If you have just started out on your career as a professional freelance translator, at some point you will be wondering if there is any value in arranging a contract for translation services between you and your client. The short answer is that for anything other than a short translation task, a contract guarantees that you will be paid for what you do (presuming it satisfies the client), while the client has a guarantee that you will charge so much per word and you will be able to fulfil the task within a specified time period. If you work for a translation agency, you won’t have to worry about translation contracts in quite the same way as the agency will normally set out the grounds of the contract between them and their clients while you will have an internal working agreement with the agency management.
The long and the short of it, then, is that contracts work best for one-off translation jobs that are neither too short or necessarily very long term.
Translation contracts are not the only arrangement that you can have if you are to do some translation work with a client. In the event that you establish a long-term working arrangement with a particular client, rather than drawing up a contract each time you receive a request for work to do, you can establish an agreement. The agreement will be of a less specific nature, but be broader. The agreement will usually be drawn up by the client and will focus on the expectations of the client in terms of delivery and how you will be paid without getting into specifics of word count, cost per word and exact expected completion dates. An agreement allows for a range of tasks of different complexities and lengths over an extended period.
Translators’ Contracts Should be Much More Specific and Include Details such as the Ones Described Below:
- Name of client
- Name of translator
- Task to be completed: language pair, style, additional information on localization requirements if desired
- Specific requests such as whether editing is required of the original text, proofreading (almost always a requirement), HTML coding, desktop publishing etc.
- Delivery time and format e.g. presented as a word doc., pdf, etc.
- Payment variables, including cost per word and any other additional costs, including VAT / GST if applicable, how payment should be made etc.
- Cancellation clause. If the client wishes to cancel the contract at some point before completion what the cancellation policy should be. This, of course, will depend on how far the project will have been from completion, so would normally be proportional to the total percentage of time taken.