Some resources and ideas for vetting potential clients. Do this before you accept the job!
(Most recently updated on 27 February 2015. Suggestions welcome — please add yours in the comments section.)
Is the company a member of a professional association, such as ATA, ALC, ATC? Find out by searching the associations’ member directories:
American Translators Association
Association of Language Companies
Association of Translation Companies
European Language Industry Association
Does the company have a reputation (good or bad)? “Payment practices”–type lists can provide useful information.
Payment Practices is a searchable database where translators pool experience to identify deadbeat clients (paid subscription; ATA members get a discount).
World Payment Practices Free (WPPF), a Yahoo group. Members query other members about experiences with translation companies and individuals (free, moderated list; you must join the group to post).
The blog Translation Ethics maintains a “Free blacklist of translation agencies.” Reasons for appearing on the blacklist are varied, from low rates, to late payments, to outright scams. Be sure to check out the due diligence page there as well.
If you are researching a translation or interpreting agency, you can search the ProZ Blueboard. You won’t have access to all information unless you are a paying member of ProZ, but you can find out if the agency is listed and get the overall scores of translators who have worked with them and perhaps supplement some information.
See the Blueboard FAQ for more information: http://www.proz.com/blueboard/?sp_mode=faq
Direct link to the Blueboard: http://www.proz.com/blueboard/?sp_mode=search
From a Blueboard search, you can click on the company’s profile number to get more information. It’s a bit convoluted, but it’s another place to check.
Beware of Scams
Does the offer sound like a scam? Not sure? Here are some sites where you can learn more about some of the more common scams in our industry:
ATA has a page devoted to Spamming, Scamming, and Phishing.
The Payment Practices “Nigerian Scam Alerts” page is a list for reporting names and other contact data about suspected scams that specifically target translators and interpreters (open access).
The Houston Interpreters and Translators Association (HITA) has a “Spams, scams, and frauds” page with links to advice on avoiding such spams, scams, and frauds as well as examples.
Here is a detailed explanation of the resume/CV-stealing scam and a long list of known offenders: http://www.translator-scammers.com/translator-scammers-directory.htm
Follow them on Twitter, https://twitter.com/tsdirectory, or @tsdirectory
If you want to find out where the company is really located and who is responsible, you can search state or country corporations databases.
To find your state’s database, search <[state name] corporations> or similar, and select results that have a “.gov” or “.us” domain for ad-free and official sites. Here are a few examples:
Delaware — Department of State, Division of Corporations, “Entity search”
Massachusetts — Secretary of the Commonwealth, Corporations Division, “Search the Corporate Database”
UK — Companies House, main page (select “Find Company Information” or “Web CHeck”)
For writers, editors, and proofreaders among you, here are some publishing industry resources:
Beall’s List of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers.
Preditors & Editors — “Headquartered in Petersburg, Virginia, USA since July 1997, this resource is intended as a simple compendium for the serious writer, composer, game designer, or artist to consult for information, regardless of genre.” This site (more of a service, really) is targeted to writers, but is a fantastic resource for anyone freelancing in the publishing industry.
Preditors & Editors Warning List — With some rules of thumb (like the checklist below, but with publishers and literary agencies in mind) and a list of yet more sites that provide information about protecting oneself against scams, plagiarism, and other skulduggery.
Writer Beware was set up by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America “to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry.” (The site in its entirety looks like a fantasic –oops, no pun intended– resource!)
Some questions to consider before you accept the assignment:
- Did the inquirer provide contact information in the e-mail or voice message?
- Does the inquirer use a free e-mail service (e.g., yahoo.com, gmail.com, gmx.net, youpy.com) or is the e-mail domain that of a paid provider (e.g., comcast, verizon, eunet.rs), or the name of the translation company itself?
- Can you find a street address on the company website? (I try to get at least two out of three: e-mail address, phone number, street address.)
- Does the company have a cookie-cutter website (for maximum SEO) or does it look like the content has been written by a human?
- Can you determine the city, state, and country of business registration?
- If the address contains a “suite” number (especially if it’s located in Delaware), is there a real staffed office there and not simply a PO box? Search the address (without the suite no.) and “incorporate,” “registration,” or similar to find out.
- Can you determine who the registered agent is?
- Is the registered agent the same as person listed on the company website?
- Is the registered agent a corporations mill? (“Open a company in any location!”)
- How long has the company been registered?
- How long ago was the first post on its blog? The most recent post?
- How long ago did the company start tweeting? Who is the company following and who is following the company?
- Is the company or individual a member of ATA, ATC, or other relevant professional groups or associations?
- Can you find the company on LinkedIn? Does the CEO or another officer have an account?
- Does the inquirer have a LinkedIn account with the company name listed as an employer?
- What groups do company principals belong to on LinkedIn? Are their posts intelligent, well-written?
- Do results of company name searches on the Internet (plain ol’ search-engine searches as well as searches on the websites given above) raise any red flags?
- If a sample of the work to be translated was sent with the query, is this text available online? (Find out by copying a sentence or two and pasting in your search engine surrounded by quotation marks.)
- Did the inquirer offer a surprisingly generous rate for the job? Did he or she offer to pay a deposit in advance by check or wire transfer? (You know what they say about an offer that’s too good to be true.)