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Can I use my agency clients as references?
Thread poster: Mary Worby

Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:29
Member
German to English
+ ...
Nov 7, 2001

I do an awful lot of my work for just one or two agencies, who I feel value my work. But every so often I feel the need to spread my eggs across more baskets, so I apply to a couple more agencies. These agencies often want references, hence my question - which is primarily directed at agency owners: How do agencies feel about providing references for what is essentially their competition? Is it rude to even ask them? Are they likely to provide a glowing reference if it means they run the risk of you being available less often?



I\'ve always been nervous about asking my steady customers for references so far? Should I be?



All contributions gratefully received!



Regards



Mary


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Barbara Cattaneo
Local time: 03:29
English to Italian
+ ...
I have done it! Nov 7, 2001

I recently asked for reference to file my application with ANITI and one of my agencies recommended me to another one for a job, so I think than some of them might be willing to.

Hope it helps.

Barbara



p.s. I like your logo!


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lcmolinari  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:29
Member
French to English
+ ...
Ask your clients Nov 7, 2001

Mary, I have pondered the same question myself and I think the best solution is to ask those 2 or 3 agencies that you work for if they are willing to attest to your abilities as a translator if and when approached by other agencies.



Explain that you enjoy working for them and hope to continue doing so for a long time to come, but that you would like to be more busy, expand into other areas of translation that perhaps their agency doesn\'t get, etc. and that you hope they can be honest about the quality of your work if anyone asks.



I also do the bulk of my work for 3 agencies, and I asked them all if they would mind providing references and they all happily agreed. Since none of them individually can keep me working 8 full hours a day, they have no problem that I work for others. It also just so happens that I am almost always available when they need me.



I think every translation agency understands that their freelancers don\'t work exclusively for them. That\'s the nature of the game. Since you have had a productive and possibly long relationship with these companies, they must be good people and treat you fairly, hence I don\'t see why they should mind giving references. You may also want to reassure them that their work takes priority.



Bottom line, ASK! The worst they can say is that they don\'t feel comfortable giving references.



Plus, each of your agencies probably doesn\'t know how many other agencies you do work for. They may think they are the only ones


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 21:29
German to English
+ ...
We are sworn to secrecy Nov 7, 2001

I fully understand your point, Mary. I have thought about it too. You are right: we would basically ask our clients to reveal some of their internal and, perhaps, sensitive information to competitors (e.g., the type of jobs we have done for them, subject matter, etc. - it might tip off competitors to the clients of these agencies).



I have, therefore, steadfastly refused to provide such references (except for 2 or 3 clients that have my full trust and vice-versa).



References, just like credentials, are not foolproof when it comes to finding out whether someone is qualified enough for the job at hand.



My motto is: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If an agency wants to do business with me, I suggest to them that they give me a short, yet representative, job (paid, of course!) - a \"minimum job\" at my usual minimum rate - and then make up their mind.



This way, everyone wins: you don\'t have to bother your other clients for references, and the agency does not take on too much risk either by giving you just a small job for starters.



Keep in mind that professional secrecy is one of the most fundamental principles of our profession. Just like lawyers, we are not supposed to reveal any information on our clients (and that may even include the subject matter in some cases: this happened to me some years ago, when I was specifically asked by an agency never to reveal the type of documents I had translated for them, and they were quite adamant about it).



I mean, when you go and see a new doctor, you can\'t ask him/her for their patient list and start calling up these people either. And we are in the same boat; it\'s as simple as that.


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Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 03:29
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

MODERATOR
References: Try me! Nov 7, 2001

Dear Mary,



I entirely agree with Werner: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

This is exactly how I operate. All my good customers have done exactly that. They tried me with a smaller (paid) job. Thus they did not get a polished-up (maybe assisted) translation, they just got my normal me (including possible errors).

That\'s the hallmark of a professional, intellingent agency.

Accreditation, exams, references are all just circumstantial.



Mats Wiman


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:29
French to English
Professional ethics - references from agencies Nov 8, 2001

Mary,



Common sense dictates that working with two clients alone is insufficient, even dangerous, if you are working more or less full-time and/or hoping to live from your gains. If one of those sources dries up and you have nothing to fall back on, you may be up the creek without a paddle. I appreciate your concern to increase your client base. One agency I know of had cashflow problems- this is not unheard of. If an agency goes bust and you have other ones bubbling away in the background, you are protecting yourself that much more.



The agencies with which you work at the moment are your clients. They are your only possible way of obtaining a reference. When seeking to extend one\'s client base, unless the client comes to you through word of mouth, then you have to present your potential new client with your full credentials. What better than a satisfied job history with another agency?



I work with direct clients only, but have worked with agencies in the past. Agencies often post up names of major organizations with whom they work. No-one would accuse them of divulging any secrets, nor of industrial espionage.



However perhaps there are one or two things you ought to be careful about.



1 – List of clients.

Describing to a would-be new agency the type of work you have done for another agency represents no danger as far as I can see. The names of the agencies (your clients) are part of your CV. One way of informing your new agency would be to check out the websites of those for whom you have been working. The type of work the agency does, and even, in some cases, the names of certain clients (usually the more prestigious ones, the household names etc.) are very often cited.



2 – Agency’s clients.

Things take on a different colour if you wish to refer to names of companies for whom you have worked through the agency. This is where the proessional secrecy bit comes in. If you decide to refer to the end client, then you permission must be sought. Now I see your problem. It is highly likely that you cannot contact them directly without breaching the secrecy agreement you have with the agency. So it has to come through the agency and if they decide to be (or feel they have to be) obstructive...



3 – Contactable references.

In either case, if you wish the new agency you are soliciting to be able to gte in contact with someone for a professional reference, whether agency or direct client, you must obtain permission. At the very least, warn them that they may be contacted by X and explain why. Not only is it a question of politeness, but also the only way of doing yourself justice. If the new one contacts the old one and they are not prepared for it, they cannot sing your praises as they might otherwise do.



Last but no least, do not worry at all about your current agencies being concerned that you are seeking to work with other agencies. They probably have other translators working for them you know! Depending on the type of work they receive at any given moment in time, they may have more work for you, or another of their translators. They will have no problems understanding your intentions. Furthermore, if they are happy with the way you have worked together, then it’s positive for their image too. One thing I discovered as I increased the number of agencies with which I worked before going off at a (nautical) tangent and doing everything directly myself, was that no two agencies work the same way and that alone makes it useful (not to mention differences in rates and payment dates etc.).





[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-08 03:12 ]


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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:29
Member
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all your input! Nov 10, 2001

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my query!



This is not a query that has plagued me, just one that seemed to pose a problem when I looked to completing some of these agency forms ... something I get round to doing whenever things get quiet. Trouble is, agencies almost invariably come back with (unpaid) test translations to complete. And by this time I\'m almost always busy again, so they go onto the back burner until next time!



Some places also ask for samples of previous work, which I\'ve always considered very dubious on the confidentiality front. If all my work has to be treated in the strictest confidentiality, there is no way I can provide people with samples of my work, unless I sit down and translate something in my own time.



The problem is essentially that I have enough work to keep me entertained (!) full time so feel little incentive to go around touting my services to new clients.



One thing is clear, I cannot list the customers for whom the agency gives me work. Apart from this being a breach of confidentiality, these customers would never have heard of me. I could, potentially, list the agencies for which I have worked and provide the names of contacts at these agencies, if nothing else, this would keep my main agency clients on their toes if they were aware that I was spreading the net a little wider!



Thanks again for all your responses, they have certainly given me plenty of fodder for thought!



Regards



Mary



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MaximS
German to Russian
+ ...
Logos Jan 26, 2002

Where do you get all these nice logos?

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-01-31 18:01 ]


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iweiss
Local time: 02:29
German to English
+ ...
Response from an agency Feb 12, 2002

As the manager of a translation company I would certainly be happy to provide a reference for some of the excellent freelancers who work for us, without of course giving specific project details away.



But there should be plenty to comment on in more general terms: linguistic ability, technical competence, timeliness, responsiveness, etc.



I consider it highly unprofessional though, and have had to remind both ex-staff and freelances that it is not permissible to mention specific client and project names on their CVs or application forms.



I. Weiss, Director

ALPHA CRC Ltd.


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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:29
Member
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Animated clipart Feb 13, 2002

Can\'t speak for anyone else, but I just went searching on the internet for \'animated clipart\' ... and the rest is history! There\'s all sorts of free clipart out there ...



Have fun looking!



Mary


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Silvina Beatriz Codina  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 23:29
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
This is the nice thing about this site Mar 5, 2002

(Sorry, but I\'ve just discovered this forum. I would like to come back to this subject if I may)



The reference game has kept me worried (well, \"worried\") for a while, and I\'ve found the input from other ProZies quite useful. I also scout for new clients as often as I can, and not a few agencies ask for references (on occasion as many as five), sometimes to be entered in one of the \"mandatory\" fields. I have given a couple of times the names of agencies I work with and with which I have good rapport, but I never felt very comfortable about it. Not really because of confidentiality issues (after all, they should be able to fence off any overprying questions regarding their business), but rather because my clients are busy people and, although I obviously asked they permission first and they gave it gladly, I didn\'t like the idea of them having to spend time answering questions about me.



The fact is, as so many agencies ask for references as a matter of course, I thought this was part of the rules of the game. I felt reassured then with Werner\'s and Mats\'s postings. They are right: if they really want to know about my work, they can always ask for a sample, or send me a small project.



[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-03-05 15:51 ]


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