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Ever lost good client after recommending a colleague?
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:29
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Sep 24, 2010

Hope this is the right forum...

Did you ever lose a good client after you recommended another translator to them?

I once got an request from an agency who had provided rather steady and interesting projects. I told the PM I was on leave for a three weeks holiday. Then he asked if I could get him into contact with a trustworthy translator for that language combination. I was foolish enough to do so. After I returned from holidays I asked him if the project was taken care for. He thanked me and told that he was very satisfied with the colleague I had recommended. After that nothing was heard of this client.
I realise I should have asked him for permission to outsource the project rather than give him the contact information. But then I did not want to be involved with business during my holidays.

So I would like to hear from you about related experiences.

Regards
Heinrich


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:29
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hmmm Sep 24, 2010

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

Hope this is the right forum...

Did you ever lose a good client after you recommended another translator to them?

I once got an request from an agency who had provided rather steady and interesting projects. I told the PM I was on leave for a three weeks holiday. Then he asked if I could get him into contact with a trustworthy translator for that language combination. I was foolish enough to do so. After I returned from holidays I asked him if the project was taken care for. He thanked me and told that he was very satisfied with the colleague I had recommended. After that nothing was heard of this client.
I realise I should have asked him for permission to outsource the project rather than give him the contact information. But then I did not want to be involved with business during my holidays.

So I would like to hear from you about related experiences.

Regards
Heinrich


Too bad Heinrich - presumably the agency took the opportunity to negotiate a lower rate with your (ex) friend.

Something similar happened to me years ago when I was employed by a company in Italy. I recommended a friend and they employed him too. He was then promoted over my head

Since then I've heard other stories about similar things.

MORAL: never recommend a friend for anything !!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:29
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
No, but I'm sure it'll happen Sep 24, 2010

It's just yet another of those business risks.

The best way of avoiding it is to be available 24/7, 365 (or 366) days per year. If that's not on, just accept it. Remember, you've got a former client out there who will be more than happy to come back to you one day if necessary and who will be quite happy to recommend you to others.

Have you asked your colleague to return the favour when possible?


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Fred Lessing
English to Portuguese
A translator's miserable life Sep 24, 2010

I haven't had a holiday since 1994 to avoid precisely that.

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Anett Lindner
Germany
English to German
I did not Sep 24, 2010

Hi all,

I once recommended a colleague when I could not take on another project. Ever since then this client sends requests in an email to both of us and when I dont have time my colleague can accept the project.

However this might be a quite rare business practice and everytime you recommend a colleague you may never know beforehand.

Hw a nice day

Anett


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Roy OConnor
Local time: 10:29
Member (2009)
German to English
Very unethical friend Sep 24, 2010

It's really bad form not to contact the original translator to consult or negotiate a way forward. A referral fee is one way of dealing with it.

But sometimes it's the way things work. It happened to me once when a friend passed on my name and phone number to her customer when she was too busy to do a translation. I did the job, but then her customer came back to me directly afterwards. When I contacted her on the phone, she said that was all ok as she found this particular customer's translations were too technical for her and was only too glad to get rid of them! The customer was such a nice guy, she didn't like turning him down.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:29
German to English
It happened to me Sep 24, 2010

For several years I had as a direct client a law firm that specialized in intellectual property. The jobs weren't frequent, perhaps 3-4 per year, but they were interesting and paid very well. Then I ran into bad luck with this firm. Several times they called when I was literally on my way out of town, and had to recommend a few colleagues, as there was really no time to take the job then subcontract it. Eventually I stopped hearing from the law firm. I called up and was told they they were happy with one of the people I had recommended. He was cheaper and most importantly, he was always available. I could have matched his price and still have done quite well, but there was nothing I could do about availability. He really didn't steal my customer; he simply had more availability than I.

This is one disadvantage freelancers have with respect to agencies. For some clients availability is as important as price. Many, if not most, agencies can take a job without having a specific translator in mind, as they have a Rolodex full of names and numbers of freelancers they can contact. The client only has to make one call -- to the agency -- and can be assured of a delivery. For freelancers, availability and backup are critical factors. The various fora are full of tales of woe of disappearing subcontractors leaving the original translator in the lurch. Agencies can call on a second, third or even fourth translator -- and an editor to keep terminology consistent -- to complete a job to meet an important client's deadline.


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 11:29
Member
English to Latvian
The same here Sep 24, 2010

Yes, it has happened to me, too. It left kind of bitter taste in my mouth but I learned a lesson to never do this again. Besides, although a friend/colleague might feel uncomfortable, the client can be unethical enough to forget about your existence when your friend is available and can do the job, but after a year or two, to suddenly turn to you with a request to do a small translation for them. Just like that. And you are perfectly aware that your friend is away for holidays at that moment...

Sadly, there are such clients on the market, but we can look on the bright side and believe there are many better clients out there for us and that soon we might get a very good and loyal "replacement".

Edited: Just wanted to add that I didn't take the assignment mentioned above and also politely explained to my ex-client that their practices are not acceptable for me and why. They never replied. But I didn't really expect them to.

[Edited at 2010-09-24 12:28 GMT]


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Nadja Balogh  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:29
Member (2007)
Japanese to German
+ ...
Only lost a bad client Sep 24, 2010

I had the same experience, but with a slightly different twist: I had a client who I did not particularly like (a rather disorganized agency with lots of unreasonable requests). Once, while I was taking a few days off, they asked me to recommend someone, which I did - upon which I never heard from them again - and I was so relieved!

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:29
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What I should have done Sep 24, 2010

Thanks for your comments so far. I really do not complain, this is business after all. But I failed to tell my colleague about my rates, so he could avoid underpricing me, if this is the reason for losing the client.
I once got a call from another translator who happened to be sick. Her client was searching for a translator. She told me her rates and I agreed to quote for the same. The client turned out to be a difficult one, and I did only this project for them.

Regards
Heinrich


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Jennifer Barnett  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:29
Dutch to English
+ ...
Work out a deal first: I scratch your back then you scratch mine Sep 24, 2010

Yes, it is a risk but I believe that refusing to make such recommendations at all is rather uncollegial. We are isolated enough as it is without seeing colleagues too much as potential threats. Is it not best to discuss the matter first with the colleague and work out a deal? This way you can make your expectations clear, should you haver any, about return favours or exclusivity and so on.

I learnt this the hard way coming from Australia where people, (well, at least in my experience) were very reciprocal on many levels. Once living and working in the Netherlands, I found that I was being 'used' left right and centre with no return favours, even when I finally badly needed them. Once I recommended a certain removals company that I was using for my business to a prestigious institutional client resulting in a very profitable expansion of the removalist's services and turnover. When I asked for an estimate to move to another city, there was no discount whatsoever and it was the most expensive quote out of three! I also hired in many colleagues over many years to help with big projects and paid them well (and with free coffee and cookies etc) more than I was taking home. Later, when they were doing well, I asked if they could think of me as I needed the work: one reply was, 'hiring freelancers is expensive', the others did not even reply. In the 18 years I spent there, I gained the impression that some people, always men, seemed to enjoy having 'got something for nothing' and regarded me as a soft idiot for allowing them to exploit my good nature.

What I learnt from this was that not everyone has learnt that favours/good treatment/kindness should be returned, and so, especially in the case of work relationships, one has to be explicit in stating that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that you expect a return favour at some time. Depending on their reaction, decide to give or not to save yourself getting bitter from disappointment in your fellow human.

Yes, I AM that naive as to believe that one should continue to be sharing and generous after bad experiences; just be more discriminating.


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Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
I still recommend colleagues in spite of a bad experience Sep 24, 2010

I once lost a direct client for whom I translated books after recommending a colleague, when two jobs were required at the same time. This translator lived in a lower cost country and I have to assume charged a lower rate.

That said, I still recommend colleagues if a regular client so requests, if I am familiar with that person's work and am sure that it is good. The reason I do so is that this can help build up a good relationship with an agency, especially as they usually only ask because they trust my judgement.

I prefer to trust, even if I am let down sometimes.


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 11:29
Member
English to Latvian
- Sep 24, 2010

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

I really do not complain, this is business after all.


Sure, you are right, and in your case, your ex-client used their right to choose another translator and never come back to you. We sometimes also choose to not work with some clients anymore and this is fine until we all play by business rules. In my particular case, I could accept the fact my ex-client had chosen my friend over me - I can live with that and, like I said, look for other clients who would be better for me. But I was really astonished by their cheekiness of asking me to do the translation after a couple of years. To my opinion, once you're gone, you're gone. Especially when I am aware that my friend gets regular assignments from them and it's not like they don't have any projects in my language pairs.

So I am not complaining, too, but I'm rather learning my lessons and trying to do business in a professional and ethical way, thus expecting to be treated the same way by my clients.


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Roy OConnor
Local time: 10:29
Member (2009)
German to English
Why not copy Forest Gump Sep 24, 2010

Forest was stupid and very naive. He always thought the best of people (except when they upset his girl friend!). But he was still very successful in everything he did.

Could this ever be a true story?


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Alexandre Maricato
Brazil
Local time: 06:29
Member (2009)
English to Portuguese
We are in business. Our clients either. Sep 24, 2010

I am totally against recommendations. Outsourcing is much safer - our colleague gets the job, is paid for it and we keep the client's data secure. Everyone gets happy with such arrangement. If we do not want to bother managing the client's request, then I see no reason with the client should bother with us.

If there is no option except recommending a colleague, then he/she must be someone we know very well, with whom we have built a solid relationship of cooperation.

The bottom line is that we are not employees, we are service providers - we provide a service, we get paid for it and the best way our clients show their appreciation is by giving us more work. If you have a regular client who pays on time but then fails with you once or twice, I guess you will start reconsidering your loyalty to him.

Or if some company provides a service and another company offers the same service with similar quality for a lower price, wouldn't you change only because that company merely fulfilled its obligation for a long time (for what she was paid for)? I don't think twice when another company offers me such deal. They are in the business and I am their costumer. Or they make me a better offer (in terms of price, deliverables, quality of whatever...) or I am going to pay less to get the same product.


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