There are many things to consider when you are working as a self-employed sign language interpreter. You do not only have to market yourself and the services you offer, but you also have to be motivated enough to keep on upgrading your skills. Sometimes, it can be easier to get employed in an agency; however, you are limited by office time, location, and potential clients. So even if it is harder to go for self-employment, many sign language interpreters work freelance.
Training for professional sign language interpretation is not easy. It takes years of study, at least six months of on-the-job training, and exposure to different translation events. You must also have enough experience and glowing references to back you up, especially if you’re gunning for NYC DOE ASL interpretation jobs. Other interpreters even go for graduate studies to further their skills. So, as you can see, there is a lot of time, effort, and money that you must be willing to invest to be the best at what you do.
One of the tricky things you must think of when marketing your translation services is with regards to fees. Are you charging per event, or by the hour? Do you have enough experience to back you up? Where are you located? These are some of the questions that will help you gauge how much you must charge for your services.
How would you know how much to charge for your services? Here are some questions you must ask yourself:
1. What are my work experiences?
As with any job experience, quality trumps quantity. You may have been working for the last five years, but you’ve been in and out of jobs, and you never got the chance to be promoted. If you show this work history to potential clients, they may most likely not get impressed and will even question your abilities.
However, if you have been working for a year and had a United Nations project in your portfolio, this stint is a highly big push to your career. You will most likely end up with more jobs than someone who’ve been interpreting for the last five years in joint projects. So, when choosing your events, you do not only have to look for quantity. You should also look for opportunities that can make your resume stand out.
2. Can I speak two or more languages?
Foreign language proficiency is such a huge plus when you are a sign language interpreter. Many events call for different languages, and so if you do not only know English, but also other languages such as French, Spanish, and Mandarin among others, you can get hired for more events.
But knowing a language does not stop with you having a basic understanding of this foreign language. You must be highly proficient in this second language. It is best if you take assessment exams that can give you the official results for your language level, so potential clients are assured of your competence. You should be ready to spend some money, though, as these assessment exams will also call for out-of-pocket expenses.
The quality of your work experiences and second language proficiency are some of the primary determinants that can give you an edge in your professional translation business. When you are confident with your training and communication skills, people will be more than happy to pay for your services.