There are a few routes American Sign Language interpreters can take to earn their livings, three of which are described by the Registry of Interpreters of the Deaf: Agency, Freelance, and Contracted.
You may work as an agency interpreter, which means you are employed by an agency that provides you job assignments. Sometimes interpreters work for Video Relay Service agencies.
Working through an agency provides a steady income, and if you work full time, it usually includes benefits such as health care and paid time off. Agencies sometimes pay for your Continuing Education Units (CEUs) toward maintaining your certification.
Freelance interpreters are responsible for finding and maintaining your own client base.
Freelancers make their own hours, and build relationships on their own. Often times, freelance interpreters can work with a number of different types of agencies, including private or public agencies, schools, hospitals, courts, businesses and even directly with clients.
Interpreter Brittany Quickel shares a bit of advice in her first year experience as a freelance interpreter on Street Leverage,. She says: expect the unexpected, stay confident, and take good care of yourself.
The third type is contracted interpreters, who take on aspects of both the agency interpreter and the freelance interpreter. They provide services to an interpreter services agency or to other agencies in accordance with the terms and conditions of a particular contract or contracts. They are not an employee of the interpreter services agency or any other agencies for which they provide services.
Contracted interpreters both build relationships and work on their own, incorporating a bit from both kinds of interpreting work. You can do work for multiple agencies and often build your own schedule.
A fourth area of interpreting is the role of being an on-site interpreter in a particular setting such as a school or hospital.