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Not being able to give references due to Confidentiality Agreements
Thread poster: Christian Esquivel
Christian Esquivel
Colombia
Local time: 03:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mar 18, 2014

Hello everybody,

Recently I have been actively marketing my services as a translator but due to my fields of expertise I have run quite a few times into this issue:

A prospect client seems interested in hiring my services after I send a short but effective brochure with information about the number of years of experience, relevant education, fields of expertise, types of documents I have translated, CAT tools, being well-informed of the business of my prospect client, fees, deadlines, quality assurance, etc.

After a while of emailing, meeting or else, I get asked about references of my work including the name of the company for which I have delivered similar translation services, name of the medication in case of medical/pharmaceutical work, type of legal proceeding if a legal document is the source document, and even a few samples of previous work.

As a translator I get asked pretty much a 100% of the time not to disclose any kind of information about my clients, and many of my clients ask me to sign confidentiality agreements, which include not providing the above mentioned information (sometimes not even the name of the company).

The only thing I can tell my clients is that I can't provide this information as I am bound by confidentiality agreements, but then these prospect clients reply that they can't hire my services without verifiable references.

Even after I offer completing a free of charge test, many companies (especially large corporations) argue that they can only provide said test after I have met the first set of requirements which includes those references I can't provide.

What to do here, then? Any ideas?

Thanks.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Mar 18, 2014

I always say very politely that I don't feel it's appropriate to provide details of my other clients, and they usually accept this. A sample translation should be all they need - this is particularly important if you're offering translations into English, where you need to prove that you can produce the same standard of work as a native speaker.

[Edited at 2014-03-18 18:22 GMT]


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Christian Esquivel
Colombia
Local time: 03:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Already tried that Mar 18, 2014

philgoddard wrote:

I always say very politely that I don't feel it's appropriate to provide details of my other clients, and they usually accept this. A sample translation should be all they need.


You're right, but prospect clients sometimes don't get this. Then you are forced to walk away losing long-term collaboration deals and it's just a pity.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:20
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Try asking your existing clients ... Mar 18, 2014

I sympathise with your problem, Christian.
You could try asking one or two of your trusted existing clients if you might just quote their names as a references because a potential new client requires references. You could assure your existing clients that you would not be disclosing any details of the end client, product or work concerned. One or two of them would probably agree to let you mention their name once you had politely requested and received their permission.
Best of luck,
Jenny


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:20
French to English
+ ...
Don't give out confidential information; the job may not exist anyway... Mar 18, 2014

As Phil has said, clients really have no right to confidential information about your other clients, even in the guise of "references".

If there is a genuine job available, then it should be enough for the client to know very general information about the project: how many words, what are of speciality and a *general*, non-identifiable description of the client (e.g. "a major German cable TV operator", "a French financial consultant", etc.).

If the client is being very insistent on the kind of details you mention, then bear in mind that the job may not actually exist: the client may be trying to garner information from potential translators in order to themselves win a tender that they haven't yet won. So personally, I would concentrate on other clients that don't demand confidential information to which they're not entitled, and let this one come back to you when they actually have a concrete job for you that they are willing to assign on sensible commercial terms.


[Edited at 2014-03-18 19:40 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:20
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I think you're seeing it wrongly Mar 18, 2014

After this:
Christian Esquivel wrote:
I send a short but effective brochure with information about the number of years of experience, relevant education, fields of expertise, types of documents I have translated, CAT tools, being well-informed of the business of my prospect client, fees, deadlines, quality assurance, etc.

and this:
I offer completing a free of charge test

they still say this:
they can only provide said test after I have met the first set of requirements which includes those references I can't provide.

You aren't being forced to walk away from something lucrative; you've escaped what would always be a lop-sided partnership with them always wanting more. Have they even accepted your rates at this point? Was there ever any possibility of working with them? Probably not, in my experience.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:20
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Get some WWAs from your clients Mar 18, 2014

Once I did an experiment with a prospect like yours, who obdurately wouldn't give me the time of the day before I provided three verifiable references.

I got in cahoots with three most loyal clients of mine, and they agreed. So I gave these three as references. In less than one hour, all three phoned/Skyped me to tell that they had received an arm-length questionnaire on me... as well as an offer to the tune of "whatever this jerk does for you, we can do it faster, better, and cheaper!"

This was years ago. However unless they put this prospect on their spam filter, they are probably receiving this message every other week. The truth is that the prospect was jobless, so they thought poaching would be a possibly effective strategy.

To solve this problem, as well as another, when prospects want to push down my throat some leonine NDA that is not so much about disclosure, but intended to force me into committing to some very undesirable of their terms and conditions, I have my public non-disclosure policy at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/non-disclosure.html . I provide them the URL to it.

If they really want to see a few clients I worked for, I got a few WWAs on my Proz profile. These folks volunteered their opinion on me as clients, so I'm not in breach of any NDA. No need to pester them either. They can go to these clients' Blue Board records and see they exist as reputable translation firms, I didn't invent them yesterday.

This has worked so far. When it doesn't, I know that I've just eluded a poaching scheme.


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Christian Esquivel
Colombia
Local time: 03:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all for your kind advice Mar 18, 2014

I already asked one of my best clients to allow a phone call or email for reference and they agreed to it.

I also sent the prospect client a reference of a Pharmaceutical Corporation I deliver work for on a regular basis so that the prospect client can ask whether I deliver quality and timely work on medical/pharmaceutical content as a translator, reviewer and proofreader.

I must clarify that I didn't mean translation agencies as I wouldn't even dare to consider providing specific references because of this:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Once I did an experiment with a prospect like yours, who obdurately wouldn't give me the time of the day before I provided three verifiable references.

I got in cahoots with three most loyal clients of mine, and they agreed. So I gave these three as references. In less than one hour, all three phoned/Skyped me to tell that they had received an arm-length questionnaire on me... as well as an offer to the tune of "whatever this jerk does for you, we can do it faster, better, and cheaper!"


I meant prospect end clients such as companies and corporations who have nothing to do with the translation industry, they are engaged in other kind of business. They just need translations for their products and/or services, e.g. providing translations for Colgate or The Coca-Cola company.


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Joan Berglund  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:20
French to English
I find that WWAs work most of the time too Mar 18, 2014

Most prospective clients are happy to have such an easy way to check references. I only had one prospect say she could not accept them as a reference and needed email contact info. She was really aggressive, sending several emails a day. I think I eventually blocked her. It wasn't so much that I was sure she was scamming, but I was really busy and she was bugging me. Looking back, though, I am sure she was scamming me. It's not like I'm in such a rare language pair that she couldn't just find someone else.

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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:20
German to English
+ ...
Ask the potential client Mar 19, 2014

if they would be happy if you divulged details of your working relationship with them (should it ever materialize!) to other companies that might be interested in your services.

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Christian Esquivel
Colombia
Local time: 03:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree with Trudy Mar 19, 2014

Trudy Peters wrote:

if they would be happy if you divulged details of your working relationship with them (should it ever materialize!) to other companies that might be interested in your services.


I actually already did that.

Their reply was the typical "Well I see your point, but still..."

I guess it can't be helped.

After some research online I found out that freelancers working in advertising and graphic design are finding themselves with the same problem.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:20
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
The other way around Mar 19, 2014

You might want to ask them if they'd be happy with you giving away their business details to prospective clients. If this company is unaware of the professional and, above all, the legal meaning of NDAs, then you need to ask yourself if they are the right client for you.

As our colleagues have already stated, WWAs should give the prospective clients an overview of your experience and the quality of your work. Frankly, offering a free test doesn't seem like a good "solution" here. Either they trust you or they don't.

I'm not implying anything here, but there's also a chance that they are looking for new clients.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:20
French to English
+ ...
José's point Mar 19, 2014

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
they had received an arm-length questionnaire on me... as well as an offer to the tune of "whatever this jerk does for you, we can do it faster, better, and cheaper!"


I think this is a really crucial point: even if the client agrees to you sharing the information, you need to think carefully about what the potential business consequences for you could be.

(And from what you've described so far, the agency in question has all the classic hallmarks of a time waster in any case...)


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:20
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Competitors Mar 19, 2014

Christian Esquivel wrote:

I meant prospect end clients such as companies and corporations who have nothing to do with the translation industry, they are engaged in other kind of business. They just need translations for their products and/or services, e.g. providing translations for Colgate or The Coca-Cola company.


Once I found myself translating sensitive material for two competing credit card companies. Though I can guarantee that absolutely nothing leaked anywhere, if either one knew I was working for the other, both would have dropped me like a hot potato.

In fact, one of them called me three months later. They wanted to do some minor changes in one of my translations, and allegedly had lost the floppy disks I had provided them(this gives you an idea of how long ago this took place). I told them I didn't have the files any more. They insisted, and were willing to pay any reasonable amount if I could retrieve those files. I told them it was completely impossible, since for their own security I had destroyed them for good. Two days later, a messenger brought me the disks, the requested changes, and another such job.

I'll never know whether they were testing my non-disclosure, or someone there had actually misplaced those floppies.


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Steven Segaert  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 11:20
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
No references Mar 19, 2014

I don't provide references other than what clients volunteer through the WWA system. I have let quite a few offers pass that way, but that's the way it is.

I personally believe losing a few potential jobs is much better than losing a few clients because they got annoyed by agencies checking up on the reference.

I do however do test translations.


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