What to expect when working with agencies
Thread poster: DARKastheRAIN
Mar 16

I've been applying to a lot of agencies lately, and only upon recieving an offer from one of them did it occur to me that I don't actually know much about what happens from that point forward.

So for instance, if I get an offer from an agency with a document to be translated attached asking if I'm available, how do I reply, and at what point am I actually ready to start translating? Are all negotiations about rates and so forth just done via email and at what point are they binding? Do I need to have them agree to a particular payment deadline beforehand? And once the document is translated, do I simply attach it to an email along with an invoice, cross my fingers and hope they'll actually pay me?

I'm asking about what to expect in general, by the way, not about a specific agency or offer (that first offer I got had to be turned down anyway because the agency had mixed up my source and target language).

Thanks in advance, and sorry for my cluelessness.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Oops ... better to be prepared late than never :) Mar 17

DARKastheRAIN wrote:
I've been applying to a lot of agencies lately, and only upon recieving an offer from one of them did it occur to me that I don't actually know much about what happens from that point forward.

So for instance, if I get an offer from an agency with a document to be translated attached asking if I'm available, how do I reply, and at what point am I actually ready to start translating? Are all negotiations about rates and so forth just done via email and at what point are they binding? Do I need to have them agree to a particular payment deadline beforehand? And once the document is translated, do I simply attach it to an email along with an invoice, cross my fingers and hope they'll actually pay me?

There are as many procedures as there are agencies and freelancers.
- Some will just ask for your terms. They're the best, IMO as that's the way it ought to be done. An exchange or two of emails is often enough. I rarely sign contracts (apart from NDAs).
- The opposite extreme is where they tell you how much you'll be paid, when, and by what method. They'll probably also tell you the "discount grid" that will be used, and what percentage will be deducted for what they evaluate as errors. There will probably be multiple forms to fill in, multi-page contracts to print, sign and scan, and long tests to do. Then you'll have the privilege of being put on their database so they can spam you with jobs that are totally unsuited to you. Sorry, rant over .

Things to get down in black and white before you begin work include:
Terms and conditions:
- fee (rate per source or target word or per page/hour/audio minute etc or simply for the entire job), with the currency clearly stated
- minimum fee per invoice, and per job entered on a monthly invoice, if applicable (both optional but sensible)
- payment period
- payment method(s)
- cancellation terms, discounts and surcharges, interest for late payments etc can be included if you see fit.
The scope of the job:
- volume (to tie in with the rate so you can calculate the fee)
- format of received and delivered files
- any special layout to keep to, formatting needed, glossaries to use...
- the agreed delivery date/time
Client information:
- the company's registered trading name (or the individual's/freelancer's full name)
- the company's registered address
- their tax details if needed

The first time you have dealings with a client, it all has to be done very carefully. It looks a lot but, for example, my own T&C actually take up just two lines of an email. Later on, once things are established and things such as terms are known (for "normal" jobs) then a simple exchange of "Hi, can you do this for Monday week?" and "N,nnn words? Yes, that's fine." actually constitutes a contract in just about any jurisdiction around the world. If they want to give you a PO, fine, but personally I don't ask for one as it's one more thing to check and one more thing to go wrong.

In the case you refer to above, they clearly hadn't imposed anything so you'd state your own T&C - either in the email or as an attachment. (However, in the latter case they might not read it and this could cause hassle later, even if you have legal rights.) I don't think anything becomes legally binding until you've got their authorisation to do the work, but I don't really know. Certainly you shouldn't start until that point as you may not get paid.

Send the file with an email, asking for confirmation of receipt. It's good if you can get that, but I find it hard. Send the invoice either with the file or later - there are pros and cons of both. Then wait for payment or the payment due date, whichever comes first. You don't need to cross your fingers or hope, if you've done everything right: you expect to be paid and you escalate your demands until you are paid. But if you've thoroughly checked out the client before agreeing to do anything (that's "risk management" - another essential step), that shouldn't be needed. You may need to send a polite reminder a few days after the due date, but normally that's all.

If you haven't already done so, check out the Wiki's here on ProZ.com - especially the ones about risk management. There's the Scam Centre to check out here too. Stay safe!

Good luck!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 18:37
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Agencies vary enormously... Mar 17

The simplest version is when the agency asks if you are available, preferably giving you an idea of what the job is about, how big it is, and when the deadline is. Ideally, they should send you the file, or at least a sample, but many do not send confidential files to translators who may not be available at all.

You decide as quickly as possible whether you can consider the job, or whether it is beyond your scope subject-wise, wrong language, or you simply can't do it by the deadline. If they offer a rate, is it acceptable?
Tell the client firmly no, sorry, if that is your decision.

Otherwise you can ask to see the file to make a final decision, but don't make any promises yet. You can try to negotiate if you could, for instance, manage it with a slightly longer deadline.
This is the point where you quote YOUR rate per hour or per word or whatever, and your payment terms (perhaps 30 days from the invoice date) but DO NOT at this stage quote a fixed price for the job if you have not seen the whole text.

When you ask for the file, you are sending positive signals. You are not bound, however, until you have checked it through to make sure there are no nasty surprises. You should not be expected to spend much time on formatting and preparing files for free or included in your word rate.

When you see the file, and the client has reacted to your payment terms, make your decision - and if you have a gut feeling that this is not for you, then turn down the job.

Otherwise offer to do the job, for a specified price and by a specified deadline. THIS OFFER WILL BE BINDING ON YOU IF THE CLIENT ACCEPTS.
If the client accepts your offer straight out, then it is BINDING ON BOTH OF YOU.

A plain e-mail is actually binding, as long as it states all the details, but many people will tell you to get a Purchase Order (PO), especially from new clients.
A PO is simply a more formal-looking statement of the agreement, specifying the text to be translated, the delivery date, the rate and fee, and the due date for payment.
Probably good advice with big agencies, because it means the job and your terms have been registered in their system, and they know they have to pay you. So you are entitled to ask for a PO. This forces them to confirm definitely that they are asking you to do the job, and set out the terms.

From this point you start translating in earnest.
If that is what you have agreed with the client, you send the translation by e-mail as a file attachment, on or before the delivery date. You can attach the invoice at the same time, or send it a little later, when they acknowledge receipt of the translation. Check whether they ask you to send it to the PM or to a separate accounts department - doing it correctly increases your chances of being paid on time!

_________________________________________________

That is the simple version, and it still works with many good agencies.
Others have platforms and procedures for logging in and downloading the files, and possibly for invoicing afterwards on their platforms.

You have to get instructions from each agency, and I wish you luck.
They can be anything from streamlined, efficient and translator-friendly to an absolute pain in the **** . Some of my favourite clients have them, but I have dropped other clients, simply because their platforms are too much hassle.

The same principles apply, however. A PO will be issued, and you will be given a link to the platform to access the document files. There will also be instructions about how to upload your translation.

Invoices made on these platforms may or may not be acceptable to your local tax authorities... but that is something you have to sort out yourself.

__________________________________________________

In my experience, most agencies pay translators, as agreed and on time.
If not, send them a reminder a few days or a week after the due date, and ask politely whether there has been some hitch. It happens occasionally with first-time translators, but note their reaction!
If they are deeply apologetic and you are paid instantly, give them another chance, but not many...

You should not put up with sad stories and excuses for not paying you. Business is business, and you have kept your part of the bargain. They should not wait until after the due date for payment before they tell you their woes. Keep insisting until you get paid, but with any luck, everything will go smoothly - don't worry too much before it happens, and good luck!


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:37
Member (2008)
French to English
How to deal with agencies and clients in general Mar 17

DARKastheRAIN wrote:

So for instance, if I get an offer from an agency with a document to be translated attached asking if I'm available, how do I reply,


If I am available, I will respond that I am available at the moment, since if an order is not forthcoming I might receive another order from another client - maybe in the next five minutes - which could mean that I am no longer available.


One difference between working for agencies and end clients is that agencies don't usually mind if you are not available. They understand and you stay in their database. This is not generally true for end clients, who want to have someone they can call on as "our translator" and expect you to always be available.

and at what point am I actually ready to start translating?


When you have both a definite order and the document to be translated. It frequently happens that an order is received but the document is supposedly coming "later", but then never comes. Likewise, a client can send you the document for review but not order translation. If there is any doubt as to whether the client wants you to actually proceed, it's always safest to send an email for confirmation.

Are all negotiations about rates and so forth just done via email


Most commonly this is the case.

and at what point are they binding?


When you have an agreement. In legal terms, it means there is both offer and acceptance. Your client offers you a job and you accept. You offer a price, terms and delivery date and the client accepts. Once you both have offers and acceptances you have a binding contract.

Do I need to have them agree to a particular payment deadline beforehand?


It's most advisable to to include payment terms as part of the offer and acceptance procedure. You want to have all these details agreed in advance.

And once the document is translated, do I simply attach it to an email along with an invoice,


That's a common procedure, but some agencies have their own procedure. Once again, agree in advance.

cross my fingers and hope they'll actually pay me?


Definitely not. Before even responding to an inquiry you should check payment reviews on the BlueBoard and possibly other similar databases. In this way, you should have a pretty strong idea that the client has a good history of payment as agreed, before you waste time negotiating.


[Edited at 2017-03-17 12:51 GMT]


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