In a previous article, I mentioned that I got some of my best clients by word of mouth, referred to me by other translator colleagues who had recommended me to their customers. There are various reasons why we sometimes hesitate to recommend colleagues – the fear of losing a client to the recommended person, a lack of enthusiasm to search for the right person, etc. So, should you do it? When? How?
1. Why should you recommend a colleague to a client?
Well, because we’re kind, of course! And if that’s not reason enough? Yeah, I get it. Quite apart from the fact that you’re doing both your client and your colleague a favour, think about the advantages that it brings you: a client who knows that they can count on you to help them out even if you yourself are not available, and a grateful colleague who won’t think twice about recommending you in turn. You feel good about helping someone out and it’s great karma. Life is good.
If you’re worried about losing a client by recommending a colleague, think of the bigger picture. If you’re not available for a project, the client will more than likely still need a translation and look for someone else to get it done, so you might as well help them! Besides which, if it requires a language combination or a specialisation that you don’t have, you never really had anything to lose.
2. When should you recommend a colleague to a client?
Let’s be frank – you’re not a temping agency, and you’re not going to be making recommendations left, right and centre. In any case, it will depend on the client and the situation. If a translation agency sends you a project that you’re not available to do, there’s no harm in saying no. In general, they have plenty of other translators up their sleeve. Nevertheless, there are times when an agency might ask if you know someone that can help with a specific project. In this instance, skip ahead to the next point.
If it’s a direct client, however, it’s worth asking them if they would like you to find someone on their behalf even if they hadn’t thought of asking you to do so themselves. Direct clients often don’t know where to find approriately skilled translators, and you could earn yourself some bonus points by removing this thorn from their side. As for your colleague, they will be delighted that you have put them in touch with a potential direct client.
3) How should you recommend a colleague to a client?
The most important thing is to be 100% honest with all parties concerned. If an existing client asks you to recommend a colleague who translates from French to Danish and you don’t know anyone with this combination, you could offer to spread the word within your network (by posting a message on LinkedIn or a translators’ Facebook group such as Translators in Belgium or Successful Freelance Translators), but you need to make it clear that you have never personally worked with this translator and that you can’t vouch for them completely. In this instance, you are simply making it easier for them to get in touch with other potential candidates, but it will be up to the client to assess their skills.
The same thing applies if you are dealing with a new (or potential) client. Be honest with the colleague that you contact and make it clear that you have never worked with this client, or have only worked with them for a short time, and that you can’t guarantee their reliability. That way your colleague can make an informed decision and find out more about the client to decide whether or not they would like to work with them. Obviously, you should never recommend a colleague to a client that you do not trust or that you yourself would refuse to work with.
Finally, you should always ask your colleague if they are ok with you passing their contact details on to your client. The answer will generally be positive, but you should always ask first to be sure. Firstly, because it will enable you to find out if your colleague is interested or not, which will avoid wasting your client’s time. Secondly, because it will allow the colleague in question to expect a potential enquiry from your client and to respond in a more relevant manner – personally, I would respond slightly differently to a potential client who had been referred to me by someone than to a potential client who came out of nowhere.
It’s very important not to recommend just anyone without proper consideration. Even if the recommendation brings advantages to you, your client and your colleague, it still needs to be the right recommendation, made in the right way, at the right time. A bad recommendation is likely to end badly and may well come back to bite you – rightly so, if you haven’t taken the necessary precautions. If you have the slightest doubt about the recommendation (regarding the quality of the colleague, the reliability of the client, whether or not it is in the best interests of all involved, etc), then refrain from making it.
Finally, when dealing with a direct client, don’t hesitate to outline the things that they should be aware of when selecting someone to work with in the future. Keep in mind that most people don’t know much about the profession and that a good translator should always translate into their mother tongue, that they shouldn’t translate 20k words a day, that they shouldn’t accept fees of €0.01 per word, etc.