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Every client has different invoicing systems
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:45
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Aug 27, 2008

One thing that takes up an inordinate amount of my time, at the end of every month, is invoicing all my clients for jobs done in that month.

Every client has a different invoicing system. Often I have to peer at pages of small print, where they've set out their own particular terms and conditions. If you don't perfectly respect these T&C it gives them the perfect excuse not to pay!

Every invoice has to be set out differently and sent to particular people with particular email addresses, which may not be the people who commissioned the job from you.

I find this incredibly time-consuming and tedious especially for very small jobs where the amount of time I spend organising the invoice correctly is almost equal to the amount of time I spent doing the translation !

Grrrrrr !

Someone sympathise.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:45
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
I sympathise Aug 27, 2008

I don't have a lot of trouble with this, most clients accept an invoice with the returned work, but there's one firm that wants not only an invoice but a monthly statement of the work I've done for them at the end of the month. Since they only send me work about once every two years, of course I tend to forget their irritating special requirements, and only realise I haven't complied with them when I ring them after not being paid for three months or so.

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jmadsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:45
I know exactly what you mean... Aug 27, 2008

What I do is this:

- Make invoices in Excel to calculate amounts etc. automatically (and the convert to PDF format).
- Reuse previous invoices (with all the information required by the client) and only change invoice number, invoice date, due date, and specific project information (PO numbers, word counts, rates, amounts etc.). However, this requires having invoiced that particular client earlier.
- Create specific invoicing email addresses for each client in my address book in Outlook, called e.g. "Company A Invoice", etc. It takes a little time, but it's time well spent.

I strongly believe in not doing the same things over and over again, and with a computer you can reduce such boring tasks. For instance, I have an empty project folder structure with a folder containing several (empty) subfolders called "Files", "E-mails", "Instructions", "Handoff", etc. When I get a new translation job, I just copy this folder structure renaming it according to the project, deadline and client. It's not rocket science, but in a small way it helps reducing annoying repetitive tasks.

Jørgen


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 16:45
Dutch to English
+ ...
The main problem appears to be ... Aug 27, 2008

... that you're letting a task you already don't like pile up until the end of the month.

I invoice most of my clients at month end, as they are all regulars and pay very quickly anyhow.

Each have their own requirements, but my month-end invoicing takes a maximum of an hour. If I left it to pile up, I'd easily lose a morning's work.

I have a template for each client, containing the specific info they require, I just fill in the attached schedule as each job is done. It takes a maximum of two minutes to transfer the info from the PO to the invoice schedule each time. You don't even notice it, it becomes routine.

A quick cross-reference at the end of the month against my diary entries and the accumulated totals for each client on my excel schedule, which I update daily to know how much work I need to take on to reach monthly targets, means I don't overlook any jobs.

If you create templates this month, and keep it up during September, this time next month will be a doddle.

Sorry for not sympathising - I don't really see much point when the power to change things is in your own hands - but hopefully some constructive advice will prove more useful anyhow.



[Edited at 2008-08-27 19:29]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:45
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Don't wait for the end of the month Aug 27, 2008

Tom in London wrote:
One thing that takes up an inordinate amount of my time, at the end of every month, is invoicing all my clients for jobs done in that month.


If you wait, you're creating a nightmare. Besides, some clients pay a certain number of days after they receive the invoice, not a certain number of days after the last day of the month after they receive the invoice, so you can benefit by sending invoices sooner rather than later.

Every client has a different invoicing system. Often I have to peer at pages of small print, where they've set out their own particular terms and conditions. If you don't perfectly respect these T&C it gives them the perfect excuse not to pay!


I'm sure it's not that bad. Besides, if your invoice doesn't suit the client's accountant, he should write you an e-mail reminding you. If he doesn't, dump the client. A good client wants his accounting to work out right, and that means taking steps to ensure that translators get paid (it makes his life easier too, if he can rest assured that his financial affairs are in order and there are no loose ends).

Every invoice has to be set out differently and sent to particular people with particular email addresses, which may not be the people who commissioned the job from you.


This is actually quite easy to deal with. Simply create a file with each client's requirements. Even if a client has no requirements, create an entry for the client in that file. Then make it a habit to consult that file before you write any invoice.

Also, you can often reuse old invoices (but this means you have to type in the information manually). The advantage of this is that once you've created an invoice for one client, you can reuse the form over and over, knowing that the form is acceptable for that client.

I find this incredibly time-consuming and tedious especially for very small jobs...


Two solutions:

1. Have a minimum rate equal to one hour's work, or...
2. Don't charge for small jobs.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:45
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Hmmm Aug 27, 2008

Well, some of these replies are less gratifying than others. One of them directly contradicts itself:

"The main problem appears to be that you're letting a task you already don't like pile up until the end of the month.
I invoice most of my clients at month end". ???????

I don't dislike invoicing. It reminds me that I'm getting paid

Jørgen, you post describes more or less what I already do. With lots of different clients it's important to stay organised

I already do something like what you described.

I also try to have a standard invoice and just change bits of it, but every client always seems to have some particular condition about the payment method, nomenclature etc. that means the standard invoice always has to be changed.

OF course when you're invoicing a long-standing client you can just copy the previous invoice....unless that client is an agency with several people commissioning work from you, in which case you have to be extra careful!!


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:45
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I finally figured it out Aug 27, 2008

I know it really sounds dumb, but I have two clients who want lists of everything I've done for them at the end of each month, and one of them requires not only an invoice with this information, but also a separate list on an Excel form...and...for the longest time I would wait until the end of the month to put all of this together.

I finally got fed up and just created blank forms that I'll fill in as each job arrives. Duh.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 16:45
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not a contradiction ... Aug 27, 2008

Tom in London wrote:

Well, some of these replies are less gratifying than others. One of them directly contradicts itself:

"The main problem appears to be that you're letting a task you already don't like pile up until the end of the month.
I invoice most of my clients at month end". ???????



If you read my post properly, you'd see that almost all of the work relating to invoicing is done during the month. The act of sending the invoice takes place at month end.

If you're spending an inordinate amount of time on invoicing, that would indicate you're probably not as organised as you could be.

I simply tried to assist by sharing what works for me. My sincere apologies if it was a less than gratifying experience.


[Edited at 2008-08-28 09:33]


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 11:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Take control - and give control to your computer Aug 27, 2008

Tom in London wrote:
Every client has a different invoicing system. Often I have to peer at pages of small print, where they've set out their own particular terms and conditions. If you don't perfectly respect these T&C it gives them the perfect excuse not to pay!


Shouldn't you, as the vendor of the service, be applying your T&C - not slavishly following the T&Cs of your individual clients? When you go to your local car dealer to buy a new skateboard, do you insist on the dealer giving you an invoice printed in green ink on purple-coloured paper? Of course not! The rules on what information goes on an invoice, and how it must be laid out, are governed by the relevant legislation in the vendor's country (and may different for export as opposed to 'inland' sales, as is the case here in Chile, for example). If you follow the UK legislation (since you are apparently 'in London') then your invoices are valid and your clients cannot quibble.

Tom in London added:
Every invoice has to be set out differently and sent to particular people with particular email addresses, which may not be the people who commissioned the job from you.


My invoicing, as such, takes about two minutes per job - and is usually done even before the job itself is started. I have a home-brew database (in Access) holding data about all jobs, clients, contacts etc. This includes, for example, as many contact options as are necessary for each client (and always, by default, two contact addresses - one for 'delivery', one for 'billing'). When a new job lands in my in-box, I register it in the database; that takes, at most, two minutes for an existing client. If (as is usually the case in my work) the price is based on source-word count then the database immediately tells me how much I will earn from the job (that's a nice incentive to get on with it!). Otherwise, final word-count is entered when the job's finished. All that then remains is a click on the 'See Invoice' button to let me review the invoice on-screen, and finally a click on 'Gimme the Money' - and it goes by e-mail without futher ado, together with paper print-outs for my own records and tax purposes.

The same system caters for the kind of requirements Jack mentioned:

Jack Doughty wrote:
... one firm that wants not only an invoice but a monthly statement of the work I've done for them at the end of the month.


My database gives me a monthly and annual analysis of all work done, including job types, word counts, rates, income per job, per client, per language pair, oustanding payments, etc. It's useful, among other things, as a guide when deciding which clients merit priority when new jobs compete for the same time-slots.

Tom in London wrote:
I find this incredibly time-consuming and tedious especially for very small jobs where the amount of time I spend organising the invoice correctly is almost equal to the amount of time I spent doing the translation !


I used to share that frustration. Then I got organized.

Tom in London wrote:
Someone sympathise.


No sympathy here!
Take control of your T&C and hand over control of your invoicing to your computer.

MediaMatrix


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:45
French to English
+ ...
Ditto Aug 28, 2008

Like Debs, I keep running Excel files which I update as I finish a job, so that at the end of the month I can just copy the information into each client's invoice template. Certainly takes less than an hour at the end of the month. That said, there are some idiosyncracies to remember: one client won't accept e-mail invoices, so they have to be faxed; another has to have their invoices in by 12 noon CET on the last day of the month, otherwise you have to wait until 45 days from the end of the next month before you get paid; others are quite happy to be invoiced for each individual job and pay within a week - the best of all!

If you have lots of different clients and small amounts, maybe you should consider Translation Office 3000. I've heard good things about it, although I've never been sufficiently tempted to invest because my system works for me at the moment. I'm sure other people out there will be able to recommend or otherwise.

Don't let it get you down!

Claire


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 18:45
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
I run my own scheme Aug 28, 2008

I have the same form for every client, only that I use English in it when its an international client, German when its a normal client and Finnish when its a Finnish client. The only concession I make is that I try to send the invoice to the mail address the client has specified. Usually though I send them to the PM who sends me work.
This year a new client sent me two jobs from their German office. I invoiced normally. Then a manager from New Zealand wanted me to start filling in a report of all work done during each month. I replied that I will not do so, but if they send me more jobs I expect them to pay my normal invoices. Up till now I have got paid without using their system.

Another international agency wants invoices uploaded. I upload my pdfs to their system because they pay very promptly. Otherwise I invoice at the end of each month.

I would not start ot work for a client who has complicated requirements regarding invoicing.

Cheers
Heinrich


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Stuart Dowell  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 17:45
Member (2007)
Polish to English
+ ...
It's not really a contradiction Aug 28, 2008

One of them directly contradicts itself:

"The main problem appears to be that you're letting a task you already don't like pile up until the end of the month.
I invoice most of my clients at month end". ???????


It's not really a contradiction.

I invoice at the end of the month, but I update my invoicing software after each job so that at the end of the moth I just have a few clicks to create invoices.

Sorry - just noticed that Lawyer-Linguist has also responded!



[Edited at 2008-08-28 05:21]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:45
English to French
+ ...
This is what I've been waiting for all along Aug 28, 2008

mediamatrix wrote:

Shouldn't you, as the vendor of the service, be applying your T&C - not slavishly following the T&Cs of your individual clients? When you go to your local car dealer to buy a new skateboard, do you insist on the dealer giving you an invoice printed in green ink on purple-coloured paper? Of course not! The rules on what information goes on an invoice, and how it must be laid out, are governed by the relevant legislation in the vendor's country (and may different for export as opposed to 'inland' sales, as is the case here in Chile, for example). If you follow the UK legislation (since you are apparently 'in London') then your invoices are valid and your clients cannot quibble.


Thanks, mediamatrix! I was starting to worry that all translators consider that they have to volunteer to take on a part of their client's accounting work. As you say, there are laws that dictate what should be on an invoice. As long as you observe those laws, nobody can force you to format your invoice in a certain way and perform all kinds of time-consuming tasks to help your client avoid paying a full-time accounts payable clerk. I am a translator, not a volunteer bookkeeper/accountant.

Of course, I do sometimes comply with certain requests - one of my clients want the name of the PM on the invoice. No problem - it takes seconds to do that. But I have also been asked by others to use their invoice template. Who do they think they are? Just how do they imagine that will fit into my accounting? What if I use accounting software that is simply incompatible with that template?

Also, I am wondering what's up with this extravagant request to make a list of all work done for them. I don't know about the rest of you, but a client who can't keep track of the work commissioned looks to me like a lot of trouble...


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xxx1279
Local time: 11:45
I'll sympathize, Tom! Aug 28, 2008

Although I have a system similar to that described in several posts (I keep a running list of work done and then copy and paste into client-specific invoice templates at the end of the month), I still hate invoicing. I'm always trying to get out of it. When the end of the month comes around, I will find odd things that I "need" to do before I start invoicing (such as canning tomatoes or polishing shoes). I once tried to teach my husband to send invoices for me, but it never really took off.

I personally plan on switching to an entirely automated system as soon as possible. I used the 30-day trial version of Translation Office 3000 and liked it. I will probably buy it once the value of the euro comes back down closer to the dollar again, unless I find something else first. I would be interested in hearing more about media matrix's "home-brew database." How difficult was it to create that program? More importantly, would you consider selling a copy to organizationally challenged translators like me and Tom?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:45
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Organisationally challenged? Aug 28, 2008

Not I. I'm Mr. Organisation. I like routines and inventing new ones.

once the value of the euro comes back down closer to the dollar again.....or the £ sterling, would be better. I mostly get paid in Euro and lose on every currency transaction

As it happens, re the topic, I've spent half the day exchanging emails with the admin person of an agency (not even the person who commissioned my work) trying to give him the info he says he needs, in the format he needs, before he pays me. And that's only for one invoice.

As for Terms and Conditions: I don't wave these in the faces of my clients. I find T&C put people off.

Clare, you crack me up. Keep going !

[Edited at 2008-08-28 17:37]


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