Rule 274

We all know THAT interpreter.  You know the one who… I mean… you know who ALWAYS…. just… arguh…

Yeah. Don’t be THAT interpreter.

Rule 264

Spend more time preparing to do a job well and you will waste less time developing excuses as to why it did not go well.

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: Agreements and Contracts 

The lovely and talented Aunt SuperTam says that when I say “probably” I actually mean “absolutely.” As in:

SuperTam: I’m right!

Me: Probably.

So, when I say interpreters should probably know this… well, you get the point.

I got a bunch of questions about contracts recently (one as recent as yesterday!) WAIT! Don’t go away.  This is actually less boring than it sounds. AND and there is a gift for reading to the end.  Here we go!

Rule 207 says interpreting without a contract means sooner or later just working for free.

Interpreting is a service, you can’t “repossess” it, once you provide it, it’s done and so is your leverage. So, providing that service without a contract in place beforehand means you accept the possibility that the entity that requested your services will just not pay you.  They may “roll the dice” on you not being able enforce your oral agreement with them or bet on you not pushing for payment under a theory like Quantum meruit (if you don’t know what that is then the odds of them getting way with it or you walking away without them paying you are in their favor).*

You need to have a contract or an enforceable agreement.

If you want to know how to write a contract talk to a lawyer in your area. This Post won’t replace the advice of an attorney; it’s just to help you think about what you and your attorney should discuss.

There are good examples of Terms of Service agreements used by other interpreters out there in cyber-space. It’s worth your time to look them over. The terms other interpreters use may or may not make sense to you at first.  There is a reason for that.

If you drive west on I-80 from Salt Lake City for about 40 miles and turn south around Dugway, then drive for several miles you will see a very large, very old billboard that reads “No Weapons Grade Nuclear Material Beyond This Point.”  You know why they put that billboard there? Because sometime or another they had a problem with that.

That is how contract terms are born, they fix a problem, and you may not have ever had that problem… but you don’t want it to happen once you know it could happen.

So… what problems do interpreters want to fix before they happen?

1. Pay

“Interpreter/Translator shall be paid a minimum of two hours and thereafter time shall accrue in units of 30 minutes each.”

“Rates: $150.00 initial two-hour minimum for interpreting services $60.00 per hour thereafter.”

Now, we all know what a two-hour minimum means.  But not everyone does.  I recently wrote a term for an interpreter that says:

Rates: $150.00 for the initial two-hours interpreting services, paid regardless of the actual time required to complete the interpreted activity less than two hours and $60.00 per hour thereafter. No other services are offered nor may be demanded of the interpreter. 

The interpreter showed up to interpret and the Deaf Client’s issue is resolved in 15 minutes, and the business claimed that if they paid for two hours she would stay the full two hours and handed her a stack of  papers to scan.  I kid you not.  So that is now a term.

You need to address special rate circumstances such as legal, Deaf/Blind andPerformance.  You may charge a differential for after hours.

2. Reimbursable Costs

Like mileage or parking or, depending on where you work, tolls, light rail or trains.

3. Unusual Travel/Time Cost

Travel of over 50 miles or requiring over 2 hours of travel or more one way should be billed portal to portal.

4. Coverage of Longer Appointments 

You will want a term that requires a second interpreter for appointments over two hours.  If you are so inclined you can offer to arrange this but make sure you include a term that absolves you from liability for the other interpreters actions and sets how you will be paid for getting the sub-contractor.

5. Cancellations and No-Shows

A “contract” is just an “agreement” and can be cancelled by either arty prior to any obligation maturing.  Wow there is more than you wanted to know, right?  What that means is a contract is not binding until one of the parties is obligated to do… something. So a term such as  Cancellations less than two business days before the beginning of the appointment will be billed for the full amount scheduled matures an obligation (the obligation to cancel) two business days prior to the  assignment and makes the whole thing enforceable.

You might also want to consider a specific term for appointments that require travel outside a radius of say 150 miles of your office or requiring additional planning, travel purchases, and hotel confirmations or appointments spanning multiple days.  I suggest requiring one week’s notice but I have seen terms of up to a month’s notice of cancellation to avoid being charged for the entire assignment.

No-Shows are billed without exception. Say that with me. NO-SHOWS ARE BILLED WITHOUT EXCEPTION!  Do not accept guilt when it is offered by others. You showed up.  You are not the Client’s keeper.  Client no-shows are a cost of doing business, but no your cost.  You showed up. One of your Clients showed up.  You did not call this meeting. You did what you contracted to do.

(Actual voice mail) “We just got your invoice and are frankly shocked you would try to charge us when your Deaf person (seriously… not the Client’s name, “MY Deaf person”) did not even show up.  We think you owe us an explaination.”   I gave them one:

“The Client (name) was scheduled for an appointment with your office, not with me.  I was contracted for an appointment at your office and I was there on time as ready to do my job as you were to do yours.  You may not and I will not accept passing your costs to me.  If you have any further questions I would refer you to our contract and specifically para. 2 wherein it states that I am paid a 2 hour minimum, initial-meaning that is the cost for me to show up, which I did; para. 4 that states No-Shows are billed without exception; and, para. 7 which explains the terms of payment.

Thank you for your business.

Believe it or not, they still call me when they have Clients who are Deaf.  It’s business not personal.

6.  Force Majure

This means one party or the other can’t fulfill the obligations because the very heavens have turned against them!  I suggest covering the most common acts of deity for your area specifically and others generally:

Cancellations due to weather will be billed unless otherwise negotiated or when a weather emergency has been officially declared by the authorities. Furthermore a party shall not be liable for any failure of or delay in the performance of this agreement for the period that such failure or delay is beyond the reasonable control of a party, materially affects the performance of any of its obligations under this agreement, and could not reasonably have been foreseen or provided against, but will not be excused for failure or delay resulting from only general economic conditions or other general market effects.

Not everyone feels the need to include these, but in this age of terrorism I am including these type of clauses more and more.

7. Payment Terms

Here is mine.  It’s pretty standard and I have seen almost exactly the same language in at least three Terms I found on-line.

Net due 30 days from the invoice date. Invoices paid within 15 days will be discounted 3.0%. Invoices paid late will be assessed an additional 5.0% for each additional 30 day period.

It’s a good idea to list all the ways they can pay you. PayPal is great. Venmo is my favorite.  Accepting credit card payments through Square is quick and easy but many banks have a similar system that charges a lower percentage so check with your bank!

8. Prices Subject To Change

Prices subject to change without notice. The prices listed herein are current as to the date of execution of this contract.  An up-to-date pricing list is available at my website. A notice will be emailed to the address on file if prices change more than 10% from those quoted herein. Scheduling an appointment will be considered agreement to pay current prices even if different from those listed above.

9. Subject To Availability

ASL interpreting services are subject to scheduling availability. This office reserves the right to refuse service to anyone at any time for any reason.

That is in no way a complete list of all terms that could be included.  The language is, as I said, just an example of standard language I have used or see used by others.  There are terms that may only apply to your geographic area you may want to consider.  In the end talk to a lawyer in your area.

I promised you a gift and here it is.  Almost every contract has a set of very standard terms.  Terms that are included if you are selling a car, hiring a landscaper, agreeing to trade goods for services or any other situation you can think to contract about.  Attached here are sample of standard language for those standard terms.  Again. Check with an attorney in your area before you cut and past them!

Have fun out there!

Services Contract Sample

*Someday ask me about the lawyer who taught me this lesson by refusing to pay me… it has a happy ending.

Note from Uncle Dale: So, Today You Test!

Hi everyone!  Uncle Dale back again.

Ready? Here we go! What do these three questions have in common?

1. Vehicles from which country use the international registration letters WG?

2. Freddie Mercury died in which year?

3. To within ten thousand square miles, what is the area of Louisiana?

The common link? It is highly unlikely that you will need to know the answer to any of them in order to successfully pass any interpreter certification screening.

There will be no surprise algebra section.  There will be no surprise sections at all.

What you will need to pass is the skills you have practiced everyday from the day you started to learn ASL until the day of your test.

Think.  Suppose the presenter’s topic is “how a bill becomes a law,” that is a process, just like, “how to make fajitas,” is a process or “directions to the lake,” is a process or “how to get to my office from the San Diego airport,” or “how payroll works.” (I hope at least one of those is familiar? Grin)

All of these are the same thing-a process- with the content within the steps replaced by, perhaps, the content, “how a bill becomes a law” or, “what the risks and benefits of your surgery are,” or “Deaf Culture in the 1800’s.” These are each just the same things you have practiced over and over and over… the same process, with different words, different content. Just do what you do everyday.

The same is true when you are voicing. Do what you trained to do. Don’t chase the text. Let it come to you. It will come if you let it. It won’t get away, if, you look for meaning instead of substituting spoken words for signs. When in doubt slow down and think.  Listen, process, produce.  Just like you practiced.

Some screenings and state QAs even give you the topics ahead of time.  Google is your friend.  With google at your finger tips you not only have the process but might even have the terminology and content to stick in it (feed your ELK).

Missing a word or a sign is not an instant fail. If you feel you messed up, fix what you can and move on.  Don’t live in that moment. Don’t pitch a tent there. Don’t build a little cabin there. Don’t design a small research camp to examine the mistake.  Just move on.

Have you ever seen The French film La Femme Nikita? Not the TV series or that terrible terrible travesty of an American version Bridget Fonda, the French version with Anne Parillaud. (Sadly the scene I found is dubbed… that doesn’t change my metaphor at all, dubbed just sucks in principle.

Nikita was very naughty and was “executed.” However, she wakes up in a weird kind of finishing school.  They teach her how to dress and walk and use computers and fight and shoot. She is there for three years. On her 21st birthday her instructor takes her out of the school (for the first time) for dinner.  He gives her a birthday present, a big gun, tells her to shoot the diplomat behind her and escape though the window in the last stall in the men’s room. This is how it goes:

If it is not obvious, it’s a test. It’s what she was trained to do.  It does not go as she planned and she freaks out, twice.  Then she pulls it together and does what she trained to do.  The point is not that she freaked out.  The point is she does what she trained to do.

It’s just the NIC or the BEI or the state test or… whatever test is on the other side of that door.

It does not matter if something goes wrong if you do what you trained to do.  You can fall down. You can fall down a few times-so long as you always get back up one more time than you fall.

Do what you trained to do. You’ll be fine.

Before I send you off to test remember, oh remember, these three things. 1) this is a review of the the work you produce during a fifteen to twenty minute moment of your life, not a judgment on your worth as a person; 2) no matter what happens in that room no one will go to the morgue and no one will go to jail; and, 3) you enjoy interpreting. This is interpreting.   It’s ok to enjoy it. Feel the stress sure, but it’s ok to enjoy the process.

Good vibes to all of you!

(Psst.  I know I didn’t answer the 3 questions at the top.  That’s the point. If it bothers you, Google is your friend.)