Impacting an Industry: Subcontract Interpreters
While my past articles have focused on influential individuals in the interpreting industry—from VQAS Coordinator Elaine Zehl to HIS Sign owner and president Christina Hammrich—this piece concentrates on an impactful group!
What group has had the greatest impact on the interpreting industry? The Deaf community is the obvious answer—HIS Sign and the interpreting industry at large could not exist without it—but in this context, subcontract interpreters (SIs) are the clear winner. HIS Sign would not exist without them!
When Christina and I decided to start HIS Sign, we knew it was crucial to work with qualified subcontractors and pay them on time. Christina and I high-fived every time an interpreter said they would work with us. HIS Sign was our Field of Dreams, and we were building a team.
Over the years, the relationship between our team and the SI’s we work with has grown stronger. In the beginning, Christina knew every SI that worked with HIS Sign, and I knew most of them. They attended workshops at our home, met us around the communities we serve and at Interpreter Meet & Greets, and even appeared at events we hosted or attended. Since starting HIS Sign, we’ve partnered with over 750 interpreters, and over 350 of them remain active today. Indeed, more than 120 SI’s provide services every 2-week pay period!
As HIS Sign has grown, our relationship with the SI’s that provide work through HIS Sign has changed. As an SI, you now have more of us to create a relationship with more of us to rely on to “do business.” A larger HIS Sign family allows us to create a relationship with even more interpreters and customers.
HIS Sign and our SI’s have created a symbiotic relationship. As I like to say, “A business relationship will work as long as there are mutual benefits, and one partner does not always win while the other loses. When both win, as is the case with HIS Sign and our subcontract interpreters, it works well!”
Control of Time
The most common reason I’ve heard SI’s report for enjoying their role is the flexibility. You can choose to work as much or as little as you want. You can choose from among the jobs that are broadcasted and create a work schedule that fits their needs. You can accept one-off jobs, weeklong work, or ongoing work. You control your working hours!
This flexibility works well for HIS Sign’s relationship with SI’s. Some of you use our jobs to fill your entire schedule. Others take jobs with us once in a while, helping us cover all the requests we receive from customers.
Control of Revenue
We live in a time where more work exists than workers! During the past year, HIS Sign has frequently had over 400 hours of services go unfilled in a week due to a lack of available SI’s. With so much opportunity, you can control how much you work and, by extension, how much you earn.
From my perspective, this control over income is one of the best reasons our SI relationships work. Again, “You Win, We Win!” As SI’s earn revenue, so does HIS Sign. Thus, we can focus on expansion, creating more opportunities, and providing you with even greater flexibility and income sources!
Whether you enjoy working in Education, Medicine, Government, Law, Behavioral Health, or another industry, SI’s get to choose their focus. Like any career, you may have to cut your teeth in other industries and improve your skills. However, after developing your skills, you can focus on and accept only jobs in the type of industry you prefer!
At HIS Sign, we focus on attaining recurring work Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. These parameters have resulted in us focusing on Education and Government-based work. While we accept requests in other industries, our marketing efforts are concentrated on Education and Government.
These focuses may preclude HIS Sign from being your primary agency, but we should be on your list!
A Company of One
When you subcontract with HIS Sign or another agency, you enter a peer-to-peer relationship. With HIS Sign, you benefit from our marketing, research, and acquisition capabilities. Nevertheless, as an SI, you must handle many other areas alone. You must keep up your certifications, invoice HIS Sign for services, and withhold and pay taxes. You are responsible for vacation pay, sick leave, retirement benefits, social security, worker’s compensation, health and disability benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, or employee-type benefits of any kind.
In essence, each SI is a company of one! Due to all the responsibilities of maintaining that “company,” you would do well to follow a few recommendations to support your relationship with HIS Sign.
Professional Liability Insurance
First, we suggest you obtain a professional liability insurance policy. HIS Sign carries liability insurance with over $1,000,000 in coverage, as most of the contracts we have require it. Nevertheless, our policy does not cover you for the same reason that one person’s car insurance does not cover someone else.
While—knock on wood—we all hope we never need our insurance, a major accident only takes one event. Your liability increases for every hour you provide services, either directly or as an SI through HIS Sign or another agency.
Arms and hands are the business tools of sign language interpreters. If you are injured or disabled, your ability to work will be compromised. So, SIs would do well to seek coverage for this area too!
Interpreters and agencies benefit from obtaining insurance coverage. If an SI contracts with HIS Sign yet cannot deliver their services, we both lose! RID has established a Freelance Insurance Program alongside a private company that all SI’s should examine. You can protect your “company” to the level you feel is necessary!
Maintaining Your Professional Certification
Interpreters—like lawyers, doctors, and educators—must maintain their professional certification through RID. Once every 4 years, they must obtain 8.0 CEUs to maintain their certification. Given the work required for such certification, and the financial benefits associated with it, allowing it to lapse would be a huge waste. Interpreters would take a financial loss and no longer qualify for certain jobs and work.
When you maintain your RID certification, your VQAS Screening level, or any other recognized certification, you are investing in our relationship. When you provide HIS Sign with current credentials, you make it easier for HIS Sign to support you and to respond to certification compliance queries from our customers.
Looking for More Work?
In addition to maintaining your professional Certification or Screening Level, some of our customers have additional compliance requirements. These requirements are over and above those adhered to during the boarding process. While it is additional work, completing these compliance requirements gives you access to even more work!
Not only that, but you strengthen your relationship with HIS Sign as well as increase the value of our partnership!
A Strong Relationship
Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of SI’s. All of us at HIS Sign have been deliberate in working to treat each of you with respect and honesty and to value your time. We have invested in our relationship! If we ever fell short, we have done our best to correct it.
I am proud of how our relationships with our SI’s have evolved, and I hope that you not only see the benefits of working with HIS Sign but are rewarded through these interactions.
Check out HIS Sign’s Subcontract Interpreter resources, which we make available to our most valuable partners.
HIS Sign Interpreting: an Interpreting Services Provider and Resource for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community
If you have any stories, questions, feedback, or ideas that you would like to share with me or want me to share with our team, please feel free to shoot me an email at ImpactingAnIndustry@HISsign.com.
CEO of HIS Sign