Many thanks Ralf for your quick and edifying reply. And special thanks for pointing out that asking for an advance could put me out of the running!
Ralf Lemster wrote:
Welcome to ProZ.com. Taking an upfront deposit from an unknown customer is a good idea in principle - obviously, you might set yourself at a disadvantage compared to others. Don't get me wrong: we did a major translation job for an exchange-listed American company earlier this year; since we didn't know the customer, we demanded (and got) 40% upfront. So I'm not telling you not to do it - you just need to be aware of the fact that others might not require this. Obviously, you'll have the last laugh if that customer turns out to be a "bad apple".
In any case (and particularly if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot demand a deposit), make sure to get proper documentation (i.e. a written purchase order, at least by fax), and ensure to check the outsourcer's reputation and business practices, e.g. on the ProZ.com Blue Board.