Freelance conference interpreters are employed on a short-term basis. They work for various clients in succession, depending on demand and their capabilities.
Freelance interpreters enjoy freedom and mobility, depending on their language combination. Theoretically, they can organise their work as they like, accepting or rejecting the jobs they are offered. Since they work for a wide variety of organisations, they cover many different subjects and work for many different kinds of people.
An interpreter's reputation depends on the quality of their work. Clients and other interpreters will call on an interpreter's services on the basis of this reputation, built up over time.
When working for an organisation covered by an AIIC agreement, a freelance is usually treated as a member of that organisation's staff (temporary agent or international official) for the duration of their contract. The interpreter in this situation will not need to negotiate the terms of the contract.
When working outside the scope of such an agreement, interpreters negotiate mutually acceptable terms for their work (fees, expenses, travel, the interpreting team, working conditions, working time, etc.), while respecting AIIC rules.
Freelances need to take care of their own pension and social security requirements and national tax obligations. AIIC can however provide very useful advice in these areas.
A few examples
A freelance interpreter based in Geneva with English, Spanish and Russian might work mainly for organisations within the United Nations family, and therefore at quite lengthy conferences (sometimes lasting several weeks) that are scheduled well in advance and often take place outside Geneva.
A freelance interpreter based in Brussels with 3 or 4 European Union languages might work mainly for the European Union institutions for short periods (under one week), often in Brussels.
A freelance interpreter based in Paris with only English and French might work for some major international organisations (Council of Europe, OECD, UNESCO) and the private market (business, medical, technical or diplomatic meetings).
A freelance based in Seoul with Korean and English will work mainly for private clients (corporations, broadcast media, associations, NGOs, etc.) and/or government bodies.