Using other agencies as references when applying for another?
Thread poster: Emily Scott

Emily Scott  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:43
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
Oct 29, 2018

Hi everyone,

I'm just getting established as a freelancer and had a question that I needed some help with. I'm currently getting translation work off just one agency among many that I've applied for. When I am applying for other agencies, I'm unsure if I can now use this agency as a reference. Would an agency be willing to provide a reference for me to potentially get more work from another agency and subsequently have less time to translate for them? My instinct tells me to just as
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Hi everyone,

I'm just getting established as a freelancer and had a question that I needed some help with. I'm currently getting translation work off just one agency among many that I've applied for. When I am applying for other agencies, I'm unsure if I can now use this agency as a reference. Would an agency be willing to provide a reference for me to potentially get more work from another agency and subsequently have less time to translate for them? My instinct tells me to just ask the agency if they would be happy to provide a reference but I wanted to check with you guys first in case there is a rule for this sort of thing
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
References are for/from employers, not clients Oct 29, 2018

I know many agencies ask for references, but that's because they like to treat us like employees, while giving us none of the benefits of an employment contract. Some freelancers go along with the practice; many of us don't.

What you can do is ask clients for testimonials, feedback - whatever you call it. There's a place on ProZ.com for it, called WWA, Willingness to Work Again. Then point any potential clients to your WWA record.


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JPAlex
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Eva Stoppa  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:43
Member
English to German
+ ...
Good point Oct 29, 2018

[quote]Sheila Wilson wrote:

I know many agencies ask for references, but that's because they like to treat us like employees, while giving us none of the benefits of an employment contract. Some freelancers go along with the practice; many of us don't.


But how can one politely tell an agency who is asking for references that you are not willing to give your clients' names to a translation agency? I often say/write that my clients are very busy and they don't like to get disturbed by phone calls and/or emails asking them about their opinion about Translator suchandsuch.


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 19:43
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
No Oct 29, 2018

The answer is always no, no buts, ifs or maybes.

There may come a day when I will ask a few of my clients to write me reference letters, but no agency is worth such an effort.


Dan Lucas
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
competitors endorse their own services, not providers or clients Oct 29, 2018

While it's ok when customers share their exp with goods/services or sellers, yet have you ever heard about a baker asking clients where they buy buns and rolls or a butcher asking buyers where they get their meat products, no?

I really doubt a sensible competitors would like to act as Guarantee for translators, vexing and provoking their rivals: that freelancer worked for XXX, YYY, and even ZZZ--but still he's looking for something better! Then come almost innocent questions, which
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While it's ok when customers share their exp with goods/services or sellers, yet have you ever heard about a baker asking clients where they buy buns and rolls or a butcher asking buyers where they get their meat products, no?

I really doubt a sensible competitors would like to act as Guarantee for translators, vexing and provoking their rivals: that freelancer worked for XXX, YYY, and even ZZZ--but still he's looking for something better! Then come almost innocent questions, which can be easily abused...
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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:43
Member
Italian to English
I always refuse Oct 29, 2018

It's really none of an agency's business what other agencies I work with, and as Eva points out, an agency doesn't want to be bothered with phone calls of that sort. I simply tell them that I'm not in the habit of providing agency references for confidentiality reasons, and offer to do a test translation instead, or point them to the testimonials on my Proz profile. After all, I doubt they themselves would appreciate giving references...

Nikki Scott-Despaigne
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Joe France
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Andreas Protar
Kuochoe Nikoi
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:43
French to English
Agencies are clients Oct 29, 2018

Sheila Wilson wrote:

What you can do is ask clients for testimonials, feedback - whatever you call it. There's a place on ProZ.com for it, called WWA, Willingness to Work Again. Then point any potential clients to your WWA record.


As the agency is Emily's client, then she would need the client's consent to contact the client directly and then to obtain their consent. Most agencies would not allow this.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:43
French to English
References Oct 29, 2018

It is so tough to get started sometimes and we all need a lucky break now and again. Yes, it's nice when an agency gives you a regular flow of work. However, as so rightly pointed out by Sheila, this can create a sort of dependency which is in fact lopsided. The agency can drop you from one day to the next without so much as a by-your-leave. An agency can come to expect almost employee-like loyalty yet they hold all the cards. It is a vulnerable position to be in, whoever the client.

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It is so tough to get started sometimes and we all need a lucky break now and again. Yes, it's nice when an agency gives you a regular flow of work. However, as so rightly pointed out by Sheila, this can create a sort of dependency which is in fact lopsided. The agency can drop you from one day to the next without so much as a by-your-leave. An agency can come to expect almost employee-like loyalty yet they hold all the cards. It is a vulnerable position to be in, whoever the client.

Emily, you are making an intelligent move to broaden your client-base. I understand you want to do that without jeopardizing your main client. However, it may mean continuing to seek work from agencies without being able to obtain any support from your current agency-client. You might consider contacting companies who may have translation requirements in your specialist areas.



[Edited at 2018-10-29 18:49 GMT]
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Rita Pang  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:43
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
see below Oct 29, 2018

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

Emily, you are making an intelligent move to broaden your client-base. I understand you want to do that without jeopardizing your main client. However, it may mean continuing to seek work from agencies without being able to obtain any support from your current agency-client. You might consider contacting companies who may have translation requirements in your specialist areas.

It took me a couple of years to get up and running, which is not at all uncommon. It can be hard to keep going during that period. So try and diversify your clietele and stick at it!


Agencies sometimes ask for direct client references as a way to "fish" for your contact. I have always only provided references for actual jobs (e.g. working as an in-house translator on a full-time basis, on an employment contract with benefits etc), but never on a freelancing basis. Asking for a WWA on Proz has mostly worked for me. In the event that a new agency wants to know who I have worked for, I usually refer them to my Proz profile page.

Getting started is always tough as you'd likely be spending a lot more time getting recommendations (such as WWA), building your profile, sending multiple emails with no response, etc. What Nikki said here is exactly what I did. When a new agency asked for a bit too much paperwork, I usually just focus on either contacting new ones, or the ones who I am already working with. This initial period takes time and while I was lucky enough to be making a decent amount in my second year, my first year was really, really hard. Stay focused and you'll get there (someday).

[Edited at 2018-10-29 18:54 GMT]


Valérie Ourset
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:43
French to English
@Rita Oct 30, 2018

You were quick off the mark! I edited my last couple of lines out when I realized that Emily has been working freelance for 4 years, but it may still be relevant.

 

Emily Scott  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:43
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Oct 30, 2018

Many thanks everyone for your valuable feedback! Luckily, I've been working for some charities for the past four years to build my experience and they kindly accepted to provide me with references, therefore, I always put them as my references on applications - I just thought I'd ask about agencies I'm working for now so that I can relieve the burden from the charities in case they are receiving dozens of enquires about my applications!

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

Sheila Wilson wrote:

What you can do is ask clients for testimonials, feedback - whatever you call it. There's a place on ProZ.com for it, called WWA, Willingness to Work Again. Then point any potential clients to your WWA record.


As the agency is Emily's client, then she would need the client's consent to contact the client directly and then to obtain their consent. Most agencies would not allow this.


Yes Nikki, I did just that and I'm glad I did because they responded how you said they would. It seems I have to work for them for a bit longer before they will provide me with a WWA, as you say, they hold all the cards so all I can do is accept and cast my net wider. It's hard, but being a translator has been my dream for a long time and I wouldn't trade it for any job, I'm finally doing what makes me happy


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:43
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Credentials Oct 30, 2018

I never give references from clients to other potential clients. I lost at least one good client that way, and you never know how long the potential new one will last. Some just add you to their database, and you may hear very little from them after that.

If you can , consider joining the ITI or CIoL. I needed references to become a full member of the CIoL, and I needed references again to be Chartered. (The membership requirements have been reviewed recently.) You are then quite ad
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I never give references from clients to other potential clients. I lost at least one good client that way, and you never know how long the potential new one will last. Some just add you to their database, and you may hear very little from them after that.

If you can , consider joining the ITI or CIoL. I needed references to become a full member of the CIoL, and I needed references again to be Chartered. (The membership requirements have been reviewed recently.) You are then quite adequately 'vouched for' professionally.

Clients are much more willing to give you references for a professional association than to a potential competitor on the market.

Encourage clients to give you WWAs on your profile.

During your freelance career you will work for dozens of clients, and they really don't have time to keep sending references to each other. Either the references will be totally off the shelf and meaningless, or they will cost time and consideration, again and again, so it is not reasonable to ask for them very often.

And best of luck!

[Edited at 2018-10-30 10:00 GMT]
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