Mobile menu

Guidelines for vetting agencies/outsourcers (aka "Letter to a potential new business partner")
Thread poster: Michele Johnson

Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:56
German to English
+ ...
Mar 23, 2007

I’ve been thinking about guidelines for “vetting” potential outsourcers for quite some time now. What follows are the ground rules that I generally apply to potential clients. This is admittedly also a bit of a rant/letting off of steam, so please bear with me I do appreciate your comments and feedback.

--------------------------------------------------------
Dear outsourcer/potential business partner,

- Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Think of these initial interactions as a model for our future communication. I expect more than a terse, one-sentence inquiry, such as "Send me your c.v." I also expect you to respond to my replies/inquiries in a timely manner. If it takes you days to respond to my email and answer my questions now, I can only imagine how it will be when it comes down to the wire for a crucial translation. Please also be reachable by phone during normal business hours – I will for sure want to actually talk to you before we transact any business.

- Business image and verifiability are crucial. Please, provide me with your personal name, company name, address, phone number, website, and email, as well as a description of what you do and what you are looking for. Yes, I *will* be verifying that your name/number is in the white/yellow pages. Maintain a website including full contact information. Yes, I will be verifying that the physical address exists. It makes me suspicious if you don’t publish an address. Make sure the address listed on your website matches whatever I find in a whois lookup. If your website says you’re based in Germany but the whois info says something radically different (like the Bahamas!), this is a red flag.

- Sending an urgent translation to someone you have never worked with is another red flag in my book. Of course emergencies arise, but a truly professional agency will vet translators well in advance, with smaller paid jobs.

- Ideally, cultivate a series of good ratings in various locations: proz.com BlueBoard, Zahlungspraxis, Payment Practices, etc. At the very least show up on those lists so I can verify that you exist

- Do not insist on being provided translations from current or past customers. The work I do is confidential – period. Even the names of clients I work for is confidential, except under certain limited circumstances (like permission to post on the BlueBoard).

- Be prepared to provide references, especially if any of the above are lacking.

- Be prepared for me to request (partial) payment in advance, especially if any of the above are lacking.

- Don’t expect me to quote on a job without seeing the original text in its entirety.

- Don’t postpone the discussion of pricing until after you have made me jump through all the hoops, i.e. email you my c.v. and references, fill out a 5-page profile that you provide, fax back pages and pages of confidentiality agreements, master contracts, etc.

- While opinions vary widely on this subject, I believe a truly professional outsourcer does not request unpaid tests. I would consider doing a paid test translation of 300 words or less, the price of which I would happily deduct from the next job in the case of a fruitful, long-term relationship.

- Once we agree on everything, please be prepared to *immediately fax me* a signed purchase order including all details and conditions, such as volume, price, delivery deadline, payment terms, etc. We may be able to do without this in the future, but as a first-time customer, a signed P.O. by fax (if not by postal mail) is non-negotiable.

- If I feel uncomfortable working with you and am honest enough to give you constructive feedback about the reasons (see above) instead of simply lying about being unavailable, please take the feedback graciously. Rude responses only show that you respond poorly to stress and confirm that you would have been a terrible business partner.

- If I make you an offer, please do let me know your response as soon as possible, whether yes or no. This also applies if you send a general inquiry asking my prices and I respond with overall pricing information – even if you have to say no, I am generally too expensive. This is much more preferable than being left hanging, worrying I might have missed your response, etc.
--------------------------------------------------------

What have I missed?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Nicole Johnson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:56
Italian to English
+ ...
Absolutely Nothing!! Mar 23, 2007

You've covered everything Michele, and phrased it all wonderfully.

It's about time someone put these issues on the table for outsourcers to consider. It always seems like it's the translator's responsibility "get the deal done", but in reality, there is a lot that outsourcers should be taking care of as well.

It would be nice to post this somewhere on Proz.com where all outsourcers could see it.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:56
English to Russian
+ ...
Perfect.. in an ideal world Mar 23, 2007

Michele,

It was just brilliant. So precise and detailed at the same time. However, our industry practice demonstrates that translators and agencies are not and will never be partners with equal rights and opportunities. This dictates the model of behaviour and business practices for agencies.

You also sound a bit bitter - and I can relate to this so well! Even Proz moderators do not allow to place an honest comment on the BB - what is it, translators' feelings (self-esteem, financial situation, etc.) can be hurt, but agencies' ones shouldn't?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tatiana Neamţu
Romania
Local time: 19:56
English to Romanian
+ ...
Copyright ... Mar 23, 2007

Wonderfully put!

May I please put it on my blog? With your name and link to your profile, of course? And also give you the address of my blog to check?

All these things you've addressed have been bothering me for quite some time now. Since I am a full-time freelancer, I have been so annoyed by some attitudes, that I began wondering if this world we live in is not a crazy *carusel* (hope I spelled it right) in which nothing but one's present comfort matters. Whatever the costs. Only one agency that I work with has polite PMs, professional manner to treat all business aspects, friendly attitude, super-super quick payment. It's like an all inclusive collaboration. All the others, and the hundreds I applied to seem like a 1-star hotel for which you pay hundreds of euros/dollars or whatever


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 18:56
Member
English to Dutch
+ ...
BB comments Mar 23, 2007

sokolniki wrote:

Michele,

Even Proz moderators do not allow to place an honest comment on the BB - what is it, translators' feelings (self-esteem, financial situation, etc.) can be hurt, but agencies' ones shouldn't?



Could you please elaborate on that?

ProZ.com treats both outsourcers and translators alike: nobody is allowed to get personal when rating. We simply ask to stick to the facts (very briefly), as ProZ.com is not a party in any of the negotiations between both parties.

Have a look at http://www.proz.com/?sp=bb&viewPage=faq:

11. A service provider has commented on his/her likelihood of working again with my business. Can I respond?

Yes. You should have received an email at the time the entry was made. If you did not, or you can not find it and would like to enter a response, send your response to the Jobs coordinators, noting the service provider to whom you are responding.

Please contact Jobs coordinators if you believe the conditions for making an entry have not been met (for example, if a person who has not worked for you has made an entry.)

If there seems to have been a misunderstanding, outsourcers are encouraged to communicate directly with those making entries. However, making threats or exerting pressure on a ProZ.com user to cause him or her to change his or her "likelihood of working again" with your business is prohibited, and may result in your right to use ProZ.com being restricted.

Like service provider comments, your responses must be restricted to the work relationship and likelihood of working again. Personal remarks from service providers and outsourcers are not acceptable and will be removed by the site staff upon request.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
French to English
I see your point. Mar 23, 2007

Looks like the kind of thing you should probably have on your website, or in a separate terms and conditions document, not a standard response to a request for a CV.

I agree with most of it The only points I don't much like are:
a) that you reserve the right to ask them for references but effectively refuse to reciprocate
b) if you feel the need to ask for payment in advance, you probably shouldn't work for them
c) if you want rates to be sorted out earlier in the process, then why don't you mention it first?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:56
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
Excellent Mar 23, 2007

I would still add three more points:

Please don’t expect me to do anything above translation and basic formatting in a popular word-processing software, especially for free. My ability to translate has nothing to do with my ability to typeset the text in a DTP or graphical program or edit a picture. I may be able to do these extra tasks for additional price and time, but please check with me first and be prepared to pay for it.

Please don’t expect me to download and upload for free such files, the size of which is 10-20 times the size of a plain-text version of the same file. It takes time to download and upload these files, so please respect me and value my time, like I respect you and value your time.

Please bear in mind that translating 10 sentences of continuous text is much easier and faster than translating 10 short and unrelated sentences. For example, you would never charge your client the same amount for managing a huge project of 100.000 words and ten small unrelated projects of 10.000 words. So be prepared to pay a higher price for such texts.

Henry


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:56
French to English
+ ...
Flip side.... Mar 23, 2007

Hi Michele,

I agree, as our colleagues have, with the content of what I'd term your "best practices" speech.

On the other hand, supposing I were a potential client whose business practices are respectful, professional, thorough, responsible, fair, and all the rest, and I received this document or something akin to it right off the bat, I would feel like a bucket of ice cold water had just been doused over my head.

Your document is a good warning - a "let's get things straight right off" - to those agencies and clients whose modus operandi leaves a lot to be desired.

It could turn off potentially excellent clients who would not appreciate not being given even the benefit of the doubt before a first collaboration.

Use with caution? Or make it available on your website /Proz page /whatever, but without sending it directly to individual companies or agencies?

Cheers,

Patricia


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
thanks so much Mar 23, 2007

Thank you so much for putting into print what I have been fuming about at home now for 3 or 4 days. It is beyond me why some outsourcers are incapable of fulfilling the minimum in their side of the business relationship. A simple "no thank you, you are beyond our budget/ not exactly what we require/ etc.", or of course "thank you, we will be in contact within the next days/weeks..." would suffice, and would certainly be much kinder than silence....
Just let us know! Then we can all get on with our work, and stop the annoying subconscious wanderings and wonderings which whisper "should I check again, for the 20th time today, in case they left a message"...
Pardon the raving. I'm sure it must seem familiar to some of you, dear colleagues.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tina Colquhoun  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
Danish to English
+ ...
Volume discounts? Mar 23, 2007

Maybe you could mention volume discounts - surely a pet hate of all decent translators...

Tina


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:56
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
You missed the essential Mar 24, 2007

Michele Johnson wrote:

What have I missed?



What you've missed is that it's our prerogative to do business or not. Some "please send us your cv and best price" requests can be highly profitable. Not all our clients are well-versed in English.

Kudos for all the red flags you raise.

Regards,
Gerard


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:56
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not a real letter :) Mar 24, 2007

Patricia Lane wrote:

On the other hand, supposing I were a potential client whose business practices are respectful, professional, thorough, responsible, fair, and all the rest, and I received this document or something akin to it right off the bat, I would feel like a bucket of ice cold water had just been doused over my head.
...


Of course you would. It's not intended as a real letter. In modified form (i.e. with the snark toned down) it might be suitable for publishing on a website, or as part of best practices as others have said, etc.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:56
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More dumbfounded Mar 24, 2007

sokolniki wrote:
You also sound a bit bitter - and I can relate to this so well! Even Proz moderators do not allow to place an honest comment on the BB - what is it, translators' feelings (self-esteem, financial situation, etc.) can be hurt, but agencies' ones shouldn't?


Too busy to be bitter. I'm mostly just dumbfounded at these requests, having experienced them for years and being inundated lately for some reason. I'm also amazed at even close colleagues who again and again don't bother verifying an address, won't pick up the phone to call someone before accepting a new job, and end up getting stiffed by notorious non-payers who show up on every payment practices list.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:56
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not a standard response, potentially an article though Mar 24, 2007

Charlie Bavington wrote:
Looks like the kind of thing you should probably have on your website, or in a separate terms and conditions document, not a standard response to a request for a CV.


Quite right. This actually stems from a talk I attended at the proz.com Berlin conference on Managing Business Risk. The talk itself got a bit sidetracked so we didn't actually get very far in the presentation (as far as I could tell) but I would love to see that information and those examples published somewhere on proz.com - maybe an article in the Knowledge Database, part of which would be how to vet clients? Something directed at freelancers.


I agree with most of it The only points I don't much like are:
a) that you reserve the right to ask them for references but effectively refuse to reciprocate


I knew someone would notice that. If I'm getting serious about a potential customer, I would consider giving them the name of a reference or two, after obtaining permission. But I see that as "special limited circumstances" - we'd have to negotiate it.


b) if you feel the need to ask for payment in advance, you probably shouldn't work for them


Generally I agree. I've only ever had partial prepayment on a large project that tied me up for a couple of months, sort of like earnest money when buying real estate. Clearly it depends on how much risk one is willing to engage in - for a $50 job, I'd probably take my chances.


c) if you want rates to be sorted out earlier in the process, then why don't you mention it first?


I always do - you'd be surprised how many people want to then quibble about it later (I mean after signing the confidentiality agreements, etc. but before awarding the job). It's been discussed at length elsewhere, but this is the problem I have with people wanting to forbid pricing in the proz.com job bidding process. Pricing is not the only issue, but it's a major one and I don't want to invest a lot of time in wooing an agency only to find out they pay $0.02 a word. And vice-versa: no point in an agency wasting time looking at my credentials only to find out I'm too expensive for them.


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Guidelines for vetting agencies/outsourcers (aka "Letter to a potential new business partner")

Advanced search


Translation news





PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
Across v6.3
Translation Toolkit and Sales Potential under One Roof

Apart from features that enable you to translate more efficiently, the new Across Translator Edition v6.3 comprises your crossMarket membership. The new online network for Across users assists you in exploring new sales potential and generating revenue.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs