About 26 percent of interpreters and translators are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Starting an interpreting company is a relatively straightforward process if you are starting a sole proprietorship. You will need a web presence and business and tax permits to get started.
Contact your local and state business and tax authorities to find information on getting necessary licenses and completing business registrations (for business name and taxes, for instance). Visit Business.gov to find information for your state to get started.
Print up business cards and fliers with your contact information. Set up a website detailing your services as well. Include your resume, languages you speak, client lists and interpretation specialization areas (legal or medical, for example). If you are a certified interpreter, indicate this on your promotional material. If not, consider becoming certified to lend more credence to your skills. The National Association for Interpretation and the American Translators Association are two certifying bodies. Court interpreters are certified by the individual court systems in each state. Conference Interpreters are certified by the International Association of Conference Interpreters.
Visit businesses and organizations in your community that may hire an interpreter, like hospitals, law offices, medical clinics, social services offices, international businesses and nonprofit organizations. Describe your services, and bring copies of your resume and business cards with you. Another option is to visit these entities’ websites to see if they are hiring contract interpreters and apply according to the job posting’s instructions.
Market your services to the community that speaks the language(s) you want to interpret. Take out an ad in a newspaper printed in the language(s) you interpret.
If you want to do some freelance written translation as well, check out the sites ProZ and TranslatorsTown (see Resources).
Interpreters and translators earned a median annual salary of $46,120 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, interpreters and translators earned a 25th percentile salary of $34,230, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $61,950, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 68,200 people were employed in the U.S. as interpreters and translators.