What is a Freelance Interpreter?

  • Time to read: 7 min.

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Being a freelance interpreter is an exciting and rewarding career choice, allowing you to work with a wide variety of people and organizations. You must have excellent language proficiency in the source language as well as knowledge of the cultural nuances of both languages.

Working as a freelance interpreter requires certain credentials, training, and certifications in order to be successful, but also comes with many benefits such as flexible working hours and possibilities of remote or virtual office work. In this post, we’re going to discuss what is a freelance interpreter, the qualifications required, benefits of being a freelance interpreter, as well as challenges that come with it.

Definition of Freelance Interpreter

First, let’s define what a freelance interpreter is.

A freelance interpreter is an independent professional responsible for conveying information accurately between two languages. Interpreters may work with government agencies, universities, corporations, hospitals, courtrooms, (like becoming a court interpreter in Texas), and other settings to facilitate conversations between two parties who do not speak the same language.

While the word “freelance” implies working as an independent contractor, freelance interpreters may also be employed by agencies or organizations.

The Other Type of Interpreters

Whlie most interpreters are considered “freelance,” there is another type of interpreter known as a staff interpreter. This type of interpreter typically works for the same company or organization over time and offers a more consistent work schedule.

Staff interpreters generally need more certifications and training than freelance interpreters, as well as more experience in the field. They may also need to pass a language proficiency test in order to be hired.

Skills and Qualifications To Become a Freelance Interpreter

Becoming a freelance interpreter is no easy task. It takes a special set of skills and qualifications to excel in the field. Here are some of the most important qualities you need to have if you want to become a successful freelance interpreter:

Excellent Communication Skills

As an interpreter, it’s essential that you have excellent communication skills in both written and verbal form. You must be able to effectively convey the meaning of one language into another without any mistakes or misunderstandings. This means having precise knowledge of grammar, syntax, and semantics in both languages, as well as understanding cultural nuances that might be difficult to translate.

High Level of Concentration

Interpreting requires intense focus and concentration for long periods of time. If you’re easily distracted or can’t stay focused for extended periods, then this profession might not be for you. In addition, you need to have an excellent memory in order to remember all of the details and nuances of a conversation accurately.

Cultural Sensitivity

Being an interpreter also means that you must understand cultural differences between two countries or language groups, so it’s important that you have good cross-cultural awareness and understanding. You should know how different cultures express themselves so that you can properly interpret their conversation into the target language accurately and without bias or misunderstanding. 

Knowledge on Specialized Topics

Different topics require different words and expressions in different languages, which is why interpreters must be knowledgeable about various subject matters like medicine, politics, law, and business operations when dealing with specialized terminologies. A broad background knowledge on these matters will help boost your credibility and make your job easier as an interpreter since you will already know what certain words mean in each language if there are related topics at hand.

Computer Literacy

Being comfortable around computers is also essential because self-employed interpreters often work remotely from home or from offices equipped with high-speed internet connections as well as translation software programs—which they need to use regularly while interpreting texts from one language to another with speed and accuracy.

Benefits of Being a Freelance Interpreter

Becoming a freelance interpreter is a great choice for those looking to expand their career and experience the flexibility of working independently and engaging in meaningful work. This type of work offers many benefits, including the ability to work with employers located all over the world, set your own hours and rates, and build a diverse client base.

Deciding on Your Clients

One of the biggest advantages of being a freelance interpreter is that you have complete control over the jobs that you accept. You can hand-pick projects that interest you and take on as many or as few assignments as you’d like.

You also have freedom when it comes to setting your schedule; if there’s an assignment that you’re not available for, all you need to do is turn it down. Additionally, if you come across an assignment that would be difficult to achieve in the allotted time frame, you’re free to negotiate the terms with your client before signing the contract. 

Working Virtually

You’ll also benefit from having access to more clients than ever before; since most interpreting jobs require no physical presence anywhere but virtually, interpreters are able to work with employers from any country in which their language is spoken. This gives freelancers a much larger potential customer base than full-time interpreters who are limited by geography. 

Setting Your Own Rates

Another great perk of being a freelance interpreter is having control over your rates. As a freelance worker, you don’t need to worry about competing with other interpreters within an office; instead, you can charge what’s fair and competitive in the market while still making sure that your wages reflect your skills and experience level.

In addition, since each job will usually require its own contract negotiations between yourself and the hiring company or individual, you’ll have more negotiating power when it comes to setting prices and other terms of employment. 

Permanent Career Growth

Finally, being a freelance interpreter allows for permanent career growth beyond just mastering multiple languages: through networking and acquiring various credentials (such as NAATI accreditation), freelancers can dramatically increase their employability by expanding their knowledge and expertise across different industries or specialties (medical interpreting, legal interpreting etc.). This kind of professional development helps diversify one’s portfolio while simultaneously giving them exposure to different types of clients—and potentially higher paychecks.

Challenges Faced by Freelance Interpreters

Freelancing as an interpreter can be a rewarding and fulfilling career path, but there are several challenges that come along with it. When working as an independent contractor you are often responsible for finding your own clients, setting your own rates and managing your own contracts. That means having to do all the marketing and administrative tasks yourself – things that you may not have been trained for or even want to do.

Here’s how long it takes to become a medical interpreter.

Finding Clients

Finding reliable clients is another challenge interpreters face in their freelance work. A lot of the time, interpreters are at the mercy of their clients when it comes to reliability; they may be promised certain payments or fees only to have those promises broken or delayed. Additionally, interpreters must juggle multiple jobs with different rates and payment deadlines which can become overwhelming if not managed properly.

Time Management

Time management is another important skill that freelance interpreters need in order to succeed in their roles. With so many competing demands on their time, it can be difficult to balance client requests while also providing quality services. Interpreting usually requires quick thinking and accuracy, so interpreters need to stay organized and well prepared if they are going to stay on top of their work duties.

Remote Work

Working remotely can also add a layer of complexity for freelance interpreters who may find themselves isolated from the language communities around them. They may miss out on potential opportunities for socialization, networking and learning new skills that could help further their careers. It’s important for freelance interpreters to take initiative in creating relationships with colleagues within their local language communities to ensure they don’t miss out on any potential development opportunities that may arise from these relationships. 

Financially Risky

Finally, freelancing as an interpreter can be financially risky due to its unpredictable nature; some months may have enough work while others may be slow or nonexistent altogether! This makes budgeting hard as there’s no guarantee of a steady income source month-to-month or even year-to-year. Interpreting relies heavily on referrals from existing contacts which is why networking is so important – having a good reputation within the industry will go a long way towards helping secure future business prospects.


Freelancing as an interpreter can be a great way to pursue fulfilling and lucrative work that fits your lifestyle. By leveraging their language skills and honing in on other professional development opportunities, interpreters can carve out a successful and enjoyable career in this field.

However, it’s important to be mindful of the numerous challenges that come along with freelancing. Interpreters need to carefully manage their time, stay organized, find reliable clients, network within their language communities and have a good budgeting plan in place to ensure they are financially secure. With these tips, anyone can become a successful freelance interpreter.

FAQ – What is a Freelance Interpreter?

How much can you make as a freelance interpreter?

A freelance interpreter with professional experience can make anywhere from $15 per hour to upwards of $100 an hour depending on the type of interpreting work they do and their experience level. The rate for an interpreter can also vary significantly depending on the language, location and context of their work.

What are the three types of interpreters?

The three types of interpreters are simultaneous interpreters, consecutive interpreters, and sight translation interpreters. Simultaneous interpreters interpret speech as it is being spoken, while consecutive interpreters interpret speech after it has been delivered. Sight translation interpreters translate written documents on the spot.

How do freelance translators get paid?

Freelance translators typically get paid via direct bank transfer, PayPal, or other online payment services. Depending on the client, they may also be able to receive payment in the form of check or cash. It’s important for freelance interpreters to make sure they understand their client’s payment terms before beginning any work.