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Doubts about a new client - how can I find out more about their financial situation, etc?
Thread poster: Carla Davidson

Carla Davidson  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 1, 2010

Hello everyone,

I was recently contacted by a company to translate 55,000 words from a website in two weeks. The company is based in Eastern Europe although the parent company is in the UK.

My contact so far has been with a woman in the Eastern European office and as her English is not very good, I have been getting mixed messages about the company and exactly what the project will entail, which has made me quite unsure of the whole situation.

I have not accepted any work yet as they still need to answer a few of my questions to finalise the details of the project. As it is a new company for me, I have also asked that they pay at least 50% of the translation fee in advance.

In our recent e-mail conversation, the lady in the Eastern European office told me that their normal procedure is to pay 30% in advance but she would speak with her boss about this and about all the other questions I had asked.

I am now in the situation where I am waiting to hear from them and want to stick to my guns on the 50% advance payment but at the same time don't want to lose out on the job if they tell me they can only pay 30%. If I confirm the job, I intend to work on it with another person to get it finished on time so I would not want to end up not getting paid for it and let down the person I will be working with on this.

Other than searching Companies House for company details, what is the best way to find out whether a company is trustworthy or not if you cannot actually go to their offices in person?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.

Carla


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 14:01
French to Dutch
+ ...
Ask for their references Feb 1, 2010

carla123 wrote:

Hello everyone,

I was recently contacted by a company to translate 55,000 words from a website in two weeks. The company is based in Eastern Europe although the parent company is in the UK.

My contact so far has been with a woman in the Eastern European office and as her English is not very good, I have been getting mixed messages about the company and exactly what the project will entail, which has made me quite unsure of the whole situation.

Carla

I suppose you are flattered they chose you, but may I suggest that you ask your contact person if you may phone to the parent company for having more details about this mission?


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William Pawlowsky  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:01
Ukrainian to English
+ ...
Eastern European Companies Feb 1, 2010

Dear Carla,

I lived in Kyiv for ten years and specialize in research. I am a librarian by training and have written on the topic of finding information on companies in Eastern Europe .. You can find one of y articles in Free Pint on the topic if that doesn't point you in the right direction contact me off line and I will be happy to help.

“Disintegrating Digital Fences: Finding Business Information in Ukraine and its Neighbouring Countries”, February 5, 2004, No. 153
http://www.freepint.com/issues/050204.htm #tips (Accessed February 4, 2004)

Best regards,

William
aka Vasyl


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Carla Davidson  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Calling the parent company Feb 1, 2010

Thank you for posting your advice NMR. I have not contacted the parent company yet as they deal with an entirely different aspect of the business and I am not sure they will have details of the translation project. If, when I speak with my contact person later today, I do not receive enough information from her then I will ask for a contact person in the UK if there is one available.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:01
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Three deliveries, three payments Feb 1, 2010

OK, if they insist in paying 30% upfront, you can reach a simple agreement: they pay 30%, you deliver 30% of the job; then they pay another 30%, you deliver another 30%, and you then deliver the last 40% and let them pay you in a reasonable time, for instance 30 days. Those would be the only conditions I would do such a big job for a new customer.

Also, have you checked Proz.com's Blueboard about this firm? That would be my first step. If they have a record and it is not a good one (i.e. two or more people report bad practices), stay away from them. People only write in the Blueboard when they have a good reason.


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Carla Davidson  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
three deliveries, three payments - excellent advice Feb 1, 2010

Hi Tomás,

Thanks for your advice, it's a great idea and something I had not thought about before. Genius! I think that would be a fair compromise from the client's point of view and my own. If they don't agree to that then I think I would be better off rejecting the work as it could be more hassle than it's worth.

I did check the BlueBoard and this company is not on there.

I track a few forums on Proz and must say I recognise your name from other topics. You make some good points and I enjoyed reading your comments about the Diploma in Translation exam, very amusing.

Thanks again,

Carla


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:01
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Thank you, but... Feb 1, 2010

carla123 wrote:
I track a few forums on Proz and must say I recognise your name from other topics. You make some good points and I enjoyed reading your comments about the Diploma in Translation exam, very amusing.

You are much too kind Carla! I'm nothing more than a big mouth...


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Carla Davidson  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Big mouth wisdom brings Feb 1, 2010

Lol, I'm sure there must be some Chinese proverb along those lines. As long as you continue to share your wisdom, I'm sure nobody minds your talkative ways!

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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree with Tomás Feb 1, 2010

Yes, do look for the agency's Blue Board record. You don't want to be in for any unpleasant surprises.

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xxxDesdemone
Local time: 09:01
French to English
One more thing... Feb 1, 2010

You said you're having another person help you. You need to be very careful here - whether or not the client pays you, you are on the hook to the other person. Can you afford it?

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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:01
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
I'd decline Feb 1, 2010

Hi Carla,

Big volumes combined with short deadlines always make me suspicious. Realistically this would be a job for two translators.

Another red flag is first contact - big project.

Third red flag: agency based in a country that has no relation with the source and target language, but I know that's very subjective.

Good luck,
Gerard


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Carla Davidson  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Feb 1, 2010

Thank you for your comments Gerard and Sara,

Like you Gerard, I was suspicious of this job to begin with but while I have some spare time between other translations I see no harm in pursuing it further to see how much I can find out about the company and whether it would be feasible to do the translation for them or not.

You are right it is a job for two people, it would be impossible to do this myself within the timeframe. In any case, I have just received an e-mail from the company telling me that they have had the website translated since our last correspondence and now want me to proofread it.

The word count has now reduced to 25,000 so it's more manageable and would not occupy as much of my time as translating 55,000 words with another translator would. I have seen the translation and it has not been translated too badly so I am now more optimistic about taking this on given that there are less risks involved and there will not be as much money at stake if it turns out they don't pay the full amount in the end. Having said that, proofreading can also be a difficult task so I know it's not an 'easy' option but compared to the first scenario, this is definitely more favourable for me, especially as a first job for this company.

I have still asked them for 50% payment in advance and the name of a contact person in their UK office should I have any problems in future.

Thanks again for all your comments,

Carla


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Carla Davidson  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Paula Feb 1, 2010

Hi Paula,

Thanks for your comment, the aspect you point out is something I mentioned in my original post and is the reason why I have been so cautious about this job. I would not want to let a colleague down by not being able to pay them, it would be extremely unfair and goes against my principles.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Caution is still called for! Feb 1, 2010

carla123 wrote: In any case, I have just received an e-mail from the company telling me that they have had the website translated since our last correspondence and now want me to proofread it.


Right now, this is the most suspicious thing I've heard about this matter.

They contacted you with 55,000 words to translate in 2 weeks, and now they have already translated 25,000? When did this happen, and how? Why did they bother stringing you along (and yes, that's what it amounts to), if they were going to go ahead and have someone else translate it? Did a week or more go by in between the time they told you they would check the financial details, and the time they responded?

At the very least this says there is little or no communication between the person in charge of finding out the financial details (how much can be paid up front) and the person in charge of actually assigning the translation. At the worst, it could be something a lot more underhanded.

I deal with a very large (global) company that sometimes *assigns* jobs in between the time I first reply to their job posting and the time the PM is able to get back to me. But I've never been told "we'll check that out for you" and then have the next mail state "it's already been translated now".

It just sounds fishy to me - I would be very careful!


[Edited at 2010-02-01 18:48 GMT]


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Carla Davidson  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
response to Janet Feb 2, 2010

[quote]Janet Rubin wrote:

They contacted you with 55,000 words to translate in 2 weeks, and now they have already translated 25,000? When did this happen, and how? Why did they bother stringing you along (and yes, that's what it amounts to), if they were going to go ahead and have someone else translate it? Did a week or more go by in between the time they told you they would check the financial details, and the time they responded?


Hi Janet,

Thanks for your comments. I understand that from what I have written so far it must sound like only a day went past from the time the company contacted me for a translation and the time they sent me a translation to proofread. I haven't gone into all the details of this project so as not to bore people with it but they contacted me first on a Friday morning and then again on Monday so they had time to get half of the text translated over the weekend.

To begin with, they had also asked for my opinion on the best option for translating the text. Options included getting it translated in Eastern Europe and having me proofread it, me translating it from scratch, or them distributing the translation amongst several translators. I pointed out the problems that could arise with the option of translating it in Eastern Europe (ie if non-native translators were used, me proofreading it later would work out more costly for them if it had to be translated again anyway) and the option of distributing it amongst several translators (lack of coherence if many translators were used and not able to communicate with one another) and thought that they would then be more inclined for me to manage it from scratch.

Yes, after receiving a request for a quote to proofread the translation I was taken aback since I thought they were still trying to place the translation. I think the matter was only made worse by the fact that I do not speak the language of the contact person and her English was not the best. This combined with the fact that there was an obvious communication breakdown within the company and respective affiliates didn't help.

The saga continued this morning when I was told they would be postponing the project, so all in all I think I am better off without it but have appreciated everyone's comments on the matter.


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