As a working interpreter have you noticed anything that proactive experienced interpreters tend to do??
Many things, Catlin. When I am offered an assignment, I find out the exact location down to the room or suite number, who the deaf and hearing clients are, what the deaf client(s)’ language preference is/are, what the event and/or topic(s) is/are, the contact person’s name and phone number and/or email address, where I need to check in or register, how long the assignment will last, who my team is, if applicable, where the parking is, and any other information that will help to orient me. I make sure to get the zip code so I can look it up in Google Maps and have my Android phone navigate me in the car with GPS.
If it is a conference for a certain company or organization, I look at their website to learn about the entity and their personnel, and if they have a section devoted to the conference, I review the speakers, plenary and workshop topics, and–very handy to have–the conference center map.
If the assignment is from an agency I have never worked with before, or if someone is contracting with me directly, I make sure that we sign a contract before the job starts. I have neglected to do this in the past and regretted it. I find out how many forms they will require me to complete as well as any background checks that may need to be done. I have also been shocked in the past by how many hoops I had to jump through to get paid, and I regretted how little I had charged for the job considering how many extra hours it took me just to push paper. A few minutes (or even an hour or two) of business dealing can save you hours later on, and can help you determine how much to charge so you have no regrets. You might even want to do a little “background check” on the paying client to see whether they have a reputation for paying on time and without too many hassles. Finally, I have started charging as much to contract with people individually as an agency would charge them. If they want to go with an agency instead of me, that is just fine by me. It makes less work for me, and if they want me they can save me time and effort by requesting me from an agency. The pay cut is worth it for the trouble it saves me. I cannot speak for other interpreters, but that is how I feel at this point.
In short, proactive, experienced interpreters do many things and spend a considerable amount of time before assignments to prepare for success.