Skip These Seven Hassles for a Serenely Successful 2017

 

 

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  1. Skip the stressful “offer “ of  insulting rates and oppressive terms .

Introduce yourself with you rates and  terms backed up with your certification and training. If being offered an assignment , ask for acknowledgement and acceptance in writing of your rates and terms  Add a dose of manners by offering to answer any questions they may have.

 Stress Buster : Develop a couple of templates of polite  responses for  when unacceptably low     rates are offered. Save them in your drafts and you will avoid the irritation felt when  writing a new one every time.

   2  Skip the embarrassment of being taken advantage of.

Research the market and  match your experience and qualifications for equal ranking of pay.

  1. Skip the stress of hearing that the prospective client that wants you won’t pay what you’re worth.

Look up their website and see how they promote themselves to the market If they claim to have the lowest rates then how do you think they make a profit.

Inquire from colleagues on professional forums, on both Linked In and Face Book , what kind of an experience  anyone has had with said a client. Share your experience in return.

  1. Skip the stress of a job with terminology and procedures that stump you.

Don’t accept an assignment you have never done before until you have observed the interpreted proceeding in person or reviewed a few source and target translations of the same subject matter. Do this until you are comfortable that you can perform quality work.

  1. Skip the stress of hassles caused by a client uneducated in your work.

Look for the red flags waving: when translator and interpreter is used interchangeably, when your availability is asked without  identification of the proceeding, whenever a translation has no word count or deadline…  And my favorite when you are asked to be at a location over 100 miles away in a half an hour.  Decide the value of your time required in “babysitting” this kind of client.

  1. Skip the embarrassment of being labeled as unqualified and unprofessional.

Research the market and  match your experience and qualifications for equal ranking of pay.

  1. Skip the stress of payment disputes.

Send your rates and terms ( learn what these are) in writing and ask for acknowledgement and acceptance in writing.  Add a dose of manners by offering to answer any questions they may have.

Inquire from colleagues on professional forums, on both Linked In and Face Book , what kind of an experience  anyone has had with said a client. Share your experience in return.

Assess the client agency by their reputation among their employees and contractors. Listen and weigh both the accolades and the complaints. Complaints reflect poor management and instability and that leads to non-payment of freelancer’s invoices .

I Tip My Hat To: helping freelance interpreters get paid.

a-tip-pf-the-hat-toI Tip My Hat To…

The Association of Independent Judicial Interpreters of California (AIJIC) http://aijic.org/

 

For their dedicated support helping a freelance interpreter collect the pay she earned and was duly owed.

This was posted originally on a private Facebook page for certified interpreters. I was so impressed with the news that I asked for and was granted  permission to reprint it by the poster.

As an AIJIC board member, I thought this was a Small Claims story worth sharing. It all started with a $200 unpaid invoice owed to one of our members by an agency with a very bad reputation.

Early this year, AIJIC sent a demand letter to the owner of the agency on behalf of our colleague with a deadline to pay. The agency owner (whom I’ll call Ms. Deadbeat) ignored the demand letter, after which AIJIC assisted our member with suing in Small Claims.

In her claim, our member demanded the original amount owed plus an additional half day of lost work due to the appearance in court. Since Ms. Deadbeat didn’t appear in court for the trial date, a default judgment was entered in favor of our member. She was awarded $470, which included court and process server costs.

After waiting the mandatory 30 days to see if Ms. Deadbeat would appeal the ruling (she didn’t) the next step was to collect the judgment. California law allows creditors with a court judgment to place a levy on the debtor’s bank account through the Sheriff’s office, which is what we assisted our member with. After months of wait, she finally received a check for the amount she was owed, plus the sheriff’s fee for the bank levy for a total of $516.86.

Although there are no guaranteed results when a person goes to court, it often pays off if you’re willing to persist. Letting delinquent agencies repeatedly burn interpreters with no consequences only encourages them to keep doing it.

It’s important to send a message that we’re professionals and that we expect to be treated as such.

This advocacy of the freelance interpreter by an organization is truly needed today and is to be commended.  They are tackling the decades old disrespect shown by unprofessional members of our market to freelance interpreters who work so hard to perform professionally. I really wish we had such an organization in Texas. Here are just a few services they provide:

AIJIC Mission Statement

The Association of Independent Judicial Interpreters of California (AIJIC) is a nonprofit trade association started by a group of certified court interpreters who saw the need to take action in order to protect the legal interpreting profession in the private sector, which has been steadily deteriorating in recent years.

  • Educate the legal community and agencies about the current laws governing court interpreters, which require certified court interpreters to be used for civil, criminal or juvenile proceedings, including depositions for civil cases.
  • Encourage other interpreters to report use of non-certified interpreters hired for court proceedings and explore a way to take action by lobbying for the enforcement of Sections 68560.5 and 68561 of the Government Code.
  • Educate new interpreters about matters related to the profession.
  • Share information among ourselves about agencies.
  • Representing the interests of independent court interpreters before the Judicial Council of California and in Sacramento in order to have a voice in matters that directly affect our profession
  • Eventually exploring the possibility of establishing a licensing procedure as an essential step towards self-regulation for court interpreters.
  • Helping our members with collection issues.

Join me in commending their work. Contact the AIJIC and tip your hat to them.

 

Hey, we cancelled you. Why are you invoicing us?

It is Tuesday, the day after the Labor Day. I just learned that the deposition interpreting assignment I am about to leave for was cancelled yesterday.  Confirmed with the Court Reporting firm on Friday, I had to turn down two other jobs after booking this one.  The scheduler‘s message closed with “Please call as soon as you get this message”.  Well, at the moment they called, I was in thigh high waders slogging through protected wetlands, photographing an elusive Ibis.  I was not working.  My voicemail recording noted the holiday, that I would return calls on the next business day.  All of this was in my Rates and Terms Sheet they had accepted when they assigned me.  I returned the call, mentioning I would have to invoice due to less than 24 hour business day cancellation.  The scheduler responded “But, I emailed you on Sunday”.  No, you emailed Monday and either way, Saturday, Sunday and holidays are not business days.  I was more disappointed in her reaction than in the cancellation.

We freelance professional court interpreters have standard terms that cover cancellations.  I present them in writing and ask that they be acknowledged and accepted in writing before I accept an assignment. The danceScan

Sometimes they are dismissed as unnecessary.  When I invoice, I’m sometimes told it’s unfair.

Here’s why cancellation charges are reasonable and necessary:

  • I give you the chance to opt out from scheduling me when you are asked to review and accept my terms.  Equally, if your terms are unacceptable to me, I can opt to not accept assignments from you.
  • You can tell the law firm client about my terms and they can opt to try to find someone with different terms. When I accept your assignment it is a priority on my schedule.
  • I turn down other clients to take your job.
  • I cannot replace that income in less than 24 business days.
  • If I allow everybody to cancel without consequence, I could go for weeks without an income.
  • Emergency legal setting cancellations happen and can be accommodated but so do non-emergency cancellations caused by scheduling errors and uninformed witnesses.  Forgetting to notify us happens a lot.

Here’s the solution:

A professional interpreter will schedule in a professional manner.  You can count on us, you can know what costs are involved, and you can relax knowing we will be on time, respectful to your client and interpret with complete accuracy in accordance with our oath.  This is how we show our respect working in a respectful environment.

Make the time to ask for our terms or offer yours. Include your expectation of 24/7 accessibility.  Whether or not you are able financially to negotiate, be honest with us.  We share our experiences with agencies in professional networks.  Don’t be left stuck with only interpreters who will let you down.

Either Way, It’s The Same Horns. My Take Away from a Lawyer’s Rant.

Longhorn reciprocal scan0001Knowing what your client needs and expects from you is a baseline for providing a great product or service. But when you go a step further and learn the inner workings of your client’s work experience, you will be able to use that insight to resolve some tough problems and your own company will benefit.

My market is the judicial field. Non-paying or slow paying clients is the most common complaint I hear from colleagues, both freelance court interpreters and Translation and Interpreting agencies alike. I’m not immune to this experience. I have perfected rates and terms that meet and surpass the high standards set by the judiciary and lawyers. I deliver them whenever someone enquires about my services or availability and I politely require acceptance in writing before I accept an assignment. But as much as I study my client’s industry and keep up with their regulations and legislation, I haven’t found the magic tactic to guarantee on time payment.

Then I read the post by a lawyer who was really angry at clients who don’t pay him. http://lawfirmsuites.com/2013/10/shop-talk-deadbeat-clients/

He had me at the title of the post Clients Who Don’t Pay Piss Me Off. Notwithstanding the irony of the source of the complaint, after reading that post, I can honestly say I felt his pain.

I have heard a lot about the business of law and I have paid attention. I listen to shop talk by clients who are personal friends and I ask questions. I grew up in a family of lawyers that includes two Supreme Court Justices. In my continuing education classes, I teach interpreters to pay attention to the business of law. But the raw resentment expressed in this man’s post is exactly how I feel when I have to enter into the ugly phase of collecting a fairly earned fee. The fact that collecting from law firms is a regular component of doing business for me and my colleagues makes this lawyer’s perspective all that more valuable.

Every situation that he describes in his post has happened to me. I have endured clients not paying, delaying payment and not responding to late notices or phone calls, and even clients asking you to cut the already agreed upon rate after the assignment is completed, His sense of betrayal and having been disrespected is all too familiar. It is disrespectful to not be paid your hard earned fees.

When I read his advice to lawyers: You shouldn’t do business with clients who do not respect the value of your services, I wondered if he had read my articles or attended one of my classes.

My take away from that post was that I can now apply a layer of empathy to my terms policy. I can approach clients from a more shared experience. We are both giving our best services to the client. We are held to an oath and regulations most professionals wouldn’t tolerate. And we both truly respect the judicial system that we serve.

But the most significant take away I got from that post is knowing I can say to my client, ”I understand”.

The Inevitable for Freelancers. The Market Sets the Standards.

R1-03649-0000          Don’t set your fees and terms of payment without finding out what the market charges and requires.  The vast majority of law firms, court administrators, Court Reporting firms are familiar with the standard range of fees and terms.  Some courts have set fees, otherwise you tell them your rates and terms.  They also know the value of experience in legal settings, certifications and training because that means you are reliable and self-sufficient.  T&I agencies for the most part, set limits on what they will pay you.  The good ones follow what is considered fair rates.

If you ignore the market fees and terms, you run the risk of charging too much and making unreasonable demands for your work.  Or if you charge too little and are too flexible in your terms you open yourself to the disrespect of not being paid on time or worse, not at all.  Learn the standard behavior and terms of your market.  Your market is defined by your geographic location, your language pair and those who share the same credentials, experience, training and reputation that you have.  As in any profession, if you are just starting out you can’t expect to charge the same as someone  who has a long list of tests passed, training  and ten, twenty or thirty years of experience.  But you can prove yourself as reliable, competent and fair.  We all started at a lower rate, paid our dues and rose in rank.  That is the path of a freelancer.