One of the more interesting aspects of being an ASL interpreter is having the opportunity to work in a wide variety of settings with a diverse array of individuals. As an independent contractor or employee, ASL interpreters are assigned the responsibility to faithfully represent both deaf and hearing consumers in communication. But, beyond that, when contracting assignments for an agency, an interpreter’s work and behavior in the field is also reflective of that organization. How are you representing the agencies that offer you assignments?
First off, it is important for interpreters to take pride in the fact that so many people have faith in their ability to provide the best quality services for all parties. In this way, interpreting is a very rewarding profession! But even in the most causal setting, bridging the communication and cultural gap is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly or taken for granted.
If you are an aspiring interpreter, a new interpreter, or a practicing interpreter looking to improve on your professional persona, read below for tips on how to be the best representative you can be for the agencies that offer you freelance work.
Of course this might go without saying, but customer service is our top priority in the interpreting profession. The consumers are the only reason we even have an job, and Its important that interpreters strive to ensure that everyone feels satisfied with the professional interaction.
Smile. Be friendly. Stay calm and reasonable. Say please and thank you. Mind your manners and communicate with kindness. Make decisions that are ethical. Take the time to explain things if people are confused. Try your best not to get frustrated with anyone. No matter what kind of day you are having, make sure to leave a great and lasting impression! This will help ensure future work, as customers might then request your services moving forward.
In this industry, its very important to remember clients are paying for your time and deaf consumers are counting on you to show up. There is no room for tardiness, as this makes everyone involved look unprofessional. It also impacts the consumer’s faith in you.
If you struggle with punctuality, find ways to give yourself the time you need each day and strive to be early. Don’t book appts too close together; be sure you leave yourself ample time for travel, and always assume the possibility of delays.
You do not need to be a wealthy fashionista to dress appropriately for work! Consider adding a couple business items to your wardrobe that you wear only when you are on assignments. Clothing should always be clean and you should look put-together and appropriate for the setting. If you are unclear what this means, you can always ask the agency for more information.
Even on casual assignments, you are still a professional representative of an organization. Avoid anything with holes, rips, stains, unraveling seams, or items that fit poorly or are fading from overuse. Some agencies will send guidelines for attire, if so it is a good idea to review these to understand expectations.
When interacting with people on site, be sure it is clear that you are interpreting for an agency and if anyone has questions, be sure to direct them to the agency for more information. Do not hand out your personal information or business cards. Most agencies, including LC Interpreting Services, will honor customer requests for interpreters, if the client or consumer wishes to work with a specific interpreter again.
Take pride in the work you do and the excellence of the services you can offer. Preparing for an assignment in advance is one of the easiest and most straight forward ways to ensure you provide quality interpretation on site. Ask the agency to send any materials they have and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have them. If you need to do research, do it. Fill the gaps in your own knowledge regarding the topic and setting so that you are ready to communicate any nuances between deaf and hearing parties. This is another quality that will make you stand out and can ultimately get you more work, as clients request your services again and again.
Working closely with people is one of the greatest, yet most challenging aspects of the interpreting profession. Interpreters cannot be lone-wolf types who have no flexibility in their approach. We are always working as part of a team to create open lines of communication. Sometimes we are just working with one person, sometimes we are working with a variety of deaf and hearing people and other interpreters. When agencies send an interpreter to the field, they are counting on them to be an eager member of the team, so check in with your team regularly to see how you can best support everyone.
This may not come as a surprise: communication is the most important aspect of the whole interpreting profession! If you are running late, sick, or having any other kind of emergency, contact the agency directly, and do it right away. If your appointment runs over the scheduled duration, or you get asked to come back for another appointment while on-site, let the agency know ASAP.
If you encounter any ethical conflicts while on a job, or you have any questions regarding something that happened on assignment, communicate this to the agency! Direct communication and transparency will help create an excellent and productive relationship between yourself and the agencies you contract work through.
Interpreting is a job that we really become invested in. The more a freelance interpreter invests in developing their personality and skill set in the field, the more opportunity they will see coming their way! Through mentorship, experience, and ongoing professional development classes and workshops, interpreters can strive to constantly improve the quality of our services over the course of a lifetime.