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Value Interpreting in the New Normal

As far as the client is concerned, what we do is simple: repeat what someone else is saying in a different language. And that is the vision of many, since before the new normal became reality. How can they value our work when that is their image of the interpreter?

During the pandemic, the fact that we don’t even have to leave our homes, deal with traffic, extra expenses related to gas, parking, or meals, means to our clients that our services can be offered at a lesser price. They have a hard time attaching a cash value to our work, though they do recognize its value. Go figure.

The invisible added value

What they do not see is all the preparation, the knowledge, skills acquisition and development, CPD courses, special training in different platforms, extra equipment, the extra strain on our eyes, mental stress, etc.

How could the clients know? Not many interpreting professionals have taken the time to explain the details to their clients and some agencies are under the erroneous assumption that the client is right: Why are you charging more if you are working from home?

Well, besides what I have stated above, the main thing is that our profession comes with a built-in value system developed over the years. It also comes with standards, rules, expectations. Most of these features are flexible, but that flexibility must be exercised with care.

The savvy professional

Charge by hour? Why not? Make sure you keep your hourly minimum and include the extras in the price you give your customer (redundant internet, a second computer, maybe a colleague as a back-up, special insulation, etc.). How can we help our clients to see this?

One way is to make sure your unit price (hourly, minimum, half-day, full-day) is enough to cover your extras. Let your clients know how you have prepared yourself to better serve them in the present circumstances. That means, telling them about your equipment, your internet speed, your training.

Decloaking the invisible added value

Your website is a good marketing tool and an ideal place to share important information with your clients—especially information that will increase your value to them. If you do not have your own website, remember your online profile in the NAJIT professional directory and directories in other professional associations you belong to.  If you have a blog, start writing about all that we discussed. LinkedIn is a good place to network with potential clients. And do not forget your CV. Please, update it.

Let your clients know that you have the right type of headphone. Write down the features that make it ideal, that means you do not just say you have a good headphone—your client may not know what that means. Be specific: you have a headphone equipped with directional, noise-canceling microphone (if that is true, if not, go get one). That is the type of information your client does not know about but can attach value to.

Tamber Hilton and Katty Kaufman have generously shared a series of videos on the subject of remote interpreting in which they give us pointers in terms of equipment, our responsibilities, and you can also learn the lingo.

Yes, I am talking about client education through your marketing. It is your professional image, your livelihood, your business. Take control.


Feature image by chuttersnap on Unsplash


portrait of Gio LesterBrazilian-born Giovanna “Gio” Lester, Co-Chair of NAJIT’s PR Committee, started her career in translation and interpreting in 1980. Gio is very active in her profession and in the associations she is affiliated with. In 2009, she co-founded the Florida ATA Chapter (ATIF), served as its first elected president (2011-2012), and later as president of its interim board. 

As an international conference interpreter, Gio has been the voice of government heads and officials, scientists, researchers, doctors, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, investors and more. Gio has been a contributor to The NAJIT Observer since its inception in 2011, and its Editor since 2016.

In 2017 she was appointed Chair of the Miami Dade College Translation and Interpretation Advisory Committee, which she had been a member of since 2014. In 2018, Gio was elected to the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Association of Translators and Interpreters,  Abrates, as its General Secretary.

You can follow her on Twitter (@cariobana), learn more about Gio on her website, and she can also be reached at gio@giolester.com. Click here to read other posts by Gio.

7 Comments
  • George Gage
    Posted at 17:15h, 29 May Reply

    ¡Ay, ay, ay! It’s a constant battle to remind people that we actually had to, and still have to, work for our skills. That we are not just human versions of Google Translate, that we have serious skills that not everyone has or acquires easily.

    Eeek, market forces always pressure decisions.

    Whaddya gonna do?

    Keep fighting the good fight!

    George Gage
    Moreno Valley
    California (for now)

  • Alfredo Babler
    Posted at 18:22h, 29 May Reply

    Okay. No matter how you sell it, a Zoom deposition is going to cost you less than an in-person deposition. Some clients that use our services are savvy. Well, if we put ourselves in their place we can then recognize that if they get billed a 2-Hour minimum in-person appearance rate at full price, for a 15 minute CNA via Zoom, they’re going to start looking elsewhere and, IMHO, rightfully so. I’m not going to pretend to tell you how to conduct yourselves or patronize anybody, including the clients, by telling them what fiscal opinions they’re allowed to have. My only 2 cents in this somewhat touchy, yet quite simple, supply and demand, free market adjustment issue is: Be open to negotiate and don’t be intransigent. This is a business and, unless I woke up today in a new world order, neo-socialist, dystopia (I might have and haven’t realized it yet), the market will sort itself out and our industry will adapt. For now, mistaking acquiescence to price adjustments, based on mode of performance for weakness. and being so arrogant as to think that fee intransigence on our part won’t carry negative consequences, would be a business-illiterate move. Of course, this argument is complicated and I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it. As a wise man once said, “Hey, if you don’t believe me, ask me!” Stay safe and mentally focused to take on the changes in these tough times. This too shall pass… maybe. In the meantime, Google “A bird in the hand…”

  • Cristina clare
    Posted at 20:32h, 29 May Reply

    Very interesting

  • Siddhi Talati
    Posted at 20:48h, 29 May Reply

    Excellent Gio. I totally agree with you. Sometimes people ask that when running as a business you don’t need any thing and my response is always there that, “In fact, my investment is my separate dedicated phone line, headsets, skills, and affiliation with different organizations like ATA, NAJIT, IMIA, and ATIF.”. Sometimes they ask me whether I use any translation memories or not and my answer is always no. I don’t trust machine translation because in my language it doesn’t work well. I hardly show my interest for potential job inquiries

  • Cristina clare
    Posted at 23:20h, 29 May Reply

    I think interpreters will never be replaced by machines, but replaced by interpreters with electronics, but still today the físicas prevén se of an interpreter specially, criminal, family court domestic violence and even depositions will never should or will be replaced by electronics

  • Catalina
    Posted at 18:44h, 02 June Reply

    The way we price and the value we give to our services has always been a debate in this industry ever since I became an interpreter. Over the years, I have come to the acceptance that I cannot compete on price only but quality and the knowledge and skill I bring to the table. My clients know that.
    Gio, you are absolutely right: educating our clients through marketing is key. We will get more from that than from trying to convince our own colleagues than we deserve what we charge!
    I am happy to report that most interpreters I have been talking to lately and that have moved into virtual interpretation or telephonic interpretation are charging the same fees as they did in person, not a penny less and they are getting paid.
    Ask and you will be given!
    Thanks for your post.

  • Alfredo Babler
    Posted at 04:10h, 04 June Reply

    Kidd, is that you? Eh ave María. ¿Qué hubo? How are you holding up?

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