How much do interpreters make?
This is a question not only often asked by outsiders who may consider joining the interpreters’ work force, but also asked by many professional insiders. An interpreter’s income depends on four major factors:
- How much do you charge?
- How much work do you get on a regular basis?
- The condition of your niche market
- What is the demand and supply for your skill?
Freelance interpreters usually charge an hourly rate. Depending on your specialty and niche market demand, rates can vary significantly from $10 per hour to over $80 per hour. Court interpreters and conference interpreters are usually on the higher scale.
According to the industry standard, some of these rates can carry a minimum 2 to 3 hours upfront charge when the work required is less than 2 hours.
How much do interpreters make also depends on how your interpreting service is offered. Are you required to perform simultaneous interpretation? Are there many jargons and technical terms?
If you provide your service as an over-the-phone interpreter or an online interpreter for a big company, your chance of getting decent pay will probably be limited.
Why? Your employers are trying everything to cut costs, which includes out-sourcing from lower labour cost countries where $2 an hour is acceptable/allowable. Not to mention there are people in your local market who are willing to do anything for just peanuts.
Generally the market sets the tone on interpreter salary or how much an interpreter can charge. But the market also has a certain level of elasticity when it comes to pricing.
If you somehow build your reputation and service as something unique and invaluable, you can charge more. There’s no question about it. The key here is to target the right audience.
As an interpreter, your grasp of the two languages, your familiarity with dialects, accent and culture background, how comfortable your clients are with your accent, and choice of words (as sometime same language in different regions can mean different things) are all factors in determining how much value a client feels he/she can get from your service. Did I mention salesmanship, too?
So a question such as ‘how much do interpreters make?’ really does not serve any purpose for you. I can only say it varies significantly. Ask yourself how much you can offer to your clients? More importantly, how do your clients view your service in terms of its value?
So how much do interpreters make? I know court interpreters charge $600 per day and others receive $40 an hour. What a difference! And the former are always busy and fully booked. The latter? Well, let’s just say there’s room for improvement.
Occasionally, there’s a legitimate factor for a lower price, but in most cases it is due to a lack of knowledge about the value of their skills, and selling their talents short.
Instead of asking a general question of how much do interpreters make, which does not have any relation to you, focus on how you can increase the value in your service and how you can help your clients achieve their goals. Give your customers more options and reasons to call, and you will be able to set your own price.