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Advice on a Dilemma Please!
Thread poster: TixhiiDon

TixhiiDon
Local time: 14:37
Japanese to English
+ ...
Jun 7, 2011

Hi Everyone. This is my first post on Proz, so I hope you don't mind me starting off by asking for some advice. I have a dilemma.

I am a freelance translator with a Client A and a Client B. Client A is my main client. They took me on as a trainee, trained me in my field, and then let me go freelance while giving me a constant stream of work for the last 10 years. They pay me a reasonable word rate, but nothing amazing.

I found Client B through a newspaper ad, and I
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Hi Everyone. This is my first post on Proz, so I hope you don't mind me starting off by asking for some advice. I have a dilemma.

I am a freelance translator with a Client A and a Client B. Client A is my main client. They took me on as a trainee, trained me in my field, and then let me go freelance while giving me a constant stream of work for the last 10 years. They pay me a reasonable word rate, but nothing amazing.

I found Client B through a newspaper ad, and I get one or two jobs a month from them with blanks of a month or two sometimes. However, they pay me a good rate.

A couple of years after I started working for B, A (which is an agency) also started taking work from B. There was nothing in my contract with A regarding such a situation, so I just kept quiet about it.

Now, jump a few years, and A has discovered that I am also working for B and told me to stop accepting work from B, even after I explained that I started working for B 2 years before A did.

My loyalty basically lies with A, but I feel they are being very unfair. They are basically forcing me to reduce my income due to an unfortunate coincidence and on the small chance that the work I do for B will go to them and not some other nameless translator.

I guess I just have to swallow my pride and quit B, but what would you do? Would you at least let your feelings be known to A? Would you try to fight A a little bit longer before you gave in? Would you explain the situation to B and hear what they have to say about it?
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Marie-Céline GEORG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:37
German to French
+ ...
They are not your boss! Jun 7, 2011

Hi TixhiiDon,

If you worked with client B before A did, the situation is very clear for me.
They have no right to tell you who you work for, they are not your boss since you're a freelancer. Do they have a contract with B stating that they have exclusivity as translation service providers? If not, you're still free to work with them.

A may threaten you to stop giving you work, which will give you free time to find better-paying clients.

On the other
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Hi TixhiiDon,

If you worked with client B before A did, the situation is very clear for me.
They have no right to tell you who you work for, they are not your boss since you're a freelancer. Do they have a contract with B stating that they have exclusivity as translation service providers? If not, you're still free to work with them.

A may threaten you to stop giving you work, which will give you free time to find better-paying clients.

On the other hand, your previous experience with B means that you can deliver better translations for this particular client, while if you stop working for them, they will have to find and train another translator for those jobs... So A is the one who has something to lose in this case.

It may also be a good idea to keep closer contact with client B in order to remind them that you are providing top-quality services.

Good luck!
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gad
United States
Local time: 01:37
Member
French to English
My loyalty would not be to A Jun 7, 2011

I would stick with B, not A. A kind of has nerve trying to tell you not to work with B. You would probably be better off moving on to other clients. Do a bit of marketing and build up your client base and then tell A good-bye. JMO.

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:37
Chinese to English
Legally, or in terms of business relationships Jun 8, 2011

I think you should start by recognising this: that what Company A is doing is completely unethical, and possibly even illegal. There are a number of remedies, all based around making A's actions public. The simplest may be just to go to Company B and get them to make the decision. If you say to Company B, "Company A is trying to restrict your access to the translation market," then Company B may well take action to prevent this happening.

However, having said that, I know that longs
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I think you should start by recognising this: that what Company A is doing is completely unethical, and possibly even illegal. There are a number of remedies, all based around making A's actions public. The simplest may be just to go to Company B and get them to make the decision. If you say to Company B, "Company A is trying to restrict your access to the translation market," then Company B may well take action to prevent this happening.

However, having said that, I know that longstanding business relationships are important, and that ending such a relationship can have very negative effects. I honestly think that 10 years into your career, you no longer owe Company A any "loyalty". What you have now is a strong, mutually beneficial business relationship. And be clear: Company A is damaging your relationship. Do not allow them to take the moral high ground on this. If they tell you that you are threatening the relationship, stop the conversation, state clearly that they are wrong, and it is Company A who is threatening the relationship, and don't carry on talking until they accept this basic reality.

Once you (and they) see it that way, it's a reasonably straightforward business calculation. What's worth more to you? Is it (a) the constant stream of work you get from Company A; or (b) access to any other clients? Because at the moment, Company A are trying to hold you hostage and say, we get first approval on your clients. If we don't like you working with client Q, we will throw a tantrum. You can do that: you can give up control of your client list to Company A if you think it's worth it. But be aware of what you're giving up. It may well not be just one client.
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Clarisa Moraña  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 02:37
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Ask A to stop accepting works from B, as it is YOUR CLIENT! Jun 8, 2011

B was first your client, not Agency A's client. Thus, you should ask Agency A to stop accepting works from B.
If you have proofs that you have found your client B by yourself, you should not have any dilemma: your clients are yours.

Regards

Clarisa


 

PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 07:37
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Don't give in Jun 8, 2011

I agree with Clarisa, that A should stop working for B if anything, not the other way around.
B is your client that A just happens to have landed as a client now also - this has nothing to do with you.

If you agree to stop working for B, it basically means that A can de facto stop you from working for anybody under the threat of ending your business relationship - this is extorsion, not a business relationship. What comes next: a drop in rates under the same threats? an agreem
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I agree with Clarisa, that A should stop working for B if anything, not the other way around.
B is your client that A just happens to have landed as a client now also - this has nothing to do with you.

If you agree to stop working for B, it basically means that A can de facto stop you from working for anybody under the threat of ending your business relationship - this is extorsion, not a business relationship. What comes next: a drop in rates under the same threats? an agreement you need to sign saying that you will not be working as a freelance translator for x years should you seize working with A?

Further, I am also fairly sure there is a law against such behaviour, at least in Denmark there is, because A is restricting your liberty to do business on no solid grounds.
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:37
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Stop working for B until A stops working for B Jun 8, 2011

TixhiiDon wrote:
A couple of years after I started working for B, A (which is an agency) also started taking work from B. ... Now, A has discovered that I am also working for B and told me to stop accepting work from B, even after I explained that I started working for B 2 years before A did.


Explain your dilemma to company B. Tell them that company A is your main source of income and that you have to abide by their wish. Ask them to contact you again if some time in future they decide to no longer use company A. Then tell company A that you'll stop working for company B for as long as company B considers company A its service provider.


 

Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:37
Swedish to English
+ ...
It's business, not personal Jun 8, 2011

TixhiiDon wrote:
I guess I just have to swallow my pride and quit B, but what would you do? Would you at least let your feelings be known to A?

You are clearly taking this very personally -- "swallow my pride", "let feelings be known". My advice would be to look at it from a purely business point of view. Stop being a sensitive translator, start being a hard-nosed unemotional business person while you sort out the situation.

How much do you value A? What business deal would benefit you most? Is there any way you can create a win-win situation? If that involves doing what A wants ("giving in", as you put it), so be it. If not, OK. But remember it's business, not personal.


 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 07:37
German to English
+ ...
However Jun 8, 2011

You may of course tell A to mind its own business. And you can tell them to stop taking work from B. You would probably be morally in the right.

A can however simply reply that in that case A will give you no more work. And there is nothing you can do about it. IT is not just a question of being morally right, it's a question of your unfortunately weak position in this set up (unless B is willing to give you more work!).

You don't really have much to bargain with unle
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You may of course tell A to mind its own business. And you can tell them to stop taking work from B. You would probably be morally in the right.

A can however simply reply that in that case A will give you no more work. And there is nothing you can do about it. IT is not just a question of being morally right, it's a question of your unfortunately weak position in this set up (unless B is willing to give you more work!).

You don't really have much to bargain with unless you are well established and have an expertise that A cannot easily get anywhere else (and I don't derive this situation from what you have said so far).
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Ana Malovrh  Identity Verified
Slovenia
Local time: 07:37
Member (2010)
German to Slovenian
+ ...
Be careful Jun 8, 2011

Hello,

first of all it would be wise to think about the reasons why B decided to work with two service providers at the same time.

Do they think the workload is too much for you and decided to contact an agency? Perhaps they started doing business in other countries and added more languages? Did B face a staff change recently?
In this case they could be on their way to cut you off slowly.


Is the work you are doing for A the same as the one you
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Hello,

first of all it would be wise to think about the reasons why B decided to work with two service providers at the same time.

Do they think the workload is too much for you and decided to contact an agency? Perhaps they started doing business in other countries and added more languages? Did B face a staff change recently?
In this case they could be on their way to cut you off slowly.


Is the work you are doing for A the same as the one you are doing for B?

Some large companies divide their documents and give them to different service providers. For example: they give user manuals to one agency and marketing material to a freelancer, in-house translators or another agency.

In this case A is not taking your jobs and you are not taking their jobs either, because it may well be the case that B has simply different departments which handle different texts.

All in all it is up to B to decide with whom they wish to cooperate.
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TixhiiDon
Local time: 14:37
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the replies Jun 8, 2011

It has been very helpful to hear your views. Thanks a lot.

Agency A is a large agency and Company B is an extremely large company, so yes, unfortunately I am in a rather weakened position. I think I do have some bargaining chips since it would be quite a blow to A to lose me and B have asked me to increase my volume in the past. However, I'm not sure if I want to play such a high stakes game. I have always received enough work never to have to market myself, and the thought of s
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It has been very helpful to hear your views. Thanks a lot.

Agency A is a large agency and Company B is an extremely large company, so yes, unfortunately I am in a rather weakened position. I think I do have some bargaining chips since it would be quite a blow to A to lose me and B have asked me to increase my volume in the past. However, I'm not sure if I want to play such a high stakes game. I have always received enough work never to have to market myself, and the thought of scrabbling around for new clients doesn't exactly fill me with joy either.

So I think I will err on the side of caution this time by explaining the situation to B and waiting to see if they offer me anything better. If not, I will abide by A's wishes and quit B, thereby losing the moral high ground but avoiding financial disaster! I will also keep half an eye open for other clients that are not connected to A.

Thanks again for your time.
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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:37
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Spread your risks over more clients if you can Jun 8, 2011

As you are a freelancer, it is your decision which agencies or other clients you work for.

No single agency can depend on a single freelancer for all languages and subject areas, so it is natural that others also work for them.

As a freelancer, you are very vulnerable if you only work for one or two big clients. They may not need your services all the time, or they may need more than you can provide in one month and leave you with nothing to do the next month. You have
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As you are a freelancer, it is your decision which agencies or other clients you work for.

No single agency can depend on a single freelancer for all languages and subject areas, so it is natural that others also work for them.

As a freelancer, you are very vulnerable if you only work for one or two big clients. They may not need your services all the time, or they may need more than you can provide in one month and leave you with nothing to do the next month. You have to protect your own interests by finding several good clients.

I felt this last year, when a client that was very much like your Agency A was declared bankrupt. They trained me too, and it was a very sad day. Many translators had worked with them for years, and lost a lot of money when the agency was unable to pay them. I lost less, because I was lucky. Another client offered me a large job a couple of months before my 'Agency A' finally collapsed. So I was working part of the time for other clients who could still pay me.

Clients come and go, and as a freelancer you should not bind yourself too strongly to any single client.

In the present situation, if you cannot convince Agency A that it is none of their business what other clients you work for, then you will have to choose between agencies A and B.

Whatever the outcome, my advice is to find some more clients, and spread your risks. They will inevitably be competitors on the same market. Your loyalty is due to the client whose job you are working on at any time. You provide a service at the rates you can negotiate with each client. Normally they accept that next day you will be loyally working for someone else.

Otherwise they must provide you with full time work and full time security, and then you are en employee, not a freelancer.

Best of luck!
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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:37
Member
French to English
+ ...
How did A discover this? Jun 8, 2011

Did they discover this by legitimate means? I do hope so. It's puzzling as to why B would disclose that information to A.

Telling company A to stop working with B because you found B first may not be such a good idea, as tempting as it may be! If A is acting illegally - and I've no idea whether it is - then you would be too, in demanding this of A.

I agree with Christine that building up a more diverse client base is a good idea. It's time to get out there and find comp
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Did they discover this by legitimate means? I do hope so. It's puzzling as to why B would disclose that information to A.

Telling company A to stop working with B because you found B first may not be such a good idea, as tempting as it may be! If A is acting illegally - and I've no idea whether it is - then you would be too, in demanding this of A.

I agree with Christine that building up a more diverse client base is a good idea. It's time to get out there and find companies C, D, E and F! Then you will be less vulnerable to client loss.

However good A may have been to you in the past, this ultimatum doesn't augur well for your future relationship. If you choose A over B, I wonder whether A may try to start taking advantage of you in other ways. Managers come and go; maybe a bad one has arrived at A, in which case it may be better in the long run to look elsewhere for work.

As to what I would actually do myself: if I were financially dependent on A to a large extent, I would grudgingly stick with A for now and then try to find other companies so that no single client accounts for a majority of my income. That's not to say that I agree with what A is doing; it's just what I would do if I were heavily reliant on A, because I'm risk-averse by nature when it comes to money!

[Edited at 2011-06-08 12:21 GMT]
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Anastasia Kyriakidou  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 08:37
English to Greek
+ ...
It is about loyalty after all, isn't it? Jun 8, 2011

Dear TixhiiDon,

I know that loyalty is of great importance in your culture. Therefore, I see the dilemma...
From this point of view, no matter how unfair it is, I can understand the demand of client A. Not in terms of the free market as we know it (here he is 100% wrong), but in terms of the Japanese loyalty ethics.

I don't know how you are going to resolve this situation, but try to keep in mind the advise of Christine Andersen and Peter Shortall: put your eggs i
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Dear TixhiiDon,

I know that loyalty is of great importance in your culture. Therefore, I see the dilemma...
From this point of view, no matter how unfair it is, I can understand the demand of client A. Not in terms of the free market as we know it (here he is 100% wrong), but in terms of the Japanese loyalty ethics.

I don't know how you are going to resolve this situation, but try to keep in mind the advise of Christine Andersen and Peter Shortall: put your eggs in many baskets. This is the only way for a freelancer to survive.
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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:37
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Simple Jun 8, 2011

Do not let them drag you into conversations or decisions relating other of your customers.

Unless you have a contract with A stating that you may not enter a business relationship with other customers, you are in no position to discuss a third party with your first customer. They surely understand this. If they insist that you should cease working for B (or another customer, for that matter), you simply reply that you cannot discuss your business relationships with other customers,
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Do not let them drag you into conversations or decisions relating other of your customers.

Unless you have a contract with A stating that you may not enter a business relationship with other customers, you are in no position to discuss a third party with your first customer. They surely understand this. If they insist that you should cease working for B (or another customer, for that matter), you simply reply that you cannot discuss your business relationships with other customers, just for the sake of privacy and confidentiality. It does not matter how they found out about your relationship with B: it is none of their business and you should not give them a single peace of information about it.

Let them decide what is best for them. If they want to cease sending you work for this reason, take it as an opportunity to spread your wings and seek more and better customers. Christine's advice is most sensible. In general, do not keep more than 30% of your total income with a single customer. If any of your customers means more than 30% of your income, get moving to find more customers!!

(Edited for a typo.)

[Edited at 2011-06-08 13:36 GMT]
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