Where to Find a Job as a Freelance Interpreter

If you’ve followed this site at all, you know I’m not an interpreter.

I’ve never interpreted professionally, and when I tried to practice interpreting in college while getting my degree in Spanish translation, I failed miserably.

But, while I’m not an interpreter, I am an entrepreneur who has dealt a lot with language.

And interpreters, it seems, have the same problem that translators have:

Learning how to find jobs.

In order to be successful, an interpreter
needs to know how to find clients.

Some people might think that translators can find clients easier than interpreters.

That’s nonsense.

It doesn’t matter what language job you have.

You could be a writer, translator, interpreter, editor, or proofreader.

Each job might be different, but the mindset for finding clients is the same no matter what.

And your mindset should focus on three things:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Relentlessness
  3. Consistency

What will these give you? The ability to succeed in finding clients where others give up too easily.

First: Intelligence

You have to be smart.

You have to be creative.

You have to think in ways that other people aren’t so that you can reap rewards that other people can’t.

But you also need to recognize what is working for others and replicate that in your own efforts.

The funny thing about intelligence, though, is that you could be the smartest guy in the room but if you don’t do anything with it, you’ll fail.

Second: Relentlessness

You’ve got to have the mindset that you’ll do whatever it takes to become an interpreter and find the clients you want.

When I started writing in addition to translating, I came across a lot of writers who were writing for peanuts.

They always complained about it, too.

Like it was someone else’s fault that they weren’t getting the writing assignments that they wanted.

But instead of doing anything about it, they decided it was easier to do nothing and complain than actually go after what they said they wanted.

Do you want to be a professional translator or interpreter?

Then go after it with everything you can.

Third: Consistency

When you’ve given everything you’ve got to achieve something you’re after, you cannot give up.

You have to keep going.

Even when clients continue slamming their doors in your face.

Eventually you’ll find that first client.

Then the second one.

Then a third.

But if you give up too soon, you’ll never know what could have been.

Now that you’ve got those three steps down, I can go on and tell you where you might find clients in need of interpretation services.

Remember, some of these places might be near you.

Some might be farther away.

You might think some would never offer someone an interpreting gig.

But you will never know unless you get out and ask.

My dad used to always tell me this phrase in high school before every water polo game:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

It applies to your life trying to become a professional translator, too.

No client is going to find you. You have to find your clients.

Here’s where.

Hospitals

Hospitals are big users of interpreting services, as is the medical field in general.

While Spanish is probably the language most needed, other languages are also needed to provide services for hospital patients.

Hospitals use different interpreting services for their clientele, so it’s a good idea to know what route the hospital you’re targeting for your interpreting services takes in terms of how they approach interpreting.

Some hospitals rely heavily on large-scale telephone interpretation services, rather than contract out to in-person interpreters.

Other hospitals rely on volunteer interpreters or family members to provide interpretation services for hospital patients.

While hospitals don’t have to pay for volunteer services, the interpreting can leave a lot to be desired.

So when you approach a hospital advertising your interpreting services, be sure and highlight your experience and professionalism as positives so that they hospital can understand the importance of offering you an interpretation job instead of relying on volunteers or family members that may not be able to do the interpreting job as effectively as you can.

Health Clinics & Doctors’ Offices

Health centers and doctors’ offices also have needs for interpreters, although their need might not be as great as hospitals.

The reason is because if a patient has chosen to receive medical services at a specific health clinic, it’s probably more likely that they have chosen a place with doctors that speak the same language as them.

However, this isn’t always the case, and these places can provide some interpreting jobs if you’re willing to look around a bit and spread the word about your interpretation services.

Courts, State and Federal

I don’t have any hard and fast numbers, but if I had to guess, I would say that the court system in the United States (both the federal and state courts) employ a great number of freelance interpreters.

Federal court interpreters are employed in nearly every state in the nation and many interpreters, depending on the language combinations they interpret with, travel throughout the country to offer their interpreting services to the courts.

Like interpreting in Texas.

Spanish/English interpreters are in high demand, but there are many other language combinations that make federal/state interpreting a worthwhile goal to pursue for freelance interpreters working in non-traditional languages.

Lawyers’ Offices

Another plug for the legal system.

While clients seeking a lawyer will usually choose one that speaks their language, court-appointed lawyers or state’s attorneys don’t always have the luxury of representing clients that speak their language, and jobs for interpreters can abound in this situation.

In these cases, professional interpreters are extremely important.

Interpreters that translate in this setting are almost always freelance interpreters, as there is not a continual stream of interpreting jobs available.

But it is always nice to have multiple clients as an interpreter, because even if some clients only give you work part of the time, it is still work and can help fill in for those times when you don’t have other types of work.

Interpretation Agencies

Most translation and interpretation agencies are interested in receiving resumes from freelance translators and interpreters.

There are more translation agencies than interpretation agencies, but it never hurts to get your resume to those interpretation agencies that could use your language skills.

This can be especially lucrative if you have a more obscure language combination that is still in demand. More common language pairs like Spanish/English might not get you very far with this type of employer.

Businesses

Businesses that are going global or are interested in providing their products or services in another language will always have jobs for interpreters.

These jobs will range from face-to-face meetings to video conferencing to phone conversations.

It can be a little more difficult to land one of these types of freelance opportunities, though.

Most of the people that do interpreting in these settings had some sort of prior connection with the company, or someone that made decisions within the company.

Otherwise, jobs for interpreters in business can be difficult to come by.

Universities

Major universities and colleges surprisingly also use interpreters.

Many of these schools often host international conferences and forums where interpretation services are needed.

The downside is that while they need and rely on interpreting services for these events, they often recruit volunteer interpreters from among the student body and those in the local community that can interpret.

These positions are usually volunteer positions which means that it might not make very much financial sense for you to help out.

However, if you’re able to make good business connections because of your assistance, that could be well worth your time.

Now what are you waiting for?

Get out and find some clients.

Until next time.

1 thought on “Where to Find a Job as a Freelance Interpreter”

  1. Johnny McCarron

    I think this is pretty great information about anyone trying to find a job. I’m trying to find a good job soon, and I’ll have to keep your tips. If someone is trying to find a good translator, what should they look for?

Leave a Reply