Hola, bonjour everyone, colleagues, friends, aspiring translators! I’m back! I was lying low this week, because I was up to my eyeballs working on a major project and doing my best to keep my existing clients happy at the same time. What a juggling act! Plus a couple of clients came knocking with “dangling carrots” wanting me/ my business to work with them, but in the end I actually had to fire them, can you believe it!
But first here is one of my favorite photos I took near the Alps last year, this is for my fellow travelers … I go for a quick walk in the mountains whenever I have it on my desktop….
Here is what happened: Client no. 1 called me to quote on a larger translation job. I asked right away if they were getting offers from various translation service providers at this stage (helps me to set a price). Pause, then an emphatic “No” at the other end. Next thing the courier delivers a letter addressed to me/ my company that starts with: “Dear Ursula (name altered)…” (Now, I happen to know a colleague by that name.) Hmmmm… and in that letter they request indirectly that neither I nor any freelancers of ours work for any of the following 15 companies and other law firms on the “other side.” They don’t say it directly, but it is clearly implied. (Hey, reading between the lines is what I do!) When I ask them over the phone, they say I should ensure that there is no “conflict” (of interest, I guess) and perform my own “conflict checks.” Then I explained the role of a translator (to be impartial and objective) to them, and advised them that professional translators follow ethical guidelines, bla, bla, bla … Suddenly they retract any earlier verbal requests made about not working for the other side and emphasize the long-term nature of the project (money, money, carrot). Of course I had called my no BS lawyer friend in the meantime already and you know the rest. Hey, I looove the work and lots of it! I am totally grateful and very happy for the assignments that come my way. As a matter of fact, the more work the better, especially with this global economy. But do I want the headache of having clients I can’t trust? No thanks!
Along comes client no. 2, an agency from NY, telling me they found me on a professional association website (great, they know I am qualified) and can I send them my CV. I check them out (are they for real, do they pay on time) send my CV, rates, sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Now they would like me to do a couple of test translation (sure if they are less than 200 words). We’re going along just fine, when all of a sudden they send me Form W-8Ben to complete. This form is, so they say, for businesses that are not located in the US. Huh? Why? Checked with my accountant (she said go check with a US lawyer), did some research and bottom line: it seems contentious. Basically it would mean that I would provide the IRS with my details, although I declare and pay taxes in the country where my business is located. Client no. 2 was insistent, though, and even got his finance manager involved. And this although I told them that it would create more paperwork and needless headaches for me and that I did not wish to complete a form that no other US client has ever requested I submit. So guess what happened?
Here are my tips for you:
1. Ask a lawyer friend and do your research!
2. If it seems like it will be a headache, if all you see are red flags, just say no and fire your client!
3. Take your time to decide. Sleep on it!
3. Know your responsibilities (code of ethics), check with your professional association(s).
Gotta sign off for today. I have an end-of day deadline for one of my favorite clients. Talk to you next week.
Your Traveling Translator.