Translator-oriented business terms
Thread poster: laure claesen

laure claesen  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:45
Member (2005)
English to French
Nov 14, 2009

My experience of working on poorly managed projects made me think of preparing my own business terms with agencies for a number of reasons.

Ideally, to avoid one-sided contracts where, except for payment for your work, you can expect nothing from your contractors. But also to establish a business relationship based on clearly stated quality expectations (as well as limits to such expectations), allowing both parties to develop quality in a dynamic manner.

Such terms could include:
-providing the freelancer some feedback now and then, as part of good project management;
-providing a clear statement on quality standards
-providing an indication of the number of assignments can expect
-describe availability expectation (eg. One of my clients(agencies) is a champion of last-minute translations, with jobs to be completed within the hour. I feel treated like a slave and more generally, in an unethical manner. But as they give me a lot of work, I am reluctant to just drop them).
-letting a freelancer know the reason(s) why they've dropped them...

If you have made any similar attempts or thought you might try, I would be interested to hear about that. I would like to set up a model of a contract to submit to agencies.

Any other suggestions?

Cheers, my poor lonesome colleagues.:-))))


Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:45
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
On paper but nor real life Nov 14, 2009

First of all let me start by saying I share some of your frustrations and really believe ewe would benefit from something like this, unfortunately I am sorry to say this might sound good in theory but I think it is impossible to implement successfully.

Starting from the basis that all commercial transactions in all business fields are based on one contract, at least I know of no instances where there are two contracts for the same business relationship. I do have a contract of my own but I use it with non-agency clients.

I would say you can forget about having two contracts, there has to be one, yours or the agencies. From the way agencies work it is very unlikely they will want to use your contract, they will want to use theirs, at least all the agencies I know of would.

So the most you can hope for is for the agency to maybe add something to their standard contract, but at the same time why should they, that just means extra work, having your legal department or external lawyer look at the changes, maybe have to negotiate the terms, etc. I really don't see any agency willing to do that.

I wish it were otherwise but I think this is the way most (to not say all) agencies work.


Theo Bernards (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
This is what all agencies rely upon... Nov 14, 2009

Alex Lago wrote:
I would say you can forget about having two contracts, there has to be one, yours or the agencies. From the way agencies work it is very unlikely they will want to use your contract, they will want to use theirs, at least all the agencies I know of would.


While I do agree with the sad fact there is no way we individual translators can impose our terms on our dealings with agencies, the sentiment Alex expresses is exactly why we freelance translators are usually left holding the short end of the stick when dealing with agencies. Don't get me wrong, I am as guilty as the next one for not even trying anymore, but here's an idea:

What if there were to exist an organization where every freelance and/or independent translator earning their keep (or at least trying to earn their keep), regardless of education, accreditation, experience, references or any other relatively limiting criterium could register for a nominal fee and which would advocate exactly the business terms that are important to independent or freelance translators? And what if that independent organization would take it one step further and issue a points system for every agency that hires freelance translators on a regular basis? I think the results would be surprising. The points Laure sums up sound reasonably familiar and I have often thought that I must be very thick-skinned to take it all into my stride and move on as if nothing happened (which I am not, by the way; neither am I a mushroom, to be kept in the dark and fed horse manure).

We freelance translators are partly to blame ourselves for not getting decent business terms from not too decent agencies.Let's be ho0nest: when we needed the cash in the beginning of our careers, most of us bent over backwards to deliver, even if it was for a meager fee. Even when we were treated like slaves we feared to speak up for fear of loosing a client. Been there, done that, worn that ragged T-shirt, not too proud to admit it!

I don't claim to have solutions for the problems that Laure expresses and that without a doubt circulate in the minds of many fellow language professionals. I just occasionally satisfy my own need to respond to such unreasonable emailed requests with very direct emails and if I am in that mood I take no prisoners. Mind you, I wouldn't advise anybody to do that if they are dealing with an agency they hope to work for in the future. With mixed feelings of pride and shame I must admit I have a 100% "No Reply"-score to these emails. Bad? Probably. Satisfying? Definitely! Smart? Definitely not, but hey if they don't approach me again I don't get worked up again, which is just as nice for my other half as the dinner I would have taken her to with the proceeds of such a job...

Theo, Dutchman in France
Translation - So much more than substituting language A with language B

[Edited at 2009-11-14 20:48 GMT]


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