Freelancers and finder’s fees

decisionA few weeks ago, a client had an interesting proposition for me. He has lots of contacts in an area that particularly interests me (economic and social development in Europe), and he asked whether I’d be willing to pay him an introduction fee if he put me in touch with organisations needing English to French translations.
I had actually gone through a similar process not so long ago. I get a lot of requests for translations in other language pairs and other specialisations, and after I put various clients in touch with other translators, I started wondering whether I should try and benefit from creating earning opportunities for others. I talked to a few freelancers, and particularly a friend who works in finance, an industry where this kind of practice is commonplace and where it is not unheard of for someone to ask for 25% of the sum to be invoiced as a finder’s fee.
After thinking about it carefully, I concluded that I could either act as a hub for people needing translators, and ask trusted colleagues for financial compensation in exchange for solid contacts, or I could use free, personal recommendations to create goodwill and build a solid network, which might benefit me at some point by enhancing my reputation and my visibility amongst colleagues.
I was far more comfortable with the latter option, and so that’s the path I chose to follow. I explained all this to my client, adding that I completely understood if he wanted to use a different tack and strike a deal with another translator for his future projects. As freelancers, we do need to explore all possible revenue streams, particularly at a time when squeezed budgets mean that translation is no longer a priority for a lot of companies.
Monopoly photo by Mark Strozier

By |2016-10-18T15:48:42+00:00July 25th, 2011|Freelance Translation|6 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Ragini Werner l NEEDSer July 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks, Céline, for this thoughtful post, it struck a chord with me.
    I find that creating goodwill is a matter of give and take. Like you I’ve chosen to recommend trusted colleagues freely if I cannot take on a job myself and as these kind people do the same for me, in the long run we all benefit.
    Sincere recommendations certainly have great value, which is why I post compliments from clients prominently on my website (with their permission of course). It’s so much nicer when others blow your horn for you, n’est pas?

  2. Jill July 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I agree with you and choose the latter option as well. I recommend colleagues when I am unavailable or it isn’t my language pair and have benefited from other colleagues’ recommendations. I can’t justify making a profit on the back of someone else’s labor…

  3. Jenny July 26, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Very interesting article Céline, thanks! It makes me very happy that many translators still see the value in a solid network and personal recommendations. I hope to be able to do the same as I build up my reputation and clients in Austria.

  4. Annemieke July 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I completely agree – when you create a network around you everyone benefits. When I can’t take on a Dutch translation I’m more than happy to recommend colleagues, and in turn I have been given jobs when other translators were busy. It takes no effort and therefore I find it unethical to charge for it. However, freelancers who find themselves in this position frequently could of course consider starting a small agency and charging the client this finder’s fee.

  5. Catherine September 6, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I refer clients to colleagues when I cannot help them myself. And colleagues do me the same favour. At obviously no charge!
    But I have no ethical problem with your client’s proposition at all. If he were to spend several hours a week calling and meeting potential clients on my behalf, acting as my “agent”, I would be happy to pay for this marketing and sales service. I’d then use more energy translating instead of selling.

  6. céline September 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I agree with you, but that wasn’t the case. It was more of a “if it happens that a client needs a translator, I’ll recommend you” type of arrangement. There would have been no work involved on his part.

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