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Growing Your Interpreter Business

Headline that says, LOOKING FOR MORE WORK? Next to an outline drawing of the United States

Are you are new to the business of Deaf interpreting?

Or are you a Deaf interpreter looking to expand your client list?

In either case, it is likely you’ve landed yourself a seat on this entrepreneurial roller coaster ride, and your income is sitting right next to you. You hop on this ride with your growth mindset in tact, but your your workload becomes erratic, going up and down and in circles. And at the end of each month you are right back where you started. Growth is still a challenge.

You are not alone. The nation is full of independent service industry professionals, all of whom are challenged to grow their businesses and maintain a steady income. As a Deaf interpreter, your livelihood depends on a deep understanding and commitment to the Deaf community. And the Deaf community depends on the expertise you provide.

So how can a Deaf interpreter get more work?

Expanding a business as a Deaf interpreter involves a mix of traditional strategies and innovative approaches tailored to the unique needs of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. For example, if you have not already considered specialization, now might be a great time to do so. Specialization can increase opportunities for new work. Having interpreters that specialize in specific areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and other specializations) is essential for a Deaf student or employee to gain an accurate understanding of what is being interpreted. If those interpreters working in these settings don’t have the training they need, the Deaf individual will suffer the fallout. Conversely, when qualified interpretation is taking place, the Deaf individual is able to thrive. 

Equally important to your business growth will be certification. Certification not only boosts your credibility but also opens doors to higher-paying opportunities within specific industries. Consider becoming RID Certified. RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.) is a national membership organization that offers certifications to interpreters who meet specific criteria and pass the required examinations. The RID certification is often considered the gold standard in the field of sign language interpreting. The RID is now partnering with Credly to provide interpreters with digital credentialing, so you may display a digital badge with verified metadata that describe the interpreter’s qualifications and the process required to earn them. 

As a Deaf interpreter, it is critical for you and those you serve that you keep up to date with advancements in technology relevant to interpretation. If you are active with video remote interpreting (VRI) platforms and captioning software, embracing such tools can improve efficiency, accessibility, and widen the scope of the services you offer. 

Take your business to the next level by spending time networking and relationship building. Those who do often find it easier to get new customers on a regular basis. Spend time with local Deaf communities, hearing interpreters, agencies, and organizations serving the Deaf community. Networking can lead to referrals and collaborations, expanding your client base and service offerings.

As with any small business, a solid communication and marketing strategy can boost your client base. Develop a strong presence through relationship building, social media channels, and online directories catering to the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Commit to being thorough and responsive when communicating with service providers and contractors.

And don’t forget about the value of continuing education and skill development. Invest in ongoing professional development to stay abreast of changes in language, culture, and interpretation techniques. Attending workshops, conferences, and advanced training programs not only enhances skills but also demonstrates commitment to excellence to potential clients.

Finally, if you are planning to work online and out of state, be aware that some states have written into their laws that out of state VRI interpreters must obtain an interpreting license. Currently those states include Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

The challenge of getting more work can definitely be met by taking steps toward business growth. Develop your own niche through specialization. Stay up to date through continuing education. Invest in RID Certification. Become skilled or licensed as a VRI Interpreter. Build your income by growing your business through sound communication and marketing strategies. And stay connected to your friends at DSU!

States That Require VRI Licensure