The ATA Chronicle - January/February 2021 - 19

Remuneration
In my experience, I've found
that there's no need for
invoicing. The agency's call
center keeps track of all the
calls and the total duration,
and payment is generated

from the perspective

M

of a freelance

has expanded considerably

Here's a look at overthe-phone interpreting

interpreter working
with an agency.

By Linda Pollack-Johnson

y work as an overthe-phone health
care interpreter

began several years ago but
since the pandemic
restrictions took effect in
March 2020. Before the
pandemic, I devoted most of
my working hours to faceto-face medical interpreting
for Italian patients. On a
busy day, I would typically
help two families as they
navigated the U.S. health
care system. Since I've been
working from home due to
the pandemic, I've found
that I can help many more
people in a day, and for that I
feel privileged.
The work is challenging in
ways I hadn't expected. For
those considering working as
an over-the-phone interpreter
or who are already engaged in
this type of work, let's review
some pros and cons.

Working Conditions

www.ata-chronicle.online

recruiting interpreters of

automatically. At the end

all languages paired with

of the pay period, I receive

English. To qualify, you'll

a check (or direct deposit)

need to take an evaluation

for the hours I worked. For

test conducted over the

my own purposes, I keep a

phone or online that will be

record of my phone time each

graded by a bilingual agency

day and check it against the

representative. The test will

call center log (available on

feature typical questions

the agency's website), but

or brief conversations you

I'm happy to let the agency

might encounter while

handle all the paperwork.

interpreting for clients.1

They pay me by the minute

Once you pass the test

for the time I'm actually

and sign on with the

interpreting on the phone

agency, you'll need to have

(not for the time I'm logged

a dedicated phone line,

on the system). There's no

a computer with reliable

minimum pay. If a situation

internet coverage, as well as

comes up where I'm put " on

a headset, notepad, pencil,
and a quiet room in which to
work. The agency will provide
information and a training

hold " during a call while
the agency/client checks on
something, the agency does
pay me for that time.

session on how to use their
online platform to access

Timing

their call center.

Calls can last anywhere from

Calls for your language

one minute to a few hours.

pair and area of expertise

(My longest call was 157

will be routed to the phone
number you designate. Your
phone will typically display

minutes.) My guess is that
the average call is about
10 minutes.

the name of the agency

My personal goal for

when an interpreting call
is coming through. You can

each day I work is to

log on and off from the call

reach 70 minutes of actual

center whenever you choose

interpreting time. It can take

and block off your schedule

anywhere from three to nine

according to your availability.

(!) hours to achieve this goal.

You can even work for more

(Perhaps I would be more

Of all the gig work available,

than one agency if you

consistently employed if my

over-the-phone interpreting

can juggle the technology

language-Italian-were

is probably one of the most

smoothly. You can always

more widely used.) I tend

flexible. Language services

work on other projects

to log on to the call center

agencies in the U.S. are

between calls.

Monday through Friday from
American Translators Association

19


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The ATA Chronicle - January/February 2021

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