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Our October 2021 Event. Sue Leschen: Working remotely – which terms and conditions should language professionals be negotiating with their clients?

On this occasion, we had the pleasure to welcome lawyer linguist Sue Leschen who brought us some eye-opening case studies and stories to help us think about setting the right kind of legal and professional boundaries around our work in this day and age where remote work has become the norm.

Sue kicked off by asking whether we already had a set of Terms and Conditions for our language businesses. She then asked us if we also have specific sets of Terms and Conditions specifically for remote work.

The answers were not surprising:

Most of us have a set of Ts and Cs for our language service business. But when it comes to remote working, we haven’t really updated our existing set of Ts and Cs to make them suitable for the reality that we’re now in.

In her talk and presentation, Sue spoke from an interpreter’s point of view but the information she shared was applicable and thought-provoking to many language service providers who work remotely.

We talked about cancellation fees, written Ts and Cs compared to oral ones, why professional indemnity insurance is a must, and whose Ts and Cs should apply:

As Sue put it, establishing Ts and Cs is all down to negotiations between the two parties.

Jokingly, she pointed out in one of her slides:

Negotiation is the art of letting the other side have it your way!

Sue then explained some practical things we need to consider when working remotely and negotiating with potential clients, such as:

  • Charging if you’re asked to turn up early for an assignment
  • Break times to avoid cognitive overload especially when interpreting
  • Date and time any materials need to be provided that we language professionals might need to prepare, eg. if you don’t receive the requested materials 7 days in advance, you might exercise your right to withdraw from the assignment

Sue also talked about general best practices, dos and don’ts. These are issues we’re aware of but we’ve all seen some bad examples over the past year and a half:

  • Background – making sure that it’s not noisy
  • Having a neutral, professional background
  • Checking that all equipment is working properly 
  • Tech trials prior to an event / meeting
  • Contingency plans for when things go wrong
  • Payments: for example when delays occur due to tech problems on the client’s side or asking for a higher rate when working at night
  • Requiring our permission to record our voices at events where we’re speaking

We also addressed some issues around privacy that arose through remote working:

  • How can you keep everything confidential when working from home? (Eg. Don’t sit in the garden because neighbours can overhear you.)
  • Whether or not we have the right to ask who else is in the speaker’s background?
  • Following GDPR best practices when working remotely

We then had an interesting discussion where we talked about ways of not coming across as too picky or bolshie when negotiating Ts and Cs with clients. We also addressed the issue of too much legal jargon and how we might overcome that.

Then, the inevitable questions around pricing came up: increasingly some language professionals are being asked whether they would charge less for remote work. We shared our experiences on this and how we went about these tricky negotiations and tried to stick to rates which reflect our worth.

We had a great discussion and exchange of thoughts generally on how we’ve dealt with remote work in the past 18 months.

Thank you to all language professionals who attended and took part in our discussion. We’ll be back again in November. Details coming soon.


About the speaker:

Sue Leschen is a lawyer linguist and also the Director of niche market company Avocate Legal and Business French Interpreting and Translation Services Ltd. She sits on CIOL’s Council and also on CIOL’s Interpreting Division Steering Group as well as on the Professional Conduct Committee of NRCPD. 

Reach out and connect with Sue, she’ll be pleased to hear from you:


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