Seeking consultation on my hourly-rate contract
Thread poster: jaymin

jaymin
Canada
Local time: 03:03
Member (2009)
German to Korean
+ ...
Apr 2, 2013

Hello,

I would like to consult with Proz members whether a business practice below is professional and ethical in translation field. I've been working remote full-time with an agency (based in Florida) on an hourly-rate contract so basically I am assigned to work 8 hours a day and some hours are on stand-by from time to time. Everything has been going smoothly for over two years but all of a sudden, the agency asked me to spread out my hours to be compensated without any prior notifications. To put it simple, I was on stand-by for Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the agency assigned me an 8700-word project and set the due date for next Monday so I was given 4 days for the project including Saturday and Sunday. I informed that my hourly rate wouldn't be covered even if I work straight on the weekend. The manager told me that Tuesday and Wednesday would also be compensated by spreading out my freelancing hours, which was not even close to my per-word rate for 8700 words, let alone the ridiculous short notice. Everything happened right before the Easter holiday weekend so my anger became enabled.

Should I take it personally or is the agency just a trash?

Thanks all,

An unhappy freelancer


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Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 09:03
German to Swedish
+ ...
Does it matter? Apr 2, 2013

If the arrangement seems unequitable and makes you unhappy, explain your position to the client, give them a chance to give you a fair deal, and if they don't - dump them.

And don't take it personally. It's just business. Some business partners are resonable, some don't even understand the concept.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Are you sure you are an independent contractor? Apr 2, 2013

If the working conditions (i.e. fixed available times, fixed number of hours, etc.) you explained are black on white in a contract you have signed with the agency, chances are that they are incorrectly considering you an independent contractor, because if you have fixed working hours and availabilities you are in fact an employee.

I would consult a lawyer about whether you are in fact an independent contractor or an employee and what your rights are in this situation.

As for the per-word job, if you received it outside of your agreed available hours... it is a separate job and in my opinion you should invoice it separately.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
@ Tomas Apr 2, 2013

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
If the working conditions (i.e. fixed available times, fixed number of hours, etc.) you explained are black on white in a contract you have signed with the agency, chances are that they are incorrectly considering you an independent contractor, because if you have fixed working hours and availabilities you are in fact an employee.

That isn't necessarily true, Tomás. This type of contract is certainly incompatible with a status of freelancer, but contractors can agree to contracts of this sort. I know for a fact that both engineers and programmers are sometimes taken on as contractors: full-time, sometimes on company premises, often for years at a time.

As for the per-word job, if you received it outside of your agreed available hours... it is a separate job and in my opinion you should invoice it separately.

Absolutely. A contract covers specific situations. It doesn't cover every eventuality and they can't just change things unilaterally. Up to the OP to stand up for his rights.


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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 10:03
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
I concur with Joakim Apr 2, 2013

As well as with the comments of Tomás and Sheila.
Personally I find this work arrangement somewhat peculiar. I am not privy to the terms and conditions of your arrangement so I could be way off here, but to me it sounds like the agency your work with has devised a way to have employees at hand without being bound by the labor laws.
A freelance or an independent contractor is hired to perform a project that by definition has a set scope (i.g. start and end goal, usually withing a set time frame). Some projects are long and even take years (as Sheila has mentioned) but they always have a deadline and a goal in mind. Lacking that definition and working full time for one client is being an employee in practice, only without the protection of the labor laws (social benefits, vacation and sick days, compensation in case of termination, etc.) and this is what I find questionable.


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jaymin
Canada
Local time: 03:03
Member (2009)
German to Korean
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you Apr 3, 2013

Thank you very much for the feedback.

I just read another critics on the agency and found it just a cheap company. I will plan out what I should do.

Thanks again,


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Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:03
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
I will plan what I should do Apr 3, 2013

Jaymin, while your anger is justified, I would be careful how I deal with the company. Maybe speak clearly and firmly first, making out these were not the terms agreed to. In the meantime, find out other clients/agencies that might abuse. But do not do anything rash. I am sure they do not want to lose you but they must also respect you if you have been working with them for quite some time. In the meantime, have a look around. Do not take it personal as this is business to minimise costs and capitalise on employees. Gl

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jaymin
Canada
Local time: 03:03
Member (2009)
German to Korean
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for the pill. Apr 3, 2013

Hi Josephine

thanks for your warm feedback. I am not a student at puberty so I may find a wise solution. Not hurting myself at least.
I've seen many cheap agencies in my 8-year freelancing so this is just another good and bad experience and doesn't impact my personal feelings at all. Just thinking...I may step out of the translation field for good.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Unfair business Apr 3, 2013

Josephine Cassar wrote:
In the meantime, have a look around. Do not take it personal as this is business to minimise costs and capitalise on employees. Gl

To me this is not quite fair business: if you need someone to be on standby for you within certain hours of the day and certain days of the week, hire the person as an employee, since you are preventing this person from taking other paid work within that working time.

This exclusivity is what employment exists for, and if you don't have the money to hire someone as an employee, you simply should not seek an employee-like availability and must hire independent contractors on a per-project and per-availability basis.

You cannot have it both ways, i.e. hire an independent contractor but expect that the independent contractor is not really independent. It's either one or the other.


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jaymin
Canada
Local time: 03:03
Member (2009)
German to Korean
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you, Tomas Apr 3, 2013

I already asked for an appropriate process as you advised.
Would a cheap co. care? I learned it a Miami style.


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Gad Kohenov  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 10:03
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Hello Jaymin Apr 3, 2013

Don't Kow-Tow to any company that comes along. If they used you - you can fire them, as we say. They can fire us but we can also fire them and give them a bad Blue Board appreciation as well. All according to how bad they treated you.
If you let them they will treat you as if you are working in a sweatshop.

Hang on in there, Pal


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jaymin
Canada
Local time: 03:03
Member (2009)
German to Korean
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hello Gad Apr 3, 2013

Thanks for your note! I will get to the blue board soon.
I am aiming and firing at the agency now.


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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 10:03
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
I agree with Tomás Apr 3, 2013

This is certainly not fair business in my book. It is more to the end of being an unethical and unprofessional conduct, specifically for the reason pointed out by Tomás.

...I may step out of the translation field for good.

I by no way have any intention to criticize, I sympathize with you, and I'm just using this discussion and your quoted comment to elaborate a little.

One should know his/hers limitations and determine whether they are more fit to work as an employee or to run their own business - because when you are a freelancer, independent contractor, or otherwise self-employed, no matter how people call it, you run your own business, and regardless of its size, all the usual business good practices apply just the same.
One working model is not better than the other, but they are definitely different and each brings its own potential advantages and disadvantages.

But when one decides to become self-employed one should think first and foremost as a business owner, a 'CEO of me' kind of mindset, and this includes risk management.
Now, I understand your frustration but I wouldn't go so far as calling it quits just because of one case. There is no shortage of unscrupulous agencies out there (most of them are not even an agencies in the traditional sense of the term they are nothing more than resellers/brokers of translation services, that due to the lack of value they offer resort to compete based on rate alone), and they seem to grow in number by the day, largely due to the fragmented structure of the translation marketplace (which is a topic for a different discussion) and less of regulation, and partly due to the business naiveness of the freelancers, which puts them at disadvantage and susceptible to questionable practices. But all of this doesn't mean that everything is lost. There are good agencies, and we must remember that we (the translators) are the ones doing the core work. If more translators will stand up for themselves, fight questionable practices, and be proactive about improving the profile of their profession, I believe things could change (and therefore we need to first and foremost educate our colleagues rather than invest in rather useless attempts of educating bad clients). There will always be a need (or wish) for cheap to free translations, and that is Okay as long as that demand remains a segment in the marketplace and not the face of the marketplace as a whole.

If one finds him/herself constantly approached and working with business partners that don't share many of one's professional and business values, one should look into their own actions and message to determine why one doesn't mange to break free from the same old routine and environment and advance to a higher tier, sort of speak, just like any business manager should do. There are many possible reasons for such situation, sometimes this honest deeper look reveals uncomfortable hard truth, but it is valuable nonetheless if one is serious about their future.

And I completely agree with Gad, as a business owner one can and should fire clients and business partners that don't share one's values or cannot be trusted. Being a freelance is not being a temp workforce for hire (as, sadly, many freelancers perceive themselves), it is being a business owner, and this is what one should consider him/herself and how one should conduct him/herself in a business capacity.

[Edited at 2013-04-03 21:14 GMT]


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