Balancing client confidentiality and applying for work July 23, 2012Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
One of my friends owns a translation agency. They are currently updating their records and have their poor intern contacting translators in their database to update their information. As you can imagine, the poor intern is getting frustrated with the nutty replies she is getting. These are translators who applied to work with the agency in the past. All they are asking is for them to update their contact info, sign an NDA and supply a couple references. One translator refused because they are “requesting the names of some of my other clients, an inconsistency both with the rules of the profession and your own NDA. You should be aware that requesting or disclosing such information is illegal and unethical, and contrary to both laws governing the profession and rules of the American Translator’s Association.”
Uh, what? Dude, take a chill pill. All they are asking is for a couple references. Disclosing this information is not “illegal and unethical.” It’s actually a standard business practices everywhere. I think someone has misunderstood something they heard somewhere.
The American Translator’s Association’s Code of Professional Conduct says nothing about providing references. There are eight bullet points, and the only one that might possibly be misconstrued to mean this could be number 2 – “to hold in confidence any privileged and/or confidential information entrusted to us in the course of our work.” However, this means confidential corporate information, medical results, and business secrets. Keeping anything we learn through a translation for our clients confidential. No more, no less. It does not mean providing a reference.
According to Freelance Folder’s 10 Painful Mistakes that Cost You Freelance Work, one of the top ten mistakes is “No references.” As the writer explains, “Testimonials are a key part of marketing yourself as a freelancer. If no one is willing to say that you did a good job for them, prospects may wonder what’s wrong with you.” Freelance Folder suggests you “ask a few of your current clients if they would be willing to write a testimonial for you.” The reference can also be a former professor, another freelance translator, or a project manager that has worked with you at several agencies. They aren’t asking for references to poach your clients. I am regularly asked to provide a reference for former students. All the agencies want to know is if the student has the skills to be a translator (and is sane). In fact, most agencies probably don’t even have the manpower to follow up on the references. Asking for a reference is not equivalent to client poaching, and this translator will most likely never get work from any agency with this attitude.