Freelancing Pitfalls

Freelancers are entrepreneurs. They sell their products or services, they determine their prices, and they must handle all operations of expenses, revenue, taxes, etc. All freelancers can find themselves in some pretty awkward situations with clients or client companies, and translators are no exception.

Getting through Those Awkward Situations

Sometimes, you have to be diplomatic yet assertive. Below are eight situations that will call for you to keep your calm and yet stand your ground. 

1. A translation service you do not know contacts you and asks if you can do a translation for them.

Before you give an answer, get the details, including pay. Then check them out online. Check with peers and see if anyone has worked for them before and if they were satisfied with the relationship. If no one has heard of them, you may have to go with your gut feeling. Do they sound professional? What’s their website look like? Are their client references that are credible? Actually, there are translation service review sites such as Pick Writers – see if you can find one that has reviewed this company. These are things that determine if a company is legit.

2. A company you work for (among others) tells you they have a big project coming up and asks you not to take any work from anyone else the following week.

Well, here’s a toughie. If they have provided a purchase order for the work, with the deadline and a guarantee of payment, and they have always been reliable in the past, it is probably legit. On the other hand, projects do get cancelled and/or delayed. If you like the agency, take the project. In the meantime, try to find other little projects with flexible deadlines for backup.

3. An agency contacts you about a project. They tell you that it is filled with a lot of repetitive phrases and product names. They want you to not charge for all of the repetition, since you really only have to translate those words and phrases once.

How many documents have you translated that contain the word “have” or “they?” Did you not charge for them? Did an agency ask you not to charge for them? The bottom line is this: you are paid by the word, and that stands, no matter how many times that word appears. Never agree to this – it will come back to haunt you.

4. Be Wary of “Free Tests”

Here is what some scam agencies do. Their “free test” is actually a client’s project. They divide it up and give parts of it to several applicants as a “free test.” Eager applicants take these tests, the company gets its project finished, and no one gets paid for it. Be sure to check out any agency to which you are applying. If they have a good reputation and there are no complaints of this type, the test is probably legit.

5. An Agency Asks for Lower Rates Promising Volume Instead

Another situation that will come back to haunt you if you allow it. Your rate is your rate. If they need quality translation work done, they cough up what you work for. Never lower your rates for future promises. A professional agency would not ask another professional to do this.

6. An agency contacts you about a really “easy” project but it must be finished right away.

Never say yes until you see the details. An “easy” project may in fact be complex, and you will be up all night, working for almost nothing.

7. A company tells you they don’t do “purchase orders” or written contracts.

Then, you don’t work for them. A professional company always puts it in writing. Now, some have an agreement that is attached to all of their assignments, stating how much they pay per word for specific categories of documents, how often their paydays are, etc. Others provide you with a signed contract in the beginning. But, you should have attached to the order, somewhere, exactly how much will be paid for the specific product.

8. A company says it cannot pay you because the client hasn’t paid them

No. Your contract is with the company, not the client. This is why there is an initial signed agreement between the two of you and the amount of pay in writing. Before you sign up with an agency, read their “terms and conditions” agreement with their freelancers. Make sure that this is NOT in that document. If it is, you do not work for them.

These are just 8 of the many situations you may find yourself in. But they are a start in what you can expect, if you are new to freelance translation. Be aware that professional translators do not lower their rates, do not work without things in writing, and do not accept assignments without enough detail.


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