by Anthony Teixeira
As freelance translators, one of our many roles is to choose carefully what clients we collaborate with.
Unfortunately, the translation industry has no lack of bad payers, scammers and impersonators (here is a vast but non-exhaustive list). And it is especially easy for younger translators to fall victim to one.
Although there is no sure-fire way to avoid them, you can avoid trouble most of the time by following simple advice.
Some signs should raise your suspicions: no proper introduction, poor spelling, free email address when the client present themselves as a company, no personal addressing, complete absence of politeness/formality, etc. Such unprofessional behavior doesn't necessarily mean you're facing a scammer, but it should get you wondering.
A good practice is to lookup the sender email address and parts of their message on Google or other search engines to see if anything similar shows up. Often, scammers and impersonators use almost identical addresses and templates when they contact translators.
Similarly, can you link the sender to a physical address and phone number? If they are an individual, is there any mention of their name online? If not, be wary. Fake companies and project managers never mean anything positive. Ask for verifiable information - if you receive none, move on.
Even if a company seems legitimate and professional in their communications, it doesn't mean they will prove a good business partner. Non-payments and late payments are a major problem in the translation industry. That includes large companies that look perfectly clean from the outside.
Some sites allow fellow freelance translators to rate their clients. ProZ's Blue Board is the most notable example for translation professionals. Sites like Glassdoor can also give you general insights about the company you are dealing with.
Pay particular attention to recent reviews. Some businesses have been reliable payers for years before turning awful. Rule of thumb: consider a translation agency as trustworthy as its latest review.
Sometimes, a job offer will make you uncomfortable and you won't be able to explain why. Something will seem out of place, odd. Maybe the offer sounds too good to be true, the project details are too vague or you feel the sender is trying to hide something.
Usually, the safest course of action is to trust your instinct and that little voice inside you. Refuse anything that doesn't inspire confidence. And if you still want to give it a try, ask for an upfront payment - another great way to see your partner's true face.
Again, there's no guarantee you won't have the occasional bad encounter. Unfortunate things happen for various reasons. But those tips should preserve you from most of them. Common sense and a careful approach are your best allies.
Anthony Teixeira, a freelance translator, contributed this article. Anthony offers professional translation services from Japanese and English to French, and specializes in IT, software and video games.
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