It’s early summer and the IPPs and ITPs have launched entire graduating classes into the interpreting field, looking for work. More seasoned interpreters see this as a good time to explore their options in the freelance market, as this is the beginning of the slow season. It’s this time of year when I’m asked:
- What are your rates?
- What can I charge?
- What’s “normal” for an interpreter like me?
Mind Your Own Business
These and questions like it are questions that I’m not comfortable answering for all of my interpreters. I run an interpreting agency that relies on Staff Interpreters and on contractors. Contractors set their own rates, for the most part. Employees, less so. Contractors are supposed to act as their own business. The pretzel vendor at your local baseball diamond doesn’t ask the diamond manager what the pretzels are worth; the pretzel vendor TELLS the manager what they’re worth and they negotiate as needed from that point. Put yourself in the pretzel vendor’s shoes.
A Penny for Your Thoughts
Because these questions do keep coming up, I did a little un-scientific research. I took a look at the last 7 invoices to cross my desk and did some quick math. Here’s what I’m seeing for the market here in Colorado:
- The going rate for a certified sign language interpreter is $37.00/hr.
- Of the 7 invoices, the interpreters range in experience and certification level. Some have been certified for less than 5 years, others for closer to 20 years. The levels range from CI/CT, NIC, NIC: Master, and some holding SC:L (though they weren’t billing for legal jobs on these invoices).
- Of those 7 invoices, all but 2 charge travel at their hourly rate. One charges at 10% lower than their evening rate, and other is charging at the ubiquitous (and puzzling) $20.00/hr travel rate. It’s worth noting that Rose is somewhat unique in that we typically pay travel at the same rate as interpreting. Some interpreters prefer to use a lower travel rate to make them more competitive.
- Also worth noting is what I charge when I work for other agencies (yes, I still contract with other agencies). I’m still working towards national certification, and I hold EIPA and Colorado Department of Education Authorization for K-12 work. When I work for other agencies, my average charge is $32.50/hr. My travel rates vary with those other agencies because most do stipulate on specific travel terms. When those terms are fair (the job is not too far away from the office and I won’t lose money by traveling extensively), I accept those assignments. The handful of other pre-certified interpreters on the Rose roster have widely varying rates. That’s a discussion for another blog. *Since this was published, I have been awarded BEI certification and rarely work for other agencies.
- 2019 Update: of the last 11 invoices and staff timesheets to cross my desk, the new average for a certified (RID or BEI) interpreting provider is $39.66. They still range in experience from under 10 years to over 15 years in the field, and we now work with more BEI certified providers as the field evolves.
In case you haven’t read it elsewhere, we’re based in Colorado. Our interpreters are located in the areas surrounding Ft. Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs. Our state boasts three Interpreter Preparation Programs and one finishing program. The conditions and average rates in your community may differ. Do with this information what you will. It was published with the intent of empowering interpreters to set fair rates in a field where many don’t feel confident talking about money.