Using clients' names: OK or not?

A reader asks: On my website and resumé, is it OK to use my clients’ names? Does it matter if I worked for them directly or through an agency?

Short answer: To be safe, never use a client’s name without their permission. If you’re “sure that the client won’t mind,” then why not take two minutes and write them an e-mail, just to make sure. Clients may have their reasons for not wanting you to use their name, so why risk the relationship over it?

Longer answer: Using clients’ names in your marketing materials is a big asset, especially if the client is a big-name one. But if you use a client’s name without permission, you can create a very bad situation for them, and thus for yourself as well. Here are my personal recommendations for using clients’ names, with the caveat that these fall on the conservative side. Only use a client’s name in your marketing materials if:

  • You worked for them as an employee, not as a freelancer;
  • Or, if your name appears in the credits of a published translation for that client;
  • Or, if you have the client’s permission in writing;
  • Or, if the client wrote you a public testimonial or LinkedIn recommendation (or similar) and included their name on it.

I recommend never using the name of an end client that you worked for through an agency. They’re the agency’s client, not yours: the agency presumably found, landed, and retains the client, and you have no direct relationship with the end client. For similar reasons, an agency should never use the end client’s non-payment as a reason not to pay you, but that’s another post entirely!

I think that these (fairly restrictive) guidelines help avoid misunderstandings, and respect the fact that even a client with whom you have a good relationship may decline to be named publicly as one of your clients. By the same token, I always ask my direct clients to put my name on the translation (and many of them agree), but I never push back if the client declines this request.

Other thoughts on using clients’ names?

11 Responses to “Using clients' names: OK or not?”
  1. Mylene Vialard September 2, 2014
  2. Louise Souter September 2, 2014
    • Ariana September 3, 2014
      • Sarah September 4, 2014
    • Brenda September 10, 2014
  3. Ying Peng September 2, 2014
  4. mcltheblog September 17, 2014
  5. Alex December 1, 2014
  6. Adeline November 4, 2015
    • Corinne McKay November 9, 2015
      • Adeline November 9, 2015

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