Clients accept me, then cease all contact
Thread poster: Marjolein Tamis

Marjolein Tamis  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:03
Member (2013)
English to Dutch
Feb 20, 2015

I have a rather specific issue that I can't seem to get an answer to, perhaps you guys could help me out.

There's a pattern that occurs when I try to find new clients. I find one, they ask me to do a test translation, I do that, they like my test translation, we discuss rates and I sign a contract, they give me a promise of a specific job (last one was post-editing work, for instance) and after I accept the specific job, I hear nothing anymore. At all. Radio silence.

This is so incredibly weird to me, that I've honestly started worrying sick about why that might happen. I mean, we've all heard of the companies who try to get real translations done by posing them as test translations to new translators. But this is different: I get accepted, I get the promise of a specific job and then, suddenly, all contact is over. This has happened to me with 4 clients in the past 6 months at least. One client took 4(!) months to even get to that point, because the amount of reading and trainings for their systems I had to do was ridiculous, plus they took long to reply anyway.

Emailing and calling yields different results. One client said they were still creating the correct login info, then silence. One client just simply didn't reply. Another client announced the work had suddenly decreased in volume, but that they would certainly contact me should the need arise again. I'm having trouble believing that somehow.

What could it be? It's not like I was nagging them, I can't imagine anything about my qualifications being wrong after they hired me (you'd assume the client checks that before giving me the ok), I simply don't know. Have you guys experienced anything like it, and do you think it's a series of coincidences or might there be something structurally wrong?

Thanks in advance!

[Edited at 2015-02-20 12:49 GMT]


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:03
Member (2004)
English to Italian
They found someone cheaper... Feb 20, 2015

or the job just didn't materialise from their end-customer... happens all the time... icon_smile.gif

 

Roman Karabaev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 17:03
Member (2010)
English to Russian
+ ...
Don't worry Feb 20, 2015

Most probably it has nothing to do with your qualifications.

Probable scenarios:
1. They never had a real job. They didn't tell you that the job was potential because many people choose not to waste their time on such proposals. Or they were middlemen and had no direct contact with the client. Or they were just expanding the database.
2. They used you to win a tender (used your test translation, to be specific) and now employed someone cheaper.
3. You quoted your full translation rate for post-editing (didn't you?), and again they found someone cheaper. They are bottom-feeders, and they never agree to regular translation rates.
4. The end client cancelled the job or found someone cheaper. Many people just lose all the enthusiasm when it's time to pay money.


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:03
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Why it happens and what to do about it Feb 20, 2015

What you describe has happened to me on a number of occasions over the years. And it is so very irritating.

My guess as to why this happens is that the "job" that has been promised is in fact nothing more than a potential job that never actually comes through. Another possibility is that, having secured a commitment to meet a particular end client's need, agencies proceed to find other translators willing to do the job in question for less money. I strongly suspect that I have been victimized by this latter gambit a lot over the course of my freelance career, even with companies that I have actually done paid work for....

So what can we do?

Here is what I usually do.

I refuse to take test translations and offer instead to do a short paid project.

I also refuse to complete and fax paperwork, fill out long forms, etc. until a job is actually offered me, and I have accepted it (this means the agency is ready to send you the PO).

When an agency "offers" me future work, and agrees to a specific rate, I tell them that, while I am disposed to do the work in question, nothing is final until I receive a PO. If they want me to commit to do future work in advance, they can send me a PO in advance (including provision of a "kill fee" if the project is cancelled).

In general, I would recommend proceeding with caution with any agency until it has established a pattern of being honest with you.

[Edited at 2015-02-20 13:28 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:03
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It happens regularly, join the club! Feb 20, 2015

I don't usually get as far as being promised a specific job, but over the years I have had a surprising number of approaches like that.

Agencies who send a mail with an enquiry, then send the files and agree on the rate and a deadline without all that fuss are generally much more reliable! The specific job has no time to slip away while they are negotiating...

I hope you find plenty of those.


 

Rosa Grau (X)
Spain
Local time: 15:03
English to Catalan
+ ...
Me too Feb 20, 2015

It has happened to me many times during the last, let's say, 5 years. Tests done and accepted, rates agreed, papers signed, and finally none of these jobs has materialized. Does anybody still get any jobs in this industry? I don't.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
The answer is here, IMHO: Feb 20, 2015

Marjolein Tamis wrote:
the amount of reading and trainings for their systems I had to do was ridiculous

There shouldn't be any of that, at least no more than you yourself feel is fully justified. I mean, if they have some sort of QA procedure that's formalised then you might need to read that; if they are wanting you to work on particular projects for particular clients then there will likely be style guides to become familiar with, etc. But you shouldn't have to train to use their systems at your own expense, and certainly not before you've seen the colour of their moneyicon_eek.gif.

You say that in each case they had a specific job but it didn't materialise - I imagine you're taking their word for that. I suspect they were just stringing you along to see how compliant you were. I suspect they didn't give you the work because your rates aren't the lowest of the low. However, they'll be happy to have you on their books because if they're really short of a translator one day they can jerk your string and you'll spring into life and translate 1,000 words on a subject that you don't normally handle, for two-thirds your normal rate, to be delivered within three hours of their phone call, received while you were preparing the dinner.

Maybe I'm just getting cynical in my old age, but I'd advise you to set a limit on how much a POTENTIAL client is worth in terms of time (which, let's face it, equals money). There are many agencies out there who streamline the admin side of things and who simply want you to translate a text and then present your invoice. They're mainly smaller agencies and they mainly specialise (although some small, specialist agencies seem to be copying their "big brothers" nowadaysicon_frown.gif).


 

Marjolein Tamis  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:03
Member (2013)
English to Dutch
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Feb 20, 2015

Thank you all so much for your replies so far! I'm happy (and yet sad) to know that I'm not the only one to go through this, and that it's not my qualifications, but rather my gullible nature that seems to be the issue.

Robert Farstag, I like your tips on how to handle things. I should indeed expect more from the company before I get all busy doing everything for them. Insisting on a PO is a good way to start, that way I can at least tell if they're serious.

Sheila Wilson, it is indeed true that I took their word for it. They even named clients, volumes, types of jobs, so that made me think it really was true. Perhaps it is indeed, but they decided at the last minute to send it to a cheaper translator.

I'll keep looking and I'll be more vigilant from now onicon_smile.gif


 

Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:03
Spanish to English
yes, this happens Feb 20, 2015

I have had this happen quite a bit. I suspect it is this:

They see their list of potential collaborators has weakened, with many translators being too frequently unavailable, or perhaps some have gotten lousy feedback, so they initiate a search for new collaborators. They get an overwhelming number of candidates, and narrow down the list with test translations and then add several new translators to their database. The thing is, they don't really need these people yet, they are just there to keep them safe "just in case". Low and behold, three months, six months, nine months pass, and you get an email for the job none of their regulars can take. It usually consists of a highly technical monstrosity with a ridiculous turnaround time or requires night/weekend work. You take it, you prove yourself, and they say, OK we'll mark this translator as a good one. From there work may slowly trickle in. Over time, you have inched your way up to the top of the list and are now getting more regular offers for work.

Here is a better scenario:

The company really does need collaborators because they clearly cannot cover their demand with the collaborators they have. So they initiate a search. They get many applicants and weed down the list through testing and so forth. Now they have several new collaborators they add to their list and these collaborators actually get real work coming in right away.

I have experienced both scenarios. The latter is better of course, but both can lead to regular steady work over time.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Spot on! Feb 20, 2015

Roman Karabaev wrote:
Probable scenarios:
1. They never had a real job. They didn't tell you that the job was potential because many people choose not to waste their time on such proposals. Or they were middlemen and had no direct contact with the client. Or they were just expanding the database.
2. They used you to win a tender (used your test translation, to be specific) and now employed someone cheaper.
3. You quoted your full translation rate for post-editing (didn't you?), and again they found someone cheaper. They are bottom-feeders, and they never agree to regular translation rates.
4. The end client cancelled the job or found someone cheaper. Many people just lose all the enthusiasm when it's time to pay money.

My thoughts exactly. This was absolutely spot on!


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 14:03
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, it happens! Feb 21, 2015

Over the years I have collected a folder full of signed contracts for future business that never materialized…

 

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:03
English
+ ...
Simple. Don't work for agencies. Feb 23, 2015

I find it more efficient and useful to put my efforts into acquiring end clients.

In my experience, it is generally not worth all the time and effort, as you have illustrated, to jump through agency hoops.

And I am not a performing circus dog.


 


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