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A Freelance Translator's Contract
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A Freelance Translator's Contract

From a report by Alan Rafael Seid Llamas in the May/June issue of Notis News of Courtney Searls-Ridge's "Contracts and the Freelance Translator" workshop

What is a contract?

A contract is a written or oral agreement between two or more parties to do or not to do something. A contract is considered to be legally binding. The obvious advantage of a written contract over an oral contract is that there is tangible documentation of the agreement should there be a dispute.

A contract involves:
  1. An offer
  2. An acceptance of the offer
  3. Consideration

All offers are revocable prior to acceptance. There must be formal acceptance in order for the offeror to be bound to that offer. It is a good idea to include duration in a contract.

A contract does not need to be very formal.

Less formal contracts may be better when:
  • Writing the contract will take longer than the actual work to be done
  • A very small amount of money is involved
  • You think the other party might be intimidated or put off by a long, formal contract.

A contract can take the form of a simple checklist or letter stating the essential points of the agreement. At the end you can add something like: "If this meets with your approval, please sign both copies."

Here are some other points to consider in contracts:
  • A contract should be in writing whenever possible.
  • An agreement regarding translation and interpreting services does not have to be written (as opposed to a contract in real estate) unless it covers a period spanning one year or more.
  • Written contracts are more easily upheld in court than oral contracts.
The written contract should include:
  1. The date
  2. The identities of the parties
  3. The subject matter
  4. Payment
  5. Time (duration or deadline)
More issues to consider including in your contract:
  • Ownership of glossaries created during a job
  • Reimbursable expenses, especially if very high
  • Advance for high-volume projects
  • Terms of payment. When will you get paid, how much, and what does the payment cover?
  • Work other than translation, such as proofreading
  • Deadlines. There must be agreement.
  • Revisions. If a client comes back to a translator with the demand to insert someone else's revisions, the translator may want the right to remove his name from the document if the revisions do not seem suitable.
  • Cancellation fees
  • Royalties. They are not easy to get and often not worth the trouble.
  • Disputes are more likely if agreements are only oral.
  • Misunderstandings are not necessarily intentional.

(This article is reprinted by permission of its author. The Copyright for this article belongs exclusively to its author.)

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