Charlie Bavington

Professional French to English Translator - Business and I.T.

Bringing a pragmatic eye to meeting your needs

Diligence on new clients

January 16th, 2023 | Categories: agencies, business, social media

A recent poll on LinkedIn asked if we check the reputation of a potential client before we respond, & I replied that I did not.

For me, it is a question of spending time & effort where & when it’s needed.

My usual first response to an unsolicited approach is positive but non-committal.
The detail depends whether they sent the material with their initial query, and if dialogue gets far enough that they’ve agreed my price & it looks like a contract is imminent, THEN I check their reputation.

The reason is that only a fraction of queries lead to an agreement. Sometimes people do not respond to my reply, sometimes the price is too high, or I cannot meet their deadline, etc. My stance is therefore that it would waste huge amounts of my time if I check people who subsequently drop out of negotiations for whatever reason.

Having got to the point where a contract is close, then I check. And it is rare, very rare (a handful of times in 20 years) for me to THEN find, oops, I don’t want to take this further.

I’m certain I’ve wasted less time starting negotiations with people who I subsequently decline to contract with, than I would have wasted on researching people who then don’t even respond to my first reply.

So, what do my checks entail?

First of all, I currently only work with clients in countries where I understand (or think I do!) the debt collection process. And, to an extent, business culture. Some translators seem to take pride in collecting clients from as many countries as possible, but not me 🙂

I wouldn’t decline an approach purely on geographical grounds, of course, but caution is my watchword, certainly. I check their status on publicly available registers, see how long they have been in business, check that their filings are up to date, etc. I do searches on the company name + words such as complaint, non-payment, etc. (in English & other relevant languages).

I check that the address seems legit: not necessarily an office – my own business address isn’t! – but somewhere one could actually visit, in the unlikely event one felt so inclined.

I check the names of senior management, particularly on here, but also, say, Viadeo for French firms.

As for the Blueboard for agencies, I only trust bad ratings! If Proz doesn’t like you, you must be awful. If Proz approves or is neutral, it means nothing, IMHO.

There’s no single item I consider a definite “red flag” – you build an overall picture as you research, and decide whether it “feels” OK. And if in doubt, I don’t proceed.

And that is my approach. I should add that my method does mean that I ultimately work with probably less than 20% of people who first make contact (and I do have a mortgage to pay so I’m not just dabbling and being selective on a whim!). Your mileage might vary, ofc.

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