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Translation Contract

A translation contract is an agreement between a freelance translator and their client, outlining the scope of work, milestones and deadlines, rights, and payment. 

Here we take a look at why you need one, what you need to include, and our top tips for getting your contract just right.  

Why do you need a translation contract?

First and foremost, you need a well-structured and easy-to-understand translation contract to protect yourself as a freelance service provider. You should never enter into an agreement with a prospective client without first defining what it is you’re being asked to do, when you need to deliver it by, and how much you’re being paid. 

Starting a translation project without a contract could leave you open to being taken advantage of, having your time wasted, or being left out of pocket.

What should you include in your translation contract?

Your contract should include the following information:

  • What you’re being asked to translate. Is it a book? A webpage? How many words? In what language? Be as detailed as possible.
  • Milestones and deadlines. When is the first draft due? How many rounds of revisions? When do you need to submit the final draft? Get it all in writing.
  • The amount you’re being paid and when it’s due. Are you being paid per word translated, a flat fee, an hourly rate? How much are you charging? When is it due? Leave nothing to chance when it comes to payment.
  • Who owns the rights to the translated work. This is vitally important. Make sure your contract clearly states who the rightsholder is, and how the rights can be transferred (usually upon full payment).
Image credits: docular.net

Here are our top tips for creating a solid translation contract.

1. Make sure the project scope is crystal clear

There’s no room for ambiguity when drafting a contract. So, to avoid the dreaded “scope creep” or potential client disagreements further down the line, you need to be meticulous when writing your project scope. 

It should specify precisely what you’re being asked to do and, for good measure, also indicate what’s not included under the terms of the contract.

For example, let’s say you’ve been tasked with translating a website into Spanish. In the brief, your client has outlined the 10 pages that require translation, but they haven’t included the Privacy Policy or Cookie Policy pages. Your translation contract must highlight that these pages are not part of the agreement, otherwise, your client might try to slip them in at a later date.

2. Know your rights as a translator

Disclaimer: This does not constitute legal advice. Please acquire appropriate counsel for your situation.

As a translator, you have certain rights, as per the UNESCO Recommendation on the Legal Protection of Translators and Translations and the Practical Means to improve the Status of Translators

These include the right to:

  • The same copyright protections as authors.
  • The same measure of publicity as the original author in published translations.
  • A reasonable time to complete a translation.

Make sure you understand your rights as a translator, and that your translation contract highlights them in no uncertain terms.

Image credits: megadox.com

3. Don’t leave money on the table

If you are contracted to translate a book into another language, you could pursue royalties over and above your fee. You might even consider forgoing the fee for a larger split of the royalties from any sales of your translated work.

However you wish to negotiate it, you need to specify your terms clearly. Don’t run the risk of missing out on a potentially lucrative contract by using vague language when it comes to your payment terms. 

Your contract must state how high your royalties will be; how often they’ll be paid; if they decrease over time; and if there’s an endpoint to the agreement. 

Follow these tips and your next translation contract will keep you safe from scope creep, protect your rights, and make sure you’re paid on time.  

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Translation Contract
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