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How to Avoid Scams in the Translation Business

Updated on January 14, 2014

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.

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1 Website Verification

A website can tell a lot about the professionalism of a company. Nowadays, it is fairly easy to set up a professionally looking 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 websites usually offers the following:

  • Contact information like an email address and a phone number. If the company uses an email address like example@gmail.com or example@yahoo.com, 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


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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 evalute 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 extremely 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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    • samikan profile image

      samikan 3 years ago from online

      very useful hub..loved it voted up useful and interesting

    • Rafiq23 profile image

      Muhammad Rafiq 3 years ago from Pakistan

      Yes, I agree with your points. I am also a translator and I do know about fake agencies and fake translators. One thing that I want to share with you is to read online review of the company before working with any company. There are many websites, which provide very authentic and useful reviews about anything. Usually, any good agency will provide you the PO before assigning you the translation. So ask for PO before taking any online translation job. I have also written a hub on "How to Make Money with Online Translation." You can check it out. Great hub for beginners! Thumbs up!

    • Lerys profile image

      Lerys 2 years ago

      Thank you for the valuable tips.

    • kenaxx profile image

      Karel Kosman 2 years ago from Prague, Czech Republic

      Good points Jennifer. Note that, for proz's blueboard, you do not need a full membership to see the comments. Not only is the free version useful because you see the total number of votes and average rating (without the comments), but you can pay a small amount of your choice and use that to access individual records, to which you will have access forever. Or, even better, if you use Kudoz, award points to the best suggestion and add the term to Proz's glossary, you are given BrownZ points, which can be used as credit to get access to individual BlueBoard records. I often use Kudoz anyway, as a great tool to get your terminology right, and have amassed thousands of BrownZ points in the process.

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