How to Avoid Scams in the Translation Business
I have been working as a translator from home for the past five years, and I have been quite successful and was able to earn enough money to live on it. Translating is truly my passion, and I am sure I will be doing it for the rest of my life. However, the translation business is not an easy industry to establish oneself. There are multiple scams and unserious contractors and suppliers out there who make your life difficult if you don't know how to deal with them or, better yet, avoid them.
1. Website Verification
A website can tell a lot about the professionalism of a company. Nowadays, it is fairly easy to set up a professional website using one of the website templates provided by the countless website hosting companies. And yet, there are many translation agencies out there that present themselves on a website that looks like it was made within 30 minutes. Stay away from those websites. A serious website usually offers the following:
- Contact information like an email address and a phone number. If the company uses an email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, it cannot be considered a well established, serious company.
- A professional layout
- It is free of grammar and spelling mistakes.
- It uses professional, high-quality pictures.
- You can find information about the company like its location and its legal form.
2. Blue Board on ProZ
ProZ is an online community of professional translators where you can find and outsource translation jobs. It is one of the biggest translation communities on the internet and can definitely help you to find the jobs you are looking for. On this website, you will find the famous Blue Board on which translators can evaluate clients and translation agencies based on their experience with them. It is very useful to find out whether your client has a good reputation regarding the the punctuality of payments and his general professionalism. Unfortunately, you can only access the Blue Board if you are a paying ProZ member. Being a member can be an advantage if you want to establish yourself in the translation business as the website offers countless tools to help you upgrade your personal profile.
3. Special Payment Agreements
If you don't want to risk not getting paid in the end, it makes sense to accept only a small job to begin with or ask for staged payments and wait for the payment before you start working on the next phase. Some agencies might even agree to advance payments. Those are usually the bigger ones though and it has to be said that advance payments are not very common in the translation industry.
4. Careful with Foreign Translation Agencies
As a matter of fact, translation agencies from India have a very bad reputation in the translation business. As far as I am concerned, I have worked for a couple of Indian translation agencies and have had to run after my money for months, tormenting them with calls and emails that were left unanswered. I threatened with a lawyer when I was finally paid but was exhausted from the stress. However, I currently work for a very reliable Indian translation agency which shows that it is always dangerous to generalize things.
It can be said that if you work for a foreign translation agency, the laws and regulations are different from your home country and it might not be easy to take legal action against the client. However, if you follow all the other advice I have given in this article, working for a foreign client does not pose a problem at all. As a matter of fact, most of my clients and the agencies I work for are located in a foreign country.
5. Purchase Orders
The issuances of purchase orders is a standard procedure of many translation agencies. Ask for a purchase order before you begin with an assignment and verify the contact information.
6. Background Check with Google
In my opinion, Google is the most powerful tool on the planet. If you want to find information about a specific agency or client, Google will most definitely give it to you. Forums and communities often write about scams and the names of agencies you should avoid.
7. Translation Tests
All of the serious translation agencies I have worked for have made me do a translation test prior to outsourcing any work to me. If an agency ever contacts you and expects you to take on a translation right away, you have the right to be suspicious. Translation tests that consist of tasks where you have to translate approximately 300 words within a given time are a standard procedure and are to be considered as positive for the agency's or client's reputation.
8. Payment Procedure
Usually, serious translation agencies ask you about your rate(s) and will negotiate a rate with you depending on your skills and experience. In addition, you should ask about the agency's payment procedure if they do not already talk about this in their emails. The payment procedure includes:
- Payment deadline (standard is 30-45 days after the translation has been submitted)
- Method of payment (Paypal, wire transfer, checks or other)
- Invoicing rules
9. Quality of Communication
You can often see by the quality of the communication with the client/agency if you can take them seriously. You should pay attention to their email signature, the number of mistakes they make when they write with you, how long it takes them to answer your emails and the tone of the emails. If you have doubts, calling the client/agency is not a bad idea. This will give you the chance to get to know the client and get rid of any uncertainties or doubts you may have.