Translator's Guide

Why Translation Contract Is Important?

One of the biggest threats for a freelance translator is to be scammed by a client. Just imagine working for an entire week on an extensive project and… not getting paid for it. Such a situation is not just sad, it can actually be dangerous to one’s financial wellbeing. If you don’t receive money for your translation, you cannot pay for your rent, food, etc. That’s why every translator needs a tool to protect themselves from scams. The best choice, in this case, is a translation contract – a written agreement between a translator and a client that makes both of them safe legally. 

When Translation Service Agreements Are Required?

The actual work done by a translator is often hard to predict as it is diverse and, in fact, it is not always possible to outline all working conditions and requirements explicitly. A translation service agreement is required when a business relationship between translator and client needs to be established within a wider context and presupposes multiple jobs’ completion over a long period. Required timeframes and associated prices for completed work are discussed for each specific job separately as translation service agreement just outlines general conditions of cooperation such as communication and payment channels and the tasks expected.

Why Translation Contracts Are Necessary?

This type of business-related paperwork typically outlines terms and conditions of cooperation between the client and hired translator, including required word count, language pair, delivery timeframe, and, of course, payment. While the importance of this document cannot be overestimated, a surprisingly big number of translators are working without using contracts, according to the ATA Chronicle’s data presented during the 57th Annual Conference organized by American Translators Association. While the situation actually improved since that time, many experts are still putting themselves into the danger of not being paid for provided services.

Professionals working in the translation field should understand that translation contracts are not just extra paperwork that is boring and useless. There are several essential that make them absolutely necessary:

  • Conditions of licensing of rights
  • Client’s obligations regarding the publication
  • Translator’s responsibilities and warranties
  • Translator’s right of attribution and integrity
  • Prohibition of exploitation and free or extra work without appropriate compensation
  • Conditions of providing and accepting the translations
  • Remuneration and fees

Making sure that all these terms and conditions are covered in the translation contract is every translator’s responsibility in order to guarantee payment’s completion, absence of additional work done free of charge, and even protection of translator from possible lawsuits if the original content of the translated text has controversial or libelous nature.

Elements of ATA’s Sample Contract

The assistance of a qualified lawyer is obligatory for every translator who wants to develop an appropriate translation contact model and one’s own specific terms of service that comply with local legal regulations. No informational resources can substitute professional help but one can get acquainted with ATA’s sample contract, considering it as the starting point.

1.Introducing parties 

Both Translator and Client should be mentioned in this initial part of the job contract as well as the relevant date. There is nothing tricky in this part, though translators should carefully proofread the text and ensure the absence of typos in names.

ATA Sample Contract

2. Required Services’ Description

Meticulous description of the service to be provided is needed in this part. The translator should specifically outline what exactly he or she agrees to complete for the Client. This is where the first stage of the translator’s protection starts since if the initial agreement did not include HTML coding, such a request would be treated as exploitation and either should not be completed or completed for additional compensation. That is why it is extremely important to be as detailed as possible and mention what exact text is being translated as well as other terms of the agreement such as deadline, the format of delivery, and word count the translator is responsible for.

ATA Template Contract

3. Payment

A clear description of both the completed job’s final price in needed currency and other payment terms should be provided in this part of the contract. It is the most important section for any translator and no mistakes are allowed here. Experienced translators also recommend breaking the payments for long projects into parts to minimize the possibility of being deceived by an unreliable client. While partial delivery can often be a not much convenient option in terms of overall document’s coherence, the absence of payment for the first installment will prevent translators from wasting their time for nothing. 

ATA’s Contract Sample

4. Additional Negotiations

Some unfortunate situations such as cancellation of a job may still occur and nobody can avoid them. That is why translators should consider their time and efforts valuable enough and do not agree to provide free work in case the client suddenly decides to change the conditions. Moreover, this section in the contract will protect translators from any extra tasks that were not present in the initial requirement for translation. It is recommended to be very specific in the “Additional fees” and “Additional costs” sections since a translation contract is the only document the translation experts can refer to protect their rights.

It is also important to understand the difference between terms “fees” and “costs” implied by the ATA experts since fees are associated with any extra portion of work that goes beyond the requirements agreed upon previously, while costs are related to any payments that are not connected directly to translation but are rather external in nature. For example, the translator may need to pay for courier or postal services to deliver the completed translation to the client, but this cost should be covered by the client, not the translator.

ATA's Contract Template

5. Reviewing and Accepting Translation

Setting specific deadlines for the client’s review is important if the translator does not want to face the need of correcting the translation after a few months upon its completion. Clients also need some motivational factors to be fully responsible. All requests for corrections that come after the agreed date shall be treated as extra services and completed for the additional fee. It would be beneficial to mention this point in the previous section of the contract.

Template of ATA contract

6. Confidential Information

While all clients and translations are different, one common thing for them is that the translator must keep texts confidential and refrain from delivering them to third parties or publishing without the client’s approval. It is not just work’s ethics but also adherence to the next section of the sample contract related to copyright regulations. Logically, both original texts and their translations belong to the client, however, there are some exceptions related to terminological entries that can be discussed by parties separately if needed. 

Sample of ATA contract

7. Copyright Agreement

All items requested for the translation and provided by the client per the signed contract are the property of the client. The same applies to the completed translation. Translators do have the right of attribution, which means that their names should be acknowledged while distributing the translated text. They also have the right of integrity, which means that no other people should change the translation. Though the copyright, trademark, and all other associated rights belong only to the client, which is obvious.

ATA Contract

8. Indemnification

Given that the quality of the translation is flawless and as accurate as humanly possible, only the client can be responsible for any losses or claims other people that were caused by the text. Translators cannot be held responsible for the original content. Any changes made by other people in the translated version are also not allowed and the translator cannot be responsible for the edited content as well.

ATA template

9. Concluding Section

Translators always operate in compliance with their local legal regulations, that is why it is necessary to outline specific state regulations. This contract template also leaves room for any possible adjustments that may be required by any of the parties. The entire new sections may be added if the need arises since the variety of services and specific requirements continue to increase in size in the modern rapidly-changing world.

ATA sample

American Translators Association warns that the provided sample contract is a rather general one and they do not accept any responsibility related to the use of this form by other persons. That is why this form should be considered as a detailed and good but only starting point to protect one’s time, skills, and career in the translation field. It is the contracting parties’ responsibility to use appropriate parts of the template and add new sections depending on specific local regulations and peculiarities of the job.

In any case, it is beneficial to utilize at least a basic translation contract that will protect translators, especially beginners, from suspicious clients. Reliable and honest clients will always agree to establish a strictly defined and regulated business relationship as this ensures the quality of the final product. Translation contracts were designed not just to regulate but eventually to satisfy the needs of both parties as clients want to receive high-quality translation on time and translators want to get paid for the completed job and both want to be treated as responsible contractors. 

Use Our Guide and Sign a Translation Contract

While establishing contacts might appear to be time-consuming and sometimes rather difficult, this is not a redundant thing that can be ignored. On the contrary, this is an integral part of a successful translator’s working routine as it ensures clearly defined working conditions and protection of the translator’s rights.