How to market yourself as a self-employed interpreter

Making a living as a self-employed or ‘gig’ worker is tough. Anyone who’s ever tried it for any length of time will confirm this. From the lack of stable income, unpredictable working conditions, no holiday pay or sick pay, the see-saw of busy periods versus hardly any work coming in, to the practical issues of having to fill in self-assessments, paying your own NI contributions, working out the application of IR35 to each personal situation – simply put, it takes a while to adjust your mindset to all the various factors, especially if previously you’ve been ‘on the payroll’.

And, at the back of your mind, there is always that niggling feeling – how do I better myself? How do I spread the word about my services, get more clients, INCREASE MY EARNINGS?

Here at the ISL, we speak to current learners, potential learners as well as interpreters on a daily basis. The message we seem to be hearing, day after day, is one of uncertainty, both due to the coronavirus as well as looming Brexit. Be it the potential for work in general, the return of previous volumes of work or demand for particular languages – there is undeniably a sense of disquiet in the community.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. You can easily turn this around to your advantage! The lull in activity over the recent months is actually a perfect catalyst for change. This is the time to work on yourself, promote yourself and spread the word about the services you offer!

HOW, YOU ASK?

We’ve put together a short, by no means exhaustive collection of ideas that can help – whether you’re just starting out or have been in the business for years.

  • Update your CV. It’s a task few people enjoy doing, but it really is the starting point for any form of career progression. Don’t forget to mention any CPD courses you’ve attended as well as qualifications you’ve been awarded.
  • Register with online sources. Websites like ProZ.com provide a very informative and educational platform, especially in the discussion section. Experienced interpreters from all over the world can share their wisdom in all areas, from agencies, to what a court hearing looks like, to how much to charge for a translation.
  • Research your community. Depending on your language combination, there are many different types of work you can find locally. Community centres, centres aimed specifically at a particular section of the population and Citizen’s Advice offices are a great place to start. Don’t be shy, drop off your CV in person and make sure to emphasise that you’re local. You never know when they might need you.
  • Google as many language service providers (LSPs) as you can. There are hundreds upon hundreds of agencies in operation in the UK. Try using a few variations of ‘interpreting’ and ‘interpreters’ in the search box, some don’t come up that easily. Focus on your geographical area as well, not all agencies are national, so you may have more of a chance if you search for your county + ‘interpreting’. And not all agencies are equal, so do your research.
  • Print business cards. You can add these to your CV when you hand it out. They look professional and a pack of 100 will cost less than £10.
  • Build a website. Again, this improves other’s perception of your professionalism. There are lots of free website builders online and it’s a fairly straightforward process, even for someone not that technically-savvy.
  • Be active on social media. Use LinkedIn and Facebook to your advantage. There are plenty of interpreter groups on Facebook which can be a great source of information. Ask for advice, for recommendations, for agency reviews – you’ll learn more than you think.
  • Be friendly with other interpreters. Whether online or in person at assignments, you will soon come to realise the value of having someone to turn to, who understands the job you do. In this otherwise very lonely profession, it’s nice to have a chat, have a moan, have a cuppa in a court canteen, even if the person interprets a different language.
  • Register with the NRPSI. Not only is it the only real regulatory body for interpreters, there are many private companies that use the NRPSI list to search for interpreters, as the NRPSI require a high standard of qualification (Level 6 DPSI or DCI) and many hours of interpreting experience from all their registrants. And they have a lovely little logo that looks great on a business card.
  • Get security clearances. An enhanced DBS is a must and some agencies offer to cover the cost of additional clearances – NPPV3, SC, CTC (counter terrorist check), etc. The more you have, the larger your pool of opportunities is.
  • Improve your qualifications. Of course, you can be a good and skilled interpreter without holding a qualification. But why not utilise your skill, get the diploma and widen your horizons? There’s nothing to lose – in fact, you’ll find that more and more agencies require proof of an interpreting qualification from their interpreters.

It’s a wonderful career with countless memorable moments. Get qualified and begin your journey today!

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