Working with an agnecy without a contract
Thread poster: Noura Tawil

Noura Tawil  Identity Verified
Syria
Local time: 23:44
Member (2013)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Jul 30, 2013

Hi,
Are there any hazards in taking an assignment from an agency without signing a contract?
I'm not sure if they will send the contract later, as we're still in the "get to know" phase, I'm just asking to be prepared. I was recommended to them by a client who does not know much about their business ethics.

It's a small Spanish agency with several Blue Board entries (4.9 in average).
If they didn't offer a contract for this one assignment ( I don't know the volume yet), should I ask for one?

Thanks for your inputs.


 

Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:44
German to English
No problem Jul 30, 2013

Hi Noura,

I have been working in the industry for over twenty years and have very rarely signed any form of contract with my suppliers until the last year or so, when bureaucracy seems to have reared its ugly head.

Just go with your instincts and everything will be ok. Newbie translators tend to be frightened of not getting paid, but I am happy to say (touching wood!) that so far I have never had a client who didn't pay, eventually!

Ask if you feel you need it, but if the agency sounds genuine and especially if they have references on here, don't be too fearful.

Best wishes,

Steve K.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:44
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I can't think of one Jul 30, 2013

I've worked with a good few agencies, but I'm not sure I've ever signed a contract for straightforward translating or editing, though I've signed quite a few NDAs. I have received a few Purchase Orders, but not that many - for about 1% of my work, I suppose. Some of the agencies that have an online interface do ask you to click the box saying you accept their terms - I suppose that's an enforceable contract. But then I only get that far if I've already agreed terms.

Most of my clients, translation agencies and others, send me a text as an attachment to an email explaining what they need done. I write back explaining what my rate will be (if they don't already know) and I either propose a deadline or agree to theirs. They then write the 3rd email in the series, giving the go-ahead. That's as much of a contract as I need. It's also totally acceptable in law courts wherever I've worked, AFAIK. Whether it is where you are, I have no idea.

I think contracts can be very over-rated for our kind of partnership. In the translation world, they tend to come from big agencies who want you to sign very lop-sided contracts that put every single responsibility and business risk onto the little old freelancer. Suffice it to say that the only client I have ever taken to court had got me to sign a contract, when I was still far too naive for my own good. It was for a teaching job and when the student cancelled the course after 12 hours (through no fault of mine), my client said "no pay" because I'd signed to accept "payment on completion of the course". Fortunately, the French courts never hesitated: "abusive clause" was their verdict and my client ended up paying my invoice in full, with interest, all my costs, all their own costs...icon_biggrin.gif

Edited to say (for the sake of others if not the OP): You absolutely MUST get everything down in print before you start working. It can be in a text message as long as it can be saved until payment has been received, and the information can variously come from them or from you or be arrived at by negotiation. You need:
- the client's details for the invoice (Co. name, full registered address, tax details if required)
- the client's other contact details just so you know they really exist and in case of problems
- the volume (word count, page count...)
- the rate (including discounts/surcharges if applicable), currency, payment method, payment deadline
- the delivery format and method (often a Word document by email, but not always)
- the specific requirements of the job, e.g. CAT tool to be used, text to be ignored...
- anything else I've forgotten???



[Edited at 2013-07-30 16:44 GMT]


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:44
Member (2008)
French to English
Offer and acceptance Jul 30, 2013

An offer and acceptance is a contract. Even if it's only an exchange of emails, if the exchange is clear and unambiguous then it is a legally binding contract. Even if the "offer" (to buy and on what conditions) is responded to by a "counter-offer" (to sell and what conditions), what is finally agreed is a contract.

Formalizing it by signing something can give reassurance and help prevent misunderstandings, but it doesn't alter the fact that a simple offer and acceptance constitutes a binding contract.


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:44
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Hate signing long-worded contracts Jul 30, 2013

I very much agree with Sheila with regards to what you need before starting a translation job. Unfortunately, an exchange of emails today where it was the outsourcer who contacted me and addressed me by name, so it could not have been a mass email, said I had not confirmed the job, and he had not confirmed it. He asked me if I was available for a job, i answered i was ready to do it; he sent text-it was the wrong text as it was a translated text; I asked him to send the correct text; he sent it and I did not reply-did not see the need as I was working on it and I had already said I was available for the text which should have been like other texts I had done for this outsourcer. When I sent the finished text, he said I and he had never confirmed the job. But the exchange of emails clearly showed it had been confirmed by me, and that he had accepted by sending me the correct text. Next time, I will be more careful and do exactly as Sheila says. Apart from this, I really hate long-winded, never-ending contracts with small print and which only seems to cover the agency but not you. A long contract which you never understand.

 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:44
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
No need for a contract Jul 30, 2013

I was told this when I first started working. I had no contract, I was told that if I had three pay slips with the same number of hours and the same salary that was my contract.

Similarly, if you have a trace in writing of the job, deadline, rate, language combination and any other instructions, there's no need for anything else. Five pages of a contract is five pages of stuff that will make life difficult and basically replace trustworthiness.


(I don't understand a word of what the newsreaders in comfy Europe tell us is going on in Syria but I hope things are OK for you!)


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
a contract is surplus to requirements Jul 31, 2013

You don't sign a contract with a lawyer when you appoint him/her to take on a case, nor does your dentist ask to sign contracts before checking your teeth.
The agreement you have on the work to be done, rates, and payment terms is enough.
In my experience, paperwork-heavy agencies are the worst to work for. If they are paperwork-heavy at the start, they will invariably want you to fill out quality check forms, send your invoices by post, and deliver your work in a format determined by them and using a CAT tool determined by them. I have even heard of one agency wanting a plan of your work area.
I generally try to steer clear of agencies that want me to sign anything other than an NDA before starting work with them.


 

Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:44
German to English
Well said! Jul 31, 2013

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:
In my experience, paperwork-heavy agencies are the worst to work for. If they are paperwork-heavy at the start, they will invariably want you to fill out quality check forms, send your invoices by post, and deliver your work in a format determined by them and using a CAT tool determined by them. I have even heard of one agency wanting a plan of your work area.
I generally try to steer clear of agencies that want me to sign anything other than an NDA before starting work with them.


Agencies which require an excessive amount of paperwork at the outset generally turn out to be a real pain to work for. I avoid them like the plague.

Steve K.


 

Noura Tawil  Identity Verified
Syria
Local time: 23:44
Member (2013)
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
180 Degrees Jul 31, 2013

Interesting! I started this thread with the opposite idea to the business practices that you're mentioning.
I got the wrong idea because ever since I decided to work with agencies, which I have been avoiding for 5 years of my profession, I've been sent contracts and/or an NDAs even prior to receiving a qualification test. Therefore I thought that a contract is the norm in this business. I'm glad it's not, because I've been spending valuable time carefully reading 3 page contracts that I started feeling that I should get paid for signing! lol

Thanks for the tip, Josephine. I'll make sure to set the "go-ahead" clearly by the PM before starting a work.

Kind regards,


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 22:44
English to Polish
+ ...
Yeah Jul 31, 2013

John Fossey wrote:

An offer and acceptance is a contract. Even if it's only an exchange of emails, if the exchange is clear and unambiguous then it is a legally binding contract. Even if the "offer" (to buy and on what conditions) is responded to by a "counter-offer" (to sell and what conditions), what is finally agreed is a contract.

Formalizing it by signing something can give reassurance and help prevent misunderstandings, but it doesn't alter the fact that a simple offer and acceptance constitutes a binding contract.


Yeah. Jurisdiction and governing law will be messy, and litigation likely a nightmare (more so than the usual, that is), but it's an all-right contract.

This said, even if you actually managed to translate without a contract, there'd still be a claim for compensation under undue enrichment, anyway.icon_wink.gif

Where there is work there is pay! Ha!

Plus, if you have your own general terms and conditions – though you need to communicate their existence and location clearly, for example in your standardised e-mail footer – those will control in the absence of any specific mutual regulation or any specific standard contract of theirs that they haven't communicated to you or to the general public in a clear fashion (e.g. linked on their website).

Thus, I'm always happy when I get a job without paperwork. It means my own general terms at best and default statutory regulation at worst.


 

Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:44
French to German
+ ...
Since WE are the services providers,... Jul 31, 2013

it is up to US to set the rules according to which things should be done (as agencies do with the end clients, right?).

I am not certain to understand the dislike against contracts displayed in this thread.

But having worked through a wage portage company, I was told that a purchase order was not enough to start legal action should the agency turn a deaf ear when payment is due (or... overdue for that matter).

To each their own, of course... but personally, I am better safe than sorry.


 

Mariela Donvito
Local time: 22:44
Member (2010)
Chinese to Italian
+ ...
Fully agree with Laurent Jul 31, 2013

Considering that we provide a service, there is no pain in stating clear positions between the client and us through signed contract.
I work mainly with purchase letters, but sometimes agencies require to sign contracts, mainly abroad than in Italy.

Laws and contracts can be awful to be carefully read, but they are just a small part of our work and they help us to make things clear.


 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Working with an agnecy without a contract

Advanced search







SDL MultiTerm 2019
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2019 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2019 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »
BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search