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Would you work for an agency you have no means of assessing?
Thread poster: James Greenfield

James Greenfield  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
French to English
+ ...
Apr 30, 2014

I was contacted via Proz by a translation agency in Spain asking me whether I would like to be considered as part of their freelance team specialising in financial documents. They asked me my rate which I duly gave them and they seemed to accept this by then sending me a translation test. I was surprised they accepted the rate as I gave them a higher than usual rate for me (€0.09). Of course, as has happened before they may then offer a lower rate later. Anyway, the agency has no BB entry, and also cannot be found on translator's café or payment practices. This is surprising as nearly every other agency I have worked for has been on one of these platforms and I have been able to gauge to some degree whether they are a reputable agency. Another problem is that the translation test is 600 words, and when I offered them a sample of my work instead, they refused this saying that this test is how they differentiate between translators. That's fair enough but 600 words seems excessive. I'm tempted to do this test as I would like to be paid at the rate they (possibly?) accepted, but am wary as I cannot asses the agency based on other's opinions. At the moment I seem to be stuck somewhere between the low paying bracket and the high paying bracket and it is quite frustrating. Any opinions are welcome, thanks.

 

Thomas Rebotier  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:48
English to French
tes the waters slowly Apr 30, 2014

600 words is not that big a sample. I'd be a lot more worried about scams (someone explaining they will have you cash a larger check from the client, please send them the remainder ... and then "client" check bounces) and payment delays (huge project that hinder your throughput to other agencies and have a pyment date in the far far future. Ask them for a couple references, check the references on linked in / contact them, and start small if possible (if not, make sure you check the references!)

 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
600 words is way too much. Apr 30, 2014

We often discuss this, and the consensus is usually that 300 words or so is enough to give them an idea of whether you're any good or not.

I gave up doing samples a long time ago unless there is a real prospect of getting a specific job - for example if the end customer has given them a job but wants to see samples from (say) three translators. Otherwise, they should be satisfied with a sample of a translation you've already done.

Also, have you Googled them? And have you put in a request for ratings on ProZ?

[Edited at 2014-04-30 21:11 GMT]


 

Paul Harrison MITI
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
French to English
Sounds like you want to do it... Apr 30, 2014

...so do it. Worst case scenario is that you lose a couple of hours of your time, which is no big deal unless you make a habit of it.

What were their communications like? Professional? Or written by the same down-on-his-luck Nigerian prince that we all know and love?

What is their website like? Perhaps you could call them?

If they send you more work, tell them that you have a cap on how many words you translate for a new client before requiring payment.


 

James Greenfield  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Apr 30, 2014

Their website is quite impressive with a knowledgeable blog section on financial translation. Also their communications have been professional. I'll do the sample but ask for them for a couple of references. I'll also put in a request for ratings from Proz, I hadn't thought about that.

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
Member (2008)
Italian to English
It's a gut feeling Apr 30, 2014

When you reach a certain age, as I have, and you've been around the block a few times, as I have, you acquire an ability to sense who can be trusted and who can't.

Not long ago I received an email from someone I'd never heard from before, asking me to translate a large document.

Maybe it was the name; maybe it was the tone and language of their request: or maybe it was the googling I did, to see what I could find out.

Or maybe it was the fact that I have mechanisms in place that give me a reasonable guarantee I will always get paid.

Whatever it was, I accepted the job because I sensed that I was probably dealing with a trustworthy person who had sought me out particularly.

I completed the translation, delivered it, and was paid in full within a couple of days.

God bless all the good, professional people in the world who rely on dignity and trust. If we ever lose those values, we'll be finished. All we'll have is lawyers.

[Edited at 2014-04-30 22:15 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:48
English to German
+ ...
No May 1, 2014

To answer your original question:

James Greenfield wrote:
Would you work for an agency you have no means of assessing?


No.


James Greenfield wrote:

Their website is quite impressive with a knowledgeable blog section on financial translation. Also their communications have been professional. I'll do the sample but ask for them for a couple of references. I'll also put in a request for ratings from Proz, I hadn't thought about that.


A good-looking and informative website is no indicator for a company's honesty or payment practices. Neither are friendly and respectful communications.

The proof is in the pudding.
If you never worked for a company, they need to pay up-front or at least make a very good good-faith payment before you start or after you both sign a contract.

A 600 word sample translation request is unprofessional. Unpaid? Seriously?!

B


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:48
Chinese to English
BB is not the only way to assess May 1, 2014

I agree with Tom. Usually you can tell a lot about the seriousness of an agency from things like their website and the way they communicate with you.

More due diligence on their part isn't necessarily a bad thing. If they're prepared to pay a good rate, you'd expect them to be a bit more picky about their translators. I am willing to do more testing for clients who seem to be serious, high quality agencies.

There's no harm in asking a couple more questions, though. Like you say, the rates bait-and-switch is a common tactic, and you can just ask:

"I'm sorry to bother you with this question, but could I please have explicit confirmation from you that you accept my rate? There are agencies who try to renegotiate rates after completion of a test, and as I'm sure you'll appreciate, this is very irritating for translators. I'd be happy to go through your testing procedures, but I would like to be sure of the terms on which we'll be working together. Thanks for your understanding."

I think you can get some level of assurance without being impolite. Of course, that's still no guarantee, but it can help ease your mind.


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Agree with Bernhard May 1, 2014

I'm with Bernhard on this one. A 600 word test is an unreasonable request, there is no reason at all why they can't judge your skills from a test that's half the length. If they stand their ground I would personally take it as a warning sign that they're up to no good.

I request payment up front if I cannot find any feedback on an agency.

P.S. € 0.09 is a low rate for financial translations but may be the norm in Spain. There's every chance they have agreed to your rate, but ask for confirmation before wasting any more of your time.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:48
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Accept work from unknown clients? Of course. May 1, 2014

I've often accepted work from companies who aren't on any BB-type listings. I trust my nose probably as much as I trust any one thing. Each non-payment (two in nearly 20 years) has come from established companies with good records who filed for bankruptcy.

But what we have here is someone who:
- only wants you to join their team (i.e. it isn't an actual job offer);
- hasn't explicitly accepted your rate;
- wants you to spend probably more than two hours on free work for them.

That doesn't sound like the recipe for a mutually fruitful relationship to me. Have they agreed to anything yet ~ payment method, length of payment term, discounts...?


 

Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not every agency or company is known on the BB May 1, 2014

We have worked for clients with no BB entries who were/are very good payers. Not to mention direct clients who are never on the BB anyway.

From what I've seen here on the Proz forums, 0.09 EUR is quite high for Spain where rates are much lower (I suppose certainly now it's crisis there big time).

However, 600 words seems quite a vast amount for a test. That's a long press release, so it could be a job they are trying to get you to do for free. On the other hand, it could be that they are very thorough. Who knows.

I have to agree that in the worst case you'll have wasted a bit of your time if you don't get paid (that is if you don't start accepting vast amounts of work from them straight away).
One of the tricks I tend to use is telling them I can't deliver the test until a week after or so. If they are too eager to get the test very quickly, they're not genuine. Those who are genuinely interested will wait patiently and they're test is not a job they have to deliver.


 

Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 00:48
Dutch to English
+ ...
*cough* May 1, 2014

Tom in London wrote:

God bless all the good, professional people in the world who rely on dignity and trust. If we ever lose those values, we'll be finished. All we'll have is lawyers.





 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
Member (2008)
Italian to English
*cough* May 1, 2014

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Tom in London wrote:

God bless all the good, professional people in the world who rely on dignity and trust. If we ever lose those values, we'll be finished. All we'll have is lawyers.








Yes, sorry about that.


 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:48
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Coughing May 1, 2014

I love the language of coughing and clearing your throat.

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Ahem May 1, 2014

Edward Potter wrote:

I love the language of coughing and clearing your throat.


You'll enjoy this, then !

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Rn68PxJ2Ik


 
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