1. Be concise
The major attraction to agency work is the sheer volume. With that, comes tons of communication. Coordinators within agencies are often overloaded by the mass of emails and calls they’re responsible for everyday. It’s unfortunate but they just don’t have time for chit chat. If you’ve got a favorite coordinator you really enjoy connecting with, consider getting together for coffee or a drink.
On the topic of work, be respectful of their time. Make sure your emails are not weighed down with details they don’t need. If you’re requesting prep or logistic details, consider listing what you need without inundating their inbox with fodder about your feelings. Trailing emails outlining your annoyance are slowing down productivity in their office, which means less they can get done in booking you.
2. Bring solutions, not problems.
If you can solve an issue on site without impacting their bottom line, consider raising the solution rather than a complaint. Proactive interpreters are usually the first on the list of calls for new work. When an agency can trust you’ll lean into the best of your professional discretion to tackle a problem, they can count on your to keep their jobs less complicated. That goes miles in the search for preferable work.
3. Show some grace
Of course we all have a horror story of an agency rep that snapped. They’re not always the most pleasant but let’s be honest; interpreters can be creatures too. While we might think we’re incredible to deal with, we’ve got our own set of issues we bring to the equation. When you can give a little grace to the process and offer flexibility, it shows your commitment to the partnership. As much as you represent them as an agency, they represent you as a practitioner. Moving the needle towards a better image is something you’ll never regret and it often starts with the tone of an email sent under pressure.
4. Understand it’s a dance
It won’t always be perfect. Like any relationship, it will have it’s ups and downs. Working with an agency can be complicated as there is often a complicated power dynamic. You have access to the client now but they have access to the checks later. It’s important to recognize when might not be a good time to approach the agency with something that can wait. If you’re considering raising your rate, evaluate how things are currently sitting. If you’ve just saved them from a hefty catastrophe, you’re probably in good graces. If that came on the heels of missing three jobs in a row, consider that getting out fo the doghouse might be enough for right now.
5. Know which hills to die on
While it may feel that industry standards are under constant threat of extinction by agencies, know that they have a business to run. When you feel that it’s appropriate to push back, check for traction in the community and consider rallying some support first. Barging into a director’s office with a pitchfork about an invoice error might not seem as crucial when you find out other interpreters are being pushed out of 2 hour minimums in a city as a wide as Chicago.
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