LinkedIn offers users the opportunity to write a “recommendation” on the profile of another user they’ve worked with. This is a great way to reward people you have a good working relationship with, and in the language services industry it has an important application – one which, in my opinion, is not being used enough.

As a Translation Project Manager, one of my main concerns is making sure that work is assigned to high quality, professional translators. We need to deliver a good service to the client, and sometimes that means finding new freelancers who are a good fit with the requirements of the job. But recruitment is always a risk.

A poor quality translation is bad for our clients and bad for us, so it’s really important to make sure
we’re working with the right people to begin with. A major part of this is seeking references from people who have worked with the translator before.

Freelance translators need great references

References present their own challenges. Many freelancers keep letters of reference on file that to distribute as they want. This is all well and good, but there are some problems with the trustworthiness of these references. I am not suggesting that dishonesty is a major problem among freelance translators, but letters of reference are easy to falsify or selectively edit. What’s more, the referee’s opinion may have changed since they wrote it, or it may simply not be relevant to the services offered.

The established alternative, then, is to ask for the contact details of referees and ask them to either provide a reference or endorse one we have already received. It can be time-consuming to get in touch with all these people, though, and people may not be willing to give a reference if they know it will mean being rung up for confirmation on a weekly basis.

Utilise your LinkedIn profile

This leads us nicely back to recommendations on LinkedIn. Appearing on your profile, the recommendation has the convenience of an ‘on file’ reference letter. However, it will also have a link to a profile where it will be possible to check whether it was provided by a real person, and send them a quick message with any questions. In this way, it has the advantages of both systems.

I would thoroughly recommend that freelance linguists ask their clients to provide these recommendations for them, even if it’s just a case of asking your existing referees to copy and paste it to LinkedIn.

Reference tips for freelance translators

  • Don’t ask for references from clients who you have worked for very little or only recently
  • Conversely, don’t use a reference from ancient history! As a freelancer, your ideal referee is someone you’ve worked for in the last 2 years, either frequently or on one large project
  • Please check your referees are willing before you list them! Like many project managers, I will never give a bad reference, but regrettably I have had to decline to provide one several times. This does not look good
  • Keep it relevant! People may be queuing up to endorse your work as a pastry chef but it’s not going to help you win translation work
  • And if you’ve read the rest of the post you’ll know what a good idea it is to get your referee to write you a recommendation on LinkedIn