July 2 will mark one year since I received my exit exam results from the Glendon College Master of conference interpreting program. It’s been an exciting and interesting year, so I thought I’d report on how things have gone, and are going.
-My conference interpreting work volume is about what I expected: it takes a while to build up, and I’d say that conference interpreting is more networking and referral-based than cold marketing-based. But I’m happy with the quantity, type, and quality of the work that I have, and I love the actual interpreting work even more than I thought I would. Overall, I’m very happy with the decision to do a conference interpreting Master’s, and with this new career direction.
-I had originally set a goal to have my work volume be half translation and half interpreting within one to two years of graduating from the Glendon program, and it looks like that’s going to happen. I just switched from Excel sheets to QuickBooks Online for accounting (a painful but ultimately very worthwhile process that might be the subject of another post), so it’s easy to see where my income is coming from. In the first five months of 2022, the amount I earned from interpreting for agencies has almost equaled the amount I earned translating for direct clients, and it’s an amount that I’m happy with.
-I feel like the Glendon program prepared me really well for the real world of conference interpreting. I think that doing an AIIC-level conference interpreting program makes a huge difference in one’s interpreting skill and confidence and is well worth the time and money. And here, you heard me say it, a couple of my favorite assignments this year involved long consecutive, which was the source of at least one sobbing breakdown during the program. If you’re learning long consecutive, stick with it!
-In terms of professional development, I was approved as an AIIC pre-candidate (and AIIC now allows pre-candidates to publicly state their pre-candidate status), and also started participating in a couple of really helpful online interpreter practice groups, plus participated in Sophie Llewellyn Smith’s French B Atelier course, and I’m registered for this summer’s CoLab workshop in Toronto.
-I have lots of observations about the differences between translation and interpreting (I’m still translating as much as ever), but here’s a major one. I think it could be challenging to launch a freelance interpreting business if you’re not already self-employed or if you don’t have a flexible schedule. In my experience, most beginning freelance translators launch their businesses by working another job alongside their translation work, until they have enough freelance work to cut the cord. I think that could be harder (not impossible, but harder) with interpreting. As a newbie, a lot of clients are going to start you with work that is less desirable, schedule-wise: the classic example being the one-hour assignment in the middle of the day, or things that start early or end late, or “the other interpreter is having a power outage, can you start NOW?” I actually enjoy those kinds of assignments because I’m already self-employed anyway, but it’s something to consider if you’re making the leap from another job.
-On the other hand, I think that interpreting, and particularly conference interpreting, can become economically viable faster than a fledgling translation business generally does. In most cases, a minimum charge conference interpreting job is going to pay a lot more (perhaps 10x more) than a minimum charge translation job, because most conference interpreting work is going to be billed by the half day or full day, rather than by the minute or hour. When I first started translating, a lot of my translation work was minimum charge jobs paying less than $100, and it takes a lot of those types of jobs to add up to a full-time income.