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How to team up with other interpreters to avoid scheduling conflicts?
Thread poster: Eng2Span

Eng2Span  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mar 19, 2008

Hi everyone,

Does anyone have any pointers on setting up a system amongst cooperating interpreters to handle each others "double-booking" situations smoothly...

For example... I was scheduled a few weeks ago through an agency for a one hour deposition (this particular client only has a one hour minimum agreement with this agency), and, since I had nothing else for that date I accepted it...
Well, lo and behold, a few days before that date the court asked me if I'd be available (this would pay me about three times what the depo would for the same amount of work)... sooo, I accepted it as well and scrambled to find a colleague to cover my depo... and thankfully found one without a problem. Well, when the date came, it turns out the court hearing was cancelled early in the day and I was able to do the depo myself (the other interpreter was relieved since he had other stuff to do, otherwise I wouldn't have cancelled on him last minute too).

Now, I'm wondering, do any of you use, or know of a system to get this type of situation resolved with less stress? I am in the slightly unique situation of being a federally certified interpreter in a big city where there are not many of us at all, so decent jobs pop up rather frequently due to demand. Out of the few of us, there are maybe three with whom I get along very well, and would like to come up with something to present to them so that we can all handle more work.
I've heard of stay-at-home moms that form groups that can count on each other for out-of-the-blue babysitting... when they start out they each get ten popsicle sticks (used as currency) and if one needs babysitting they "pay" the other a popsicle stick per hour. This lets them go shopping by themselves or have a romantic dinner with their husband, etc. Dunno, if something like this could be tailored for us...

Also, Is a group of four enough to handle a decent amount of scheduling conflicts? My dream would be to be able to accept anything thrown my way knowing that we could work it out amongst us. Of course, knowing that I would do everything I can to cover their appointments too. This has become especially important to me recently since I need 20-40% more business to be where I can live completely off of my interpreting work, yet I'm already running into scheduling conflicts, so it's only going to get worse. Oh, and charging early-cancellation fees doesn't fly well with the government (my best source of business) on short hearings. They will pay me for one day if they cancel a whole week trial on me at the last minute, but for shorter stuff, forget it.

Any practical pointers/advice you can provide is much appreciated.



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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
I've covered Mar 19, 2008

I have covered at different times for colleagues.

I know that free-lance legal interpreting work is horrible because of all the last minute jobs and cancellations, and a very high cancellation rate at that - perhaps over 50%. In addition, many assignments can be quite brief, yet to take a one-hour session can wipe out a whole morning or afternoon. Then there is travel time and expense, which can be of major proportions in some areas (your big city?).

Oh, and of course you book that one-hour session then a full-day one comes through and you cannot take it. Or maybe a whole week? Then they cancel the one hour and you have $0, zilch.

Being primarily a translator, I was the stay-at-home mom. I would generally have very few specific time commitments so a colleague could use me to double-book, and if one was cancelled, then I would be cancelled, no problem for me. But I would generally do this with only one colleague at a time, otherwise I would start having time conflicts.

I have a lot of colleagues that do this kind of work and honestly, I am amazed, I do not know how they can coordinate. In your case I suppose it would be a matter of meeting with your qualified (Federally Certified) colleagues and working something out on how you can best cover for one another.

Another is to let potential clients know (including the Feds) what exactly the problem is, and if they want to book and cancel, then it will cost them. When they cannot get anyone to interpret, maybe they will get the message.

By the way, I do not do that kind of work any more, but I will gladly translate all the documents you want!

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Jonathan Sanders  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:33
Some ideas Mar 20, 2008

I have some ideas, but this seems to be more than a question about a scheduling conflict. I have a few recommendations that I could give.

1.) Charge more for depositions. Depositions are ordered by law firms, who by defintion have money. Depositions are essential to lawsuits, which are sometimes multi-million dollar lawsuits. With a non-English speaking witness, a certified court-interpreter is as essential to the deposition as a court reporter (who get paid a lot of money). And you also said you have next to no competition in your city. So make them pay you at least a half-day court rate. (Or even more since it's a more specialized skill). You wouldn't have had to cancel if it weren't for the fact they were paying you too little. Which brings me to my next point...

2.) Be selective with your jobs and the people you work for.

Don't bother working for an agency under those conditions, 1-hour, etc. In my city, there was an agency that charged $15/hr + travel with a 1-hour minimum for certain types of health care appointments. Taking one of their appointments, with 1 hour both ways puts me out of 3 hours. If one court case came up even, if it was 15 minutes, in the State Courts, that was already $150 + travel. So even if the first agency calls me 5 times a week and the Courts only twice, it's still much more profitable and less stressful to *not work* those other 3 times than to take every appointment for free spots on my schedule. It is more profitable to spend that time attending to business duties (i.e. invoicing, advertising) or taking up other work should it drop through at the last minute. (I say more profitable, but it would suffice to say "profitable" because you actually loose money the other way). As an Andalucian friend might say, "Si hay que cobrar una miseria se cobra. Pero cobrarla pa'na, es tontería."

3.) If you firmly accept a job, consult with a collegue before changing it.

It sounds like you did the cancellation business more or less backwards. If I were you, I would've told client I have to check my schedule and said "I'll call you back in 5-10 minutes" and then called my collegues to see if they are available. In my city, there were only 2 of us who were certified, and we tossed each other work all of the time, and we used basicallythe above-mentioned technique. If you can't change you have to bite the bullet--it's the only professional and ethical thing to do.

4.) Cancellation clause.

Make sure that any contract you have has a cancellation clause, which at the very, very, very, very least should definately cover cancellations on the day of the event.

So those are a few ideas. Hope they helped.

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