Are your rates for remote interpreting the same as in person?

An agency that I have not worked with before recently got in touch, and we had the typical e-mail back and forth regarding compensation, cancellations, travel, etc. Here is that e-mail exchange.

 

To: Garrett
From: LSP rep
Subject: In-Person Spanish Interpreter on Upcoming Date

Hello, Garrett.

I’ve been given your contact information by your colleague, Pía Fantástica de las Maravillas.* I wanted to ask if you have availability for a Spanish legal interpreting assignment on such-and-such date and time…

If you are available, please confirm your rates including any travel charges and your cancellation policy.

 

Best,

LSP rep*

______________________________________

*Names have been changed or omitted.

______________________________________

To: LSP rep
From: Garrett
Subject: Re: In-Person Spanish Interpreter on Upcoming Date

Dear LSP rep,

Thank you for getting in touch. Pía Fantástica de las Maravillas is an excellent colleague, and I appreciate her passing along my information.

My standard on-site legal interpreting fees are as follows:

Depositions, client/attorney meetings, hearings, interviews, and other legal matters:

$xxx**/hour (four-hour minimum)

Car travel (if applicable):
–Current IRS mileage rate for round-trip travel from my office.
–Any parking, toll, or related travel expenses to be invoiced to the client.

–Travel time exceeding 30 minutes from my office charged at $xx**/hour for round-trip travel.

Note: Hours are charged at a whole hour, not fractions of an hour.

Cancellations

If an assignment is cancelled with less than 48 hours’ notice (not including weekends), the interpreter will be compensated for that assignment’s scheduled hours (or minimum hours as stipulated above).

Fatigue and Potential Partner

Assignments may be quite taxing given the number of hours and complexity of the matter; the interpreter will take appropriate breaks if working alone to ensure that the interpreter remains faithful to the professional code of ethics and avoids errors that ultimately would endanger the record.

If the client desires to complete the interpreted session with minimum breaks, a partner interpreter should be contracted.

Let me know if this is confirmed and of any questions you may have.

Thank you,

Garrett

______________________________________

To: Garrett
From: LSP rep
Subject: Re: In-Person Spanish Interpreter on Upcoming Date

Hello, Garrett. Are your rates for remote interpreting the same as in person? If they are different, let me know.

Best,

LSP rep

______________________________________

 

Let me say here that I love referrals. Some of the most interesting and well-remunerated assignments have come my way through colleagues sharing my information with others. Referrals are great!

So, this question, “do you charge the same fee for remote interpreting and on-site interpreting” comes up rather often. I make all efforts to charge a higher fee. And I believe you, my fellow interpreter, should too. In fact, you ought to consider charging more given that… well, read on to see my typical response to this inquiry, which borrows heavily and directly from our colleague Maha El-Metwally’s Remote Interpreting: Considerations for Interpreters LinkedIn post.

 

To: LSP rep
From: Garrett
Subject: Re: In-Person Spanish Interpreter on Upcoming Date

Dear LSP rep,

TL;DR: Yes, a different fee applies to remote assignments.

My remote, legal interpreting fees are: $xxx**/hour (four-hour minimum)

Note: The interpreter will let parties know if any issues with sound, video, or individual speakers arise. Be prepared for the interpreter to stop interpreting if he is unable to see or hear properly.

Remote assignments tend to have more technical issues come up and increased cognitive load resulting in interpreter fatigue setting in more quickly than in-person assignments. If you’re interested in reading a bit more about these issues, read on.

Research shows that interpreting remotely causes more fatigue than in-person interpreting. In a remote setting, in addition to the cognitive load of interpreting, interpreters also have to deal with real-time user communication via chat/text message/e-mail, have multiple screens with documents and the meeting platform open, and are exposed to long hours staring at those computer screens. Also, the interpreter must have the appropriate equipment (fast computer, stable internet connection, proper microphone, extra power supply, etc.). Furthermore, interpreters often encounter meeting participants who log into the meeting on their mobile phones, while driving, and others not using proper microphones resulting in deficient audio quality. Interpreters can’t interpret what they cannot hear (or cannot hear well).

It is true that, in a remote setting, the client does not have to bear any of the in-person interpreting service costs: travel, parking, mileage, potential accommodation if significantly distant, and per diem. That said, with all these cost savings, should the client save on the interpreter’s fees as well? Given what is described above, it is only reasonable that interpreters working remotely should charge more for their services as they have to perform more tasks, deal with higher stress and resulting fatigue, and invest more in their remote setup.

I appreciate you asking and your consideration.

 

Thank you,

Garrett

______________________________________

What about you? Are you successfully charging more for remote interpreting services? Has your state judiciary changed interpreter compensation policies for remote proceedings?

 

**Federal law and requirements prevent professional associations from discussing actual rates on any public forum. 

 

Reference:

El-Metwally, Maha. “Remote Interpreting: Considerations for Interpreters.” LinkedIn, 8, February 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/remote-interpreting-considerations-interpreters-maha-el-metwally.


Garrett M. Bradford is a freelance conference and court interpreter based in Maryland. Alongside his excellent colleagues, he advocates for cost-of-living-adjusted compensation and practical policies that promote fair and professional working conditions for Maryland court interpreters.

Main photo Cell phone era? by pluzz at flickr, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

13 thoughts on “Are your rates for remote interpreting the same as in person?”

  1. Andrea Smith says:

    I agree that remote work is more fatiguing and it would be great to see research on this. I’d like to see the cortisol measurement experiment repeated for one. I generally charge closer to the real amount of time (i.e. no more two hour minimums), but I’m also much harsher about hard stops as I book my time closely and need every scrap of recovering time. There is very little tolerance for meetings that run overly long through video platforms. I also charge more per minute as an offset as a means to help curtail the assignment length.

  2. Caroline says:

    I’ve not thought about charging more for remote interpretation because, so far, most of my remote jobs have clear audio and participants are well aware of the need to slow down and adjust to the virtual setting. I mean the judges and attys give reminders and listen to my requests. It was very difficult in the beginning. I see your points and will take that into consideration. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Clarence E. Williamson says:

    Excellent article. I wanted to write the same for the last two years. There came the time that I ceased doing remote interpreting for the Court for many of the same reasons mentioned in the post. On the other hand, clients such as the Court and law firms relish the savings they get from remote interpreters.

  4. Jason Knapp says:

    Great contribution, Garrett! Your model email responses and Maha El-Metwally’s LinkedIn post should serve as a template for how to negotiate fair compensation for RSI jobs. I really appreciate that it was educational without being preachy, specific enough to convince any reasonable client that the issues with RSI are real and thus the compensation should be appropriate to the risks and challenges, and short enough that a client might (would?) actually read the whole thing. Bravo!

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth, Jason! Totally agree.

  5. Suzelle Aghamalian says:

    Well said! I agree.

  6. Diana Rice says:

    Outstanding write up! I also find OSI less stressful than VRI. At the beginning of the pandemic I saw many attys. and their clients frustrated with the technology, now I noticed more judges and attys. appreciate VRI services yet, still, I find the occasional law practitioner not aware that I am not some tired-less equipment… of course I remind him/her.
    Keep up the good work.

  7. Thank you for your comments. I hope that the post can be a resource. Use, add, edit the text above in your own responses when you are asked the question.

    Just like referrals from colleagues, collaboration between us is great.

  8. Carmen Mustile says:

    I agree too, well said and thank you. Interpreting is a very complex profession, as we all know in this forum, the adding of another set of skills in order to go remote, calls for higher fees. In 2020 I took webinars to learn the basic regarding: Use different methods to successfully log into a Zoom meeting. Check and adjust my audio settings, help meeting speaker to do the same, use Zoom’s relay features, etc.. Until technology is made simple and user friendly, I am quite reluctant to offer RSI, thus my question is? Where and how can I advice the state and municipal courts, (the ones within 60 miles radius) that I am only available interpreting in person? Thank you.

  9. Alfredo Babler says:

    Wow! From the business standpoint and taking into account (pun intended) the fiscal relationship between all parties involved, I believe A LOT of this needs to be discussed rationally to make sure we don’t all look like nutjobs. I mean, getting frustrated out of personal technophobia with a penchant for melodrama isn’t necessarily a billable item. I would elaborate my point in a clear and lucid manner, but I have been cancelled and censured because I don’t wear a mask.

  10. Excellent article. I have started charging 2-hours for preparation time and a 2-hour minimum fee for any remote assignment. The clients that want my services are more than willing to pay it.

  11. Adjo Agbossoumonde says:

    Thanks, Garret for this timely post!
    We’ll said. I love the dignity aspect you brought out.
    Client education is key but not always easy. The fact is, we have to seize every opportunity to advocate for ourselves and our profession!
    Another general factor (not related to remote work) to take into consideration is inflation.. It is affecting everybody (translators and interpreters included)..
    Many thanks!

  12. Yedda Araújo says:

    Outstanding post! Your response and explanation should be an example for all of us. Thank you!

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