New England Translators Association
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Business Practices

NETA encourages members to put their translation and interpreting activities on a businesslike footing. The measures below are primarily defensive; they also have the effect of helping the translator or interpreter run a professional business. These are things that we should all think about doing so as to head off problems before they arise. NETA's model contract contains additional pointers.

1. Know your client. Security is inversely related to distance. What this means is that the farther away a potential client is, the more you should know about him or her. If you are dealing with an agency, query fellow translators in a forum such as NETA, FLEFO, or LANTRA. If you are dealing with an individual client, it is not unreasonable to demand 30% in advance before starting the work. More places to check client credentials are listed under FAQs on Getting Started, How can I tell whether an agency is reputable?

2. Get it in writing. All work above $500 should be done on a contract basis so that all parties have a clear understanding of what is expected. Do keep it simple; however, a contract should include deadlines, rate of pay, due date for payment (30 days maximum), and specific requirements of the job. For an example of how to approach this, see our Model Contract.

For a description of contract terms and conditions you may want to avoid, please go here.
If you have received instructions via phone, be sure to write up your understanding of the call and fax or email it to the client.

The client should then sign it and fax it back. If the client faxes you a contract, you are within your rights to cross out sections that you don’t like. You may still fax them your standard contract. For small jobs it is still a good idea to fax a short Letter of Understanding (or Agreement) to the client and ask them to sign off on it and fax it back. It should include the terms of the work, deadlines, rate of pay, and estimated word count.

3. Know what you are getting. Ask for representative samples (several pages) of the translation before accepting it. Check it carefully to determine whether the rate of pay is commensurate with the difficulty or special requirements of the work. If the translation is outside your area of expertise or beyond your ability, decline the work.

4. Keep the original and your translation. This documentation may become important if an agency or client claims that the quality of a translation was subpar or if a legal issue develops.


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