Oh, could we all ride our Freelance Cruisers down the Translation Boulevard into linguistic Hollywood! I for sure would like to be in that happy crowd. But, looking into my rearview mirror I am not that sure... Here's one thing that happened to me on my ride. Keep your fingers off your keyboards for a moment and have a laugh.

Honey, this drink sure tastes strange

What's better for a freelancer than to have just an agent or two, make it three. They know you and you know them, you deliver and they deliver, and the word TRUST is stamped all over this relationship sigh.When I started, I could not afford to be too choosy, so everybody, literally everybody was welcome. Since then I worked for many a client and I would not like to miss anyone of them. Except there's three of them who I could easily get by without. But then again, I would be missing a lesson.

Let's call these three Alice, Bob and Carol. They have nothing to do with each other, so statistically speaking, their way of doing business is typical for a certain group of people, we would all rather prefer to avoid. What's their common traits? They all advertised their jobs on ProZ. They did not haggle much over prices and in no time they all sent me a PO and the material to be translated, with the rather stringent deadlines to boot. I did the translations, added the invoices, sent it all out and that was the end of the story in all three cases: I never saw any money. Or ever heard from them again.

Alice, Bob and Carol cost me 7000 words in lost revenues. Yes, these three orders were really toxic. On the other hand, I did not die, I just had some indigestion. But even that could be avoided, if I did my due dilligence. What could I do to limit my risks?

check the Blue board

The first measure is so evident: I could check the ProZ' Blue Board. If I did it, I would know that

a) Alice is a nobody without any references.
b) Bob is a nobody as well.
c) Carol has had a very poor record: at the time of my accepting their business, their BB record was somewhere between "You REALLY sure?" and "you gotta be joking".

Again, I could have checked BB. But I did not, although by that time I was platinum member of ProZ. I think I felt it makes sense, but not THAT much. Another example of a customer having no idea he's buying. Now I know: the income I lost this way is in the order of app. 5 years of platinum membership. There's nothing like a free lunch. But, it may turn out to be relatively cheap, eventually.

What else could you do in my position?

Limit your risks

You have to make up your mind on how much of your work is allowed to be hanging in the air. And then stick to it.If you have set the limit to let's say a maximum of 500$ of unpaid invoices from new, untested customers, you just do not acquire and/or accept any more work. And don't get greedy, it is bad for your eye sight you may stop seeing green.

Check conditions

Carol asked for and got a 60 days net conditions. Not that it made any difference on the receiving end of the shaft. But it could be another hint for me to go and check her credentials, which would show she's into some kind of a Ponzi scheme (robbing Peter to pay Paul). I just did not notice.

Out there in the translational snow, rain and sleet, it does not smell roses all the time. But at least you don't have to stand there like an idiot and let it go over you. Use an umbrella.

I assume you have one, don't you? Why don't you open it?

ProZ.com - http://www.proz.com/translation-articles
Found in translation – meet Alice, Bob and Carol
Author: Vito Smolej
English to Slovenian translator
Platinum since Sep 16, 2011
By Vito Smolej
Published on 12/8/2005
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