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References for agency when you have no direct clients
Thread poster: Martin Harvey

Martin Harvey
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:12
Member (2016)
German to English
+ ...
Oct 27, 2015

Hello

I'm just getting started in the industry (been translating professionally for about 7 months), and have just been approached by an agency wanting to add me to their register, but they're asking for references. This would be fine, but the only possible source for references for me would be...another agency. (Which I suspect will not be acceptable)

I'm guessing that others have been in this position before me. What did you do?

Martin


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:12
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It's never fine, IMHO Oct 27, 2015

It isn't something many of us provide, Martin, apart from in the form of WWA here, recommendations and testimonials on LinkedIn etc.

Why should we? Our clients are confidential - even if our relationship with them isn't covered by a specific NDA, we should still be keeping those particular cards close to our chest. If they themselves would like to sing our praises then we can suggest they leave feedback as above, but it isn't for us to give their contact details to agencies. After all, agencies are to a very great extent our competitors as well as our clients!

References are something for job-seekers. They only look for a new job every few years on average, so a referee will be called upon very infrequently. We apply for contracts, assignments, jobs, whatever you want to call them, every day. Do you want your clients - agencies or direct clients - bothered every day?

We ARE NOT employees, we ARE NOT job-seekers, we DO NOT HAVE references, whatever agencies would like to have you believe.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:12
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Politely refuse to give it, and why Oct 27, 2015

I have been in your situation very many times in the past, and my approach was always the same: I politely report that I am not in a position to offer such information because all my other agency or direct customers expect full confidentiality of my work for them.

The prospect usually understands and values the fact that you will protect their privacy with the same firmness as you protect your other customer's privacy. After all, confidentiality is a key component of our work as translators, and it is good that you show that you care about it.

If the prospect is not that sensible and they report that they cannot give you any work without the references, then your best bet -- in my humble opinion -- is to politely refuse to work for them, thank them for their interest, and wish them all future success, without starting a discussion on the matter.

Good luck!


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:12
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree Oct 27, 2015

I don't provide references either. I don't want to bother my agency customers every time I have a potential new customer (and I know that at least some of them have a policy of not providing references for freelance translators in any case) and I am certainly not going to give an agencies contact details for direct clients. As Sheila says, agencies are our rivals as well as our clients.

You could offer them an alternative, such as a translation sample or test (not all translators like that idea either, but it's an option).


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No references Oct 27, 2015

This approach is faulty from the very start. It really makes no sense for an agency to get information on a prospective service provider from a competitor. It’s like asking a girl’s boyfriend if he thinks she is good enough (don’t try it at home).

I know it’s not easy, but perhaps the best way is to move on the next prospective customer who will be fine with your qualifications, ProZ profile, translation test results, etc.


 

Álvaro Espantaleón Moreno  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:12
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
Where's the problem? Oct 27, 2015

Just ask the first agency if they'd be ok with that and provide their reference then.

 

Martin Harvey
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:12
Member (2016)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, everyone, for your answers so far. Oct 27, 2015

I'll contact the agency I have done work for first, although I don't think they'll be very keen to give a reference to another agency. If they don't, I'll just explain to this new agency that I feel strongly about customer confidentiality.

If they don't like that, well, I won't be working for them, I guess.


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:12
Member
English to French
Three pages in a poll Oct 27, 2015

Just in case:
http://www.proz.com/forum/poll_discussion/226738-poll_are_you_comfortable_with_bidding_on_jobs_that_require_three_or_more_references.html

Philippe


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:12
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Tread carefully Oct 27, 2015

LavengroUK wrote:
I'll contact the agency I have done work for first, although I don't think they'll be very keen to give a reference to another agency.

And what if the first agency doesn't think it's appropriate that you should even be asking them?

I certainly wouldn't appreciate a request for a reference from a contractor I hardly knew. If it was somebody I knew well over a long period it would be different, but otherwise I would be unimpressed.

Like most of the other respondees to this thread, I don't provide references.

Regards
Dan


 

Álvaro Espantaleón Moreno  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:12
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
Asking for references Oct 27, 2015

and providing them is perfectly normal.

What people with 15+ years of translation experience does regarding this issue at present (back then was a different matter, wasn't it?) should be quite irrelevant to the OP who only has 7 months of experience.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:12
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
No references from me either Oct 27, 2015

I send scans of exam certificates and do short samples (200, max 300 words). I once lost a good client by asking for a reference!

If you can join the ITI or CIoL, that is a reference in itself, but you will probably need more experience than 7 months. Time passes, though, so keep it in mind.

Best of luck!


 

Danylo Kravchuk  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 11:12
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
ask for permission Oct 27, 2015

I provide references after receiving a permission from the translation agency I've worked with. And from my own experience, many translation agencies don't mind giving some information about my work. After all, usually companies ask only for the name of the translation agency you have worked with and an e-mail of your Project Manager (not phone numbers, addresses, etc.).

 

Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:12
Chinese to English
Limits Oct 28, 2015

I would limit references (whether agency or direct client) to firms/persons you have a good relationship with, and ensure that no single person is receiving more than one request to give a reference for you every six months. For this reason, it's probably worth taking a 'one bullet left in the chamber' approach and asking yourself if this potential client is really worth expending that valuable reference on.

It's also worth noting that while I've kept no firm data on this, as I remember things the majority of my good clients have not asked for references, so there may be good reason to be skeptical of potential clients that ask for references. Some of these may be simply building up their translator databases, or worse their agency databases. The best potential clients are generally those with a project to be translated immediately, and I've never had one of these ask for references.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:12
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
... Oct 28, 2015

Preston Decker wrote:
It's also worth noting that while I've kept no firm data on this, as I remember things the majority of my good clients have not asked for references

This echoes my experience.

Dan


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:12
Member (2014)
English to German
No, I don't Oct 28, 2015

First, my clients are confidential information which I don't share out freely.
Second, even if I asked one or two clients whether they would mind me using them as reference, I am sure they would not be happy to be contacted repeatedly by agencies with whom I might register.
Third, they might as well approach these contacts themselves?

However, I have come across several agencies that seemed to be of the better sort (they appeared to value experience and qualifications before price) who asked for references, many agencies look at translators very much like employees though.

I always offered samples and links to my work, I refer to WWA and can offer other comments from clients, but if it is their policy to collect references they will discard my application anyway?

[Edited at 2015-10-28 10:54 GMT]


 
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