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Requiring contracts or not
Thread poster: Scott de Lesseps

Scott de Lesseps  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:44
Partial member (2007)
French to English
Oct 10, 2006

I've always thought that requiring a contract from a client was very basic and reasonable. But for the last two jobs I have accepted, both clients have resisted the request, saying that they have too many vendors to sign so many contracts. While I understand the point, I thought that the ATA recommended contracts, as they have a model on on their web site. It also just seems good general business practice. I can understand if you have done business with someone for a long time that you might not require a contract.
Back in July, I made the mistake of not requiring a contract, and the client did not pay, and it was a repeat client. I would appreciate any thoughts or comments on this. Thanks.

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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
Italian to English
Verba volant, scripta manent Oct 10, 2006

Scott de Lesseps wrote:
I've always thought that requiring a contract from a client was very basic and reasonable.

Quite right, Scott.

There may, however, be practical difficulties in getting a formal contract signed, particularly if the job is urgent.

You might also have to adjust to local circumstances. Here in Italy, for example, taking any disagreement to court is a classic triumph of hope over experience because the legal system is veeeeery slow indeed: Italian court cases are the sort of things you leave to your heirs and assigns.

That said, most Italians are as honest and keen to do business fairly as anyone else, although they tend to be a little more attentive to form than, say, their British or American peers (and this is to their credit, by the way).

The important thing is to have something printable everyone can refer to, even if it is as legally insubstantial as an email. In real life, at the very least I email a firm offer to clients before accepting a job, asking the customer to reply to the email to confirm or reject the conditions (rate, maximum total charge, delivery, payment conditions and so on). Repeat customers are used to this and appreciate the speed with which they can sort out their translation jobs. They have very rarely let me down in a decade and a half of business - touch wood - although a few have stretched the payment period a tad from time to time, but such is life.

With new customers, I never take on a large job as a first project so should one welch on me, it would be an irritation but not a disaster.

As the old Latin tag says, "spoken words fly away, written words remain".



[Edited at 2006-10-10 20:32]

[Edited at 2006-10-11 06:45]

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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
Italian to English
+ ...
Good for you Oct 11, 2006

Don't let them fob you off. It might be just another bit of paperwork to do but it'll save you (and them) from a lot of hassle in the long run. As Giles says it's often very hard to get things down on paper before you start the job but it's by far the best thing to do. But if they really dig their heels in just put everything in an e-mail and ask them to confirm receipt each time.

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Scott de Lesseps  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:44
Partial member (2007)
French to English
Thanks Oct 21, 2006

Thanks to you both. I appreciate your comments and insight. It's always helpful to get others' perspectives and opinions. By the way, speaking of requesting receipt confirmation, I have been considering subscribing to MsTag. It seems like it might be worth the investment, for all the extra time and effort it saves -- both yourself and the agency or client. Just wondering if anyone has any comments on that also. Thanks in advance!

[Edited at 2006-10-21 03:53]

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Darin Fitzpatrick  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2006)
German to English
Blanket agreement, or individual contracts? Oct 31, 2006

Hi Scott,

I have a blanket contract with every agency that I work with. These have all been initiated by the agency, and include non-compete agreements as well as the "nuts & bolts" terms.

For non-agency clients, I typically ask for a purchase order, which is a contract. Most have been able to provide this without a problem, since it is their normal paperwork anyway. The PO should refer to your quote, and your quote should include the "nuts & bolts."

I do not ask for individual contracts for each agency job, but I do have a confirmation exchange via e-mail, much as Giles describes. I would insist on a response from a person, rather than an automatic "message read" notice.

The essential point is that both sides know what to expect from the transaction. The effort required to enforce a contract via the legal system is too much except for very large jobs, and then you should insist on a proper, detailed, unassailable contract.

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