Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
The trouble with references
Thread poster: 564354352

564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:32
Danish to English
+ ...
Jul 6, 2013

Am I the only one who refuses to present references to potential clients?

I have seen heaps of jobs advertised where the outsourcer insists on seeing 2-3 client references, and often run into the same issue when checking agency websites that say they are happy to consider new translators. I am puzzled by this. Why would an agency (or an end client for that matter) trust any comments from a complete stranger more than they would trust ME as I take the trouble to present myself as accurately as possible?

I fully understand that outsourcers want to be sure they only engage in collaboration with professionals who can deliver the goods as promised, but why would they presume that any reference given would ensure this? Surely, professional agencies will want to make their own assessment of any new, potential business partner, and not simply rely on the words of someone they don't know from Adam.

Considering that I would be highly unlikely to submit contact details to anyone who would not immediately speak highly of my skills, excellent service and pleasant personality icon_smile.gif, why would any potential client dare to rely on such references?

I just don't get it.

In my view, the insistence on references forces professional translators to inconvenience their own business partners (clients), which changes the working relationship from one where the translator is the expert providing an expert service to an equal business partner, to one where the client is a kind of 'superior', i.e. an employer. This is such a deep misunderstanding on the part of the agencies:

Independent translators are NOT looking for employment; we are NOT looking for agencies to be our bosses; we do NOT rely on others to sing our praises; we DO have the ability to prove ourselves, if you will only give us the chance and take the trouble yourselves to find out whether or not we match your requirements.

Dear agencies:
Don't rely on others = strangers to confirm a translator's qualities. Find out for yourselves - i.e. check our profiles, take the risk of assigning a small job to a promising translator, have the work assessed by another translator whom you trust, and then make your decision.


 

Usch Pilz
Local time: 17:32
English to German
+ ...
So true! Jul 6, 2013

Hi Gitte,

I agree. 100%
Why would anyone want to rely on a written reference by a total stranger.
Beats me!

Personal recommendations are a completely different story. I have won a few nice jobs that way. Those are references, too - but between partners who usually know each other personally.

Have a great weekend!
Usch


 

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Yep, it's a nonsense. Jul 6, 2013

Agencies tend to request these in order to tick boxes, much like the c.v. box. They forget we're freelance and not job applicants. I also ignore any such requests and refuse to inconvenience my clients. Apart from anything else, it is increasingly becoming company policy not to issue references for a whole host of reasons: client confidentiality, perceived liability etc. At a push, I may send someone requesting one a blanket "To Whom it May Concern" letter of reference that two or three of my clients have written. That usually satisfies agencies. Most importantly I direct them to the code of professional conduct for the professional associations I belong to (e.g. http://www.iol.org.uk/ciol/CoC2012.pdf)

 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 18:32
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Two more issues Jul 6, 2013

In addition to what was already said here on the topic of confused terminology in the B2B business world, there are two other issues:
1) Business confidentiality - one should not disclose any business related information about one's business operation to a third-party. This is just one business good practice to avoid unnecessary risk.

2) Another reason for not providing references is the fact that some unethical entities use this information in conjunction with the the rate, language pairs, and other details that are usually collected with them to call up those referrals and offer them the same service, only cheaper. It is a form of business espionage - one posts a "potential" project as a bait for easily collecting (i.e. people volunteer it) names and details about potential clients and what they are being charged in specific fields and language pairs, and then proceed to use this information for him or her benefit.
There are quite a few reports about this in this forum as well as on some LinkedIn groups.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:32
Russian to English
+ ...
Are you kidding, of course Jul 6, 2013

I would never ever give any serious references to any company. I can imagine their summer intern, or other band new employee, calling some governmental places, asking are: you the boss of this company, have been working here long, what is your evening phone number, what is your cell phone number, etc. If you don't want to lose any of your clients never give references. It is even better to do a sample test for the company than give references. You can ask clients for feedback here on the site, if you don't forget, before the client disappears.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
That's what the WWA here is useful for Jul 6, 2013

I don't explicitly ask my clients for any feedback/references, but if they suggest it then I always point them towards the WWA part of my profile here. If they're already registered here, it's a moment's work for them to make a comment; if they don't have a ProZ.com ID, then it's a little more complicated for them but some are happy to register. Then, you have those "references" that some agencies feel are so important. And there's nothing to stop them contacting those "referees", either, for confirmation and more details - but they won't know their email address, postal address, phone number etc. This seems to satisfy everyone.

No, of course we don't give references as though we were job applicants. I do so wish that outsourcers would stop behaving like employers, and freelancers would stop behaving like employees. It really is most tiresome.icon_frown.gif


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:02
English to Hindi
+ ...
I was embarrassed once or twice because of this Jul 6, 2013

On one occasion a client for whom I have worked several times took offence at my asking for his reference saying that he can't give any as he would be forfeiting a good translator to a potential rival!

On another occasion, a client whose reference I had given, wrote back saying that he had been contacted by so and so regarding my work and he had to take time out of his busy schedule to respond to it. He send me a copy of what he had written about me, which was laudatory, but I was made to squirm in my shoes for having taken this favour from him.

I always find asking references from my clients embarrassing and I fail to understand why some agencies insist on it.

I also notice that it is the less professional, large agencies who make such a fetish of getting three, not one, references, and in most cases after all their rigmorale, they rarely send any work, even after informing me that I have cleared all their hoops and have been taken into their select company of translators. So I fail to see the point of it all.

Possibly, PMs need to look busy and they need to create all this red tape to give the impression to their bosses that they are working hard and earning their salary.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:32
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Totally agree with all the above Jul 6, 2013

When I stopped working in house, we parted as friends, and the 'big boss' wrote me a flattering reference in Danish. He left it to me to translate it into English, which of course I did as faithfully as possible. I did not have to tell everyone else the words were mine as much as his. I hated using it, but did once or twice send it to clients and say 'this is what I have'.

It is now ten years old and relegated to history, and my WWA references have to serve.

One WWA was in return for a recommendation of a PM - but I felt we knew each other well enough for both recommendations to be meaningful. The rest are unsolicited, and thus 'real'.

Earlier in my freelance career I did ask for references occasionally. One was given gladly and I still work for the same agency - the person who gave the reference has moved on. On a couple of other occasions I have never heard again from the client I asked.

There may be so many other reasons for that, but why would I risk a relationship with a good client for an unknown one?

Look in my portfolio, ask me to do a short sample translation, or simply assume that since I have survived as a freelancer for ten years, I am good enough for some clients at least. But I do not ask for references from my clients.



[Edited at 2013-07-06 11:49 GMT]


 

David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:32
Member (2009)
French to English
Why are they so important? Jul 6, 2013

I recently contacted a batch of UK-based agencies in a bid to move into the UK market. I received a number of encouraging replies, including from three agencies who stated that they wished to add me to their database subject to satisfactory references from existing agencies for whom I work. I had already passed their selection tests and sent in my CV, etc. before this point was raised.
I replied by pointing out that it is quite hard to obtain references from translation agencies, especially since there would be absolutely nothing in it for the French agencies concerned. I never heard anything more from these UK agencies and so have carried on working for the French ones instead!
If references are so important, why was this not mentioned before I bothered taking their test?


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 18:32
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
One possible reason Jul 6, 2013

One possible reason for asking references and/or creeping in some unreasonable terms at the last minute is:
Shai Nave wrote:
2) Another reason for not providing references is the fact that some unethical entities use this information in conjunction with the the rate, language pairs, and other details that are usually collected with them to call up those referrals and offer them the same service, only cheaper. It is a form of business espionage - one posts a "potential" project as a bait for easily collecting (i.e. people volunteer it) names and details about potential clients and what they are being charged in specific fields and language pairs, and then proceed to use this information for him or her benefit.

Having one jumped through their initial bureaucratic hoops makes one more susceptible to providing sensitive information and/or accepting things that otherwise he or she would have refused. They rely on the fact that by that stage one is so invested in the relationships that many mistakenly prefer to bite the bullet and complete just one more step (unreasonable or abusive as it may be - and what these entities are really after) for the promise of potential work, rather than refuse and effectively 'throw away' all the time and effort that they have already invested.

[Edited at 2013-07-06 14:23 GMT]


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I read this too late! Jul 6, 2013

Only three days ago I asked two of my regular agencies if I could send their email address and phone numbers to an agency in the UK.

I had to fill in a form and when I tried clicking on the 'submit' button I was told that the form couldn't be sent because there was some information missing, i.e. the boxes where I had to provide the email address and respective phone numbers were empty.

Both agencies agreed to my request but I admit I really hated having to ask them.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:32
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Outright client poaching Jul 6, 2013

Those agencies whose online application form will not allow submitting your data until you have included "valid" references' contact information usually have an automatic system in place, which will forever spam your references with messages saying, Whatever this jerk (your name, from the application form) does for you, we do it faster, better, and cheaper!

I usually fill the name field with a link to my page http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/non-disclosure.html , the phone field with 1-805-123-4567, and the e-mail with none@zilch.net. No system so far compared the three "references" of mine to see that they are identical, and the validation goes through. When the spam bounces, if they check, it should teach them a lesson.

Some of these poachers quibbled for weeks that they needed my references for compliance to ISO-whatever, and said that they had a lot of work to assign in my language pair. Baloney! My bet is that they didn't have any job in any pair, and were desperately seeking some.

On the other hand, some serious outsourcers accepted my non-disclosure page as a commitment, since they too wouldn't like to have me giving them as a reference later.


 

564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:32
Danish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Their loss, I think Jul 6, 2013

It's been great to read all these positive comments this afternoon - I do love a good consensus. icon_smile.gif

I wonder whether agencies realise that they may be losing out on a lot of highly professional translators who are simply not willing to play their little games...

Their loss...

I have been wondering whether the request for references is limited to any particular countries. My own experience is mainly with agencies in the UK. I would be interested in hearing whether this is a general issue across our profession.


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Now I know for next time! Jul 6, 2013

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

I usually fill the name field with a link to my page http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/non-disclosure.html , the phone field with 1-805-123-4567, and the e-mail with none@zilch.net. No system so far compared the three "references" of mine to see that they are identical, and the validation goes through. When the spam bounces, if they check, it should teach them a lesson.



Thanks for the tip!


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:02
English to Hindi
+ ...
I think it is specific to those who have little understanding of translation Jul 6, 2013

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:
I have been wondering whether the request for references is limited to any particular countries. My own experience is mainly with agencies in the UK. I would be interested in hearing whether this is a general issue across our profession.


In my experience, it is those agencies, most often the larger, impersonal ones with websites where we have to directly fill in our details without ever speaking a word with any person, which insanely insist on references. And it is out of ignorance on how to evaluate and pick up a suitable translator for their jobs that they devise all these labyrinthine processes which still don't serve any purpose. For, to judge a translator you should be a translator yourself or at least understand what translation is all about, and sadly, most of the high-fangled PMs straight out of management colleges have not the least clue as to what translation is. They don't have the feel for a translator, which enables one to judge after a single glance at an email reply or the CV or the translator, whether he is capable or not. It is to hide their lack of this ability that they put up all these citadels of processes which in most case only help in keeping out the more talented and time-strapped translators who would hardly deign to go through all their selection "processes".

But after reading Jose's post, I realize that there could also be a sinister motive behind this of poaching your clients.


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


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


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

The trouble with references

Advanced search







SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »
TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »



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