Do I need legal advice when starting out as a freelance translator?
Thread poster: Oliver Dirs
Oliver Dirs  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:16
Swedish to English
+ ...
Jan 14, 2008

OK, so this may seem like a silly question. But I'm planning to go freelance within the next few months, and am wondering if I really need to pay high legal fees to have someone draft a terms and conditions statement that I could send to agencies when I first work for them (above and beyond payment terms). Or can I "get away" with drafting a list of reasonable terms myself after looking at some examples? Obviously I want to cut costs when first setting up shop, but I also want to protect myself where necessary. I've also never had any dealings with the legal profession, so all I can go by, rightly or wrongly, is its reputation: v. expensive.

Is it standard practice for freelancers to send agencies their terms and conditions (beyond their payment terms), or is it mostly assumed that you'll be afforded the protection under the trade laws of your country of residence (Sweden/EU in my case)?

I appreciate legal issues vary from country to country, but I'd be interested to know what others have done. Perhaps this should be the subject of Proz survey?

Thanks,
Oliver


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nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:16
English to French
+ ...
Free help Jan 15, 2008

If you are a member of your country's Translators Association (which I would recommend IMHO) you can check with them, I suppose they have a standard "Terms and conditions" document for freelance translators.

Beside, if you start working with agencies, they usually have their own T&C and sometimes they even ask you to sign them, so you don't need yours. Of course it's better to check before signing...

Have a look at the EU regulations regarding invoicing and all information which have to be present on the invoice, it's somewhere on the EU website.

You can also get help from your Chamber of commerce or similar body for legal aspects of freelance, including taxes etc.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:16
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Even if you do... Jan 15, 2008

Oliver Dirs wrote:
...and am wondering if I really need to pay high legal fees to have someone draft a terms and conditions statement...


Even if a lawyer draws up your T&C and contracts and stuff, he's still gonna charge you extra for representing you in a case that involves dispute with the client.


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MGL  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:16
Russian to English
keep in mind... Jan 15, 2008

Not all clients will be interested in your T&C - many have their own, which they will often give you to sign before you accept a job for them.

I remember receiving one particularly "icky" set of T&C which was awful for the translator, and included a clause that you automatically accepted all of their T&C by default the moment you accepted a job from them - no signature necessary

I agree with Nordiste about getting free assistance with this type of legal document, if you decide you really need one. On another note, I would recommend speaking with a tax professional!


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:16
English to French
+ ...
This is not an obligation Jan 15, 2008

Megan Lehmann wrote:

Not all clients will be interested in your T&C - many have their own, which they will often give you to sign before you accept a job for them.


I just want to remind you that you don't have to accept to sign any T&C from a client - that would be allowing them to set the conditions of YOUR service, which makes no sense. When you go to the supermarket, you don't expect for the supermarket to sell you their goods according to your terms and conditions. It is always best to have your own T&C. One thing that is important is which country's laws and regulations will govern your contract. If you sign the client's T&C, then chances are that if there is a litigation, you will have to go to your client's country to court - not to be overlooked. For example, in Canada, a client can make a claim for unacceptable goods or services within ten days of delivery. Once this delay is past, the client cannot make any claims. However, in other countries, this delay is longer, and in some, such delays don't exist and you are liable forever. So, if I sign a T&C from a client who lives in a country where they can make claims, say, 90 days after delivery, then I can imagine having problems (extra unpaid work and such) later on. I prefer my Canadian laws...

However, some clients offer very simple T&C which are reasonable, in which case it cannot hurt to sign them.

In Canada, there are laws about freelancing. The legal definition of a freelancer is frequently used to settle litigations. Recently, there were some freelancers who went to court because their clients decreased the rates they were willing to pay. In this case, the freelancers had to prove that they had an employee-employer relationship with the client - and they did! This is becuase they had T&Cs signed wherein there were clauses that made it impossible to the freelancer to drop the client and go with other clients instead. By signing such a T&C, you may not be aware that you are becoming an employee, by letting your client dictate your terms of business. In order to be considered a freelancer in Canada, you have to demonstrate that you are completely independent of your client, that is, they do not dictate any of your terms and conditions. Of course, as a freelancer, you can make tax deductions for business expenses - but as an employee, you can't, so this is a very important issue (among others).

There are already too many translators who think it is normal practice to let the client set the terms of your business and don't take the time to think about the implications. This is becoming a standard practice. And when it does, we will all be a bunch of employees, basically.

My advice is to have your own T&C and use it profusely. If you think the client's T&C makes sense and it is not dictating your business, then go ahead and sign it if you really have to. But that is precisely my message: you DON'T have to do anything - it is your CHOICE to do something, since it is YOUR business.

I am sending you a link to a T&C page on the website of a successful translator in Europe. It is really well written and covers pretty much everything. You may want to use it to make your own. I don't think an attorney or notary could do any better. You can write your own, as long as you make sure everything is covered, the clauses are reasonable and everything is written in a manner that doesn't leave any room for interpretation.

All the best!


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Oliver Dirs  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:16
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the advice Jan 15, 2008

and for the useful link Viktoria. Guess it'll take me a while to draw up terms and conditions for when I venture outside Sweden for work. In the meantime contacting the Swedish translation association for domestic terms and conditions sounds like a good idea.

But when should I send my terms and conditions to a client? And any idea whether they have to actually sign them for them to come into force?

Oliver


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ivo abdman
Indonesia
Local time: 13:16
English to Indonesian
+ ...
it will be better you to become agency than freelancer Jan 16, 2008

If I am not has a wrong taste, I think you have a good plan, it will be better you to become agency than freelancer.

You have to do some simple analysis which one the payment or not-payment client. The remainder is your prayer work and ...... and .....

I will be the first one that register on your site as a member team of freelance translator.

"do not sbut tbe stahle door after tbe borse bas boulted"

encode key : b --> h, h -->b


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 08:16
French to Dutch
+ ...
I think you should seek some legal advice - to a certain extent Jan 16, 2008

Not only because there is a difference between a free-lance translator and a salaried worker, as Viktoria already points out, but also because your legal structure should be decided in the beginning. In most countries there are heavy structures and less heavy structures, and everything depends of what you will be doing in, say, three years. If you will only be an independent translator, there is no problem, but if you will be translating medical equipment or if you want to grow into an agency with ten employees, you should consider a limited company type of structure. And there are always tax, VAT and social security issues. With legal advice I don't mean a lawyer, but any good accounting firm will do, or the translators' association of your country, or your local chamber of commerce. Believe me, the kind of contracts you'll get (hopefully) is not very important in this stage (in most cases you'll be protected by the commercial laws of your country).

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Caroline Moreno  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:16
Chinese to English
+ ...
Definitely have your own T&C Jan 20, 2008

Aside from doing business with agencies, you may be doing business with direct clients and you may need to educate them on your process. You would first come to some sort of agreement with them as far as what work you will do, the deadline, the rate of payment, etc. This can be done by you sending them a free quote or agreeing to their terms- whichever you're more comfortable with. You then draw up a purchase order (sometimes called a "job request" if they send it)or they send you theirs and then both parties sign it (this is where your T&C come in). You may choose to request a deposit from them and/or have T&C regarding late/bad payments in your contract. After you've completed the project, you invoice them and then if all goes well, they pay you according to the terms you've agreed upon.

In the US, some clients first request that you fill out a W-9 for tax purposes with them and then at the end of the year, they should be sending you a 1099. Of course I know nothing about the tax/VAT situations in other countries. This is something you could check into.

As far as when to send them your T&C/contract, do it before you start any work for them. You could have them print it, scan it and email it back to you, or I believe that signatures on faxed documents will hold up in court (but mind you, I'm no lawyer).

If you are interesting in finding out about insurance you may need/want, please check out my post on that topic:

http://www.proz.com/post/739124#739124

Hopes that helps!


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Diane Partenio
Canada
Local time: 02:16
French to English
Link to T&C page? Jan 22, 2008

Being in a similar position to Oliver, I am finding this forum topic very useful. I was wondering, Viktoria, if you wouldn't mind posting the link to the T&C page of the European translator you mentioned in your posting so that I could check it out as well.

Thanks to all for a very valuable discussion.


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xxxJPW  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
Google search Jan 23, 2008

If you do a simple google search, e.g. "translator's terms and conditions" you will see plenty of examples that you can pore over at your own leisure....surely this should be your first port of call? Any translation company with a website will have a link to its own T&Cs - you can then have a look to see if they suit your purpose or need modified. Good Luck

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Diane Partenio
Canada
Local time: 02:16
French to English
Thanks Jan 24, 2008

Yes, I have done a similar search using "translator's model contract" and have bookmarked a few good ones, as well as one from my local translator's association. I was just looking to gather a few more samples..

Thanks!


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