. It will, however, be rewarding and if you work hard and smart enough by following the tips below, you will be well on your way to setting yourself up for great success in the field of interpreter services. Take it from us, a translation agency, who coordinates hundreds of interpreting appointments across the country each day – the tips and skills below are exactly what we look for in an interpreter that make us call them over and over again.

  1. Be responsive – From the first time you contact an agency to apply to be an interpreter to when you receive a call after interpreting for years, be responsive! Return phone calls, emails, and texts as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have a definite answer, at least respond to touch base. The person you are dealing with will very much appreciate it and be more likely to want to work with you moving forward. Plus the sooner you get back to the agency, the more likely they are to wait on your about a specific assignment and call you again in the future (This may seem like a no brainer but communication can be tough! This is a quality that we can all embrace throughout all walks of life)
  2. Early is on time and on time is late! – This doesn’t need much of an explanation. Always aim to arrive at appointments at least 15-20 minutes before the scheduled start time. Leave yourself time for parking and finding the proper location. Interpreters are always on the go at new and different locations. Being early is the simplest way to exude professionalism.
    1. Tip: Be aware of weather conditions and daily traffic patterns. The Weather Channel application is great for keeping an eye on any impending storms and we love Waze or Google Maps to keep an eye on traffic. (All apps are available on both iPhones and Androids)
  3. Dress appropriately – Speaking of professionalism, although it should go without saying, always dress appropriately! An interpreting career is just that, a career. Show your clients that you take your job seriously by always dressing nicely for each appointment (and being on time ;) )
  4. Work with each translation agencies process – Most interpreters work with multiple agencies and surely each agency has a different way of doing things. Keep track of each process and do your best to adhere to their preferred procedure. Maybe they require you to accept/decline assignments online or only over the phone. When do time cards need to be submitted by? How should they be submitted? Allow yourself time to get used to each process and eventually they will become second nature. Technology is being heavily used more and more so don’t fight the times, embrace it to succeed!

Seems easy, right? Unfortunately, life gets in the way and even the simplest tasks such as being on time become difficult. However, if you want to succeed in your interpreting career, take these suggestions to heart and you will set yourself apart in all these small yet impactful ways.

Now that we covered the basics, let’s talk about the ‘behind the scenes’ of interpreter careers. You may consider yourself just an interpreter but you are, in fact, an entrepreneur! As an entrepreneur, the President and CEO of your very own business, care must be taken in order to legitimize yourself. Here’s how:

  • Establish your business (on paper). Look up how to establish an LLC at your local town hall. A majority of the time it is quite simple and only requires some brief paperwork and a small fee.
  • Keep track of your own schedule. Don’t rely on the agency’s confirmation call/email. Remember, you’re a professional business owner and that requires schedule maintenance
    • Productivity tip: Google calendar and/or your phone’s calendar is your new best friend. Time block out your day! Schedule your day not only with your assignments but set aside time for professional development and studies, family time, grocery shopping, etc. Having a clear picture of each day will help you be more productive and you’ll feel better about all you accomplished each day!
  • Maintain proper records
    • Find a system that works for you to save all your payment information from each agency.
    • Expenses – When tax time rolls around, you can write off many expenses such as gas, parking, training courses, etc. Save those receipts! Another perk of owning your own business.
  • Network, network & never stop learning
    • Get involved in the industry. Explore interpreting in different settings to find your niche. Maybe you enjoy interpreting in a healthcare setting. Dive headfirst into that world and seek out continuing education programs. Medical interpreter certification is relatively new so the opportunity to be one of the first to receive that certification will give you a competitive advantage for assignments in hospitals. Perhaps the court system is calling your name. Go for State and Federal Federal certification is especially valuable as there are so few interpreters on that level. Continuing education and certifications are huge for an interpreter’s career, don’t get too complacent.

Whether you are a new interpreter or a seasoned professional, we hope you found these tips and tricks valuable. Now, you tell us – what would you add to the list? What do you think makes a truly great interpreter?

Are you currently an interpreter or considering becoming one? Click the button below to apply today!

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