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References for agency when you have no direct clients
Thread poster: Martin Harvey

Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:19
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not fine Oct 28, 2015

whenever it happens I cite NDAs that forbid us from disclosing anything of the kind. I refer to my two WWAs from clients who did this out of their own free will (I didn't even request them).

I agree with 'why should we?' If I hire an electrician, I ask around in the neighbourhood or hire him for a small job and see how that goes, but I'm not going to ask him to get me a paper with three references including phone numbers and what-not on it so I can check. It's business, not an emplo
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whenever it happens I cite NDAs that forbid us from disclosing anything of the kind. I refer to my two WWAs from clients who did this out of their own free will (I didn't even request them).

I agree with 'why should we?' If I hire an electrician, I ask around in the neighbourhood or hire him for a small job and see how that goes, but I'm not going to ask him to get me a paper with three references including phone numbers and what-not on it so I can check. It's business, not an employment relationship. An employment relationship entitles an employer to require certain things (due to the 100% or nothing approach), business is based on trust alone. It's hard but true. Agencies who can't comprehend that shouldn't be in business.
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Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:19
German to English
+ ...
answering Alvaro Oct 29, 2015

Alvaro Espantaleon wrote:

What people with 15+ years of translation experience does regarding this issue at present (back then was a different matter, wasn't it?) should be quite irrelevant to the OP who only has 7 months of experience.

When I started out I provided information on my education and training and my professional association. I generally worked for small agencies who at first didn't dare give me more than small documents like birth certificates. Once they found me reliable the size of the work and frequency of requests increased. There was never any need for references.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:19
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It's not a case of "back then it was different" Oct 29, 2015

Alvaro Espantaleon wrote:
What people with 15+ years of translation experience does regarding this issue at present (back then was a different matter, wasn't it?) should be quite irrelevant to the OP who only has 7 months of experience.

The difference is that those of us with experience know how to run a business, and those who have never done that often have an employee mindset, which fits very well with the way that some agencies like to work: they're the bosses and we are the 'hired hands'. Fortunately, there are loads of agencies out there who treat us like business partners.

Unsolicited client testimonials (NOT 'references') are a valuable asset, but the clients who are good enough to give them should never have to be contacted personally. I would never, ever give their personal names, their email addresses and telephone numbers to anyone else.


 

Martin Harvey
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:19
Member (2016)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Employee mindset Oct 29, 2015

I must admit, I still have an employee mindset, and it's very hard to get out of it.

For the record, I'm going to send the form back but citing that I can't give references due to NDAs. If, after that, they decide not to work with me, then so be it.


 

Álvaro Espantaleón Moreno  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:19
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
FYI Oct 29, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Alvaro Espantaleon wrote:
What people with 15+ years of translation experience does regarding this issue at present (back then was a different matter, wasn't it?) should be quite irrelevant to the OP who only has 7 months of experience.

The difference is that those of us with experience know how to run a business, and those who have never done that often have an employee mindset, which fits very well with the way that some agencies like to work: they're the bosses and we are the 'hired hands'. Fortunately, there are loads of agencies out there who treat us like business partners.

Unsolicited client testimonials (NOT 'references') are a valuable asset, but the clients who are good enough to give them should never have to be contacted personally. I would never, ever give their personal names, their email addresses and telephone numbers to anyone else.


the European Commission asks for references and very successful translators do ask for and provide those. Don't make your personal experience, preferences or phobias a universal rule.


 

Álvaro Espantaleón Moreno  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:19
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
Well, now there is Oct 29, 2015

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

Alvaro Espantaleon wrote:

What people with 15+ years of translation experience does regarding this issue at present (back then was a different matter, wasn't it?) should be quite irrelevant to the OP who only has 7 months of experience.

When I started out I provided information on my education and training and my professional association. I generally worked for small agencies who at first didn't dare give me more than small documents like birth certificates. Once they found me reliable the size of the work and frequency of requests increased. There was never any need for references.


These are online transactions in a fast paced environment and the agency needs to quickly pick up a candidate amongst hundreds (references make it easier). Nothing wrong with them: all the European institutions request references from contractors. If they wouldn't, anyone could just present a fake CV and start working with them straight away. That wouldn't make sense, would it? Have you ever had a landlord that asked you for references? maybe a bank?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:19
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I don't believe in universal rules, Alvaro Oct 29, 2015

Alvaro Espantaleon wrote:
the European Commission asks for references and very successful translators do ask for and provide those. Don't make your personal experience, preferences or phobias a universal rule.

When I started teaching Business English almost 20 years ago, I soon learnt to ban the words "always" and "never" from all my explanations to students.

I don't doubt that the European Commission asks for reference. The bureaucracy of the EU is such that you virtually have to give your blood group before you get work. Of course freelancers are willing to jump through a few more hoops to get what they perceive as the more prestigious contracts, even to the extent of behaving rather like employees.

If the end justifies the means, so be it - all the best rules have exceptions. But an exception is, by definition, a rare occurrence.


 

IanDhu  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:19
Member (2005)
French to English
Gaining recognition Oct 29, 2015

Danylo Kravchuk wrote:

I provide references after receiving a permission from the translation agency I've worked with.


That is what I do when I am asked for references. Life is easier for people who've been in the business for longer, since one can vary the menu a little, and not always ask the same agency to "stump up".

I fail to understand how colleagues can lose clients by simply asking them to act as referees; it's a standard business practice, albeit rather laborious for the referee, and at times overawing for the candidate.

Another thing one can do is produce a sample by "gutting" a translation so as to reduce it to "no names, no pack-drill". Indicate the broad purpose of the document and the sector it was for. The French call this "banaliser un document".

As an example, one can identify the named entities or people as, say, '"X" [a bank]', '"Y" [its client]', '"Z" [the opposing party in a lawsuit]', and '"A" [the jurisdiction in a legal action]', "country B" and "country C". And obviously, one must choose a portion of text from which no identities, valuable or damaging information can possibly be inferred indirectly. This task is made easier by the sample's brevity: it should be the same length as a test set by an agency, namely a few hundred words.

For recent entrants to the profession, I should imagine that references attesting to linguistic ability, from school or university, or to non-translating job experience, would also be valid. It is also a good idea to adduce membership of clubs or societies, to give a client some idea of one's standing in the community.

To get onto an agency's panel, the aim is to provide a three-dimensional picture to a prospective client of who one is, how one thinks and works, and to cite where relevant any unusual or valuable experience one has had. The end-aim is to get recognised.

I hope this may help.

With kind regards,

Adam Warren (IanDhu - Translator/41189)


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:19
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours... Oct 29, 2015

If you can give fake CVs, you can arrange phoney references.

OK, some references ARE worth a lot, and over the years I have made great efforts with translating references and job applications (for employment), making sure they rang true and gave the right level of praise, or in one or two cases that the implications between the lines were there, but not more than they should be.

Of course it is possible to see that references are serious and genuine when they are.
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If you can give fake CVs, you can arrange phoney references.

OK, some references ARE worth a lot, and over the years I have made great efforts with translating references and job applications (for employment), making sure they rang true and gave the right level of praise, or in one or two cases that the implications between the lines were there, but not more than they should be.

Of course it is possible to see that references are serious and genuine when they are.

However, that also means someone has to go to the trouble of writing them, based on personal knowledge. A good employer or head of department can do that.

Most freelancers' clients do not know them anything like that well. All they can say is that the freelancer seems reliable and delivers on time. Even an intern who has spent three months in a company has a closer relationship with a supervisor or someone who can write a reference.

Again, freelancers are not employees. Suitable qualifications and membership of a professional association (or associate membership if you do not yet qualify for full membership) are worth far more than superficial references.

Two of my clients took a completely different approach when I asked for references for the CIoL. That is a different process altogether. If you don't qualify for full membership, starting as an associate may be the way to go - it gives a good signal.
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:19
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Why should I care about the EC? Oct 29, 2015

Alvaro Espantaleon wrote:
the European Commission asks for references and very successful translators do ask for and provide those

Is it your contention that if a large organisation demands something from an independent business that practise must be acceptable, simply because the organisation is large?

Or are you arguing that the European Commission has some special knowledge or virtue that private companies do not?

Regards
Dan


 

Álvaro Espantaleón Moreno  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:19
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
... Oct 29, 2015

Christine Andersen wrote:

If you can give fake CVs, you can arrange phoney references.

OK, some references ARE worth a lot, and over the years I have made great efforts with translating references and job applications (for employment), making sure they rang true and gave the right level of praise, or in one or two cases that the implications between the lines were there, but not more than they should be.

Of course it is possible to see that references are serious and genuine when they are.

However, that also means someone has to go to the trouble of writing them, based on personal knowledge. A good employer or head of department can do that.

Most freelancers' clients do not know them anything like that well. All they can say is that the freelancer seems reliable and delivers on time. Even an intern who has spent three months in a company has a closer relationship with a supervisor or someone who can write a reference.

Again, freelancers are not employees. Suitable qualifications and membership of a professional association (or associate membership if you do not yet qualify for full membership) are worth far more than superficial references.

Two of my clients took a completely different approach when I asked for references for the CIoL. That is a different process altogether. If you don't qualify for full membership, starting as an associate may be the way to go - it gives a good signal.



The issue is very simple: many translators feel humiliated when asked for references. Why? Simple: they think they are extraordinary and their skills should be praised and "known" world wide. However, the outsourcer may not be aware of such brilliance (he should, I know) and needs something more than a CV to help him choose. As simple as that. There may be better ways to discriminate, but references are used and seem to work for some.


 
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