How to make money from ASL How much does a freelance sign language interpreter earn in one year?

How to make money from ASL How much does a freelance sign language interpreter earn in one year?

I thought this would be a good example for people wondering about the actual take home pay for a full time freelance interpreter… Let me know your thoughts!

2014 Financial stats of freelancer

Gross income $76,700
Number of miles driven 22,800
Number of jobs approx: 550
Years certified 23
AAS in Interpreting from SCCC 1989 (only available degree at the time)
Number of certifications (RID) 3 (CI/CT/SC:L)
Benefits $0
Vacation pay $0 Sick pay $0 Family leave $0
Insurance $0
Retirement $0
Business expenses $16,100
(phone, gas, car maint. computer, supplies, dues, continuing education, postage, professional liability insurance, lodging, meals etc…)
TOTAL NET: $60,600

TAXES 15% FICA (both employee and employer portions): $9,000
25% income tax $15,000
B and O tax $650
Total $24,650

Total take home pay $35,950
Average salary for first year college graduate in 2013: $45,327

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  • Thank you for your honesty and providing this information! 

  • Sarah Baker says:

    Wow! This is so eye-opening. Thank you for sharing your experience and info! I worked as a freelance interpreter for 2 years, and I'm now a full-time VRS interpreter with FL on the side. Yes, my taxes and expenses seemed to match up with your ratios. It's shocking once you sit back and take a look at the whole picture. Not to mention, all the wear and tear on the car, frequent oil changes, and the like. Thanks again for all your insight. 🙂

  • Thank you again for making these videos! Truly as a terp student these types of videos really are so helpful to fully understand this kind of work. 

  • So you had 550 interpreting jobs that year. That averages more than 1 per day, meaning no time for an extra job. That's why you recommend freelancing as a supplemental income. Wow, this means I either better switch dream careers or marry a non-interpreter. lol.

  • I agree with you that interpreting is a luxury.  When I was going to school to be an interpreter, I felt lucky that my husband had a good job so that I could focus on school and my kids instead of needing to get a job to help support our family.  Now that I've been a working interpreter for a while, I feel blessed that my income doesn't need to support my family of 5.  Most freelance interpreters that I know work for many agencies and work crazy amounts of hours just to make ends meet.  I work for 2 agencies on a part time basis because my income isn't needed to keep the lights on.  Luxury is a good way to put it.

  • anthony diaz says:

    Great! Thank you for your openness and willingness to share.

  • the 45k is BEFORE taxes.  

  • Hi S. Hanson:   I have a question for you.  I am a CDI student at a community college and HOH.  How much work could I do?  Could I work in legal setting as a CDI?  What would be my gross or take home income as a CDI?   I love your videos.

  • Thank you for sharing this it's an eye opener as an interpreter student entering the field soon and hoping to be a full time freelancer. This take home pay seems to be about equivalent to a salaried office worker making a gross income of 50k a year but to me there's a difference between working 20-25 hours a week as an interpreter (which is considered full time in the field) and working full time 40-60 hours as a salaried office worker taking home the same pay. If you choose freelance full time it does seem like a good option would be to marry someone with good benefits or have a 10-20 hr part time job on the side OR BOTH 🙂

  • DeafBowTie says:

    Very good one  – also you may want to check the Financial Handbook for Interpreters and Interpreting Agencies, available on this link:

  • what about the IRS recommended mileage rate? you stated the mileage driven is 22800 therefore her 2013 irs 56.5 cents a mile comes out to 12882 bucks for using her car on the job. I used to work for two other companies where I was given mileage money for using my car with full irs recommended minimum, used company car and the sneaky company that pays a partial mileage so I had to subtract the difference for use on taxes which is a headache for seeing 1-10 customers a day for the whole year. The ~13k in mileage barely covers gas prices, car maintenance and repairs. 

  • Tyler Offer says:

    Thank so much for sharing. As a full-time post secondary interpreter in Canada, it's interesting to learn what's happening in other communities. I do some freelance work but chose not to do full time freelance because I am the sole income earner and support my wife and children. Freelance just isn't stable enough for me.

  • Jarren Kinch says:

    Awesome explanation of what a full-time freelance interpreter can actually earn in a year!

    I think that another great piece of information would be how many paid hours you had, plus how many hours of non-paid work time (invoicing, emailing, driving, etc.) you had, to illustrate that freelance interpreters end up making far less than it appears on an hourly basis as well. I'm willing to guess it's far less than most people would guess!

    Unfortunately too often non-interpreters too often simply see the hourly rate we charge, or the total bill for an assignment, and don't consider all the additional costs of being self-employed!

  • Great video, and bravo on disclosing all that information.

    My only thought was that the $45,000 amount you mentioned as the salary of a recent college grad is probably the gross amount and would be much less after taxes. Granted, the employer would pay their part, and because the grad would likely be in a lower tax bracket, they probably would not have as much taken out as you or I.

    I also work freelance and my husband has a full time job (for now, till we are both on the farm full time, but that's a completely different discussion) but I have friends who are the sole provider for their families as freelance interpreters and live comfortably. I think that probably has a lot to do with the fact they work in an urban community where jobs are easier to get.

    Thanks for the realistic picture of what we make. 🙂

  • I am quite offended by this vlog. I am actually not sure if I should be more alarmed that you are comparing apples to oranges with comparing your net income to gross income of a college grad (maybe RID should require math courses to pass NIC?) or if I should be more alarmed that you need a better tax accountant or the fact that you think it is okay try to win a pity war for interpreting for Deaf folks like myself. Before I forget, you are welcome. You have a job because of the many Deaf people out here who are discriminated against frequently and there are plenty of Deaf people who DREAM of being able to make what you make. You make good money, I know plenty of HEARING college graduates who make 50k after years of working and they struggle to break 60k, yet you come from a dual income home. This video is ridiculous and demeaning to the profession. Had you tackled this with a professional demeanor towards how much someone can make and the types of deductions an interpreter could make then I would be all in favor of your vlog but you try to win pity by comparing your 70k plus salary to a recent college grad as if you did a favor for the Deaf community when its the other way around, we did you a favor by giving you the opportunity to have the kind of job you have.

  • Privilege and luxury of being an interpreter? Far from it. Criminal politicians in Washington DC are getting paid 20x much including illegal bribes. They just sit around and push that red and green damn voting button on every session. Literally, they just sit and do nothing! 

    Gross income: $5-10 million dollars per year.
    Tax evasion: count on it. That's what lawyers are for.

    33k per year is an annual slave wage. Think about it.

  • I am so appreciative of this descriptive breakdown!  Its invaluable really, I wondered if I was doing something wrong that my numbers were coming out as they are and if other interpreters had a secret I didnt know about.

  • response to courtney…you are correct…more can be earned annually but not within a 40 hour week…as a new interpreter I worked day and night and gave up alot of family and growing time with my children to earn a good income but I still dont have the retirement plan 20 years later of someone my age in a different field with the same education. They have months of PTO now that freelancers are unable to work up to earning in the same amount of time

  • 👐You are BEAUTIFUL! 😇 I guess one easy perk👍 is we don't have to worry about what to wear…. i.e.white on black or black on white.👏

  • This is a great vlog and I really appreciate you sharing it! I often encouraged interpreting students to consider work in school districts, especially those who had great potential. School districts in Texas now pay around $28K as a start salary for a CERTIFIED interpreter with little to no experience. While that $28K doesn't seem like much, it doesn't include the benefits of taxes already being taken out, insurance, and retirement. And because they get a lot of "time off" (weekends, evenings, holidays, a summer break) they can consider freelancing to generate more income. The problem is a lot of interpreters think they can make a lot more money freelancing… I appreciate that you just proved that to be false. I would like to see more CERTIFIED interpreters with multiple years of experience consider educational interpreting jobs… young Deaf students deserve high quality (and highly qualified) interpreters!

  • Hi…Nice meet sign language interptreter… worker.How tax union? please Question law……Thanks welcome…

  • quick question, if you file jointly with your husband wouldnt that make the tax bracket you fall in a lot higher than it would normally be than if it was just yourself filing? 25% is a high bracket for someone whos net income as just over 60,000 annually… just wondering.

  • Mahin Ansari says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this information!

  • That is the most honest, complete, and helpful answer I have ever seen when someone is asked what someone in that field makes. You give a realistic perspective. I am a Certified Spanish Language interpreter in the courts and in the medical fields and if it wasn't for my husband's salary, I couldn't live off of an interpreter's salary in the part of the country I live it. The freedom you have as a freelancer is great and like you said, "a luxury", but not great if you have to support yourself on just that. Thank you so much for your honesty.

  • Tina Denning says:

    You do no mention how much you can also write off-dues for RID and affiliates, gas or mileage, clothing, any office supplies; invoices, bills, cards…all that can be written off.

  • about same as freelance photographeris assignment limited with translation services

  • Thanks so much for your time. I am interested in becoming a certified interpretor as well, although I admit I do need a mentor. I have a family member that is hard of hearing , so I have been around the community all my life. Please if you can reach out to me, thanks in advance

  • Reading this a year later…this salary is comparable to someone making 50k a year and she worked 10 assignments or 2 a day m-f…that doesn't seem bad to me!!!

  • Thank you for sharing all your numbers, that was interesting. I fully agree with you, freelancing is more of a luxury than a real viable source of income. I was only able to move out of my parent's house because when I got married his income supplemented my own. Paying for my own insurance, and paying taxes quarterly was tough. As it was we still weren't making enough, so I went into the school system for a year. I'm still interpreting here, but it's not the same as freelance. I really love freelancing, the variety, the challenges, the people. I miss the amount of freelancing I used to do. Also, as a new terp, three years under my belt, I can say the number for a first year terp is probably pretty spot on. I think it's before taxes though. That's roughly what I make in a years time before taxes if I'm doing nothing but freelancing.

  • I am grateful for your time explaining. I had no idea about the triple tax, and that almost took half of your gross … I am shocked. You work so much, this job requires a lot of mental strength, people skills and asks you to travel a TON!

  • Elaine Moore says:

    Are you talking about yourself? What state do you work in?

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