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Payment Trends?
Thread poster: Frank Hansen

Frank Hansen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Member (2006)
English to Danish
+ ...
Feb 17, 2009

Hi fellow translators,
I have noticed some changes in payments policies over the last 6-12 months. Translation companies are beginning to charge all bank transfer costs to me, which can be up to 40US$, more and more translation companies are paying after 60 days of invoice, and I even met a translation company who would not pay for my work before they were paid be their client.
Have any of you noticed these same changes or other trends, and do you have any suggestions to what to do about it?
Thanks a lot!
-frank


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Katrin Hollberg  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:53
Japanese to German
+ ...
Acting locally most of the times... Feb 17, 2009

Frank Hansen wrote:
and I even met a translation company who would not pay for my work before they were paid be their client.


That is the silliest argument one can imagine. A well established service provider will never discuss this issue and will never expect you as a single freelancer to pre-finance their or their customer's business. It is simply an impudence!
This agency should definitely rethink his/her business model.

I AM a freelance person and CAN pay fellow translators in advance who do me a favour and take over a translation job from me...so why shouldn't an agency...?))

Once in a while I take over international jobs but my main business is still in my home country (=no transfer costs).
However, whenever it comes to an international "affair" I negotiate not to be charged. Otherwise I do not need the job or you should try to raise you rate accordingly.

Greetings
Katrin


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:53
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Bad argument indeed Feb 17, 2009

Katrin Hollberg wrote:
Frank Hansen wrote:
and I even met a translation company who would not pay for my work before they were paid be their client.


That is the silliest argument one can imagine. A well established service provider will never discuss this issue and will never expect you as a single freelancer to pre-finance their or their customer's business. It is simply an impudence!
This agency should definitely rethink his/her business model.


Actually, the only customer who constantly delayed payments for this reason was rethought by us... we stopped offering our services to them. And they meant about 30% of our income at that time!

As for changes in payment terms... not really with our regular customers, who are great professionals and sensible people, thank God!


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eurotransmit  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:53
Member (2016)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Payment Trends? Feb 17, 2009

My conclusion after 25+ years of translation activity is that translation companies shouldn't exist. What is exactly the work they do, that we can't do ourselves? We should work towards a world without MLV and other fancy abbreviations, and deal directly with the end customers. Colleagues, grab your axes!

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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 12:53
Italian to English
+ ...
Discussed before, reliable customers, bank accounts Feb 17, 2009

Hi Frank,

Yes, this issue has been discussed in recent threads.

Some agencies even during periods of growth use the excuse of their customers paying them first, but most agencies are more reliable. Now, today, there may be more concern about payments going through, but, as Katrin said, a well-managed agency should have enough liquidity. If you see a change in policy from a known agency, it may be a sign of trouble.

If an agency all of a sudden changes transaction cost policy that may also be a sign of trouble; if they do so unilaterally without forewarning, that is a dodgy.

To reduce transaction costs, it may be helpful to have a sizable account with one bank that has international reach, either directly or through correspondence, and that allows you to have accounts in the currencies of the your payers.

Having said that, usually banks charge customers $35-$40 for international payments anyway, even in the same currency, so even having a good relationship with your bank may not help. But, again, it may suggest that the agency does not manage its own banking relationships too well; if it does good volume, it should be able to negotiate lower rates with its own bank.

The economic pie is shrinking or at least it is not growing, so it will be more common to see participants grab for a bigger or same piece of the pie at the expense of others rather than in cooperation with others.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:53
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some comments Feb 17, 2009

Frank Hansen wrote:
I have noticed some changes in payments policies over the last 6-12 months.


So when did these changes occur? 6 months ago or 12 months ago?

Translation companies are beginning to charge all bank transfer costs to me, which can be up to 40US$...


I suspect this happens usually on a once-off basis, when both translator and agency are still finding their feet in their relationship. My attitude is to accept the glitch the first time and then make sure that the agreement is certain from then on.

I know of two tactics for handling this: (i) charge a minimum rate of the most likely banking fees + what 300 words will cost, or (ii) explain that you charge separately for banking fees, and make it a separate item on your invoice.

...more and more translation companies are paying after 60 days of invoice,


Is this a problem? Or do you mean more and more of them pay late?

...and I even met a translation company who would not pay for my work before they were paid be their client.


The same applies here what I said above about who pays the banking fees. The first time this happens, you know about it, and you know to avoid them in future... unless they told you about the situation beforehand, in which case it was your decision to work for them anyway.

Am I right?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:53
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Good translation agencies Feb 17, 2009

eurotransmit wrote:
My conclusion after 25+ years of translation activity is that translation companies shouldn't exist. What is exactly the work they do, that we can't do ourselves?


Good translation agencies.companies do several things that either we - translators - can't, or that are not economically worthwhile for us. These include, however not at all being limited to:

- They supposedly can find translation professionals specialized in the most varied fields of human knowledge and, at the same time, for as many language pairs as needed.

- They can coordinate the work of a worldwide team of different language translators, proofreaders, DTP experts in varied applications, web site developers/editors, multimedia/video experts and so on, streamline workflow, shorten the timeline, and reduce overall costs.

- They can set up and implement QA standards amd processes so that output will have uniform and high quality.

- They can process payment of a whole job by the end client to a number of different vendors.

... and many other things.


To illustrate why translators shouldn't do it, I'll use the case of a colleague, friend, and thereafter client of mine. She was a translator who turned into a successful outsourcer. At a certain time I told her "Either you translate, or you outsource; you won't have time for both.", and she replied "You know? My husband (a senior manager in a very large industrial complex) told me exactly the same thing!" ... and every time she tried to do both, she proved us (me and her husband) correct.

Unfortunately, I estimate that nowadays only one out of every five (maybe more) self-claimed translation agencies does any of the aforesaid and implied things. They are just after a quick buck at no risk and no investment, pushing files back and forth.

A growing number of this larger cluster lives exclusively on cash flow. They require payment in advance or COD from their clients, and pay translators (of course, they don't get mixed up with DTP, subtitling, or any other 'complex' stuff) at least 60 days after delivery. So they'll have that money interest-free for some two months before they have to part with it. Then, they'll pay with the up-front payment from the next job. If job intake declines or halts, they'll be bad-mouthed forever by a few disgruntled, unpaid vendors. Who cares? They simply don't! They're in that for the money only, and just for as long as it lasts.

So how can professional translators help rid the market of these greedy operators? It's very simple: Don't take any job where the payment will be beyond 30 days. Actually two weeks is more than enough, but give the honest ones a break. This way we'll starve them from two things: interest-free cash and suppliers. They shouldn't last long in this trade or any other.

Honest, professional translation agencies get a good income from all the extra services they provide on top of translation alone. If they do a really good job at that, the client will get a better overall service, and will be willing to pay more for it. They'll make money from all their hard work, and not merely by pushing files back and forth.


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:53
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
They do a lot of work for us!! Feb 17, 2009

eurotransmit wrote:
My conclusion after 25+ years of translation activity is that translation companies shouldn't exist. What is exactly the work they do, that we can't do ourselves? We should work towards a world without MLV and other fancy abbreviations, and deal directly with the end customers. Colleagues, grab your axes!


All I can say about this is that agencies do a lot of work for us:
1. They interface with many customers and offer us a single point of contact to all of them
2. They take and make all phone calls, do lots of visits and do all the selling, so we don't waste time doing it
3. They (good agencies I mean) often pay us before they are paid: we get our money faster, and they gather payments from many different end customers in a single payment to us
4. They are local to their customers, something we cannot always offer
5. They often have a corporate environment in which to welcome corporate-level decision-makers, who love to enjoy a nice coffee in comfortable conditions to discuss the big picture

So they are probably more necessary than you believe! The agencies among my customers are great to have!

And.... Corporations don't have the time to look for, maintain, interface and pay 25 different translators. They just don't like to interface with us and prefer to talk to a single person!


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Maximiliano Jozami  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
I wouldn't recommend you accept those terms... Feb 17, 2009

I used to accept really long payment terms (by "really long" I mean up to 90 days after the end of the month of delivery, which could mean 110 days after delivery). However, since the beginning of the crisis, I am not accepting more than 30 days of delay in the payments -and even that is a lot! My reasoning is the following: if even the largest banks are not able to pay their debts (e.g., today the Santander bank, the most important financial institution in Spain, declared a default for a particular sector), if financial companies are reluctant to lend money, why on earth should I lend my money to a translation agency, even if it's the greatest agency I've ever worked with?

As a matter of fact, it's not a question of good will or trust, the most important companies in the world are filing for bankrupcy; even translation agencies that managed their accounts properly can suddenly find out that their bank has gone bankrupt.

By the way, have you seen a decrease in rates due to the crisis?

Cheers!


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