Choosing the Best Interpreting Agency

Mar 9, 2022 12:00:00 AM | Choosing the Best Interpreting Agency

What to look for when choosing an interpreting agency, translation services or interpreting services.


I don’t want to brag…but I will. I have the best Interpreting Agency. “No one will toot your horn unless you do”, Donald Trump said that and although he may be controversial, on that fact he is correct. What makes us so special? What should you look for in an agency? Let’s get down to it and I’ll explain.


Global Interpreting Services is special because we offer all of the services you might need; face-to-face interpretation both foreign and Sign, translation services, Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). and Over the Phone (OPI) services. Our language lists for face-to-face and OPI is extensive. We offer support and training and our customer service skills are unbeatable. Our Staff is a well-groomed team of professionals who work perfectly together with one goal, Client satisfaction. So why do I believe my agency is the BEST? For all of the things I've just stated...we are a "One Stop Shop".


So, what should you look for in an agency?


Like any other relationship, you need to know what you want from that relationship. Just because an agency offers everything doesn’t mean you have to take it. (But it’s nice to know it’s available).




Are you going to be using technology to access interpreting services? You think you might not now, but it might come in handy later. (Pandemic...who would have ever thought it?) Some agencies force you to buy or rent their equipment.

  • Do you have space for their equipment?

  • Do you have a tech-savvy staff? If you don't, do they have training available, and is it free?

  • How is the training provided to you? For instance, we have training videos to assist you so your staff can watch them as often as they need to (and new staff onboarding is simple). Training is done free of charge.


Staff Support


Developing a relationship with an agency that has a good support staff (like Global) is important to not only have successful usage of the technology but avoid any pitfalls. How are issues resolved? It's technology, it will not be seamless, so how will you be supported? As an example, our team checks if we see an issue has taken place to help you avoid it in the future. Our hope is that you’re comfortable contacting us and allowing us to walk you through any questions you may have.


While I used technology as an example because it can be the most complex of situations, the same questions would be true for any type of service you choose. With face-to-face interpreting or translation services, how will you bring issues to the company for resolution if there are any? Who is your point of contact so that if you need to add services you feel comfortable doing so?


Fees & Payment


Be careful of complicated or complex fee structures. This makes it difficult to understand your invoices.


At Global, we keep it simple.


A 2-hour minimum is an industry-standard, so you should expect to pay that. After all, how can you expect someone to come to your place of business for less than two hours of pay?


Some agencies will charge a "half-day" or "whole day" depending on the venue such as court, education, entertainment, or assignments that have long hours. This guarantees the Interpreter won't be scheduled for another assignment and that you will have their undivided attention. Some languages do not have an unlimited amount of Interpreters and the Interpreters are in high demand. Instead of paying hourly, you pay for a block of time thereby ensuring you have the same Interpreter without interruption. This is highly recommended for a court case or a workshop. In fact, it is common practice when scheduling for court that Interpreters are scheduled for "half-day" or "whole day" depending on the type of case. This way, no one has to be concerned when the case is called. "Half-day" is usually 4 hours of pay and "whole day" is generally 8 hours of pay. This can vary and may be discounted depending on the venue and company.


Contracts & Agreements


It is a contract agencies hold with their Interpreters and it will be in their agreements with you, as will some sort of mileage reimbursement. The most common types of mileage reimbursements are a flat travel fee or a mileage reimbursement for the miles driven to and from your place of business. With a flat travel fee, you are charged a flat rate no matter where the Interpreter is traveling to or from and I have seen it range from $10.00 to $50.00 or more. Mileage reimbursement charges a fee for each mile traveled and generally follows the federal or state mileage reimbursement rate. Global charges our clients the Federal Mileage Reimbursement Rate and turns it over to the Interpreter.

"I had an Interpreter who left after 20 minutes because the person I hired them for didn't show up...but I paid for two hours!"

This is one of the things that frustrates clients the most. We get it. Who wants to pay for nothing? However, you did pay for the promise of an Interpreter had the person showed up. The Interpreter was there. No one wants to leave their house, drive to your business and perform a skill if they aren't going to get at least two hours of pay for it. The Interpreter cannot control if your person does not arrive for their appointment. They wait 20-30 minutes, which is a common industry standard and then they leave. There is no point in sitting in your waiting room for two hours if the person is not going to show, or if you will not be able to fit the person in your schedule if they do.


If agencies are not listing the above contractual items, then they may not be using Interpreters who are as professional as you need them to be. Professional Interpreters at minimum expect the items I discussed. They also expect to paid if their assignment is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice, which should be in your agreement with an agency. If these things, which I know most clients do not like, are not in your agreement, you may want to consider the type of Interpreter you are receiving from the agency you have chosen.


Be sure to double-check for comprehension when you use an Interpreter by asking your patient or client questions. There are certifications for Sign Language Interpreters and in Michigan we have a law that states you MUST use only certified Sign Language Interpreters. However, there are limited certifications for Foreign Language Interpreters so you are trusting the agency to vet their skills and professionalism.




I talked about knowing what you want from an agency, having an idea of your need. Do you have Deaf people coming in? Spanish people coming in? What languages will you be looking for? Ask the agency for a language list so that you know they are prepared for you.


When does the agency invoice? Some companies invoice once a month, some once a week, and some once in a while. You want to make sure you have a company that is organized. If a company is not organized they could drop assignments (meaning an Interpreter might not show up because they forgot to put it in their calendar) or an Interpreter might show up at the wrong time or on the wrong day. You certainly want to make sure if you hire an Interpreter, the Interpreter will be there, on time, working for you. Here at Global we fill the jobs and call you with confirmation when the request is filled for in-person interpreting.




The last item I want to mention is insurance. Is the agency insured? Ask for a copy of their coverage. The agency should have:

  • Professional Liability

  • General Liability

  • Umbrella coverage

  • Auto Liability

  • Cyber Liability.

This will protect you, your patient or client, the agency and Interpreter and the information you gave to them for the assignments.




Choosing an agency may seem like a difficult task. Here at Global Interpreting, we make it clear what we offer.


For some businesses because of size, it's best to have more than one or two agencies available to provide services. You should choose an agency that can provide services, but can also provide advice and support. It should be a relationship.


A person who needs Interpreting or translation services is not going to walk through your doors every day (maybe they will, the same holds true). You need to be able to trust that the company you call will give you the right answers when you need them. Call Global Interpreting Services...I know we have all the right answers!

Dawn Flanigan

Written By: Dawn Flanigan