How Much is Your Interpreting Service Worth? (Part 2)

By Christina Payne

This blog is the second part to the “How Much is Your Interpreting Service Worth?” blog. In the last blog, we discussed the first step in finding the value of your service, and what costs you should factor into your service rate. While calculating the cost of providing service can be rather tedious, it is considerably easy to come up with a number because you are able to look at some hard numbers printed on bills and receipts, and determine exactly how much the costs are going to be. The second step, determining your value, leads you into a gray area. How much you’re worth is a rather subjective topic, and it does not only rely on your personal opinion, it also relies on your clients’ view of your value, and it relies on your geographic location, and the demographics. Some of the variables affecting the value of your service are the following:

  • Market Demand. Where are you located? Are there many Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in your area? Are there many sign language interpreters competing for the same assignments? How much are the other interpreters in your area charging for their services? If the demand is high, your service will be valued at a high rate. If the demand is low, you will be competing with other interpreters and those with lowest price will win out. It is recommended that you constantly gauge the frequency of assignments and the reaction of your clients once a month. If you find yourself competing with other interpreters, this indicates there is insufficient work in your area and you may want to consider reducing your rates. Other clues that you’re offering a too low of a price would be when the clients start commenting that the price is a bargain. If your competitors are raising prices, do raise your own price gradually. Too big of a jump may scare away your regular clients.
  • Your Experiences. If you are certified to interpret in legal field, this justifies an increase in your rate compared to other interpreters without legal certification. However, this is only successful if non-deaf clients see value in your expertise. It may take either educating or passing of policy requiring certain level of knowledge and/or experience in the local firm, agency, business, courthouse, or other organizations. It is recommended that you carefully examine your experiences and be brutally honest about the level of your clients’ expectations. If they come with an expectation that your service should be at a certain price, try to compromise with that expectation.
  • Labor Costs. How much does it cost for you to show up in person and interpret? Are you charging for the time spent in preparing for an assignment? Do you charge for the time spent in travelling to the location? Those should be taken in consideration. Sometimes some interpreters are willing to give up certain costs and call it a “discount” to retain the loyalty of their clients. This may be successful in current weak economy, but often the repeat business is only successful if the interpreters have excellent customer service skills.

By now, you may have a pretty good idea of how much your service is valued. If you choose to work with at least one interpreting agency, bear in mind that these are the same variables the agency will have to take in consideration. The interpreting agency may be under pressure to compete with other local interpreting agencies and set the price at a reasonable rate to attract a good variety of clienteles. As such, there may be certain restraints in setting your rates, so be sure to check with the agencies prior to signing any type of agreement to ensure you and the agency agree on the price of your service.
You owe it to yourself to carefully keep an eye on current service rate and ensure decent profit. A fair rate will ensure your success in covering the cost of providing service and securing profits. In closing, feel free to visit the following links for more information on setting an appropriate rate for your service.

Freelance Switch: Pricing Your Services

Independent Contracting Resource: How Do You Determine What Rate to Charge

NOLO: How Much Should You Charge for Your Services

“How to Raise Your Hourly Rate” by Steve Pavlina

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About CSD

Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. (CSD) is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing broad–based services, ensuring public accessibility and increasing public awareness of issues affecting deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Through global leadership and a continuum of quality communication services and human service programs, CSD provides the tools conducive to a positive and fully integrated life.

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