When you asked someone to be your reference....
Thread poster: humbird
Apr 14, 2011

Have you ever asked your existing clietnt to be youre reference for your potential new clients?
I guess all of us as a professional need to do this from time to time.
Reason I'm posting this is because of what happened to me lately.

I asked my old client (an agency) to be my reference as a part of my new marketing efforts.
I have worked many years for them and I have had a good rapport with them (at least I thought so).
But for no apparent reason (was there any?), my request was not only rejected but also resulted in me getting fired. They cite our freelance agreement which apparently I signed many years back, and by that time I completely forgot about that.

I'm curious to know if my colleagues have similar experience.
Also what is your thought about this, i.e. if you cannot ask your agency or other client to be your reference, how you can carry out your endeavor such as this?


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Lennart Luhtaru  Identity Verified
United States
Member
English to Estonian
+ ...
...weird Apr 14, 2011

I have asked agencies, I work with, to be my references in the past, and they all have been OK with it.

It is a favor from any PM or CEO, to deal with referring, but again, if I get a query for a job I for which I have no time, I have and probably will always reply to the client with the PM's/agency's/etc. contact details, who has helped me.

I believe the reason for any agency to refer their translator is just to keep them in the field:

agency refers you -> you get some more clients -> do not have to look for a new profession -> you can help the referring agency with translation jobs

The same thing with running any business - your client writes a testimonial, so you could do well in whatever you are doing and provide better service.

So, I think the agency who fire you, was not very smart and I do not find it common in any business for a client to not provide a testimonial.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:24
English to German
+ ...
A conflict of interest perhaps? Apr 14, 2011

Is it possible that your old agency has checked the client list of the new agency and found out that you might be working for a direct competitor (end client) in the future?

This situation is highly unpleasant, indeed.


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:24
English to Japanese
+ ...
Are references that important? Apr 14, 2011

humbird wrote:

Have you ever asked your existing clietnt to be youre reference for your potential new clients?
I guess all of us as a professional need to do this from time to time.
Reason I'm posting this is because of what happened to me lately.

I asked my old client (an agency) to be my reference as a part of my new marketing efforts.
I have worked many years for them and I have had a good rapport with them (at least I thought so).
But for no apparent reason (was there any?), my request was not only rejected but also resulted in me getting fired. They cite our freelance agreement which apparently I signed many years back, and by that time I completely forgot about that.

I'm curious to know if my colleagues have similar experience.
Also what is your thought about this, i.e. if you cannot ask your agency or other client to be your reference, how you can carry out your endeavor such as this?


I'm sorry to hear about what happened to you.

To answer your question, yes, I have asked my existing client(s) to be my reference in the past, and they were all happy to be so. But I never had any experience of being fired because I asked them to be my reference.

However, I stopped asking my clients to be my references, since it's too troublesome to ask them to do me a favor everytime a potential or a new client comes up to me asking for references. And my conclusion? Whenever I'm asked for references from new/potential clients, I tell them to go to my profile on Proz and take a look at my WWA entries. And I just leave it up to them to decide.

It seems to me that agencies in the US tend to ask for references and sign NDA contracts before they assign you any work than European or agencies in other regions of the world. And I really doubt if references are really necessary to start a business relationship.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Prophylaxis Apr 14, 2011

This experience shows that competing customers should be kept completely apart, and that full prophylaxis should exist in our business.

The ideal situation is to manage to make each customer feel as if you only worked for them. Sometimes it is very difficult to do, for reason of availability, but especially if you end up working for the same end-customer corporation via two or more agencies, but it is a must.


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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:24
English to German
+ ...
Some agencies don't even want to Apr 14, 2011

be named, which is a pity.
On the other hand, imagine the project managers would have to answer questions concerning their translators on a regular basis. They would go nuts!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:24
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Did you ask beforehand or afterwards? Apr 14, 2011

humbird wrote:
I asked my old client (an agency) to be my reference... my request was not only rejected but also resulted in me getting fired. They cite our freelance agreement which apparently I signed many years back...


I don't think they have good cause to fire you (i.e. to cancel the contract with you) simply because you had *asked* that they be your reference, because most contracts can be changed if both parties agree to it, and there is nothing wrong with asking the other party if he would consider changing it.

However, if you had already mentioned them somewhere in your marketing, and your contract states that your relationship with them is a secret, then I can understand their reaction.

I often wonder how many of the translaors who give good comments (5 points) about companies on the Blue Board get fired the moment they make those entries, if those companies have similar contracts with the translators (I know of a few such agencies whose contracts theoretically exclude any possibility of a Blue Board ratings).


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
That sounds strange in any case Apr 14, 2011

I assume you asked for that before using them as a reference and you did not talk about specific other customers nor projects.

In that case it looks strange that they had such an extreme reaction. It would have been quite enough to remind you of that agreement, and I think that talking about it should help to repair that situation somehow.

I must say I really hesitate to ask for references because I try to keep my customers apart of each other. I am a sort of "black box" where requests arrive and are solved, and are always available for them

The fact is, you never know what's going to happen next; today your customer A has end customer X and tomorrow you find out that B sends a test from X to you (yes, with all those thousands of millions of people around the world, THAT HAPPENS!).

Therefore, so far I only asked to be my references to customers who I guess that are their own agent/pm/translator/firefighter, quite like me. And try to express very clearly that I will use their data with extreme care or not at all.

In addition to this, whenever I send a reference, I ask the recipient to be extremely respectful with those data, since OF COURSE I must keep that other customer's confidentiality agreements and so on. This way I hope that they understand how much I care about that.

... or I just don't send a reference "for confidentiality reasons" and insist on doing a test, and see how the prospective customer reacts.

I really hope you find a solution to this

Ruth


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:24
Chinese to English
Agencies need to be realistic Apr 14, 2011

Tomas said:
The ideal situation is to manage to make each customer feel as if you only worked for them.

I don't see why this should be the case at all. Agencies are not babies that need to be cosseted and protected from the harsh realities of the world: that we are freelancers and we serve more than one master. They are are economic actors, and they know perfectly well that if they have enough work and value our services enough, they could hire us to go in-house. They choose not to do that, so we have to work for several.

A bit of care and a bit of courtesy are always necessary. Like Yasumoto, I avoid asking for references where possible, because it's a hassle. But when it's necessary, with a polite request, I'd hope an agency would agree, or turn me down with a little kindness.

In theory, we freelancers are all in competition with each other, aren't we? And yet on Proz we seem to manage to get on alright together. If we can be civil to one another, there's no reason why agencies can't show the same consideration to each other and to us.


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gad
United States
Local time: 06:24
Member
French to English
You're a freelancer, not an employee Apr 14, 2011

humbird wrote:

But for no apparent reason (was there any?), my request was not only rejected but also resulted in me getting fired. They cite our freelance agreement which apparently I signed many years back, and by that time I completely forgot about that.

I'm curious to know if my colleagues have similar experience.
Also what is your thought about this, i.e. if you cannot ask your agency or other client to be your reference, how you can carry out your endeavor such as this?


Ok, first of all, they can not "fire" you since you are not their employee. So they have decided to terminate the freelancer-agency relationship. What exactly would be in a freelance agreement that would preclude you from even asking them about using their name as a reference? I don't quite get that. Are you supposed to be working for them exclusively or something?

I've never had a similar experience but from my POV, there is nothing wrong with asking an agency/client to provide a reference for you to a potential future client. To me it seems normal business practice. But maybe I am missing something here?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Immaturity Apr 14, 2011

Phil Hand wrote:
Tomas wrote:
The ideal situation is to manage to make each customer feel as if you only worked for them.

I don't see why this should be the case at all. Agencies are not babies that need to be cosseted and protected from the harsh realities of the world: that we are freelancers and we serve more than one master.

Yes, in theory that is true, but every customer in every industry prefers not to think that a supplier could be serving a competitor too, the same way we don't like the idea that one of our customers could be sending work to other similarly capable translators. Or maybe it is just me and this reveals that I am not mature enough! (I mean it. This is not irony.)


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Civilised, yes! Competitors, yes! Apr 14, 2011

Phil Hand wrote:
In theory, we freelancers are all in competition with each other, aren't we? And yet on Proz we seem to manage to get on alright together. If we can be civil to one another, there's no reason why agencies can't show the same consideration to each other and to us.

Yes, but we are not directly competing for work, and don't see each other driving off the customer's parking lot when we arrive for our appointment. I reckon that makes the difference. If we were directly competing for work and the chance to succeed and keep a profitable business... things would not be so fluent in these fora.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:24
Chinese to English
Haha, everyone wants to be the only one... Apr 14, 2011

You're absolutely right, Tomas. There is a psychological element, and when you're talking to someone who's going to pay you for a service, it's always worth the effort to make them feel special.

But I hope you're not right about competition being an impediment to friendly interaction. I don't think you are. My language pair is pretty small, and the number of Chinese>English translators competing for high end jobs is tiny. I know some of them, and I feel like I can always be friendly with them, even when they get jobs that I don't get. I know some who *have* remained on good terms with me after I got jobs they didn't get.

I may be an idealist, and I'm certainly a left-winger, but I believe this is true: that if we let rivalry in the marketplace spill over into and spoil other aspects of our lives, we are in danger of losing something valuable - dignity, civilisation, call it what you will.


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