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What is an interpreter contract?

Those who are gifted with being able to speak several languages may find that being a freelance interpreter is an exciting career - especially if you have the appropriate interpreter contract.

An interpreter is a special niche, someone who can listen and understand the spoken word in one language, and then translate the meaning and speak it almost immediately in another language. A sign language interpreter is another example, someone who can translate the spoken word immediately into sign language to help the hearing impaired. 

Interpreters may work simultaneously with the speaker, usually speaking through equipment such as headphones, or consecutively, where the speaker stays silent while the interpreter does the translation. Sign language interpreters usually work simultaneously with the speaker.

Interpreters are in demand for conferences, workshops, and international meetings, to name a few, and often have to travel to work.

But an interpreter contract may not be as simple and straightforward as other types of freelance agreements. It’s even different than translation services. Where a writer or language translator can charge by the word, for instance, or a designer can charge per design or project, there are nuances in an interpreter contract.

Interpreter Contract Template
Image credits: studylib.net

Whether you use an existing template or create your own, let’s look at 8 things you need to include in an interpreter contract.

1. Figure out your pricing model

One of the unique aspects of being an interpreter is placing a value on your work. It’s impossible to charge per word, for instance. So you may want to consider establishing a pricing model based on a per-hour, per-day or even by a partial day’s work. 

For a conference, you could charge per session. Just be sure you know how long each session will be before setting your price. And there are even instances when an interpreter is needed for court proceedings, which have an indeterminate length. Each situation could be very different.

Make sure your interpreter contract clearly covers your pricing, with an explanation if necessary. Your model may vary depending on the job, so put some time into determining what works best in every situation.

What should be included in an interpreter contract template?

An interpreter contract should include a clause that clearly outlines the work to be performed. That will protect you and the client from any misunderstandings.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your experience is to work simultaneously, with equipment like headphones that allows you to hear the speaker, and lets those requiring translation services to hear you. You arrive at an event to find out the client expects you to work consecutively, where you listen to the speaker, who then pauses while you do the interpretation. If you’re not accustomed to this, you’re not setting yourself up for success.

So be sure your interpreter contract clearly details what work will be performed and how it will be performed.

3. Determine a time frame or milestones

This step can be skipped if you’re working for a client on a one-time basis, also known as a job contract. In this instance, you’ll be doing a specific piece of work on a one-time basis and your pricing model and work outline should cover the time frame.

But there are instances when you will enter into a services agreement with a client, which could cover multiple assignments, jobs, conferences or sessions. Perhaps a local government authority needs ongoing sign language interpretation for a weekly meeting. 

In cases such as these, you’ll need to determine a time frame for the contract, with review periods for the contract such as on a bi-annual or annual basis. You’ll also have to stipulate milestones for payment, so that you receive a regular stipend from the client.

4. Include travel

Since interpreters often work at conferences or summits, there will be instances where you will have to travel for work. Your interpreter contract should include all your costs of travel. That includes airline tickets and taxis, or mileage to get you to and from the event, and parking at the event. It includes any accommodations, and meals, and any other out-of-pocket expenses you may incur.

As you get more experienced and more in demand, you can even require first-class air tickets, or certain types of accommodations. If you don’t want to eat the meals at the conference, be sure to stipulate some kind of meal allowance or per diem as part of your interpreter contract. You can even build in compensation for the travel time getting to and from the event.

Interpreter Contract Template Sample
Image credits: atanet.org

What are the essentials of an interpreter contract?

Be sure to protect yourself in the event of a cancellation. For instance, if you’re hired for a conference and will be paid per session, there are times that sessions get cancelled for unforeseen reasons. Perhaps the attendance for that session was not high enough. Or maybe the presenter backs out of the event. You need to be sure you are compensated, since you may give up other work in the same time frame.

Examples of cancellation clauses are those based on number of days and a percentage of the fee. For instance, a cancellation 90 days in advance could require payment of 35% of the fee, but a cancellation only 10 days in advance would require payment of 75% of fees.  

6. Have a confidentiality clause ready

Depending on your client, they may require that you have a confidentiality clause in your interpreter contract. That could be true if the event you’ll be interpreting is closed, like a court proceeding, a company event, a pre-release marketing event, a health conference, and more.

It will save you time and hassle if you have a confidentiality clause either included in your interpreter contract or at the ready if the client requests it.

7. Consider asking for referrals

Similar to how a designer would create a portfolio to demonstrate their skills, an interpreter needs to have a way to show prospective clients their abilities. One way to do this is to ask clients if you can use them as a referral after the conclusion of a successful job. That can even be built into your interpreter contract if you like.

8. Have the template reviewed

If you’ve created your own interpreter contract template, consider having it reviewed by a lawyer to ensure it will protect both you and the client. Once you have the appropriate clauses ready, this should be a one-time review, and will help you ensure you’ve covered all the bases with your interpreter contract. 


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The simplest way to create a legally sound contract. Check out an example below

Interpreter Contract Template

This Contract is between Sample Client (the "Client") and John Doe (the "Interpreter").

The Contract is dated [the date both parties sign].

1. WORK AND PAYMENT.

1.1 Project. The Client is hiring the Interpreter to do the following: The Interpreter will assist the Client with interpreting services.

1.2 Schedule. The Interpreter will begin work on August 21, 2020 and the work is ongoing. This Contract can be ended by either Client or Interpreter at any time, pursuant to the terms of Section 6, Term and Termination.

1.3 Payment. The Client will pay the Interpreter a rate of $80.00 (USD) per hour. Of this, the Client will pay the Interpreter $700.00 (USD) before work begins.

1.4 Expenses. The Client will reimburse the Interpreter's expenses. Expenses do not need to be pre-approved by the Client.

1.5 Invoices. The Interpreter will invoice the Client weekly. The Client agrees to pay the amount owed within 15 days of receiving the invoice. Payment after that date will incur a late fee of 5.0% per month on the outstanding amount.

1.6 Support. The Interpreter will not provide support for any deliverable once the Client accepts it, unless otherwise agreed in writing.

2. OWNERSHIP AND LICENSES.

2.1 Client Owns All Work Product. As part of this job, the Interpreter is creating “work product” for the Client. To avoid confusion, work product is the finished product, as well as drafts, notes, materials, mockups, hardware, designs, inventions, patents, code, and anything else that the Interpreter works on—that is, conceives, creates, designs, develops, invents, works on, or reduces to practice—as part of this project, whether before the date of this Contract or after. The Interpreter hereby gives the Client this work product once the Client pays for it in full. This means the Interpreter is giving the Client all of its rights, titles, and interests in and to the work product (including intellectual property rights), and the Client will be the sole owner of it. The Client can use the work product however it wants or it can decide not to use the work product at all. The Client, for example, can modify, destroy, or sell it, as it sees fit.

2.2 Interpreter's Use Of Work Product. Once the Interpreter gives the work product to the Client, the Interpreter does not have any rights to it, except those that the Client explicitly gives the Interpreter here. The Client gives the Interpreter permission to use the work product as part of the Interpreter's portfolio and websites, in galleries, and in other media, so long as it is to showcase the Interpreter's work and not for any other purpose. The Interpreter is not allowed to sell or otherwise use the work product to make money or for any other commercial use. The Client is not allowed to take back this license, even after the Contract ends.

2.3 Interpreter's Help Securing Ownership. In the future, the Client may need the Interpreter's help to show that the Client owns the work product or to complete the transfer. The Interpreter agrees to help with that. For example, the Interpreter may have to sign a patent application. The Client will pay any required expenses for this. If the Client can’t find the Interpreter, the Interpreter agrees that the Client can act on the Interpreter's behalf to accomplish the same thing. The following language gives the Client that right: if the Client can’t find the Interpreter after spending reasonable effort trying to do so, the Interpreter hereby irrevocably designates and appoints the Client as the Interpreter's agent and attorney-in-fact, which appointment is coupled with an interest, to act for the Interpreter and on the Interpreter's behalf to execute, verify, and file the required documents and to take any other legal action to accomplish the purposes of paragraph 2.1 (Client Owns All Work Product).

2.4 Interpreter's IP That Is Not Work Product. During the course of this project, the Interpreter might use intellectual property that the Interpreter owns or has licensed from a third party, but that does not qualify as “work product.” This is called “background IP.” Possible examples of background IP are pre-existing code, type fonts, properly-licensed stock photos, and web application tools. The Interpreter is not giving the Client this background IP. But, as part of the Contract, the Interpreter is giving the Client a right to use and license (with the right to sublicense) the background IP to develop, market, sell, and support the Client’s products and services. The Client may use this background IP worldwide and free of charge, but it cannot transfer its rights to the background IP (except as allowed in Section 11.1 (Assignment)). The Client cannot sell or license the background IP separately from its products or services. The Interpreter cannot take back this grant, and this grant does not end when the Contract is over.

2.5 Interpreter's Right To Use Client IP. The Interpreter may need to use the Client’s intellectual property to do its job. For example, if the Client is hiring the Interpreter to build a website, the Interpreter may have to use the Client’s logo. The Client agrees to let the Interpreter use the Client’s intellectual property and other intellectual property that the Client controls to the extent reasonably necessary to do the Interpreter's job. Beyond that, the Client is not giving the Interpreter any intellectual property rights, unless specifically stated otherwise in this Contract.

3. COMPETITIVE ENGAGEMENTS. The Interpreter won’t work for a competitor of the Client until this Contract ends. To avoid confusion, a competitor is any third party that develops, manufactures, promotes, sells, licenses, distributes, or provides products or services that are substantially similar to the Client’s products or services. A competitor is also a third party that plans to do any of those things. The one exception to this restriction is if the Interpreter asks for permission beforehand and the Client agrees to it in writing. If the Interpreter uses employees or subcontractors, the Interpreter must make sure they follow the obligations in this paragraph, as well.

4. NON-SOLICITATION. Until this Contract ends, the Interpreter won’t: (a) encourage Client employees or service providers to stop working for the Client; (b) encourage Client customers or clients to stop doing business with the Client; or (c) hire anyone who worked for the Client over the 12-month period before the Contract ended. The one exception is if the Interpreter puts out a general ad and someone who happened to work for the Client responds. In that case, the Interpreter may hire that candidate. The Interpreter promises that it won’t do anything in this paragraph on behalf of itself or a third party.

5. REPRESENTATIONS.

5.1 Overview. This section contains important promises between the parties.

5.2 Authority To Sign. Each party promises to the other party that it has the authority to enter into this Contract and to perform all of its obligations under this Contract.

5.3 Interpreter Has Right To Give Client Work Product. The Interpreter promises that it owns the work product, that the Interpreter is able to give the work product to the Client, and that no other party will claim that it owns the work product. If the Interpreter uses employees or subcontractors, the Interpreter also promises that these employees and subcontractors have signed contracts with the Interpreter giving the Interpreter any rights that the employees or subcontractors have related to the Interpreter's background IP and work product.

5.4 Interpreter Will Comply With Laws. The Interpreter promises that the manner it does this job, its work product, and any background IP it uses comply with applicable U.S. and foreign laws and regulations.

5.5 Work Product Does Not Infringe. The Interpreter promises that its work product does not and will not infringe on someone else’s intellectual property rights, that the Interpreter has the right to let the Client use the background IP, and that this Contract does not and will not violate any contract that the Interpreter has entered into or will enter into with someone else.

5.6 Client Will Review Work. The Client promises to review the work product, to be reasonably available to the Interpreter if the Interpreter has questions regarding this project, and to provide timely feedback and decisions.

5.7 Client-Supplied Material Does Not Infringe. If the Client provides the Interpreter with material to incorporate into the work product, the Client promises that this material does not infringe on someone else’s intellectual property rights.

6. TERM AND TERMINATION. This Contract is ongoing, until ended by the Client or the Interpreter. Either party may end this Contract for any reason by sending an email or letter to the other party, informing the recipient that the sender is ending the Contract and that the Contract will end in 7 days. The Contract officially ends once that time has passed. The party that is ending the Contract must provide notice by taking the steps explained in Section 11.4. The Interpreter must immediately stop working as soon as it receives this notice, unless the notice says otherwise. The Client will pay the Interpreter for the work done up until when the Contract ends and will reimburse the Interpreter for any agreed-upon, non-cancellable expenses. The following sections don’t end even after the Contract ends: 2 (Ownership and Licenses); 3 (Competitive Engagements); 4 (Non-Solicitation); 5 (Representations); 8 (Confidential Information); 9 (Limitation of Liability); 10 (Indemnity); and 11 (General).

7. INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. The Client is hiring the Interpreter as an independent contractor. The following statements accurately reflect their relationship:

- The Interpreter will use its own equipment, tools, and material to do the work.- The Client will not control how the job is performed on a day-to-day basis. Rather, the Interpreter is responsible for determining when, where, and how it will carry out the work.- The Client will not provide the Interpreter with any training.- The Client and the Interpreter do not have a partnership or employer-employee relationship.- The Interpreter cannot enter into contracts, make promises, or act on behalf of the Client.- The Interpreter is not entitled to the Client’s benefits (e.g., group insurance, retirement benefits, retirement plans, vacation days).- The Interpreter is responsible for its own taxes.- The Client will not withhold social security and Medicare taxes or make payments for disability insurance, unemployment insurance, or workers compensation for the Interpreter or any of the Interpreter's employees or subcontractors.

8. CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.

8.1 Overview. This Contract imposes special restrictions on how the Client and the Interpreter must handle confidential information. These obligations are explained in this section.

8.2 The Client’s Confidential Information. While working for the Client, the Interpreter may come across, or be given, Client information that is confidential. This is information like customer lists, business strategies, research & development notes, statistics about a website, and other information that is private. The Interpreter promises to treat this information as if it is the Interpreter's own confidential information. The Interpreter may use this information to do its job under this Contract, but not for anything else. For example, if the Client lets the Interpreter use a customer list to send out a newsletter, the Interpreter cannot use those email addresses for any other purpose. The one exception to this is if the Client gives the Interpreter written permission to use the information for another purpose, the Interpreter may use the information for that purpose, as well. When this Contract ends, the Interpreter must give back or destroy all confidential information, and confirm that it has done so. The Interpreter promises that it will not share confidential information with a third party, unless the Client gives the Interpreter written permission first. The Interpreter must continue to follow these obligations, even after the Contract ends. The Interpreter's responsibilities only stop if the Interpreter can show any of the following: (i) that the information was already public when the Interpreter came across it; (ii) the information became public after the Interpreter came across it, but not because of anything the Interpreter did or didn’t do; (iii) the Interpreter already knew the information when the Interpreter came across it and the Interpreter didn’t have any obligation to keep it secret; (iv) a third party provided the Interpreter with the information without requiring that the Interpreter keep it a secret; or (v) the Interpreter created the information on its own, without using anything belonging to the Client.

8.3 Third-Party Confidential Information. It’s possible the Client and the Interpreter each have access to confidential information that belongs to third parties. The Client and the Interpreter each promise that it will not share with the other party confidential information that belongs to third parties, unless it is allowed to do so. If the Client or the Interpreter is allowed to share confidential information with the other party and does so, the sharing party promises to tell the other party in writing of any special restrictions regarding that information.

9. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. Neither party is liable for breach-of-contract damages that the breaching party could not reasonably have foreseen when it entered this Contract.

10. INDEMNITY.

10.1 Overview. This section transfers certain risks between the parties if a third party sues or goes after the Client or the Interpreter or both. For example, if the Client gets sued for something that the Interpreter did, then the Interpreter may promise to come to the Client’s defense or to reimburse the Client for any losses.

10.2 Client Indemnity. In this Contract, the Interpreter agrees to indemnify the Client (and its affiliates and its and their directors, officers, employees, and agents) from and against all liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) related to a third-party claim or proceeding arising out of: (i) the work the Interpreter has done under this Contract; (ii) a breach by the Interpreter of its obligations under this Contract; or (iii) a breach by the Interpreter of the promises it is making in Section 5 (Representations).

10.3 Interpreter Indemnity. In this Contract, the Client agrees to indemnify the Interpreter (and its affiliates and its and their directors, officers, employees, and agents) from and against liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) related to a third-party claim or proceeding arising out of a breach by the Client of its obligations under this Contract.

11. GENERAL.

11.1 Assignment. This Contract applies only to the Client and the Interpreter. The Interpreter cannot assign its rights or delegate its obligations under this Contract to a third-party (other than by will or intestate), without first receiving the Client’s written permission. In contrast, the Client may assign its rights and delegate its obligations under this Contract without the Interpreter's permission. This is necessary in case, for example, another Client buys out the Client or if the Client decides to sell the work product that results from this Contract.

11.2 Arbitration. As the exclusive means of initiating adversarial proceedings to resolve any dispute arising under this Contract, a party may demand that the dispute be resolved by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its commercial arbitration rules.

11.3 Modification; Waiver. To change anything in this Contract, the Client and the Interpreter must agree to that change in writing and sign a document showing their contract. Neither party can waive its rights under this Contract or release the other party from its obligations under this Contract, unless the waiving party acknowledges it is doing so in writing and signs a document that says so.

11.4 Notices.

(a) Over the course of this Contract, one party may need to send a notice to the other party. For the notice to be valid, it must be in writing and delivered in one of the following ways: personal delivery, email, or certified or registered mail (postage prepaid, return receipt requested). The notice must be delivered to the party’s address listed at the end of this Contract or to another address that the party has provided in writing as an appropriate address to receive notice.

(b) The timing of when a notice is received can be very important. To avoid confusion, a valid notice is considered received as follows: (i) if delivered personally, it is considered received immediately; (ii) if delivered by email, it is considered received upon acknowledgement of receipt; (iii) if delivered by registered or certified mail (postage prepaid, return receipt requested), it is considered received upon receipt as indicated by the date on the signed receipt. If a party refuses to accept notice or if notice cannot be delivered because of a change in address for which no notice was given, then it is considered received when the notice is rejected or unable to be delivered. If the notice is received after 5:00pm on a business day at the location specified in the address for that party, or on a day that is not a business day, then the notice is considered received at 9:00am on the next business day.

11.5 Severability. This section deals with what happens if a portion of the Contract is found to be unenforceable. If that’s the case, the unenforceable portion will be changed to the minimum extent necessary to make it enforceable, unless that change is not permitted by law, in which case the portion will be disregarded. If any portion of the Contract is changed or disregarded because it is unenforceable, the rest of the Contract is still enforceable.

11.6 Signatures. The Client and the Interpreter must sign this document using Bonsai’s e-signing system. These electronic signatures count as originals for all purposes.

11.7 Governing Law. The laws of the state of Tennessee govern the rights and obligations of the Client and the Interpreter under this Contract, without regard to conflict of law principles of that state.

11.8 Entire Contract. This Contract represents the parties’ final and complete understanding of this job and the subject matter discussed in this Contract. This Contract supersedes all other contracts (both written and oral) between the parties.

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