How can I politely ask clients to be my references?
Thread poster: Navarut Y.

Navarut Y.  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 23:47
Member (2014)
English to Thai
Aug 11, 2014

Hi!


I am a newbie in international translation market. Previously, I had only one regular client and I have just started to work for several companies last month. However, I would like to apply to few more translation companies in the nearest future but some of them ask for 2 - 3 references. So, I am not sure how to ask the clients to be my references politely. I am afraid that they might think I want to work with another company more than working with them or they might be annoyed. If you faced this situation before, please give me some suggestions.

Thank you in advance!


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:48
French to English
+ ...
I would worry more about confidentiality than your specific worry... Aug 11, 2014

This is an issue that bedevils the industry as a whole and is ultimately a bit of a paradox: clients would like to live in a world where everybody else provides them with references and examples of work done for third parties, but where they themselves never disclose anything.

A "willing to work again" on the ProZ Blue Board is actually not a bad starting point, because all you're asking for on the part of clients is a "generic seal of approval" rather than a specific recommendation to another specific client.

But I do think the main issue is confidentiality rather than clients thinking "but I thought I was your best friend" -- (a) as you gain experience from one client, that actually indirectly benefits all of your clients; (b) if a given client wants you to work exclusively for them, then they need to provide you with a guarantee that they will supply you with enough work to fill 100% of your time...!


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Your work is your best reference. Aug 11, 2014

You should very politely say that you feel it's inappropriate to bother other clients by asking for references, and show them some examples of your work instead.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:48
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I agree with Neil Aug 11, 2014

Neil Coffey wrote:
This is an issue that bedevils the industry as a whole and is ultimately a bit of a paradox

An agency really has no place asking for references - you aren't going to be an employee. This is something that rings warning bells in my head when approached by an agency. If they insist, then I just say "Goodbye!". But some seem to think it's the "done thing" (without really thinking about it much) and are quite happy with my WWA here on ProZ.com.

I think you're right to think that this may not be well received by your current clients. And you don't want to lose current clients just for the possibility of gaining others.


 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:48
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Never disclose your clients Aug 11, 2014

Never disclose your clients and tell all your future clients you'll never disclose their names without their written permission. They'll all understand and even appreciate your way of doing business.

I make up by offering test translations for free but I know other members are against that.

Good luck,
Gerard


 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:48
Member
French to English
+ ...
Best to avoid it if you can Aug 11, 2014

Like other contributors to this thread, I make it my policy not to give out references, for several reasons. As Sheila says, we are not employees looking to be recruited; we are independent contractors. Then there is the hassle of bothering clients. And from a client's point of view, what do references prove anyway? It wouldn't be difficult to get a friend or relative to act as a referee.

Recently I had a new client who seemed suspicious when I refused to provide references, and told me that "this is a very common requirement" in the industry (not in my experience it isn't!) and she often provided references herself and was happy to do so, that her agency had to follow this procedure because it was accredited to some ISO standard or other, etc. etc. The WWA entries on my ProZ profile weren't enough to convince them, but as I half-expected, they backed down when I stood my ground as they needed someone with a specific profile to proofread a small translation. (And when I saw the translation, it really wasn't great - even though the translator probably had to provide references! So much for the ISO certification...)

Like Gerard, I don't mind offering to do a small unpaid test translation as an alternative.

There have been times when I have needed references to apply for membership of professional bodies. Once or twice, I have requested them from regular clients who owed me favours, which is one reason why I don't mind doing clients the odd good turn now and then!

[Edited at 2014-08-11 23:15 GMT]


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:48
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Dilemma Aug 12, 2014

I've been asked to bid by an agency in Europe ("Agency X") for a potential big translation job for an international financial institution. The agency asked me to sign confidentiality and other agreements and to send my CV and diplomas.
After I'd done that, the PM asked me for "full details and dates" of all the translations I'd done. As I've been a full-time freelance translator since 1989, I must have translated millions of words and to list them all would be ridiculous, if not impossible. Besides, I'm bound by confidentiality agreements with most clients not to disclose such details.
Isn't it absurd? Agency X wants me to sign a confidentiality agreement with them but at the same time to disclose confidential information about my relations with other clients.
I've politely replied that I can't disclose the information they claim to want for reasons they will surely understand.
Que faire?
Jenny


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:48
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Que faire? Aug 12, 2014

Jenny Forbes wrote:
Agency X wants me to sign a confidentiality agreement with them but at the same time to disclose confidential information about my relations with other clients.
I've politely replied that I can't disclose the information they claim to want for reasons they will surely understand.

Exactly as you've done - it's the only possible thing to do (other than replying impolitely, and that wouldn't be professionalicon_smile.gif).

Personally speaking, bells would have already started ringing when they wanted agreements (plural) and diplomas as well as my CV. And I'd certainly refuse any request for translation details, no doubt with a polite but slightly sarcastic reference to their own concerns regarding confidentiality.


 

Navarut Y.  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 23:48
Member (2014)
English to Thai
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you very much! Aug 14, 2014

Finally, I decided not to ask my customers to be references. Thank you for every suggestion. I really appreciate them. ^^

 


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