Who should sign my contract and advice on how to protect you, the freelance translator
Thread poster: Jim B Collins
Jim B Collins
Australia
Local time: 09:43
Chinese to English
+ ...
Nov 21, 2016

Hi, I need some advice from the community.

If the client is using a translation agency as a medium between him and the freelance translator (me,) who should be the one that signs my contract, the translation agency or the client? The translation agency is the one which decides if they would give me this job. Do I have the power to write my own contract for them or the client to agree to?

Ideally, the contract created by me would specify that I would only hand in my translation after the payment is in my account and the translation and payment would be broken into several installments. I would only hand in a section of the translation after I have received the payment for it. And I would only translate the next section if the payment for the previous section is cleared.

And I would also specify that my job is the translation and nothing else. I would like to know how often freelance translators on Proz were able to get clients to agree to those terms and how they protect themselves in situations like this?


If a project has 700K words, how many installments should it be broken into?

Best regards,

- Jim

[Edited at 2016-11-21 06:52 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-11-21 06:53 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-11-21 07:01 GMT]


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 06:43
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Agency Nov 21, 2016

Under most circumstances, if they're going through an agency, you deal with the agency. The agency is your client. The end customer is the agency's client.

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Jim B Collins
Australia
Local time: 09:43
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Nov 21, 2016

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Under most circumstances, if they're going through an agency, you deal with the agency. The agency is your client. The end customer is the agency's client.


Thank you, Lincoln.

A few days ago, I read somewhere on the forum where a translator informed the community that he might be getting stiffed from a massive job after he handed in his translation. I really don't want the same happen to me. Wouldn't you think the contract I described in my earlier post is a minimum protection? Is it difficult to have clients agree to those terms in your experience? What is your experience with contracts, if you don't mind me asking?

[Edited at 2016-11-21 08:10 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-11-21 08:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-11-21 08:15 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-11-21 08:22 GMT]


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
2c Nov 21, 2016

You cannot really expect payment before delivery. Then they'd be the ones worrying about being stiffed.

Ideally both parties would meet in a neutral place on the stroke of midnight and exchange envelopes secreted inside folded newspapers.

More normal for a project of this size is to be paid in instalments after you deliver each instalment. I would suggest monthly chunks, though you might want to deliver a short chunk first to see how payment goes. A lot of it depends on the job and the customer.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:43
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My advice Nov 21, 2016

My advice: cut out the agency and make a deal directly with the end client. The client pays less, you get paid more, and you work closely with the end client to get a better translation.

The agency need never know what has happened. The end client can simply withdraw the job.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:43
English to Croatian
+ ...
Not sure if it's the proper way. Nov 21, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

My advice: cut out the agency and make a deal directly with the end client. The client pays less, you get paid more, and you work closely with the end client to get a better translation.

The agency need never know what has happened. The end client can simply withdraw the job.


As an example a while ago I was contacted by an agency and a direct client on the same day. The direct client's rate was 6 (six) times bigger, but that's not the end of the story. The direct client's tone of correspondence was friendly and professional, while the agency PM's tone was rude and condescending - just because I said their rate was too low, they said "OK, we will give the job to someone else" but in a very condescending way. It's like we just sit there and beg them to throw us some crumbs? Is this really how things are supposed to work in business and professional world? I can even understand budgeting and budget restrictions, but can't understand that tone.

And yes, re. the "power". My power to suggest, negotiate, write up my own terms for the client to sign or consider, etc was much bigger with the direct client. With the agency it was minimal to non-existent. If I try to do this with an agency, I always get the same answer: We will find someone else. This reply seems to be a part of their standard protocol. And they will indeed, as it doesn't matter to them who they work with, or chaotic staff that changes with each project, etc - they are not about business relationships.

So, 6 times bigger rate goes hand in hand with 6 times bigger power to set up your own terms.

[Edited at 2016-11-21 09:44 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My personal view of written contracts Nov 21, 2016

Jim B Collins wrote:
If the client is using a translation agency as a medium between him and the freelance translator (me,) who should be the one that signs my contract, the translation agency or the client? The translation agency is the one which decides if they would give me this job. Do I have the power to write my own contract for them or the client to agree to?

You have absolutely no business relationship with the end client. You may know who he/she/it is, but you don't have to know, and you can't make any real use of the knowledge.

Ideally, the contract created by me would specify that I would only hand in my translation after the payment is in my account and the translation and payment would be broken into several installments. I would only hand in a section of the translation after I have received the payment for it. And I would only translate the next section if the payment for the previous section is cleared.

Wow, you're not prepared to leave much to chance! Whatever happened to trusting your collaborator, within reason? Expecting them to be honest? Proceeding on the basis of innocent until proven guilty?

Is it difficult to have clients agree to those terms in your experience? What is your experience with contracts, if you don't mind me asking?

My experience over 20 years has been that there are two types of client (with the inevitable few who don't really fit either category because they can't manage their business and usually go bankrupt):
1) The ones who would move heaven and earth to see you get your money once you've done a really good job for them. They won't impose a contract of their own but will ask if you'd like one "to cover yourself". In other words, they'll happily sign one that you provide, if it seems reasonable.
2) The ones who will always try to get something - anything - for nothing, who will fight over every penny/cent, and will take advantage of any error in their favour. They'll also take advantage of any weakness and look for chances to bully their freelance providers. They won't work without a contract of less than about 10 pages, but it has to be theirs, not yours! And of course everything will be heavily weighted in their favour. The slightest failing on your part will be punished with "pay cuts", and the potential for "unlimited damages" is common. But compensation for cancellation, extra payment for unexpected extra work, surcharges for late payment - these will all be mysteriously missing.

So, which is your client? If it's one of the "N°2s" of our profession, then presenting them with that contract would bring things into the open, so it could be a positive move. However, send such a contract to an honest client and you'll be sending them a clear message: "I don't trust you an inch! I'm expecting you to take advantage of me and I'm not having it!" Perhaps not a great start to a relationship?

It's normal due diligence of any business to minimise risk, so you should have an idea in your mind of how much you're prepared to risk. But frankly, if that figure is zero I would forget about running a freelance business. Obviously though, you aren't going to do 700k words without ever seeing the colour of their money. Aside from the trust factor, you have to eat! I personally ask for an advance payment with large-volume jobs (maybe 10-25% - it varies a lot). Then, I like to invoice clients monthly, so I'd ask for similar staged payments. I like to wangle it so that the final payment is quite small but I never lose any sleep over it as I don't expect my clients to default. I wouldn't be happy to carry on in business if I felt everyone was trying to cheat me out of my well-earned income.

PS Let's be clear that you most definitely need to get a set of T&C down in black and white and agreed to by both parties before you spend any time or the client spends any money. But that can just be done as an exchange of emails. And you don't even have to explicitly say "all work done must be paid for", as courts hold the view that work that's commissioned and performed must be rewarded. That's an inalienable right, whatever any contract says (and I've tested that in court, to my client's dismay ).


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Jim B Collins
Australia
Local time: 09:43
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You have all been very helpful Nov 27, 2016

I would like to thank everyone for sharing some of their wisdom with me. Sheila Wilson, Lingua 5B, Tom in London, Chris S and Lincoln, you've all been very helpful.

The story keeps escalating so now I would need to make another post where I'll ask another question to the community. I have been very busy.

Best regards,

- Jim


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:43
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bring on ... Nov 27, 2016

... them questions. And don't forget Kudoz for all the rough tough stuff. It's all there, so make sure you use it to its full potential, like.

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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:43
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Yes, but how is Kudoz related to the OP's questions? Nov 27, 2016

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

... them questions. And don't forget Kudoz for all the rough tough stuff. It's all there, so make sure you use it to its full potential, like.


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:43
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good question Nov 27, 2016

How is it related? It will be, eventually. Just keeping ahead of the next question, that's all. There might be a query or two about how to invoice, how to write a CV and how to mow the lawn.

[Edited at 2016-11-27 20:10 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Jim Nov 27, 2016

Jim B Collins wrote:
If the client is using a translation agency as a medium between him and the freelance translator (me,) who should be the one that signs my contract, the translation agency or the client?


As others have said: your agreement is with the agency.

Do I have the power to write my own contract for them or the client to agree to?


You can try, but generally the agency won't allow you to bind the client.

Ideally, the contract created by me would specify that I would only hand in my translation after the payment is in my account and the translation and payment would be broken into several installments.


Well, there is nothing wrong with or unusual about payment in advance and translation in installments, but it is very difficult to arrange that if the agency isn't used to doing that. The best thing you can do, generally, is to find out if the agency is trustworthy (e.g. Blue Board record) and then decide if you want to trust them.

I would only hand in a section of the translation after I have received the payment for it.


If you can't arrange this, but you can arrange for payment in installments, then your risk is reduced to the portion of text that you translated most recently.

If a project has 700K words, how many installments should it be broken into?


For such a project, I'd suggest you try to get the agency to agree to monthly payments. In other words, at the end of each month, you invoice for the amount of work that you did that month. Since this job might take up most of your time, you must try to get the agency to agree to pay you within 2 weeks of the invoice, otherwise you're going to have very little money for a while (e.g. three months) before the monthly invoices start getting paid.


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:43
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
This is highly unethical, possibly a breach of contract, and will backfire Nov 28, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

My advice: cut out the agency and make a deal directly with the end client. The client pays less, you get paid more, and you work closely with the end client to get a better translation.

The agency need never know what has happened. The end client can simply withdraw the job.


Tom, hope that was tongue in cheek, but in case it wasn't:

  1. If the job / job proposal arrived through the agency, for the translator to suggest to the end client that they deal directly with him would be unethical
  2. If the translator has signed any sort of standard NDA or contract with the agency, it is very likely that poaching a client like that would be contrary to the agreed terms, hence a breach of contract
  3. Even setting ethics aside, translation is a small world: in the end, it would be known that the translator had poached a client from the agency. That would not necessarily be a plus for the translator's future career prospects


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