Independent Contractor Agreements & Language Professionals

Image of man signing a contract
Unsplash photo by Scott Graham
Getting started as a freelance interpreter or translator can be daunting, especially when it comes to the infamous independent contractor or sub-contractor agreements. Although some professional organizations like AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters) and ATA (American Translators Association) provide their members with contract templates and information about common clauses, many clients (i.e. Language Service Providers or agencies, Organizations, Institutions, etc.) may provide us their own contract with different clauses. As an interpreter & translator, I will share some of the clauses I pay particular attention to, however, this should not be misconstrued as legal advise and a legal professional should be consulted for legal concerns related to any contract or agreement as well as any questions pertaining to any of the clauses shared in this entry. 

Payment Terms & Compensation

One of the first clauses I search for in a contract and ensure I completely understand are the payment terms and compensation. Sometimes part of the same section in a contract, the payment terms and compensation establish how much you will be compensated under a particular contract and how long after submitting an invoice you should expect to receive payment. It is important that you carefully review and ensure that the compensation agreed to with the client is the one that is documented in the contract, additionally, how and when you will be compensated should also be accurate. Look out for how long after invoice submission you should receive payment, some contracts may have clauses like the one below which may give your client up to 60 days to provide payment. For certain agreements, I request that payment terms and compensation be established on a per project bases through a proposal or project-specific quote.  This is particularly important for clients where I will be offering consultancy services or where projects may extend over several months and staggered payment may be required. 

Additionally, late payment fees may or may not be included or could be restricted by local regulations. Legal council should be consulted to understand what is acceptable and can/should be included in a contract to protect your interests. 

Conflict of Interest, Non-solicitation, Non-Competition

Another clause I find very important is the conflict of interest, non-solicitation or non-competition clause that is common to these types of agreements. This clause is usually designed to protect your client's existing business relationships, however, at times this clause or a similar one may include language that attempts to limit who we are allowed to engage in business with. Text resembling the following example require legal council as it may prohibit the interpreter or translator from working with other clients. 

Sample Clause ( 
The Contractor shall not, directly or indirectly, either for himself or any other person, own, manage, act as consultant or advisor to, render services for (alone or in association with any person, firm, corporation or other business organization) or otherwise assist in any manner any business which is a competitor of or is in the same or substantially similar line of business as a portion of the Company’s business or of the business of any subsidiary of the Company.

Finding legal council

In this entry, I often advise to seek legal council and have previously received questions regarding how to find legal council to assist with contract review/modification. Since laws and regulations vary throughout the country, it is important that you find legal council that is not only familiar with independent contractor agreements, but that is aware of and fully understands the laws of the local that will govern each specific contract. For client provided contracts, that is often based on their physical location. 

One method of finding legal representation is to contact local interpreter or translator organizations and ask the organization and/or its members for recommendations. Additionally, you can conduct a search online for lawyers or firms in a particular location with experience in independent contractor agreements. 

Additional resources

ATA Translation Agreement Guide - provides a detailed overview of common contract elements for translators along with an explanation of the purpose of each clause. 

Law Insider - Website with many clause examples that can help you build your own contract or find sample text that can be used to propose modifications to a client provided contract.