Working with agencies: content of purchase conditions
Thread poster: SanneMuller
SanneMuller
Germany
Local time: 15:38
French to German
Jan 19, 2010

Hello there,

I am a freelance translator trying to expand my own business by currently applying to agencies. But since I never worked with an agency before, there are some things I would like to ask you (I am sure most of you have more experience in dealing with agencies than I have):

- my first impression is, that the big agencies offer the possibility to register via a specific form on the website but they rarely contact the freelancer (probably because they have enough resources): would it thus be better to contact "smaller" agencies?

- I did receive from 2 agencies after successful test translations their purchase conditions to be signed and send back to them. They include, of course, some general agreements (like confidentiality), but they also include quite strict requirements regarding the quality of the translation (no mistakes, omissions, etc.) and the agreed deadline including potential financial penalties. Although I fully understand that this is important for the agency: is this common? Are there any possible conditions in these purchase conditions of agencies you would never sign? And what is your experience in this regard with agencies: do the strictly apply penalties if there are "minor" mistakes in the translation (for example a typo)?

Thanks a lot for your help and have a good day!

Sanne


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Nadejda Vega Cespedes  Identity Verified

Local time: 15:38
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
In brief Jan 19, 2010

1. From my experience, two scenarios are particularly common.

Some agencies, when they need to assign a project, mass-mail all translators meeting project criteria (such as language pair and area of expertise) in their database. They either offer a rate and the job then automatically goes to the first person who accepts it, or they ask translators to quote and pick one of those who reply fast (typically the cheapest one). This clearly doesn't result in a healthy and productive relationship between the agency and translators, but it's common nonetheless.

Other agencies hand-pick their providers. Bad news: they'll keep you on the bench for as long as they have their needs covered in your language pair/areas of expertise. Good news: once you've caught a project manager's attention and proven the best choice in your niche, you essentially get the right of first refusal.

As to the size of agencies, bigger ones are more likely to use an automated procedure, but they also tend to have more projects to offer. I'd go for agencies of any scale that have a strong reputation and manually select their suppliers.

2. Yes, this is common, but if you are not comfortable with anything in the papers you are expected to sign, you should bring the issue up, negotiate and make changes. Don't buy the this-is-standard-stuff rhetoric.

Look out for anything along the lines of "If you do X, you shall owe us a five-digit amount." If something goes wrong, the worst outcome for you, financially, should be zero payment.

As to agencies attempting to penalize translators for typos, my advice is, run away. Agencies' job should not be limited to buying, marking up and selling: they should add value, and that includes proofreading. They should make sure you are qualified. They should keep monitoring your performance. But there is nothing wrong with the occasional typo. It is agencies' responsibility to polish up the final product.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:38
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My thoughts Jan 19, 2010

SanneMuller wrote:
- my first impression is, that the big agencies offer the possibility to register via a specific form on the website but they rarely contact the freelancer (probably because they have enough resources): would it thus be better to contact "smaller" agencies?


1. I don't think it is a valid assumption that bigger agencies will have larger lists of translators, or that smaller agencies will have better translator:client ratios.

2. How would you determine the size of an agency?

...they also include quite strict requirements regarding the quality of the translation (no mistakes, omissions, etc.) and the agreed deadline including potential financial penalties.


Print the contract, take a ruler and a pen, cross out the sections you disagree with, sign in the margin, sign at the bottom, scan it and send it back. If the crossed-out sections are deal-breakers, they'll tell you. And if they refuse to be reasonable, remember that there are *hundreds* of agencies out there.

The fact that an agency sends you something to sign doesn't mean that they will send you jobs (unless they already contacted you about a potential job).

And what is your experience in this regard with agencies: do the strictly apply penalties if there are "minor" mistakes in the translation (for example a typo)?


Even agencies without these penalty clauses will sometimes apply some kind of penalty. What I dislike is when a client tries to specify some kind of monetary compensation (a fine, in other words) in the event of a problem.


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SanneMuller
Germany
Local time: 15:38
French to German
TOPIC STARTER
There is a maximum fine of zero payment... Jan 19, 2010

Thank you so much for your replies!

There is a maximum fine of zero payment but for this to apply, I would have to deliver complete nonsens (which will not happen). I also understand, that there is a fair margin of late delivery and minor shortcomings (e.g. typos). My own quality expectations are rather high and thus I do check before delivery - just wondered if these conditions result an a general attitude of agencies to find a reason for not paying.

But if this is usual in the translation business (and the respective agencies did not receive a load of bad evaluations on proz.com) - I am fine with it.


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