Transparency is key
Nobody feels good about ripping off a colleague for a few extra bucks and if they do, gross. We rely on one another in teaming situations all the time, we have to be able to trust one another that we will work together for the improved health of our field as a whole. In my opinion, the best contracts are the ones I can see the details of. While I don’t expect you to talk to your teams about the specific numbers and provisions you negotiated at apart of the deal, you can certainly clue them in to the nature of the business. I often times will bring a contract to a colleague and when asking them about their rate, inform them of just how long the negotiations took and how intense they were. I will also inform them if my margins are tight and give a reason to why the rates for the gig may be less than ideal. Doing this shows my investment in our ongoing partnership and also sets them up with a better expectation for future work. All of the colleagues I’ve partnered with will tell you the same thing. I take the bare minimum and I take care of my people incredibly well. This is why when I call them for a lousy deal, I can still count on them making it work.
Subcontracting carries a responsibility
As a practitioner, I know what it’s like to get a bad deal. It sucks. Worse, I know that when I’m getting one it will impact the entire relationship with the client and with the work. I also know that I’ve worked very hard over the years to learn the skills and develop the ability to write my own contracts better. Building a client base isn’t easy, it’s demanding and exhausting. For years you’re working to compete against a concept you’re probably really unclear on. When I first started, I had no idea what or how to bill for services because all I had learned was from clandestine parking lot conversations with other interpreters in a debrief. They were just as clueless as I was. Clearly, I pulled the trigger.
What I learned in that development was that I had a responsibility to write better deals with every new iota of knowledge into the business of our industry. More importantly, I learned that I had a responsibility to share what I knew. I couldn’t expect to carry my colleagues in my network and not receive the same consideration in theirs. I simply couldn’t afford to focus all of my efforts on direct work, I had bills to pay and the agency was somewhat stable money.
I began sharing my knowledge almost immediately. It was in the best interest of my colleagues but also my own. When they got direct contracts, they came to me. We supported each other and we learned together, from each other’s missteps. I couldn’t possibly quantify how much taking a collaborative approach to the work supported me long term. I am still reaping the benefits from taking that risk, daily.
There’s business and there’s business.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to hire a friend simply because I hadn’t seen them in a while and we love to team. For plenty of jobs, that can work. For plenty of others however, you’ll be forced to consider the client and the caliber of the gig before your own preference. This is true even within my own work. I often hire interpreters to cover gigs for me that I just feel are a stronger fit, even if that means removing myself and losing the money. Of course we never want to be working for less money but our clients depend on us to be experts and to leverage that expertise in providing them the best possible service available.
Replacing myself with other interpreters hasn’t threatened my work. If anything, it’s strengthened it. Often interpreters come back with the same contract because it’s less work for them and they know they have a third party support system. When the client sees that I will do the work not only to replace myself but to find someone else, at times with moments notice – their trust in me grows. While it may seem insignificant, this single
Clients remember quality. They don’t know your friends. As I always say, when you place the client at the center of all your decisions you cannot go wrong. Choosing their quality of services is an investment in a long term relationship creating even more independence in your own practice.