You'd think some sort of deregulation had taken place overnight -- all of a sudden I'm getting calls from translation agencies abroad, mostly from the UK. I guess they're cutting the Estonian companies out and finding the freelancers. If so, why did it take so long for them to figure it out? Maybe it's just a coincidence that I received four such calls in a week, but I think some of the formerly nominally Estonian banks are re-thinking their business model and that accounts for some of the change. I've heard other Estonian translators with similar tales.
While for the Estonian freelancer, it all might seem lucrative, like the ticket to the big ride, the potential for exploitation is very much there. The basic approach of these agencies is to lure you in with a teaser, then try to steal your soul. They don't want you as an employee, of course -- nohoho. Nor do they want to talk to your firm, if you have one. They don't even necessarily have a lot of demand for the work you do.
They want you as a "team member". They may want to use your name in procurement tenders to pad their agency's cred. Above all, if they give you (crap) work, they want to control the terms, just as if you were a telemarketer during your probationary period. This is corporate America baby, except it isn't America so I can't use that cliche.
Typically, after you accept the original piece of work, they dump a bunch of confidentiality agreements on you, saying ingratiating things like "I'm sure you understand your position". When you have signed away your right to talk about the work (or even the weather, in extreme cases), they give you the key to the kingdom -- the password to the workspace, which is a special Web interface for sending files. Then you have to accept the job a second time, for real.
Ostensibly the workspace is for security but what it really does is gives the purchaser control of the invoicing process so that there are no purchase orders. I think one of the workspaces even has some sort of social networking capability, so you can complain in a non-threatening way to co-team-members without breaking the confidentiality agreement.
The worst of the firms called me during dinner hour (it was 4:30 pm in London) -- just like telemarketers, incidentally. But they didn't dump any paperwork on me. They needed a job fast. I did have to accept the job a second time. I joked that I had my own proprietary new customer registration process but I would waive it just for them, since they were paying well.
I did the next-day job for them (a bank presentation). When the end of the month rolled around, and I contacted them about payment, that's when they rolled out the new sweetener -- the promise of a "long-term relationship". A few minutes later, a confidentiality agreement was flashed my way. This one was oddly vague yet absolute (I cannot talk about them, I cannot even basically say they exist). When I wrote them back, saying, "Now, about my invoice..." the agency morphed into a vast corporation with separate accounting departments, but I would have to navigate them.
I doubt they will refuse to pay something (it will be by PayPal -- yet another corporate credit-card network with a stupid name, BTW). I just miss the level playing field where you had an Estonian neighbourhood bank and someone who knew someone there would just call you up and order work. Now I get the sense it has to go through Stockholm and Stockholm has their own europede contacts. But why enrich a Eurotrash middleman with unethical (well, simply uncool) recruitment practices.