In the last two months, I have referred five translation projects to colleagues. I received several referrals also. It may incorrectly appear that I am extremely charitable, quite naive or overly busy. In fact, I had solid professional reasons for passing on those jobs and did so to a network that I had built up for the years. Moreover, my actions were beneficial both personally and professionally.
It is common to view fellow professionals as rivals for the same zero-sum client base. However, no freelancer or even small firm can be effective and efficient in all aspects of any craft. Whether we formally define ourselves as specialists or not, there are certain tasks that are not worthwhile in terms of time or results. For example, I passed on jobs in a different subject area, medicine, as my areas of knowledge are law and business. I also referred a job in the opposite langaugae direction, English to Russian, as I only work into English. Finally, I passed on an urgent job for an established client because I could not meet its deadline. My actions lead to no loss of income as I could not handle the projects in any case.
I referred these clients to translators that I personally knew from networking activities. I had met them at conferences, had dinner with them, drank coffee with them and/on communicated on Zoom or another platform. There was a face and personality behind the name. I cannot attest to their level of skill but I do have a general, albeit intutive, impression of their integrity as human beings and level of knowledge. Since I provided a referral, not a recommendation, that is sufficient. My acquaintance with them was not accidental. It was the product of attending many conferences, hosting local translators at my house, going to relevant lectures and participating in online events. By investing our time in such social activities, we can get to know our colelagues while they got to know us, to our mutual if not always comcomitant benefit.
Clearly, I had the option of informing my customers that I regret that I don’t provide the given service or am unavailable and stopping there. However, by making the referrals, I gained in terms of good feeling, future referrals and customer satisfaction. Most people receive pleasure from seeing their friends succeed. In this case, my colleagues may be in the middle of a bad month. This project may just what the doctor ordered. Furthermore, positive acts lead to other positive acts. One of the referrals I sent was after I received a referral from the same translator. In a sense, giving and receiving are linked. As for my customers, I provided added value by helping them find a solution for their need, making me an even more valuable and trustworthy partner. They now have even more reason to come back to me as they know that I won’t take on projects beyond my capacity but instead will help find solutions if necessary. I actually strenghtened customer loyality in addition to creating a good feeling and helping a colleague.
This situation is relevant to many service professions. Referrals, when appropriate, are an additional tool to market ourselves and reach customers that we could normally never access. Contrary to the claim of Reefer Madness, the classic anti-drug film from 1936, it is not madness to refer to colleagues but instead good business sense.
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