First meeting with an agency, as a freelancer
Thread poster: jenbikkal (X)

jenbikkal (X)

Local time: 05:37
French to English
+ ...
Apr 25, 2011

Hi all,

I got a couple of meetings with some local translation agencies and was wondering about a few things:

- what is the dress-code. I obviously plan on looking professional (maybe a pencil skirt and blouse), but not wearing a full-on business suit. Is that be acceptable?

-what should I bring; aside from my resume, a notebook and a few questions prepared in my mind?

-what are some good questions to ask?

-what should I look out for?

Thanks for your expertise and feedback, as always!

Jen


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:37
German to English
Meeting agencies Apr 26, 2011

Don't worry too much about how you dress. "Business casual" is OK. That is, dress simply, no jeans/T-shirts. The usual rules apply: be on time, ask intelligent questions. Don't be afraid to ask about their clientele. You may not get specific answers, but you'll get an impression of the range of clients the agency has. Ask about the CAT tools they expect their translators to use. Talk to them about project management/workflow, quality procedures, etc. Inquire about any training they might offer (yes, some agencies do provide informational meetings for their local suppliers).

Just relax and enjoy yourself!


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 17:37
Chinese to English
You can't be too formal Apr 26, 2011

Your smart dress should be fine, but look at it this way: no-one ever lost a job for turning up to interview overdressed. You're going for a job interview, why not go the whole hog and signal to the agency that you care by putting on your interview suit?

Ask the questions that matter to you. You're a student, right? So your time is going to be constrained. How will their work fit around your university work? What's the exact work flow? If you're in a lecture for two hours and they can't reach you for an urgent job, is that a problem?

I never quite know what you should look out for. In my experience, professionals are easy to spot; non-professionals equally easy. If the agency isn't professionally run, I think it will be obvious.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:37
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
"Just say hello" Apr 26, 2011

Agencies today hire people from all over the world, and a visit of an actual flesh-and-bone translator is rare in fact. So the main thing is to make the experience enjoyable for you and for them. Since all business matters can be (and usually are) discussed online, what I concentrate on is on the people and a positive, good-humoured conversation.

- Wear the way you normally would (although I also feel that jeans and t-shirt are probably not a good idea).
- Don't use more makeup than you normally would during your day (it is not a party dinner).
- Bring your resume (with a picture to help them remember you; without rates so that you can discuss them later) and, if possible, printed side-by-side samples of your translations on different topics, for them to have a quick look or examine in more detail later. Try to deliver it all in a colourful thin folder.

As to what to talk about, I would ask them about the industries they serve more frequently (you can then explain about your education/training/experience/personal interests in relation to those industries), what CAT tools they expect you do use (be frank about what tools you own and are able to use), and what is their usual workflow with jobs.

After industries, CAT, and workflow, I would dedicate all the rest to chat a bit about whatever comes to your mind. Rates and payment terms can always be discussed online, so if they don't ask I would not mention it either for now.

It is also important to say that you should not make the visit a very long one unless they insist and keep asking you things. Try to state it from the start: when you arrive, say that you don't want to take too much of their time. 30-45 minutes is more than enough a visit if you are not yet working for them.

If you already work for them, you might want to bring a little, unexpensive breakfast for the team with you (cookies some good bakery makes in your part of town or the like) for all to enjoy at the agency's. Nowadays I think it is best in our industry not to bring a personal present for the person you are meeting, but more something all people in the team can nibble.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:37
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
One more thing! Apr 26, 2011

If you have an idea of what agency could be potentially more important for you (not necessarily the bigger agency, but the agency that has more work in the topics you are more acquainted with), try to visit that agency last, so that you gain more experience about the interview itself in the other agencies. Each agency works differently, but by doing the less important interviews first you will feel more confident about how to deal with them.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I can't agree Apr 26, 2011

Phil Hand wrote:
You're going for a job interview


The OP clearly states in the thread title that this contact is as a freelancer. There is no job, there is no interview. This is a business meeting between prospective partners.

OK, it might look a bit like an interview, especially as one partner is young and inexperienced and the other is running a presumably successful company and knows exactly how things work. But the freelancer's attitude is paramount and going into this meeting thinking 'job application', 'employment', 'salary' and 'interview' really aren't going to help.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 17:37
Chinese to English
If not a job interview, then... Apr 26, 2011

Sheila, I appreciate your point, but I also think your definition is slightly incorrect. We are not *partners* with our agencies. We are *service providers* and they are *clients*.

Viewed this way (more correct, I grant you), Jen is going to the agencies to sell her services, and should arrive prepared to give a sales pitch, in whatever format seems appropriate.

But like you say, I think this misses the dynamics of the situation. Jen is not KPMG trying to win a consultancy contract. She's a relatively inexperienced individual talking to a company with a system designed to handle individuals like her. She's not going to go and say, "let's form an equal partnership"; she's likely to be saying, I'd like to work with you within the framework you already have set up (assuming the pay/conditions are right).

Jen - Sheila's right, of course. You're not going for a job, you're an independent contractor. You deserve respect and autonomy from an agency, and if they don't respect you, you should dump them. But I would still suggest going in with an attitude that shows you respect the agency. (Good) Agencies love good linguists, but more than anything they love reliable linguists, and you can only demonstrate reliability by working with them a few times. So at first, I don't see that it hurts to play a bit humble.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 11:37
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Definitely with Sheila Apr 26, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:

The OP clearly states in the thread title that this contact is as a freelancer. There is no job, there is no interview. This is a business meeting between prospective partners.

OK, it might look a bit like an interview, especially as one partner is young and inexperienced and the other is running a presumably successful company and knows exactly how things work. But the freelancer's attitude is paramount and going into this meeting thinking 'job application', 'employment', 'salary' and 'interview' really aren't going to help.


Wear something neat and comfortable and appropriate for the weather. You rarely actually see clients, so it is important to look professional, but the visual impression should not be critical. (The current quick poll on logos might be interesting, however!)
http://www.proz.com/forum/poll_discussion/197461-poll:_do_you_think_a_translators_profile_picture_can_influence_an_outsourcers_final_decision.html

The advice about the subject areas ('I know for reasons of confidentiality you can't tell me too much about individual clients...' ) is good - then you can say a bit about what you are interested in and what you are good at.

You are going into business as your own boss, and you want to sound as if you can handle it, so don't see it as a job interview with an employer. Best of luck!


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 17:37
Chinese to English
Blimey, how do job interviews work in your part of the world?! Apr 26, 2011

Christine said:
You are going into business as your own boss, and you want to sound as if you can handle it, so don't see it as a job interview with an employer.


What on earth do you do in job interviews?! Tell your prospective employer you can't "handle it"? Cast yourself on their mercy and ask them to organise your life?

Obviously this distinction between job/contract is important to some people, but I have to say it's a distinction that's lost on me. I'm a person who sells my translation services for money. I am competent and organised no matter what kind of contract I'm working with. I'm not sure why any of these principles would change depending on whether it's a job interview or a meeting with a prospective client.


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
A couple of points Apr 26, 2011

Despite globalisation and the internet most people still like to do business with local people.

Two points: firstly, when you begin the interview try and find some common interests or activities (same sports teams, same neighbourhood, same university, etc.). People often leave clues about their past and current interests on and around the office furniture. Secondly, don't appear to be needy. Explain that you already have some clients and that your work volume is growing. Some people might say that you shouldn't lie - but I will say that you should definitely exaggerate (if necessary).

PS. Somebody once gave me some wonderful advice when I was younger and more easily intimidated by important interviews - simply visualise the person you are talking to absolutely naked. Almost inevitably, this will bring a smile to your lips and at the same time make you feel very equal.

icon_smile.gif


 

jenbikkal (X)

Local time: 05:37
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Apr 26, 2011

Thank you all so much for your feedback and advice! I will keep these tips in mind and make sure that I take my confidence with me too! Over the past ten years I have worked for companies, in marketing, and had gotten used to going to job interviews; I'd agree though that here, this is more of a sales pitch.

[Edited at 2011-04-26 12:46 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 11:37
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I'm no expert, but... Apr 26, 2011

Phil Hand wrote:

Christine said:
You are going into business as your own boss, and you want to sound as if you can handle it, so don't see it as a job interview with an employer.


What on earth do you do in job interviews?! Tell your prospective employer you can't "handle it"? Cast yourself on their mercy and ask them to organise your life?



There is definitely a difference. OK, when I was going for job interviews, it was an employer's market. My qualifications (as a technical librarian) were not directly suited to most of the jobs available, and unemployment was high.

So I was much more willing to jump through hoops, and as an employee you have to fit in with the employer's rules, working hours, corporate culture and all the rest.

While you should make the most of your positive abilities and qualifications, it is definitely not a good idea to bluff if you really can't handle certain sides of the job. Either the employer will see through you, or there will be trouble later. One time when I was diffident, it actually got me the job, because I could see the problem and was willing to tackle it.

As a freelancer, a lot of this is irrelevant. Your working hours are none of their business, as long as you can be contacted at reasonable times and deliver on time. And so on.

You are a prospective business partner offering your expertise. You negotiate, but you should not jump through a lot of hoops. You and the agency are both interested in providing what the end client needs.

So you talk about CATs, DTP services, areas of expertise or whatever is relevant like that.

As jenbikkal says, it is a sales pitch, not an employment interview.


 


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