Signing NDA before agreeing on rates?
Thread poster: Julia Glasmann

Julia Glasmann
Germany
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
May 18

This is not so much an issue, but just a question of general curiosity:

It happens quite frequently to me that I get contacted by new translation agencies asking whether I was available for work and, once I express some general interest, I immediately get an NDA to be signed "before we can discuss further details about the work you would be doing". Has anybody else encountered the same thing? How do you react?

I signed an NDA under those circumstances once (a few years back), just to find out - after quite a lot of emailing forth and back - that the word rates the agency was willing to pay were so low that I never bothered to work for them. So obviously I now point out that I would like to discuss my word rates before signing anything, but often I do not even reply to those emails anymore, because somehow it seems always a bit fishy to me that I would have to sign an NDA just to get information about the general type of work an agency would be giving me (It is different, of course, if a PM who is contacting me already has a project in the pipeline that he/she wants to assign, but even than I would like to talk about the word rates first.) Any thoughts?


 

wotswot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:18
Member (2011)
French to English
My thoughts May 18

I fully agree with your cautious approach to NDAs. In my experience (here in France), they are often badly worded/translated anyway, ironic given that they are issued by translation agencies, and they often impose unacceptable conditions, in particular the destruction of documents after translation, which rules out the keeping of TMs! Ridiculous and totally unrealistic in this day and age (widespread use of CAT tools), all the more so as, in signing the NDA, we undertake not to disclose anything anyway.

Rates should be agreed first, and in writing (e-mail).

Richard


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:18
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Rates first May 18

Julia Glasmann wrote:
I immediately get an NDA to be signed "before we can discuss further details about the work you would be doing". Has anybody else encountered the same thing? How do you react?

I say something like this.

"Look, I know that there are many different approaches in this industry, and clearly the market is segmented, with some agencies working at the high end and some focusing on the not-so-high-end. I have the experience and the skills to work at the high end so, to save you wasting your time, I will tell you right now that I charge XX per character for the kind of technical work in which I specialise, plus a supplement for OCR or DTP work. If you can pay that, and you have a project waiting, then fine, let's go ahead with the NDA and other paperwork. If you don't have a project waiting, or if you feel my rate is a bit too high for you, then there's no point - for either of us - in proceeding any further."

I don't negotiate this. I state my position and wait for the response. Works for me.

Regards,
Dan


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 14:18
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
What you lose May 18

Electronically signing an NDA only takes moments, and you can always include your rate in your return email.

Actually, if you make it a point to send your rates during initial communication, you should never get to the point of signing an NDA without mentioning rates.


 

Lian Pang  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:18
Member (Mar 2018)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Done it one or two of times May 18

Back when I was fresh to the industry, I was eager to get in touch with agencies and worried that bringing up rates would drive them away. So for one or two times I just signed the NDAs, not further questions asked.

Now I always discuss and agree on everything, rates, nature of work, payment terms and method etc. before I put my signature(electronic or handwriting) on anything. Plus I don't use the same signature on NDAs as the ones I provide to bank and stuff - just a precaution based on intuition.


 

Julia Glasmann
Germany
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting thoughts May 18

@Richard: I never even considered that most NDAs technically would require me to delete the TM afterwards, which is ironic, because often the same agencies that send those NDAs also require the use of CAT tools (which are kind of pointless, if you don't have a TM to use it with...)

@Dan: I like your approach, however, I am not sure I would dare to be so blunt (although I totally agree with you). If you don't mind me asking - how many agencies/potential clients respond once you state your position this way and/or turn into actual clients?

@Lincoln: It is not about the time that it takes to sign. I would NEVER sign an NDA without reading it first - you never know what (potentially hidden) clauses are in it and how that could impact your work in the future. And reading through an NDA can take quite some time - which is pointless if I end up never working for the agency in question.

@Lian: That's exactly how I feel. I was just curious how common it is for freelancers to receive those NDAs before there is even a working relationship to be anticipated between translator and agency - because it seems to be happening to me more and more often...


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:18
Member (2008)
French to English
Rates first May 18

I always check if the client agrees with my rates before discussing anything else. If the client accepts my rates we can then go on to discuss other things, including NDAs, but if not we're wasting our time.

 

Armine Abelyan
Armenia
Local time: 10:18
Member (2017)
English to Armenian
+ ...
Check the rates and payment conditions May 19

You should check not only the rates but also the payment methods, for instance you prefer to be paid via paypal or skrill, or simply via wire transfer because you may loose some amount of money just because the right payment method was not clarified with you in advance.

So, all conditions, Rates, Payment dates, Payment Methods should be clearly notified and agreed.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:18
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I thank them good bye! May 19

Julia Glasmann wrote:
It happens quite frequently to me that I get contacted by new translation agencies asking whether I was available for work and, once I express some general interest, I immediately get an NDA to be signed "before we can discuss further details about the work you would be doing". Has anybody else encountered the same thing? How do you react?

Yes, this happens from time to time, and my answer is always the same: if they refuse to discuss rates before signing any documents, I thank them for counting on me but wave them good bye. I make sure to explain to them that signing agreements with people you would never work with serves no purpose at all.

I generally try to take this further and only sign NDAs or cooperation agreements when there is a job already firm and agreed with set rates and the only step pending is to do the paperwork. Sensible customers have no problem with this, as they understand that I believe in agreements and only sign them when I am ready to honour them to their full extent.

Customers cannot really claim that they cannot send you samples of the text (they can anonymize them or can choose suitable snippets out of it) or tell you about wordcounts or type of files. They are well able to give you enough information about a job without compromising anyone's privacy.

Behind this trend of making you sign all sorts of things before saying hello to you is just a desire to feed databases, as expected from some project managers as part of their duties. Even if they never send you any work, they can claim that they are efficient and successful because they captured data from 20 new translators this week.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:18
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Julia and @Lincoln May 19

Julia Glasmann wrote:
It happens quite frequently to me that I get contacted by new translation agencies asking whether I was available for work and, once I express some general interest, I immediately get an NDA to be signed "before we can discuss further details about the work you would be doing".


That in itself is not a problem. It becomes a problem if the NDA is so long that you end up spending more than 15-20 minutes trying to decide if you can sign it, while you don't know if the potential client is a good fit.

[quoite]I signed an NDA under those circumstances once (a few years back), just to find out ... that the word rates the agency was willing to pay were so low that I never bothered to work for them. [/quote]

Yes, and that is why, if the NDA is quite long, you should ask the client if he can pay your rates. If he ignores the question, politely ask it again.

Somehow it seems always a bit fishy to me that I would have to sign an NDA just to get information about the general type of work an agency would be giving me...


It may just be standard practice for that agency, so there's nothing fishy about it.

Lincoln Hui wrote:
Electronically signing an NDA only takes moments, and you can always include your rate in your return email.


Before you can sign the NDA, you have to read it.

If you make it a point to send your rates during initial communication, you should never get to the point of signing an NDA without mentioning rates.


I think an issue is not that rates are not mentioned, but that the client doesn't confirm whether your rates are the same as their rates before you sign the NDA. I think most PMs will send you an NDA to sign even if the agency's usual rate is lower than the rate mentioned in your e-mail. Their attitude is (and not wrongly so) that everything is negotiable.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:18
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
What have you got to lose? May 19

Julia Glasmann wrote:
@Dan: I like your approach, however, I am not sure I would dare to be so blunt (although I totally agree with you). If you don't mind me asking - how many agencies/potential clients respond once you state your position this way and/or turn into actual clients?


Of those agencies that approach me, suprisingly few object to my rates. I suspect this is because they have already read my profile and they realise that I serve the quality end of the market, and that is what they want.

I don't really have anything to lose. I am not prepared to permit a rate below x, so I lose nothing by saying "My rate is x". Because I am already pretty busy, there is no need for me to accept work below that standard rate. Waiting serves no purpose. If a potential client cannot or will not pay that now, they will not be able to pay it later. If I tell them up-front, I save their time and my time. That minimises the resources wasted on clients with business models that are incompatible with mine.

You say "blunt", but I should emphasise that I am both frank and polite with potential clients. I don't snap at them, or make snide comments and sarcastic statements about the minimum wage. I close down the conversation courteously and move on.

Dan


 

Michel Virasolvy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:18
Member (2012)
English to French
Freelancer Vs. Auto-entrepreneur May 20

TLDR: If there's anything to sign (NDA, Power of Attorney, etc.), I simply turn them down.
—————
Many agencies who contact me are pretty much ignorant of the difference between a freelancer and an auto-entrepreneur.

For those who don't, a freelancer is a work-for-hire third party who will achieve a particular job/mission for a particular employer within a framework set by said employer, including, but not limited to, rate, end price, deadline, mandatory CAT tools and various compliance and special instructions. In this scenario all the work of the translator is the ownership of the employer from start to finish, they can boss the translator around, pressure them into signing various documents and registering on their platforms, forcing the translator to release all rights to their work, be liable for 100% of all costs that incur a loss to the employer and of course never be publicly acknowledged for said work. As third party people they have no legal recourse to "hierarchical pressure", and they're considered as expendable by the employer. Long story short, if you're a freelancer, you're in a much dire situation than you can ever imagine.

It's a very different approach from auto-entrepreneurship, in which the auto-entrepreneur is a company of their own, on par with all LSPs regardless of their size. In this context, agencies and companies are unable to impose anything on the translator as they're clients, albeit not always end clients. Just like any client, they're expected to abide by the translator's terms of service, check their availability and book ahead days or even weeks prior to starting any project and agree to the translator's rate, price and deadline. They're also unable to book more than 20% of the entire schedule of the auto-entrepreneur as it would be considered as moonlighting.

Whenever I receive an email from a company, be it a PM from some translation agency or a direct client, I check first their credentials and ID (because that's the first thing to do) and second if they can handle my terms of service because these set the framework to any collaboration. As a matter of fact, the ToS approval even precede any negociation of the rate. More often than not, those who did take the time to read and understand the Terms agree to my rate too, they're serious in their search for a long term collaboration and it simply shows. If your client needs for you to sign some document prior to work with them, it means they don't trust you and/or value your work as top tiers, why sign it at all?

[Modifié le 2018-05-20 10:44 GMT]


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 14:18
Chinese to English
+1 for clarity and courtesy May 20

I just wanted to pipe up in favour of Dan's approach. Julia, when you say you might not dare be so blunt, I suggest there are two reasons why not, one of which is quite reasonable (but suggests another, better approach); and the other of which is not so reasonable.

First, if you just don't like the sound of rather absolute declarations like, "My minimum rate is $X per word," then I think it's worth practicing and getting used to using these clear signals. As a freelancer, you are a businessperson, and you have to be able to approach the money side of your work in a business-like way. I understand that bald declarations of price sound, frankly a bit ugly. In face-to-face conversation, we generally try to avoid being so absolute and direct. But this isn't face to face conversation. It's email business negotiation. Firstly, any words or concessions that you insert to make your language softer and nicer might easily be misunderstood - tone of voice is lost on email, and the person on the other end may not speak the language you are using that well. Secondly, in business, clarity is a virtue. If you are too expensive for this agency, they want to know and move on quickly. They are working with dozens or hundreds of translators, and don't have time to waste on you! If you are not too expensive for this agency, they want to know that, too. They want to say, aha, this translator is in our price bracket, and with a bit of luck, that means she's in our quality bracket.

So if your worry is just aesthetic - this kind of hard negotiating language just doesn't feel and sound good - then I suggest that you try to forget it. A bit of blunt business talk never hurt anyone!

The other worry, which is a bit more reasonable, is if you don't really want to put the agency off completely. Perhaps you'd like to keep them as a back-up option for when business is slow, even if their rates aren't great? In which case, I would check that they have real work to offer you, and sign up with enthusiasm. Signing up puts you under no obligation to accept work from them, so you lose nothing by it.


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 01:18
German to English
+ ...
in response to May 20

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Electronically signing an NDA only takes moments, and you can always include your rate in your return email.

I don't get a lot of customers that want me to sign things. But among those who do, usually what they want me to sign tends to be a rather lengthy legal document. Usually it also contains unilateral terms and conditions. Since one doesn't sign things before reading and fully understanding them, it does not just take moments. In fact, not being a lawyer, for some of these documents, I'd have to hire a lawyer to guide me through them.

I'm with the folks who wrote "rates first". This is especially so if there are signs that the company is fishing for low fees, unrealistic turnaround times, don't have a specific project in mind. I will write, "My minimum fee of $0.nn. Please let me know whether this is acceptable so that we can both save time." Most of the time I will get a response "We always pay (something a lot lower tha my fee.)"


 


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