Where to Find
That is one of the thing that appeals to freelance interpreters. The chance to work at various locations and with all sorts of different people can be an exciting adventure and makes the job of interpreting more exciting than sitting at a desk all day long translating something without interacting with anyone.
Even full-time conference interpreters such as those working at the United Nations or the European Union enjoy varied job responsibilities and are not always tied down to interpreting the same thing over and over again.
But as I mentioned above, freelance interpreters can have a tough time finding specific jobs for interpreters, especially if they are not sure where to look, or are unaware of who specifically is in need of their services.
And while I haven't worked as a professional interpreter, I do know people in the interpreting profession, and they have shown me that if you are diligent, hardworking, and willing to think outside the box, you can find interpreting work in many places that you wouldn't necessarily think of.
So in order to help you with your freelance interpreting job hunt, I've outlined below some places that could be in need of interpreting services, and where you might be interested in applying.
Hospitals are big users of interpreting services, and while Spanish is probably the language most needed, other languages are also needed to provide services for hospital patients. Hospitals use different interpreting services for their clientele, so it's a good idea to know what route the hospital you're targeting for your interpreting services takes in terms of how they approach interpreting.
For example, I know that some hospitals rely heavily on large-scale telephone interpretation services, rather than contract out to in-person interpreters. The main reason these hospitals use the telephone interpreting option is because it is more cost effective, especially when more than one or two languages are needed.
Other hospitals rely on volunteer interpreters or family members to provide interpretation services for hospital patients. While hospitals don't have to pay for volunteer services, the interpreting can leave a lot to be desired. So when you approach a hospital advertising your interpreting services, be sure and highlight your experience and professionalism as positives so that they hospital can understand the importance of offering you an interpretation job instead of relying on volunteers or family members that may not be able to do the interpreting job as effectively as you can.
Health Clinics & Doctor's Offices
Health centers and doctor's offices also have needs for interpreters, although their need might not be as great as hospitals. The reason is because if a patient has chosen to receive medical services at a specific health clinic, it's probably more likely that they have chosen a place with doctors that speak the same language as them. However, this isn't always the case, and these places can provide some interpreting jobs if you're willing to look around a bit and spread the word about your interpretation services.
I don't have any hard and fast numbers, but if I had to guess, I would say that the court system in the United States (both the federal and state courts) employ a great number of freelance interpreters. Federal court interpreters are employed in nearly every state in the nation and many interpreters, depending on the language combinations they interpret with, travel throughout the country to offer their interpreting services to the courts.
Spanish/English interpreters are in high demand, but there are many other language combinations that make federal/state interpreting a worthwhile goal to pursue for freelance interpreters working in non-traditional languages.
Another plug for the legal system. While clients seeking a lawyer will usually choose one that speaks their language, court-appointed lawyers or state's attorneys don't always have the luxury of representing clients that speak their language, and jobs for interpreters can abound in this situation.
In these cases, professional interpreters are extremely important. Interpreters that translate in this setting are almost always freelance interpreters, as there is not a continual stream of interpreting jobs available. But it is always nice to have multiple clients as an interpreter, because even if some clients only give you work part of the time, it is still work and can help fill in for those times when you don't have other types of work.
Most translation and interpretation agencies are always interested in receiving resumes from freelance translators and interpreters. There are more translation agencies than interpretation agencies, but it never hurts to get your resume to those interpretation agencies that could use your language skills. This can be especially lucrative if you have a more obscure language combination that is still in demand. More common language pairs like Spanish/English might not get you very far with this type of employer.
Businesses that are going global or are interested in providing their products or services in another language will always have jobs for interpreters. These jobs will range from face-to-face meetings to video conferencing to phone conversations. It can be a little more difficult to land one of these types of freelance opportunities, though. Most of the people that do interpreting in these settings had some sort of prior connection with the company, or someone that made decisions within the company. Otherwise, jobs for interpreters in business can be difficult to come by.
Major universities and colleges surprisingly also use interpreters. Many of these schools often host international conferences and forums where interpretation services are needed. The downside is that while they need and rely on interpreting services for these events, they often recruit volunteer interpreters from among the student body and those in the local community that can interpret. These positions are usually volunteer positions which means that it might not make very much financial sense for you to help out. However, if you're able to make good business connections because of your assistance, that could be well worth your time.
Hopefully these ideas can help you get a better feel of where you might want to work as a freelance interpreter or where you can find jobs for interpreters.