Now that I'm a STIBC Associate Member, How do I Get Work?
by Angela Fairbank, Certified Translator (Spanish to English) and published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter September 30, 2018, page 3
This was my question when I rejoined STIBC after many years away. My multifaceted freelance business constantly evolves, and in September 2017 I decided to make my translation and interpretation work more full-time. I certainly didn't become flooded with work on joining STIBC: no job referrals came from STIBC itself since I wasn't a Certified Member yet. And I didn't expect to write the certification exams until May 2018. So what was I to do in the meantime?
As one suggestion from STIBC was to apply to become an ICBC Approved Translator/Interpreter, I went to my local driver's licensing office and asked them what they needed besides a copy of my STIBC membership card. They gave me a form to fill out, an ethics code to sign, and asked for copies of my M.A. in Translation (for approval in French) and my Community Interpreting Certificate from VCC (for approval in Spanish). Then I waited for about a month for ICBC to add my name to their on-line approved translators and interpreters list as they only update it periodically. Although they have different translation needs for driver's licences, marriage certificates, driving histories, and so on, it gets easier once you get the hang of it, and when your clients come in person to pick up the translation package, you get to meet them face to face!
Next, I Googled, then called Vancouver-area translation and interpreting agencies, sending out my CV to any who expressed interest. Truth be told, I was more successful with agencies in the USA and Europe. One agency in Vancouver turned me down flat (despite 35+ years of experience and STIBC and ATA affiliation), saying they only accepted Certified Translators/Interpreters in my language combination.
So, what next? Since I felt comfortable interpreting in health care situations, I sent my CV to the Provincial Language Services (PLS) of the Provincial Health Services Authority and waited. It took a few months to hear from them, as they only recruit when they are short of interpreters. They interviewed me and I had to fill out several forms, in addition to paying for a police check and buying WorkSafe BC insurance. Their contract is extremely long and they have many rules and regulations, but now that I've managed to figure out their system, I have been working pretty steadily for them. They only require that you be available to them for 20 hours a month, so that leaves time to work for other agencies at perhaps slightly higher pay — if you are lucky and good at negotiating!
I began attending online free monthly sessions with interpreterslab.org. Through them I heard about the non-profit Abbotsford Community Services' Interpretation & Translation Services (ITS) and DiverseCity in Surrey, and signed up with both of them. Although the pay isn't great in any of these organizations, I've become more familiar with the healthcare system in the Lower Mainland. Working a few hours a week, mostly with new Canadians, is rewarding — people are all very friendly and very grateful for the linguistic help.
Now, after almost a year, with a mixture of work from these and other interpreting agencies, translation assignments from my long-term contacts in Europe, the USA, and Vancouver, plus direct clients through ICBC, along with the translations I do, volunteering for Translators Without Borders and other non-profits, I was kept fairly busy while I was awaiting the results of my certification exams.
If you've just joined STIBC as an Associate Member and haven't decided what to do next, I hope that these ideas will help you organize your freelancing better until you become certified. Once that happens, doors to more work (and hopefully higher income) should open for you!