Your thoughts about a freelancing relationship with a client - are they trying to get rid of me?
Thread poster: Nina Khmielnitzky

Nina Khmielnitzky  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:01
Member (2004)
English to French
May 12

My current professional situation is that I am a freelancer (not by choice initially - having worked in-house most of my professional life -, but I got used to it and I like it now) and have been so since June 2016.

In August 2018, I got hired for a 12-month contract (all done remotely), at which term, they asked me to stay as a freelancer (I was hoping of getting a permanent job, which has not happened). They are my main client and source of revenue. I have other clients, but they
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My current professional situation is that I am a freelancer (not by choice initially - having worked in-house most of my professional life -, but I got used to it and I like it now) and have been so since June 2016.

In August 2018, I got hired for a 12-month contract (all done remotely), at which term, they asked me to stay as a freelancer (I was hoping of getting a permanent job, which has not happened). They are my main client and source of revenue. I have other clients, but they contact me once in a blue moon.

I was allowed to keep the company computer, access to their systems and intranet and email account, as it was deemed more practical.

A yearly budget has been set. I can't invoice more than 35 h/week and I decide how many hours I want to work. I am paid by the hour and submit my invoice twice a month. I remain online and available for them 8am-4pm (sometimes having not invoiced anything for a few days), and I am free to do what I please if there is no work.

I take part in the team's meetings (brainstorm, terminology, talk about projects and the occasional happy hour). I invoice those, as they are mandatory. My boss set up a brainstorm meeting, then wrote to me privately to say I didn't have to take part (when I usually do). I wonder if she's trying to push me out of the door or simply doesn't want to pay me.

My problem is as follow:

This client sends me half the volume of work since the beginning of the world crisis 2 months ago. They are deemed an essential service, and the other translators are overwhelmed from what I gather. I always ask the coordinator to send me more work (hello, I'm available!)
I don't want to complain outloud to them (I have learned the hard way that colleagues are NOT friends to whom you can vent), but I have the nasty feeling they are trying to get rid of me by giving me less work. And in this economy, good luck finding another job that doesn't involve commute.
Nonetheless, I'm actively looking for another job, as I don't feel welcome anymore.

What are your thoughts? How would you deal with such a conundrum? Bite the bullet, shut up and bid my time until I can leave?
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Lidija Klemencic
 

Viesturs Lacis  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 11:01
Member (2014)
English to Latvian
You might want to check with a lawyer May 12

Some of the things you describe - such as having a single dominant client, using company equipment, and being on call at certain hours - sound much more like "disguised employment" than bona fide freelancing. If so, this could have legal implications to one or both sides at some point. It's possible they have realized that and are taking steps in this regard.

Stuart Hoskins
Nina Khmielnitzky
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Sheila Wilson
Dan Lucas
Teresa Borges
Aline Amorim
 

Nina Khmielnitzky  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:01
Member (2004)
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Not the first time I hear this May 12

sound much more like "disguised employment"


You are not the first person to tell me this. I have a hard time getting out of the situation. I can't afford a lawyer (I'm broke and cheap). I'm actively looking for a real position.


 

Sadek_A  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:01
English to Arabic
+ ...
Let's see ... May 12

Your suspicion is based solely on the brainstorm meeting incident?

That's hardly a clue.

Them sending you half the volume they used to isn't related to the above incident, or is it?

Okay, you're working for them full-time, remotely. Do you have a contract in place? Are they required to provide you with a minimum amount of work as per said contract? If not, then it's your fault!

A common rhetoric you will always come across here on this forum, i
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Your suspicion is based solely on the brainstorm meeting incident?

That's hardly a clue.

Them sending you half the volume they used to isn't related to the above incident, or is it?

Okay, you're working for them full-time, remotely. Do you have a contract in place? Are they required to provide you with a minimum amount of work as per said contract? If not, then it's your fault!

A common rhetoric you will always come across here on this forum, is a "golden advice" not to put all your eggs in one basket.

From a logistics perspective, it's neither golden nor even an advice. Clients don't coordinate your deadlines amongst themselves, taking your comfort and health into consideration, no. When a client needs the translation, they need the translation, they don't care what other commitments you're having. You turn down or delay a client's project twice in a row, they won't be using you anymore.

Make sure you work with someone who affords to buy all your time. If they don't buy your whole time, then you will end up working for them as a back-up when peers are busy or unwilling to take the project, which will most likely be an overly-demanding one.

Talk to the official who hired you, let them know that if they can't provide you with a certain minimum income, you will take yourself out of the current arrangement.

If they deem you valuable, even as a back-up, they will try to make you happy. If they don't, then you better not help them belittle you anymore.
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Amália Solymosi
WS McCallum
 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 10:01
Member (2016)
English to German
You are easy to "lay off" May 12

As Viesturs said, while I don't know the Canadian law, in most Western economies this constellation is considered a disguised employment. If so, it might be a good idea to check with a lawyer if this can be converted to a normal permanent employment with all benefits and such.

As a freelancer, your client has no obligation to send you any work (unless stated otherwise in a contract), so you are easy to "lay off" if the client finds that they don't have enough work for you any longer
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As Viesturs said, while I don't know the Canadian law, in most Western economies this constellation is considered a disguised employment. If so, it might be a good idea to check with a lawyer if this can be converted to a normal permanent employment with all benefits and such.

As a freelancer, your client has no obligation to send you any work (unless stated otherwise in a contract), so you are easy to "lay off" if the client finds that they don't have enough work for you any longer. For exactly that reason, it is very unhealthy for a freelancer to be dependent on one client only. So when you say it is impossible to find a permanent employment (it sounds as if you'd prefer it), you should take freelancing serious and find more clients.
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Nina Khmielnitzky
Teresa Borges
Sheila Wilson
Güzide Arslaner
ahartje
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:01
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
The situation in Europe May 12

Viesturs Lacis wrote:
Some of the things you describe - such as having a single dominant client, using company equipment, and being on call at certain hours - sound much more like "disguised employment" than bona fide freelancing. If so, this could have legal implications to one or both sides at some point. It's possible they have realized that and are taking steps in this regard.

I can only talk about Europe, and then not from personal experience, thank heavens. But in several EU member states it's illegal for a client to give a feeelancer work that approaches anywhere near full-time hours. It's regarded as a serious matter because (a) they're doing the social services out of all those employer contributions, and (b) the freelancer is put in a permanently precarious position: no paid sick leave, training programmes, holidays, coffee breaks... or, most importantly, redundancy package.

You aren't doing anything illegal, AFAIK. But you really are digging yourself a massive hole, in my opinion.

You've let them play the tune 100% up to now. So if I were you I'd expect to be paid the same as usual, do whatever they ask, and put all your energy into finding alternatives. Maybe do some online training? You can even find loads of free webinars to help set up a successful freelancing business. Unless you want to stay an employee -- but then get yourself the perks.


Nina Khmielnitzky
Teresa Borges
Aline Amorim
Thayenga
Joe France
Lidija Klemencic
Jorge Payan
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 10:01
Member
Italian to English
My feeling May 13

My feeling, from what you've told me, is that the drop in work is due to the coronavirus, nothing more.
You say "you can gather" that the other translators are overwhelmed, but you have no evidence of this, and I would take this with a grain of salt.
If the situation doesn't suit you, and it doesn't seem to, then I would leave.

Best of luck.


Teresa Borges
 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:01
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
you're still a freelancer... May 13

(ok it sounds more like you have a 0 hour contract and you need to jump in when they say jump)... but still: you need to look for better clients.... you cannot simply sit behind your desk and wait for this one client to send you work....

at some point the work will dry up, there will be somebody who is cheaper than you are (if those other translators are not already cheaper)...

Ed


Nina Khmielnitzky
Sheila Wilson
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 09:01
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Nina May 13

When I started out translating full-time in 1986 I found myself in a similar situation: I had a main client (a Belgian agency) who gave me very regular work (between 100-200 pages each month) to translate into Portuguese (Bulletin if the European Communities). Work was extremely interesting, very well paid and always on time, until suddenly for no fault of mine their contract with the end client was cancelled and I found myself with almost no work. I learned my lesson the hard way…

 

Hwaet
United States
Local time: 02:01
French to English
+ ...
They want an unpaid employee. Jun 14

Hold up, you are expected to be online and available from 8 to 4, but they're not actually paying you for that time?! That's ridiculous. I think you should talk to them. Perhaps set up a fixed time for them to let you know if there is work that day, rather than you being "on call" the entire working day, unless they want to pay you for a full day of waiting.

Fatine777
 

MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:01
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
Use this time... Jun 15

...to pursue other jobs and diversify your client portfolio. As others have said, it's never a good idea to depend on just one client for income. Freelancers have no job security and should never presume that they do, as even clients who love us and have given us work for years can suddenly disappear with little to no warning. Hopefully things will get back to normal with your main client, but in the meantime, aggressively pursue new gigs. If you do land some new clients and start working a lot ... See more
...to pursue other jobs and diversify your client portfolio. As others have said, it's never a good idea to depend on just one client for income. Freelancers have no job security and should never presume that they do, as even clients who love us and have given us work for years can suddenly disappear with little to no warning. Hopefully things will get back to normal with your main client, but in the meantime, aggressively pursue new gigs. If you do land some new clients and start working a lot and then things return to normal with the main one, then you will have to juggle all the workload (an invaluable skill) or revise the terms of your agreement. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by ditching them or being paranoid, just use this free time (and their computer) to be more pro-active about your career as a freelance translator. Good luck.

[Edited at 2020-06-15 07:45 GMT]
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Anthony Keily
Local time: 10:01
Member
Italian to English
+ ...
This situation would be Ok in Italy as far as I know Jun 15

Here in Italy, you would have become one of the millions of "VAT number people", since the labour laws do seem to allow for the self-employed people to be hired (and for contract employees to be reduced to self-employed status), even in-house, as workers without job security, holiday or sick leave and a whole list of other rights and benefits. It's quite common in offices, factories or on building sites to have contract employees doing identical jobs to "VAT No" colleagues earning half their pay... See more
Here in Italy, you would have become one of the millions of "VAT number people", since the labour laws do seem to allow for the self-employed people to be hired (and for contract employees to be reduced to self-employed status), even in-house, as workers without job security, holiday or sick leave and a whole list of other rights and benefits. It's quite common in offices, factories or on building sites to have contract employees doing identical jobs to "VAT No" colleagues earning half their pay.

As for the fall-off in work, couldn't it just be that your employer initially thought it was a good thing to have you on call and then saw the volume of work shrink due to the COVID-19 crisis?
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