etiquette for listing previous clients on website
Thread poster: Emma Page

Emma Page
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:22
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
Jul 19

Thus far the vast majority of my professional translation work has been through agencies. I am in the process of setting up a website, as I look towards establishing myself over the long term and building up a base of direct clients. My question is regarding the etiquette/legality of listing my previous clients...

I want to know if folks think it is acceptable to list the end clients for whom I have worked. I am aware that my non-competes prohibit me from "soliciting" end-clients, but that isn't what I'm planning to do. Rather, I would just like to list in a general way on my website that my past clients have included "X, Y, Z" large businesses/cultural organisations.

Is this kind of thing likely to get me in trouble with my good (agency) clients? Considered bad practice? Or fair, given that I have in fact translated large volumes for "X" business and have no intention of going around the agency or soliciting them for direct work in any way shape or form?

All input and advice appreciated!


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:22
Member
English to Italian
Ask them Jul 19

You'll have probably signed NDAs with those agencies. Often the definition of "Confidential Information" in those agreements also includes their clients (or better, the fact YOU translated stuff for those clients), although those agencies may list those very same clients on their websites for all to see...

So ask them whether it's OK to say you worked on content for those clients, or just say you worked for agencies X, Y and Z, who in their turn work for "major companies" in this and that field, or for the specific clients mentioned on their own websites...

IMO this is pretty damn stupid (and unfair), but I know from experience some agencies don't want you to list the end-clients/projects you worked on, others don't even want to say you work for them, others still say it's OK to list that on your resume (as opposed to publicly on the Web), etc. As I said, pretty damn stupid.


Marissa Aguayo Gavilano
Morano El-Kholy
Angus Stewart
Nataliia Gorina
José Henrique Lamensdorf
 

Marissa Aguayo Gavilano  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2016)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Like Mirko says Jul 19

Check the documents you have signed with those agencies. I often see clauses that state that I can't say that I have translated documents for the end clients, not even mentioning that I did it through the agency.

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
My thoughts Jul 19

On the one hand, I wouldn't list the customers of agencies you still work for, NDA or not. That's asking for trouble.

On the other, they have better things to do than check out your website. Like long lazy lunches.

On my third hand (bit like my third eye), would the CIA really be impressed by you having worked for the KGB?


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 07:22
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
?!? Jul 19

Chris S wrote:

(...) would the CIA really be impressed by you having worked for the KGB?



You kidding? An ex-KGB would be a dream hire for the CIA.


Emma Page
Chris S
Morano El-Kholy
Vanda Nissen
Kevin Clayton, PhD
Slobodan Kozarčić
Kay Denney
 

Katrin Braams
Germany
Local time: 07:22
English to German
+ ...
Might get you into trouble Jul 19

It is not only the agencies you should worry about, but the end clients. You are not allowed to use the name of a company and put it on your website. Company names such as Siemens, BMW etc. are proprietary and you would have to ask their permission before you may use them for your advertising purposes.

Often, when a company A concludes a contract with a company B they expressly determine to what extend each others name may be used and referenced. Since you don't have any type of agreement with the end client, you are not allowed to use their names on your website.


Morano El-Kholy
Kevin Fulton
Kay Denney
Rachel Waddington
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:22
German to English
End clients of agencies are not your clients Jul 20

Strictly speaking, listing agency customers as your clients might in some circles be considered a deceptive practice. Further, as someone has pointed out, it might be actionable on the part of the named party.

Even naming a direct client requires that client's permission.

There are reputation management companies working for major corporations that scan the web on an ongoing basis to check for misuse of trademarks, logos and company names. You really don't want to deal with lawyers, do you?

Prestige isn't transferable. Potential clients are more interested in your skill set, not the companies for which you have translated documents. If you've translated documents pertaining to, e.g. Siemens mammography equipment, your subject matter knowledge is more important than the manufacturer of the product.


Thomas Pfann
mughwI
Vera Schoen
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
Rachel Waddington
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Hold your horses Jul 20

GermanLaw1 wrote:
It is not only the agencies you should worry about, but the end clients. You are not allowed to use the name of a company and put it on your website. Company names such as Siemens, BMW etc. are proprietary and you would have to ask their permission before you may use them for your advertising purposes.

Often, when a company A concludes a contract with a company B they expressly determine to what extend each others name may be used and referenced. Since you don't have any type of agreement with the end client, you are not allowed to use their names on your website.


Kevin Fulton wrote:
Even naming a direct client requires that client's permission.

There are reputation management companies working for major corporations that scan the web on an ongoing basis to check for misuse of trademarks, logos and company names. You really don't want to deal with lawyers, do you?


Really?

How can they possibly have a right to gag you unless you've specifically agreed not to name them?

If you worked for them, you worked for them.

This is like telling ex-employees that they aren't allowed to name former employers in their CV.

Or telling shopkeepers they can't bang on for ever more about the day they sold Brad Pitt an apple.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 14:22
Chinese to English
Not OK at all Jul 20

I don't think it's ever OK to list "end clients". Here are a couple of reasons:

1) You don't know they're end clients. You may have translated a Samsung document, but that doesn't mean that Samsung was the end client.

2) You got the information from the content you were translating, and now you're using it for commercial (advertising purposes). That's precisely what your NDAs say you can't do.

3) You are using your own customer's confidential business information (client lists) for your own commercial purposes. That is rude at the very least.

For these reasons - primarily (2) - I don't think you should ever reveal a client's name. Standard practice is to give general descriptions of what kind of company they are (multinational automobile manufacturer; popular local restaurant) and the type of work you did. And get some credited, published translations like academic papers or short stories, so that you have some concrete names to put on your CV.

Of course, if you can get permission, then you're golden. Big agencies probably won't want the hassle, but if you've worked for a while on a single account for a smaller agency, it's fine to ask your PM if you can have permission to talk to the customer and ask to mention their name. I was asked to sign an NDA for a book project that said, "Never even breath the name of [client]." When I asked if it would be OK to write on my CV that I did this (credited) publication, they said, sure! We didn't mean to interfere with that at all... often clients will be open and friendly if you approach them and ask nicely.


mughwI
Michele Fauble
José Henrique Lamensdorf
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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:22
Member
English to Italian
Yes... but no, not really... Jul 20

Phil Hand wrote:

I don't think it's ever OK to list "end clients". Here are a couple of reasons:

1) You don't know they're end clients. You may have translated a Samsung document, but that doesn't mean that Samsung was the end client.


But that still means you translated content that will be used by company X. Even if you did it through 10 middlemen, that would not change that fact...


2) You got the information from the content you were translating, and now you're using it for commercial (advertising purposes). That's precisely what your NDAs say you can't do.


Do they now? I have probably read a couple hundred NDAs up to now, and if I recall correctly, none of them "said precisely" you can't do that. I see quite a big difference between disclosing trade secrets, price lists, client lists, product specs, "inventions", or whatever abstruse and unrealistic stuff a client's legal dept. dreams up, and simply stating you translated something for company X.


3) You are using your own customer's confidential business information (client lists) for your own commercial purposes. That is rude at the very least.


See above. Plus, you would not be saying you translated something for company X through agency Y, so you wouldn't actually be disclosing anything about Y (or its relationship with anything else)...


That said, I too adopt your very same approach and keep everything under wraps unless I got an explicit permission from a client, but still, I do believe that's really stupid and unnecessarily punitive for us, who are often relegated to the role of "ghost translators" for no good reason. And then, on top of that, you get clients, often those very same agencies pushing for CIA-like secrecy, asking you to name brands or clients. Oh, the irony...

One more thing that goes to show how unidirectional power relations can be in this field.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:22
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You would do better to mention subject areas and industries IMHO Jul 21

I would never mention specific end clients. I do actually know who they are in many cases, because I sometimes get instructions or feedback through the agencies, or the agency tells me who the client is.

However, some of them have their own terminology and house style, which is distinctive.

The first compliant I ever had, when I was starting out, was after I had done my homework and made a real effort with a translation. The client called the agency, and then talked to me... The translation was fine, really, but it sounded a bit too much like the client's biggest competitor. We talked it through and made adjustments, and I learned a lot.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:22
French to English
Setting NDA and ethiics aside, is it really helpful anyway? Jul 21

You may be contractually bound in a number of ways with these agencies. The end-clients are not your clients and, as already pointed out, a translation appearing to be for company X, may in fact have been for company Y. There may also be statutory restrictions concerning confidentiality too. You no doubt already know that the very fact that an end-client company has even had a document on a particular subject translated at all, can be precious knowledge in the hands of a competitor. I think the only thing you can safely mention, with the agency's permission in writing, is the name of the agency and perhaps a link to the agency's website.

Now that the consensual blurb had been said, I think you might also like to consider the following. Is it really a good idea to name the clients you have worked for? If so, to what end? Have you considered possible disadvantages?

Disadvantages might include the fact that translations seldom bear the name of the translator; it's rare enough in literary fields, in the corporate world it's basically never.
1) There is nothing to prove that you have in fact translated for a particular company;
2) Imagine now that the company website has a poor quality translation on its website and that a potential client lands on that text and realizes that the work is substandard. Rightly or wrongly, the client might conclude that you do poor quality work, whether or not the piece in question is actually yours;
3) Putting big, bright and shiny names up there might make medium and small-sized companies shy away, thinking that you are out of reach in terms of pricing, quite a fallacy by the way, as small and medium companies are equally prepared to pay for quality work;
4) Large companies often have lengthy in-house payment procedures. Smaller companies generally have shorter chains of communication. You might find it more frustrating working with a big company than with a smaller company.

In conclusion, all the glitters is not gold. I've posted a couple of reasons that spring to mind as being possible negatives for the idea of displaying glitzy corporate labels with a view to impressing potential clients. There are no doubt other negative points too. In short, you may be shutting yourself off to obtaining those direct clients you are seeking to obtain. Large clients sometimes go to agencies for convenience as they need translations into several languages and the one-stop-shop aspect is practical for them. Further, agency clients trust that the agency will select competent translators and have in-house review procedures. They might simply not want to go through the hassle of selecting an appropriate translator for each language and each subject matter. There are various reasons that mean you might not be able to compete with agencies for clients.

I agree with those who say that your best selling point is your skill-set. Listing the type of documents you have translated within a specific field will give a client a better idea of why you might be a good service provider. After all, if you say you have worked for an IT company, that does not make you an IT specialist; you might have translated technical texts about the construction details of a new office block. If you have translated for a pharmaceutical company, that does not make you a chemist if you translated contracts for the supply of packaging. Do you see what I mean?

So bear in mind that not only does posting a corporate reference not necessarily say much about the type of work you do, there are inherent side-effects over which you have no control.

[Edited at 2018-07-21 09:08 GMT]


Kevin Fulton
Alistair Gainey
 


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