Is a contract necessary when you take on a job?
Thread poster: JDSuk

JDSuk  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:49
English to Italian
+ ...
Feb 2, 2007

hi, i have received a request for a quote from an agency for a big job(155.000 words) and i was thinking, what if after all the work the client doesn't pay? Do i need to draw a contract? Is there a way to protect myself against this risk? Is it possible to get progress payment let's say every x words translated?
Any suggestions? what's the norm in these cases?

Thank you very much


Els Spin  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:49
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes Feb 2, 2007

Dear JD,

It is never wise to work without some form of contract. However, since it is an agency, you will probably receive a contract from them, which you will have to sign or otherwise agree with.
After all, a proper agency will want to make sure you will keep your end of the bargain too!

If they don't send you one - which I doubt - you can always draw up your own contract or an order confirmation, and ask them to return a signed copy.

If you are a member of a professional translators association, you might ask them whether they have drawn up any General Terms and Conditions that may be used by all registered members. If so, and if you agree with them, attach those to your contract; that will save you a lot of time!

Kind regards,


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:49
English to French
+ ...
No established standard, just widely accepted practices Feb 2, 2007

Hi JD,

There are no standards for any of the things you mention, since translation is not regulated in most countries. However, there are widely accepted practices, which do recommend that you draw up a contract and also that you ask for partial payments when dealing with new clients.

I highly recommend you make a model contract, which will include not only the terms of payment but other aspects of the work relationship between you and your client. A list of things I mention in my contract:

1. Reserving the right to correct myself in case someone else finds an error in my translation. This helps to avoid getting paid partially for a mere typo somewhere in the translation. Some clients (especially agencies) deduce 25 or even 50% off your invoice for a mere typo. Also, some proofreaders correct more than they should and then the client thinks you did a bad translation, and there have even been cases where the client refused to pay altogether saying your work was useless or that it cost them too much money to get it corrected. So, make sure you mention that the client gets your work proofread at their own cost and that if they find any errors, you reserve the right to be notified of them and will correct those errors at the best of your knowledge, within a reasonable timeframe. Of course, also mention that the client has to allow enough time for this process before the real due date. This is also their responsibility.

2. Payment terms. I am very explicit (some would say anal) about this. Not only do I mention a term of payment, I explicitly explain that the money has to be in my account before the payment deadline is reached, not simply sent by that time. Not only do I mention 30 days, I also mention the specific date for receipt of payment. Do add, if the laws in your country provide for this, that you will charge interest past the due date. Do also mention that you WILL use any means available to you to collect the owed sum in case of partial or non payment.

3. Copyrights. I explicitly state in my contract that the client is liable for any copyright issues. If I translate a text and later find out that I was infringing copyright by doing so, it will be the client's fault that I didn't know about the existence of the copyright. I reserve the right not to be aware of the existence of copyrights (as a translator, I don't have time to verify the copyright on every single source text).

There are other points but I just wanted to mention a few to help you get started.

To sum it up, it is not necessary to have a valid contract, but on the other hand, that is the only tool you have to protect yourself should you run into problems with a client. I would never agree to do a job without a contract.

Also, please be aware that a quote is usually binding. It is not a contract per se, so if you get a better contract in the meantime, you will not be required by law to accept the work just because you quoted on it, but if you do accept the job, you will be stuck with the rate you quoted in the quote.

All the best!

P.S.: As for partial payments, I would request a payment each two weeks in this case. I would also add this to the contract and mention that if I don't receive partial payments as agreed, I reserve the right to stop working until I get the money. If they don't pay, I don't deliver.

[Edited at 2007-02-02 19:00]


pzchvpr  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely Write a contract Feb 2, 2007

Here are a few samples

Not having a contract puts you in danger of being ripped off and taken advantage of.

A note about the contract. Include these:

- Specifically state that the client must provide any reference materials to the translator or approve reference sources.
- specify your work process in the contract
- specify your maximum output per day
- provide an estimated timeframe that the client approves
- get an estimated total word count (source)
- I recommend using the time and a half clause after 8 hours of work, not after 40 in a week.

You can always have a lawyer review one of the templates to ensure you are covered. Also double check your Errors and Omissions insurance to make sure you are covered and doing things according to the contract.

Good luck!


JDSuk  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:49
English to Italian
+ ...
Thanks Feb 2, 2007

I wish to thank you all for your valuable suggestions. they've helped me loads.



Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:49
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Of course, Feb 3, 2007

JDSuk wrote:

. . . a big job (155.000 words) . . . Do i need to draw a contract? Is it possible to get progress payment let's say every x words translated?

Thank you very much

Hello JDSuk,

I agree with what have been pointed out by fellow translators above. Of course, you should draw up a contract, and you should ask for installment payment given the fact that it is a huge job.

Good luck.


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

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

Is a contract necessary when you take on a job?

Advanced search

Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »
Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search