Translation client rating services such as Payment Practices are an indispensable way to check out your prospective clients’ creditworthiness before you work for them. Over at About Translation, Riccardo Schiaffino wrote a whole post about client rating services that gives a good overview of the larger lists.
Recently, a colleague and I were discussing the merits of using Payment Practices (which I’m using as an example because I’m familiar with its features, TCR and the Blue Board may have something similar) as a marketing tool, particularly for agencies outside the U.S. whose reputations you may not be familiar with. This technique comes with a few caveats, the main one being that you should never, ever contact the agency’s employees directly by using the contact information that appears on Payment Practices or any other list. Simply go to the agency’s website and follow the application information (look in the “employment,” “freelancers,” “join us” or similar sections) that appears there. Using the agency’s direct contact information (i.e. employee e-mail addresses, basically any information that does not appear on the agency’s public website) is a) highly annoying to the agency and b) a violation of Payment Practice’s terms of service.
That being said, let’s say that you want to start working with agencies in Austria. Log on to Payment Practices (it’s $19.99 a year; I think it’s a bargain and no, I don’t have an affiliate deal with them!) and click Search. Payment Practices gives agencies two ratings, one for Payment Reliability (i.e. does the agency pay on time) and Translator Approval (i.e. do translators who have worked with the agency want to work with them again). The search form allows you to set maximum and minimum values for each of those scores; let’s say you set the PPR and TA scores to be greater than or equal to four (the highest score being five). And look at that; Payment Practices has just displayed 17 potential clients in Austria that are rated 4.0/5.0 or higher.
Again, do not then contact the potential client using the detailed contact information listed on the Payment Practices entry. Go to the potential client’s website, see if they are taking applications from freelancers, and follow the application process that they list. Payment Practices’ form can also sort by city; so if you’re planning to be, say, in Paris, you can sort out the highly-rated agencies in Paris and contact them (again, using the contact information on the agency’s site, not the information on Payment Practices) to ask for an informational interview since you’ll be in the neighborhood.