Paying your interpreter: all you need to know

When you are hiring the interpreters for your event, it is important for you to make sure you are paying them correctly, and they want to make sure of that, too. Therefore, they will need to know a few things about your event before making an offer, so they’ll ask a lot of questions, such as:

When is the event taking place?

The interpreters need this information because they have to book the date and make sure your event doesn’t overlap with another one they’ve already committed to. If this is the case, they may suggest a suitable colleague to help you instead.

Where is the venue?

It’s one thing to get ready and arrive at an event that happens a few blocks away from one’s home and completely another if the event takes place in another city. In such a case, the interpreter might need to arrive one day prior to the event and leave the next day, and this means blocking time one day ahead and one day after and special preparation from their part, and from you, as their client, accommodation arrangements, accommodation fees and meals to cover the whole stay.

Paying for the transportation and food for interpreters who come from another city than the one where the event is being held can be a significant expense. However, you cannot ask them to travel for the night and show up at your event in the morning, to perform and leave right after – it is important to remember that the interpreters are essential to ensuring that the event is accessible to a wider audience and without them well rested and ready to perform, the participants would be unable to understand what is going on at your event. Therefore, it is important to budget accordingly for this expense and make sure that your interpreters are well taken care of.

What the event is about?

The interpreter will need to know if their experience fully covers the topic, if they can offer their services at best quality on the subject, if they need to obtain specialized glossaries and if they’ll have to consult with a specialist in the domains covered by your event. Usually, for more complex and specialized topics any interpreter charges more than for conversational, easy talks. Also, if consultation with specialists is needed, they may need to pay them. All of this will be reflected by the final price, and without knowing why it is so, you may find it higher than expected.

What is the estimated duration of the whole event?

For shorter events (that last less than 3 hours), the cost is about 75-80% of the whole day fee. This may sound unfair, but no matter the event length, an interpreter’s preparation before the event is the same, and that is included in the price you pay.

What is the estimated duration of active time for the interpreter?

This is important, because nobody can talk ceaselessly for a whole day – if your whole day event event has full active time with little to no pause, the interpreter will surely suggest bringing a colleague along to share the booth and the work with, and this will double the budget required, but will also ensure quality performance.


There may also be some questions that you will ask the interpreter, and we’re answering two of them below:

Can I negotiate?

You can, but sometimes lower prices don’t mean that you get the same quality services as if you simply agree to the fee proposed by the experienced interpreter. To be able to do with a lower compensation for their work, the interpreters may choose to skip consultation with a specialist in the domain of your event or to invest less time in preparation. All these cuts lower the quality of the service.

Can I pay by the hour?

Yes, if you agree with a very high price (that accounts for proper preparation, transport, time blocked), but usually this is an idea that professional interpreters disagree with, as it is not fair.

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