Case study

Freelance conference interpreter — Alexander C Gansmeier

Alexander enjoys the variety of work on offer as a freelance interpreter and relishes travelling and meeting new people from a range of backgrounds and cultures

How did you become an interpreter?

After graduation I was approached by the university to see whether I wanted to teach various modules on the MA in Interpreting and Translation, which I had studied. This very flexible part-time agreement enabled me to go from university straight into the freelance world without having to worry about being able to pay rent.

With this safety net, I was able to really focus on my freelance work and further expand my existing client network, which soon resulted in more conference interpreting work.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Very. During the MA we were able to drastically improve our interpreting skills due to many hours of direct hands-on practice.

We were also prepared to enter the job market more easily since one module of the MA course focused on the business side of becoming a freelancer in today's market.

What does interpreting involve?

A staple of conference interpreting, and your home away from home, is the interpreting booth. This is the small box you will share with your colleague while you are simultaneously interpreting whatever the speakers throw at you. It can get a little crowded and rather hot and you will become completely addicted to it.

How has your role developed?

With a bigger network of clients and colleagues I now do conferences even more frequently, which presents its own challenges - when to prepare, how to align the travel plans, etc.

Beyond that though, I now organise many more conferences for my clients than I did, or would have been capable of, at the beginning of my career.

What do you enjoy about your job?

My favourite things about my job are:

  • working with people, travelling and not being stuck behind a desk 24/7;
  • the variety of the different conferences;
  • really putting my language skills to good use in challenging situations;
  • the rush you get when you know you did a great job at a conference.

Working in the language industry is a beautiful thing since you are usually around other colleagues with different languages and cultural backgrounds. This is not only very rewarding but also tremendously interesting.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

This links back to my answer about what I like most, since the most challenging part of the job is often the travelling. It can be tiring, not only physically but also mentally.

No two jobs are the same and so if you think you're done studying after university, think again. Many conferences will require a great deal of preparation beforehand.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Start building up your network of clients and colleagues early. Becoming a successful freelancer will take time, which is something that can be underestimated quite easily.

Find out more