New clients - how to make sure they pay for a larger job?
Thread poster: Esther_P

Esther_P  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:55
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Aug 31, 2014

How do you all handle new clients?

Scenario (and it happens a lot): I get an e-mail from someone (agency, most of the time) who found me somewhere. If the e-mail address looks weird to me, or they don't mention a serious translation network (i.e. we found you on ........), or something else seems off, I usually ignore. There are incidents, though, where someone found my ATA-listing, for example (or so they say), and then they want to give me a large project right away, with an okay deadline, and a not too bad rate, but it's a large document. They don't know me. I've never worked for them. They don't want a test trans. They don't want a reference.

But: Their e-mail address looks legit, I find their names on linkedIn, the proz rating is a 5, they are in the U.S. and willing to commit to my payment terms, etc.

Do you usually take the job? And under what conditions? Do you have any?
Let's say it's a 7,000 word job, due in a week (very reasonable), at a reasonable rate. What can go wrong?

I am usually suspicious, but I have to quit putting all my eggs in one basket and start working for a variety of clients/agencies, not only for one or two. So - am I too cautious?
Should I ask for a down payment, because I don't know them?
Or is that my entrepreneurial risk?

Advice much appreciated, as always.


[Edited at 2014-08-31 20:54 GMT]


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:55
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
I'd take it Aug 31, 2014

7000 words isn't that huge a job, so I'd accept it without worrying too much if the company looked legit and had a good BlueBoard rating. I wouldn't impose any special conditions such as money upfront for something like that, I would just want a purchase order, or at least written instructions to go ahead.

I might hesitate if it was job that would take more than a week or two to complete and would be a real blow if anything went wrong. I also might wait until the payment for the first job was safely in my bank account before accepting further jobs, just to be sure.


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Esther_P  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:55
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Identity Aug 31, 2014

Thanks.

What I've also heard is that companies sometimes are not really who they pretend they are.
Stolen identities/e-mail addresses etc.
But yeah, I guess in this case it looks pretty safe.


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
Risk vs Gain Aug 31, 2014

Hi Esther,

I had a couple of problems with new clients when I first started freelancing, so now I typically check two things before I work with anyone new.

The first thing is to investigate the agency as much as possible, check out the website, find out who owns it, how long it's been active, check to see if anyone has listed it as a scam or non-payer (for the website information, go to www.whois.com and type in the web address).

If that checks out (the site's been up for a while, there's contact information for the owner, google the street address - if any, etc...), then I would accept the project. Just to be on the safe side, I wouldn't count on the money for my monthly bills. Better safe than sorry.

The biggest risk is the loss of your time. See if you can afford to translate those 7,000 words and if you can, go for it.

I have asked for a downpayment, but no one's ever actually paid it.

I hope that helps ^_^


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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 22:55
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Sounds fine to me Aug 31, 2014

But what is their website like? Do they write from a company e-mail address or from a free public e-mail address like hotmail? Do they have a lot of ratings on the BB? If they have many and they are all 5's it sounds good.

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Esther_P  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:55
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
legit company e-mail Aug 31, 2014

Thanks, guys.

There aren't a LOT of ratings on the BB, but enough, I guess, and all of them are 5's.
E-Mail addresses look good, they are company e-mail addresses, and one of the names that translators mention on the BB equals the PM that e-mailed me. So.....I guess I'll take it.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:55
English to German
+ ...
Talk to them on the phone Aug 31, 2014

After all, they want to be your client. What 's wrong with getting to know them better? I am always wondering why Freelancers shy away from this most basic kind of contact (= saying hello).

Other than that I can only recommend to start a company. As a regular translation office, that is. You are way too vulnerable as a freelancer and you should always be able to work with clients at eye level. In all those 14 years since I founded our company, nobody has ever dared to mess with us.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:55
German to English
No large jobs for new clients Sep 1, 2014

I sometimes get offers "over the transom" and if I have free time, I occasionally take them if the potential client has been referred by a colleague. But most of these jobs are in the 2000-3000 word range.

Even if everything looks legit, you have to wonder why an agency would want to take a risk with a new translator offering a job of that size? (It's a slightly different story with direct clients who have little or no experience buying translations). If it's an agency, why don't they have someone in their "stable" who could take on something like that? Are there organizational problems that limit the number of people in your language combination (poor communication, crabby PMs, job requirements that appear after you take the job, etc.)? Why is the agency so desperate they need to hand out a job this size to a stranger without some verification of the translator's ability? Is it a sign of an overambitious PM? (I've run into a couple of these, and they create headaches for the agency and translator alike).

There's a lot of risk on both sides of the equation. Agencies as well as translators need to exercise caution.

As Nicole indicated, the telephone is a very useful means of helping to verify the legitimacy of an offer. Even if it costs a couple of dollars/euros, etc. to have a long chat with the potential customer, it's cheaper than wasting a day or more on a fraudulent offer, or one that turned out to be something other than what was represented.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:55
Danish to English
+ ...
They trust you, be happy Sep 1, 2014

I am slightly puzzled as to why you worry so much, unless you have 'burnt your fingers' on similar new clients. You could choose to look at such contacts in a different and much more positive light and say to yourself: "Wow, my marketing strategy - the way I present myself in various places - is working! New clients look at my profile(s) and consider me a professional option, and they are willing to risk THEIR money by entrusting their work with me"...

After all, isn't that what we want as independent translation business people?

Give yourself a pat on the back instead.


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Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:55
Member (2013)
English to Italian
Previous experience Sep 1, 2014

Once a new client contacted me with a potential project - over 25,000 words at my usual rate. Everything seemed to be good, but I still couldn't find any payment feedback about them - not even a BB entry, as they were a relatively young translation agency.
Since the project was to be delivered in two batches, of 5,000 and 20,000 words respectively, I asked them a 33% downpayment once the first batch had been delivered, and they immediately agreed.

All of this to say, outsourcers are probably better than we imagine sometimes. In these situation, for project where more than 20,000 words are included I would try to arrange some sort of downpayment - if this is only 7,000 words, than it can be a great opportunity to try a new client without taking too much time out of your regulars.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Exactly Sep 1, 2014

Kevin Fulton wrote:
Even if everything looks legit, you have to wonder why an agency would want to take a risk with a new translator offering a job of that size?

Exactly my thoughts. 7000 words is not that big a job really. Agencies usually already have their trusted translators with whom they work regularly and who, in normal circumstances, can find a way to do a job of this size on top of other work. On the other hand, normally an agency would try your services with smaller jobs at first, instead of risking it with a larger job.

In this situation I would definitely try to talk to them over the phone to get to know more about the situation and their motives behind looking for a new translator.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Does the company exist? Sep 1, 2014

Is there a companies register in the US? In most countries there's an official register that's normally online so you can check the company really exists. Then, if you want more information, you normally have to pay.

Have you checked the Wiki articles on Risk Management here on ProZ.com? You should also check out the Scam Centre, which links to those Wikis: http://www.proz.com/about/translator-scam-alerts/

After I've done as many checks as seem necessary, I just decide to go for it, or I reject it. Frankly, if you can't accept a certain amount of risk then you shouldn't be a freelancer. I sometimes worry a bit, but so far either my nose has sniffed out the bad 'uns or my research has dug up something, or it all goes fine. The only money I've lost in 15 years has been through bankruptcies of previously good clients. I think that if you can avoid outright scams, and tune into the alarm bells in your head, you'll find most potential clients just want you to do some work for them, and they'll happily pay if they're happy with what you do. I don't reject work with clients (agencies or direct clients) just because they're new and untested. In fact, getting in with a new agency can be a great opportunity because you become very important to them as they grow.


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