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Should I have taken this contract? (8-mo reviewing/translation project; max hrs set)
Thread poster: Matthew Kinnersly

Matthew Kinnersly  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:27
Japanese to English
Jul 6, 2003

Several months ago I applied for an eight-month job reviewing translated documents. After a lot of delays I was told it was time to start, but I just had to sign off on the contract. When I read the contract, it specified that I was obliged to see the project through to completion to the client's satisfaction (fair enough), but it also stated that the payment was not to exceed 1,000 hours of work. It also stated that my duties were to include translation at the same hourly rate, which was agreed for reviewing only and would substantially undercut any word-based translation rate I'm prepared to work for. There were other problems, but those were the biggies. I didn't sign because the contract, if enforced as written, committed me to an unlimited amount of work for a limited amount of money and could leave me doing eight months of full-time translation at an hourly rate. I outlined my concerns in an e-mail, assuring the client that I wanted to work for them on the job, but not before the contract problems were sorted out. I assumed that would probably mean I blew the job, but I'm cautious about contracts. I never even heard back from them.
So, my question is, should I have swallowed the contract as it stood, on the grounds that when someone offers you 1,000 hours of work you say yes? Or was I right to be cautious?


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Valeria Verona  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 04:27
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Agree with you. Jul 6, 2003

You were right to be cautious!
If they're really interested, they'll contact you to negotiate the terms of the contract.
Good luck.


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xxxIanW
Local time: 09:27
German to English
+ ...
Quite right Jul 6, 2003

I'd have reacted in exactly the same way. Apart from all the reasons you mentioned, I'd have been anxious that my "bread-and-butter" clients might have had to go elsewhere. A little caution is always a good thing.

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mrippa  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:27
English to Italian
Do you have an approssimative idea of the total word count and of the quality of the translation? Jul 6, 2003

Usually, I calculate for proofreading 1 hour for approx. 2500 words, if the translation is of good quality. My humblest opinion is to try to obtain a figure of the actual word count and some translation samples. Also, try to regonetiate your translation tasks on a per word basis.

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Gayle Wallimann  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:27
Member (2001)
French to English
+ ...
Matthew, you did the right thing Jul 6, 2003

Don't feel doubtful now, I'm sure that you did the right thing. You would have had problems along the line, I'm sure. The agency didn't even have the courtesy to reply to your letter, and that says a lot to me. Adults can talk things over, and translators are not obliged to accept contracts without any questions.
You'll find a better job, I'm sure!
Gayle


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Matthew Kinnersly  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:27
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
No communication Jul 6, 2003

Massimo Rippa wrote:

try to obtain a figure of the actual word count and some translation samples. Also, try to regonetiate your translation tasks on a per word basis.


It's multiple translators feeding multiple reviewers, so the quality could be very variable. I never saw samples. I don't think anyone anywhere knows the word count. I wouldn't mind an open-ended job if it was backed by open-ended money, but there's that "Not to exceed" clause. I'd also be happy to serve as a translator on the project, for a sensible per-word rate (I offered to do so), but there doesn't seem to be anyone to talk to.


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mrippa  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:27
English to Italian
Contracts cannot be swallowed without negotiation.... Jul 6, 2003

Matthew Kinnersly wrote:

....there doesn't seem to be anyone to talk to.


In this case, I think that you should have no regret. Trying to accomodate customers needs doesn't mean to accept unpredictable workloads for a fixed rate. Communication should be a valuable asset for every agency.


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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:27
Member (2002)
English to German
Perhaps you were very lucky to decline Jul 6, 2003

If your concerns were unjustified it wouldn't have been any problem for them to change your contract.

Since you never heard back I rather think that you were absolutely right.

I also had very bad experiences with proofreading, so bad that I decided not to offer it at all in future.

Even some reputable agencies tend to use "cheaper" translators to do the bulk of work and more expensive translators to get things sorted out again afterwards (for low per word rates or hourly rates with time restrictions). I did this several times (much lower volumes though than in your case...) and decided that it is not at all worth the efforts.

So be happy and watch out for better offers.


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:27
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Me da mala espina Jul 6, 2003

Matthew, the Spanish would say "Me da mala espina." What you described gave me a weird feeling. I think that if you had signed it, you would have been stuck with tons of work and no or minimal pay. Buddy, don't feel bad, you did the right thing. My gut feeling tells me that there "is something rotten in the State of Denmark" here, to quote the famous bard. Don't fret, something good and honest will come up soon. Hang in there!

Lucinda.


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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 09:27
English to French
+ ...
You did right Jul 6, 2003

"but it also stated that the payment was not to exceed 1,000 hours of work"

You decide how long a work is gonna take, not them.
Don't worry, only the fact that they did not even answer is proof enough.
Think also maybe you could have refused more interesting jobs because you would have been to busy for them at a "fixed price".


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 03:27
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Eight months is a long time to devote Jul 6, 2003

to an agency you don't really trust. A lot of things can happen in eight months, and my hunch is you would have a very sore behind indeed from kicking yourself over and over as other, much more lucrative (and reasonable!) jobs came along during that period, and you were stuck with this huge, loss-leader project.
My advice is to forget it and move on. Nothing like a juicy contract to rid you of all your misgivings over this rather arid deal.
Best,
Nancy


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Mariflor Salas  Identity Verified
Venezuela
Local time: 03:27
English to Spanish
Don't doubt it for a second: You did the right thing!!!! Jul 7, 2003

And thanks on behalf of my profession. The day we all start acting like you did, maybe we, translators, will get more respect from clients in general.

As long as we are willing to work for peanuts and under any conditions whatsoever, people will think of translating like an stupid job that anyone can do. I used to suffer every time I saw at Proz a job posting offering these incredibly low rates, only to see a gazillion bids a few minutes later. I don't suffer any more because I'm not a Platinum member, so I can't see these jokes of job offers and people happily bidding, thank God.

You don't go to a builder and ask him to build you a house for XX dollars without showing this person the exact drawing plans, do you? Well, the same with us!!! To accept a job from a company that requires 8 months of your time in such open-ended way is asking for trouble and not loving yourself too much.

No, no and three thousand times no. We have to change the way we do business. The first thing is, to charge market rates and to request the same treatment that other professions get.

That you lost that job? Maybe you did, or maybe they simply never went ahead with the project and in the same irresponsible way they dealt with you, they never bothered to call you. In any case, thank God will all your heart (it could have been horrible) and be proud.


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:27
English to German
+ ...
Don't sign a job, if they do not even answer your questions! Jul 7, 2003

I think it always runs along the same lines: They offer the contract to a number of people, making it sound big and like a time without financial problems. In this way, you are lured into the net of endless work for too little money.
I am not sure, whether this contract would even be legal in Germany, sounds a little like slavery.
And if they did not bother to answer to your concerns, they did not really want to work with you. Honestly: If they do not answer your questions regarding the contract, who would answer your question, regarding why you did not receive any money?


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Matthew Kinnersly  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:27
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your support Jul 7, 2003

It's good to read everybody's supportive posts. Looks like I'm not just being paranoid.
For those of you who are worrying about me, I'm at least busy enough and not starving for my principles. I'm glad I wasn't in the position of having to accept bad terms or go broke, though. I might have taken the money and worried about the fine print later.
Thanks again.

Matt Kinnersly


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