Organization as a Sign Language Interpreter

By Angelica Bechtold

It is so much easier to maintain sign language interpreter organization than it is to begin.  But how do we begin?  As a fairly new sign language interpreter, I had piles of information from school to sort through.  This included many different agencies and my notes on them from various interpreters (staff vs. independent contractor [IC], mileage information, which agencies pay weekly, bi-weekly, once a month, etc.).   As a student, I was meticulous in gathering all the information available to me.  Some was accumulated through my Interpreter Training Program (ITP) and teachers.  Other information was from interpreters I had the opportunity to have as mentors during my practicum classes.  So, now I’m out here as a new interpreter and have a mass of information…  What to do with it all?  How to become organized and maintain that organization?  Of all the wonderful things I had learned about interpreters, being highly organized was not a reputation many of us had earned.  Here are some tips that have helped me thus far.

Making Your Schedule

You may pick up a few ongoing jobs or prefer to pick up jobs from week to week with little ongoing work.  Whatever your preference, you will most certainly need a reliable calendar.  Some people prefer paper calendars; others prefer Google.  You have to figure out what works best for you.  Many (but not all) agencies use Google Calendar.  This has many advantages including easy access to assignment information (location, time) and simplified invoicing.  However, Google Calendar has crashed in the past and all information could be lost just as quickly.  Also, some of the agencies do not use Google at all.   If you are taking work through multiple agencies, and prefer Google Calendar, you must be sure to put all the accurate information in yourself if it is not provided when you accept work.  I have found that using both paper and Google Calendar works best for me.  I color code my agencies in Google and match that color in my paper calendar with the time and address.  I do not keep any other identifying information on paper in order to maintain confidentiality.  It is vital to protect our clients and ourselves by maintaining strict confidentiality and upholding our Code of Professional Conduct. I do this by keeping my phone locked and not including the client’s name in my planner.

A place for everything and everything in it’s placeSign Language Interpreter Organization

It is vital that we have a dedicated space to sit down and do our paperwork.  Seemingly no one enjoys paperwork.  However, in our profession, our paperwork means getting paid or not getting paid.  As an IC, no one else is responsible for your invoicing.  If you do not have a set time and place to figure out what is owed to you, likely, it will not get completed; or it will get completed at an inconvenient time, in a rushed and unprofessional manner.  As much as we do not enjoy being paid late, agencies do not enjoy receiving random or multiple emails related to our payroll because we did not realize what day it is due.  It is a good practice to sit down weekly and look through your calendar to see who you have worked for and who you should be invoicing that week.  Every agency has their own schedule for payroll.  I have made several folders in Gmail to keep all payroll and other information separate and clear for myself. Some examples of folder headings and subheadings that may be helpful for you are:

  1. Agencies:

-MT&A (Agency name)


  -Contract/Handbook Info


2. Invoices:


-Pending payment

3. Certification/Licensure:


-RID Professional Code of Conduct



Organization is a must to be successful in our profession. It may be difficult to begin sign language interpreter organization, but the benefits are worth it. Once you have a system for yourself, it will become rote. It will simplify and improve your profession and life.


Additional Resources:

From Interpreting Student to Professional Interpreter

Community Sign Language Interpreting Career


Photo Credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review