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16 rules for dealing with agencies (preventive measures)
Thread poster: Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:53
German to English
+ ...
Nov 16, 2001

Here are a few tips (based on personal experience and accounts of colleagues):



1. Always get your client to sign a Purchase Order.



2. If the agency requires you to sign a contract for subcontractors, read it carefully. If there is only the slightest doubt in your mind, don\'t sign it.



3. \"Contract Law 101\": your contract with the agency is different from and independent of the contract the agency has with its client. Some agencies always try to download the financial risk on to their translators by telling them that they will get paid as soon as they have been paid by their client. WRONG. This would go against the fundamental principles of contract law. As I said, your contract is different from theirs; even if their client never pays them (for whatever reason), they will still have to pay you on time. Recently, I heard of an agency that includes a clause in its contract (\"fine print\") that says that translators will be paid if and when they have received payment from their client. Do not sign an agreement like that - it is ILLEGAL!



4. \"Train\" your clients: explain to them, in simple language if necessary, what translation is all about. Do not accept any unrealistic demands from them (eg, 5,000 words within 24 hours).



5. Be strict about your terms of payment: upon initial contact with the agency (or direct client), explain your terms to them. Be firm. Inform them that they will be subject to late-payment interest if they don\'t pay within the period of time stipulated. Draw up an agreement stating your terms of payment very clearly and get the agency to sign it. If they refuse, don\'t bother - it is a clear sign that this particular agency is not trustworthy and you would not want to work for someone like that anyway.



6. Sometimes, an agency may tell you that they cannot pay you on time because of cashflow problems. ALARM BELLS! This means: a) they have lousy clients themselves that don\'t pay them (which is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the agency and its business practices); b) their management is really sloppy; c) they are not professional; AND d) things can only go downhill from there ==> so stop accepting any new jobs from them; tell them that you may consider working for them again if and when you have been paid and if and when they have set their house in order.



7. If you do get into trouble with an agency, again, be firm. Do not be afraid to threaten them with collection agencies, lawyers AND tell them that you will expose them publicly (by posting a message on a mailing list such as TCR (Yahoo groups)). The latter threat will really stick: many of them are afraid of not being able to recruit more \"victims\", so let them know, in no uncertain terms, that you could make things really difficult for them if they don\'t pay you instantly.



8. Avoid any agencies that post jobs on the Internet but fail to give detailed background information on themselves (phone number, mailing address, etc.).



9. Avoid clients that use free e-mail accounts such as Hotmail or Yahoo - if an agency uses such accounts, you can rest assured that they are not legit and professional



10. Avoid agencies that require an excessive number of words to be translated by way of a \"test\" - it could be a way for them to have a document translated for free. Remember: standard translation tests should not exceed 200-250 words.



11. Regarding tests: even if the sample is only 200-250 words in length, make sure it is a self-contained text; otherwise, it might be that they are sending out small portions of a larger text to a number of translators as \"tests\" - again, for the purposes of getting the translation for free.



12. Beware of UNSOLICITED e-mails you receive from agencies (\"we have recently come across your name and would like to invite you to join our team of translators. Please send us your CV, rates, client list, etc.\") - this is often a trick to \"scan\" the competition (they want to know who your clients are), so if you provide them with 2 or 3 professional references, they will contact them, not to verify your work, but to solicit business from your clients!



13. Regarding references: never, under any circumstances, give out references. Giving out 2 or 3 references is a common practice when applying for a permanent position, but as freelancers we cannot do that: we are legally and ethically bound to keep any and all information regarding our clients confidential. Therefore, suggest to the agency that they could send you either a 200-word test or a small job for which they would have to pay you a minimum fee (\"the proof of the pudding is in the eating\"). This way, the agency does not take on too much risk and you would not have to breach your clients\' confidentiality. Remember: when you see a new doctor, you cannot ask the doctor for his/her patient list either!!!



14. It is always better to forgo a potential job (in case of any doubt about the client) than to go through the hassle and headaches of chasing after your money later on.



15. Stay away from \"telemarketers\": if you phone the agency, and you get a person who talks as fast as a telemarketer or used-car salesperson and does the whole \"salespitch dance\" (even though that person may strike you as being very personable), be polite and end the conversation as quickly as possible.



16. For larger projects, charge a \"retainer\", or down payment, of about 25%. Demand to be paid in various phases as the project moves along. Don\'t beat about the bush: tell your client that you will still have to feed and clothe yourself for the duration of the project (e.g., 2 months). For example, 25% upfront, another 25% halfway through the project and the remainder upon completion of the project.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-01-09 15:07 ]


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Rusinterp  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
English to Russian
+ ...
Well said ... might be easier than done (smile) Nov 16, 2001

In theory, it sounds like a great list, and some points are really useful - for example, the one about contract law and it being illegal to pass financial risk onto a translator. Still, some of those points might be easier to say than do - I think it is only possible to follow them when you have tons of work, when you can afford to turn away jobs which seem like too much hassle down the road.

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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:53
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree, Rusinterp Nov 16, 2001

But that\'s the point: if you cannot afford to be firm about your business practices (because you are just starting out or you don\'t have enough work), you will make things even worse for you. Just think about it: if you have a dry spell and accept work from some shady agency, you will have wasted your time and effort for nothing (and you\'ll never see your money either). In fact, while working on such a job, you may have to turn away a better job from a reliable client.



In a way, we are very much like actors. If you don\'t land the roles you are interested in, you will have to work as a waiter, for example, to make ends meet. But once you got your foot in the door, the jobs will keep on coming (even in times of recession).



My point to all this is that if you decide to \"sell out\" (for whatever reason), you will be \"waiting on tables\" for the rest of your life (figuratively speaking - and, perhaps, literally). In addition, by doing such agencies\' bidding, you play into their hands and help them stay afloat. If more of us took a stand (beginners and all), these fly-by-night outfits would not have a leg to stand on anymore.


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Johanna Timm, PhD  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:53
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Another important rule not yet mentioned Nov 16, 2001

would be to be maintain a friendly and pleasant relationship with the agencies that provide you with jobs. I won\'t argue the importance of all points listed, but

a kind word, appreciation for their work and a little understanding for their situation will also go a long way.

j.



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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:53
German to English
+ ...
Re Point 8 Nov 16, 2001

This also applies to job posters on ProZ. More often than not, there is no identifying information given, not even the country of the poster. This gives us no opportunity to check out the reliability of the person or company before bidding on or accepting a job.



Trudy


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:53
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I fully agree, Johanna.... Nov 16, 2001

...but these rules are intended as preventive action, not so much for maintaining existing relationships.



But you are absolutely right: those agencies (and direct clients) that treat you right and with respect need to be shown that they (and their business practices) are appreciated (even if it involves nothing more than a X-mas card).


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Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 12:53
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
Polite, but Clear Nov 17, 2001

Werner,



I totally agree with you. Allow me to add a couple of points, out of my own experience: I have modified my CV, in that I clearly state followings: 1) tests: no single sentences without any detailed context; a paragraph to be translated out of a full page sent to me, for a maximum of three pages (= Max three paragraph to be translated). If it is not clear what sort of machine I am supposed to translate (it might happen you get a very general description, but including a couple of very specific words you might translate in two/three ways according to context/machine) I would ask for more information or details. 2) Payment: new agencies or clients have to pay me in advance ca. 30% of the estimated total for larger jobs. Payment always through a bank. 3) Time: standard 4 pages or 1,000 words/days. 4) Express service: anything out of my standard or of \"accettable working hours\" may be refused or cause a + 20% on the final invoice. 4) \"Privacy statement\": data or information received from me are strictly confidential as well as data or information received from them (agency or client) or from others (agencies & clients). (This way there is no way for them to ask for references). 5) Jobs) I never accept a job without having seen myself the text (agencies tend to call a \"short job\" something like 20 pages in one/two-day time). 6) Contact: only one person to deal with and all the time (no way to they could say something like \"but... we told you that...\" to be honest I started thinking about recording phone calls



You already mentioned the other points, thank you for a couple I hadn\'t considered before.

This way you might need more time to come to better clients & agencies (= more work), but you can be sure what you have is a good and lasting business relationship (for example, I have been working with a particular agency for fouteen years now and I think our good relations depend on our mutual correct behaviour and respect of our needs).



Giuliana
[addsig]


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Annette Aryanpour
United States
Local time: 03:53
German to English
agency got offended when I sent my contract Nov 29, 2001

Thanks for your great tips. I am not new to translations, but I\'m new to dealing with agencies. I just finished a job for an agency. Before I started the translation, I sent the client my terms & conditions, which caused her to react a little sour \"it is not up to the translator to send the agency a contract, but for the agency to send the translator a contract.\" (original wording) Since this is my first job that I got on-line, I decided to sign their contract which does not specifiy when payment is due or any late payment charges. What advice do you give someone who wants to build a client base?
[addsig]


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:53
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply to Annette Nov 30, 2001

I am sorry to hear about your trouble.



But consider this:



The agency is the buyer, and we are the seller. And it is usually the seller who dictates the terms and conditions of doing business: everyone operates like that. You go into a store and you will be subject to the respective store policy (e.g., in terms of refunds, returning merchandise, warranty, etc.). If you don\'t like a store\'s policy, you are free to go somewhere else.



Of course, if the agency (as the buyer of your services) already has a contract, and if that contract is agreeable, you may sign it, instead of drafting your own.



In your case, Annette, I must say that the agency sounds like a \"bad apple\": if they leave out any provisions on the terms of payment, it means that they are trying to keep all their options open (and that includes default on payment!).


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Bertha S. Deffenbaugh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
Very interesting tips, Werner. Dec 4, 2001

I have another question. Does the PO have to be faxed or do you think one sent via e-mail would do?
[addsig]


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:53
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Fax or no fax Dec 4, 2001

That solely depends on the country. Some countries do not recognize faxed or electronic signatures (the same is true of invoices).

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bozenalak
English to Polish
+ ...
Anybody knows something about Legal Language in NY Jun 17, 2002

I accepted interpreting assignment from them but they didn\'t pay me. Anybody knows something about them and how to make them pay me.?



Bozena Schmall


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ellitrad
France
Local time: 12:53
German to French
+ ...
terms of payment Jun 20, 2002

The tips are very useful and as both a freelancer and a(yet small) agency I can only agree, but the terms of payment are always a complicated issue in France. It\'s quite usual here to have customers paying the agencies after three months, which makes it difficult for me to pay the translators within less than two months; on the other hand, in other countries (Germany or USA, for example) such a term is not acceptable...So I try to explain the situation to the translator, but that gives me a clear disadvantage in relation to translation agencies in other countries.

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infoats
Local time: 11:53
English to French
+ ...
Respect your clients! Aug 30, 2002

Quote:


On 2001-11-30 10:36, AbacusTrans wrote:

The agency is the buyer, and we are the seller.





It is easier if you think of the agency as your \"customer\", and think in terms of trying to keep that customer, which is the essence of running a good business. In a non-competitive marketplace you are quite right that the buyer must accept the terms of the seller, but there are so many sellers out there that the buyer has the \'purchasing power\'.



Mistrust will get you nowhere in your \'business\'. Good customer relations will.



Don\'t bother sending your own contract unless you don\'t get one from the agency, although any agency who doesn\'t have a standard translators agreement can\'t be much of an agency, so perhaps do distrust them in that case!

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fcl
France
Local time: 12:53
German to French
+ ...
Thank you Werner and three cents more Sep 1, 2002

Imho, three items may be added to Werner\'s list:



- a long payment term means not only waiting for your money, it is also having your money in someone else\'s pocket. That is a risk, and not a negligible one because it starts right away rather high (why does the company needs this long delay, first place) and grows about exponentially as time passes. It may even be mathematically true.



- cheap rates because the TC doesn\'t get much more from the final client is not a good point. You may hear this as admitting that they are not good at marketing and selling. They maybe wont be of much help if things start being complicated.



- Each client\'s credit must be limited in a sensible way. In my case it is e.g. 1000 $ for all unknown new clients and I wish I could do with less. Any sound business oriented TC will understand that and if it doesn\'t then this rings a bell as Werner would say.



Answering to Ellitrad (bonjour !), payment terms are not a more complicated issue in France than they are anywhere else. They are just acceptable or not. Imho, this goes way further than just the involved cashflow. Working with Germans and Americans I get professionally well defined jobs. Well defined with me but also with their clients as once one is done I never hear again about it. One reason maybe is that they know it will be paid right away, and if something goes wrong later on it may not be that easy to get it straigthen up for free unless it is obviously translator\'s error. Situation changes if the TC still has the money. It is quite clear to me that my job ends when my client, the TC, is satisfied. Their client to be satisfied is their responsibility.



Francois



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