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Frustrated...
Thread poster: Maaike van Vlijmen

Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:50
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
Jul 27, 2006

Hi everyone,
I feel very frustrated the past days...
First of all, there's the payment problem. I am waiting on a large amount of money and the lady of the translation agency is vague about the when and why. I emailed her two days ago, saying I was tired of waiting and that I wanted my money. No response. Today I asked her to reply. No answer. I am getting afraid that she will not pay me. It already happened to me I don't know what to do. I couldn't attend a Powwow because I had no money!! I felt so ashamed!
Then, there's another thing that happened today. I saw a job posting on this site for a translation job in one of my language pairs which interested me, but I decided not to apply because of the tight deadline. A few hours later I was contacted by another agency which I work for. They offered me the same job, but they offered only 2/3 of the rate I saw on this site. So I mailed them the link to the proz job posting, saying "what a difference in rate uh?!" The lady replied that the job poster was an old client of hers and that she (obviously!) didn't know he had posted the job on proz. She said the deadline could be postponed, and I said that in that case I was interested, but I would only work for the highest rate (the one I had seen here). I wrote that with a smiley, meaning: come on, what do you think I prefer? Then she replied she threw me out of the translation team because my rate was too high!! My eyes rolled out of my head. I told her it was meant as a joke and then everything was fine again. But the truth is, it was only half a joke. Of course I want to do the same job for a better rate! What is there not to understand? Do these people think I work for fun? I mean, of course I enjoy this job, it's what I've always wanted, but if someone comes up to me and says "I offer you more", what do you think I will do??
Now I feel sad and frustrated. ALL the payments I had to receive that were over a hundred euro caused problems. Does the "normal" agency still exist that pays in time and treats you as a human being?
Can someone cheer me up??


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Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:50
French to English
+ ...
Agencies come in all flavors Jul 27, 2006

I know there are many wonderful agencies who both respect their translators and make timely payments. My only advice is to be careful before accepting work, particularly large jobs, from agencies you are unfamiliar with. Always check the blueboard, and consider asking for deposits on large projects or if the firm has an unacceptably low rating.

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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
a little cheering up, a little heads up... Jul 27, 2006

Maaike Anne wrote:
I feel very frustrated the past days...
First of all, there's the payment problem. I am waiting on a large amount of money and the lady of the translation agency is vague about the when and why. I emailed her two days ago, saying I was tired of waiting and that I wanted my money. No response. Today I asked her to reply. No answer. I am getting afraid that she will not pay me. It already happened to me I don't know what to do.


Not sure it will help you to hear this but...we've all been there, at some point or the other. Reports of clients who pay late or never are an unfortunate daily occurence in our profession. And while you can take certain precautions, nothing short of advance payment (and this after making sure the check has cleared!) will guarantee you will be paid. This does not mean you should not take all the precautions available to you, in order to minimize your risk, and have a sense you are at least doing all that can be done on your side: check the Blue Board (useful but no guarantee, either), take a look at the client's website (if any), their email address (avoid clients using free email services, you need a physical address, phone number, etc.), contact colleagues to inquire about an agency if you know they have worked for it, make sure you have a signed agreement and invoice stating terms of payment and late payment surcharges, browse the Proz.com fora where there has been ample discussion on this topic with excellent advice being offered. There are wonderful agencies out there, it's important to do all you can to identify them. The only way I know to avoid frustration with bad payers is to avoid working for them altogether...I know, easier said than done, but in our profession I believe it is important to make it a priority.

Maaike Anne wrote:
Of course I want to do the same job for a better rate! What is there not to understand? Do these people think I work for fun? I mean, of course I enjoy this job, it's what I've always wanted, but if someone comes up to me and says "I offer you more", what do you think I will do??


Maaike, of course you want to do the same job for a better rate. But the point is that you were not offered the job for the better rate, since you did not bid on that project. You were later contacted by a different agency with their own payment terms, and at that point it seems to me any mention of "the other rate" was out of the question. Rate negotiation focuses on what you agree on with a specific agency, not on what you happen to know a different agency is offering. Of course you should always strive to work at the best rate possible, but with all due respect I believe telling this agency about the other agency's posting was a faux-pas. Even if you (half) meant it as a joke. From my vantage point, I can tell you jokes about money are often considered a no-no in the United States, and we all know each culture will have their own taboos. We are in an international profession, and I would recommend more discretion in the future, in order to avoid sticky situations. I am sure other colleagues may take a different view on this, this was my visceral reaction to your posting and hopefully it will be of some help to you.

Lastly...hang in there! If this is what you love doing, that's 90% of the battle won. You already did the right thing by posting in this community. You can't change the state of the profession overnight, but we are all striving to improve our conditions day after day. If possible, turn your frustration into motivation to educate yourself about business management, and any other areas of your practice you feel may need improvement. Conduct yourself in as professional a manner as possible, and expect nothing less from the clients you deal with. Here's hoping you will stumble upon this posting in 6 months, and have a good laugh...hopefully on the way to the bank

Best luck to you,

Susana

[Edited at 2006-07-27 16:49]


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Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:50
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Susana Jul 27, 2006

Hi Susana,
Thank you very much for your thoughts (and Richard too). I believe you are right about the "rate-question" and it really made me think. Also thanks for the "warning" about the US mentality, because later this year I will move there!


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xxx@caduceus
United States
Local time: 04:50
English to German
+ ...
breathe Jul 27, 2006

Hi Maaike,

Most of us have been there at some point in our translation career. It's not fun having to haggle over prices and payment terms or having to deal with non-payers. There are many "agencies" out there that don't really have a clue what good project management entails, but, on the other hand, there are well established agencies that do and know how important it is to treat their translators with the same respect that any other business partner would deserve.

I've had my share of late payments, rude PMs, ignorant end clients, etc. And I also had a similar situation as yours a while ago and got all worked up about it. Most often the situation will resolve itself, however, and those feelings of frustration will eventually pass. Most people, including myself, have been in situations in which we should have reacted differently. We're human, after all. But we should always make an extra effort to learn from our own mistakes and then stop repeating them. Soon you will realize that you have a much calmer attitude toward these issues, which will result in a more business-like approach when dealing with them. And that is the key right there. Whatever attitude the agency takes, try to stay calm and professional. Know what you can and can't accept. Be realistic. Weigh your options and respond accordingly. Listen. Be polite, but firm. Try to meet your client's needs without compromising your own. That's what negotiation is all about. I would also suggest to establish your rates with agencies beforehand in order to avoid getting into a price negotiation for every single job. And if you can’t seem to be able to meet your client’s goals (e.g. price) without losing sight of your own, then let them walk away and don’t dwell over it.

Finally, put things into perspective. There’s a whole lot worse life could be throwing at you. Life is good, enjoy it while it lasts and don't let things like that bother you too much.


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Chulhyun Ahn
Spain
Local time: 12:50
Korean to English
+ ...
Payment issue: Jul 27, 2006

Although I am currently working as a PM for a sizable localization firm, I started as a translator. I know what it is like to be paid late as a translator who seldom gets the amount of work that he can live on. When I am managing translation projects, I keep this in mind and try to help my translators get paid as soon as possible. But there are limits to what I can do for them. What I can do is: not forgetting to file the invoice in time, communicating with the client service people so they can bill the clients as timely as possible. In most cases, the payment process for our translators does not start until the project is closed and the client is billed. Our translators get paid when we know for sure that our clients will pay up their dues. PMs in my company are usually juggling three or four projects-which involve 10 or more languages-at a time. It is very easy for an overworked PM to put off less pressing issues (sorry to say this, but it's true) such as faciliating timely payment to their vendors. But let me give you an advise. While it's good to politely follow up on payment issues, and be persistent, but avoid taking angry or frustrated tone unless you are sure that the other party is being a deadbeat and not doing their job right. I remember doing this when I was a translator and got cutt off from a very lucrative project.

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:50
French to English
Outrageous Jul 28, 2006

nooyawker wrote:

Our translators get paid when we know for sure that our clients will pay up their dues.


This is, apparently, quite a common excuse for not paying translators. My understanding is that this is legally very dubious in most countries, if not downright illegal. The translator has a contract with you. You have a contract with the client. The two are separate. Assuming the translator fulfils his/her side of the contract (quality, timeliness, etc.), you are obliged to pay them, irrespective of whether your client pays you.

Unless, I suppose, your T&C explicitly state otherwise, but no translator in their right mind would agree to terms of "you won't get paid until we do"....


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 05:50
English to Russian
+ ...
Unbelievable!!!!!!!!! Jul 28, 2006

nooyawker wrote:

But let me give you an advise. While it's good to politely follow up on payment issues, and be persistent, but avoid taking angry or frustrated tone unless you are sure that the other party is being a deadbeat and not doing their job right.


Please, keep such "advices" to yourself or take time to advise the same to all our creditors. Also, please explain our children that they should not be crying or getting angry when mommies tell them than they can't keep a promise to buy them a bike or take them on a trip this week.

Thank you for warning the members that your "business" shall not be dealt with under any circumstances. Otherwise, my lawyer is very polite:-).

As a former PM, I have an advice for you - in rare occasions when invoicing for large projects takes more time indeed, especially in the beginning or when several huge pieces must be put together before sending the job and billing it to the cient, I was sending WRITTEN REQUESTS to the translators involved asking for their agrees to receive THAT PARTICULAR payment withing a 45-60 days timeframe as opposite to regular 30, and received their confirmations before sending them a job.

Dear translators, please understand that owners must generate their personal profits, which they watch very carefully, so they run a sweatshop - 10+ projects/languages per 1 PM, but you must be nice and compassionate.... WOW!

[Edited at 2006-07-28 11:12]


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Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:50
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
76 days Jul 28, 2006

Thanks Irene, I thought I was going crazy... Nooyawker: I am waiting 76 days!!! And I have been very understanding and polite, until this week. The excuse was indeed "the client hasn't paid yet", to which I always replied with understanding. But now I think: I have a deal with you, not with your client. I still don't know what to do... It's a sad situation, because she praised my work and wanted to continue working with me. I was also happy with her, but of course now I'm having second thoughts...

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xxx@caduceus
United States
Local time: 04:50
English to German
+ ...
late payments Jul 28, 2006

Maaike Anne wrote:

I am waiting 76 days!!! And I have been very understanding and polite, until this week. The excuse was indeed "the client hasn't paid yet", to which I always replied with understanding. But now I think: I have a deal with you, not with your client. I still don't know what to do...


Hi Maaike,

I thought your main frustration stemmed from the fact that you were offered a lower rate than the one you saw posted for the same job and I have already posted my thoughts regarding this.

In regards to outstanding payments, I wouldn't wait more than 30 days to start reminding clients that their account is overdue. On my invoices I state that they are due upon receipt. I'm not a bank and I don't give credits, unless this was agreed upon in writing beforehand or it's a trustworthy or long-term client of mine. Now, despite this fact, I usually don't contact my clients before a 30-day period has passed, but then I do start sending payment reminders. Fairly friendly at first (since this simply may be an oversight), then a bit more firm, but always professional. After the third reminder, I usually give them a call to find out what's going on. After the invoice is 60 days past due, however, I don't even bother anymore and just hand it over to a collection agency.

The main thing is, that it doesn't do you any good to get mad and sad or lose your temper with a client. It won't help you get paid any faster. Businesses send invoices for work performed, then they send reminders and finally they involve a collection agency. Simple as that.

Of course you feel frustrated, everyone would. But just don't let it get to you to the point where you start questioning yourself or your abilities asking yourself why this is happening to you. Chances are it has nothing to do with you or your work, but rather with a poorly managed agency. And again, there are bad and good agencies out there. Keep approaching new ones, check them out, read between the lines and you will eventually end up with good clients. You will probably also run into a bunch of flakes again at some point. Give new agencies a try, if you have a good feeling initially. If they don't pay on time, don't respond to your inquiries, or come up with a bunch of lame excuses, drop them and move on! Every business has to deal with late payments, but that's no reason to give up on your own business.

And Charlie and Irene are right. You have a contract with the agency, which has nothing to do with their contract with the end client and whether they end up getting paid or not. Agencies that operate like that are not well organized and don't have good cash flow management. Most of them are not even full-fledged agencies, but consist of one or two people outsourcing work and cashing in money for forwarding files.

Cheer up! You love what you do, don't let them get the better of you and try not to get too stressed out about it.

[Edited at 2006-07-29 03:28]


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
frankly... Jul 28, 2006

nooyawker wrote:
Our translators get paid when we know for sure that our clients will pay up their dues.


While I appreciate your candor, I'm a bit puzzled that you would choose to share this information about your employer in a public forum, as if this was a perfectly normal payment practice (which it obviously is for many agencies, but speaks very poorly of them).

nooyawker wrote:
While it's good to politely follow up on payment issues, and be persistent, but avoid taking angry or frustrated tone unless you are sure that the other party is being a deadbeat and not doing their job right.


Precisely, if the agency won't pay their translators until after they've been paid by their own clients, they are not doing their job right. Anything else is just excuses (adding insult to injury) and poor management practices. Is it acceptable for a translator to be late in their delivery? Of course not. How would you as a PM react if, on top of being late, a translator had the gall to inform you that they had other more pressing priorities? Enough said.

Susana

[Edited at 2006-07-28 17:50]


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KorTranz  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:50
English to Korean
+ ...
I have been waiting for 120 days now... Jul 28, 2006

Maaike Anne wrote:

Nooyawker: I am waiting 76 days!!!


I totally understand your frustration. I have completed a project (30,000 words) for an agency in Italy back in March. She even told me that the company had already paid her for the job. She told me that she was having a trouble with her bank. She said that she will send me the payment soon. She even offered me to pay any extra fine for the late payment. I told her that I would be happy just with the full payment. Then... I didn't see any payment coming on my way. I sent her several follow-up e-mails, but she is not writing to me. It has been about 120 days since I sent her my invoice. I have almost given up, but I am planning on sending her "nice" e-mails until I hear from her. I am even thinking about contacting the company that has given the job to her. It's a big company, and I can't believe that this is happening.

You are certainly not alone in this struggle of ours. But I haven't given up on translating. I wish I could tell whether a new agency is going to be good at paying me or not in advance. Can we all chip in and hire a fortune teller?


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Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Italy
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Never heard of the European directive 2000/35? Jul 28, 2006

It states that invoices of service providers (like ourselves) must be paid within 30 days, otherwise a delay fee will apply.

As far as I know, this directive has been transformed into national law in all member states.

Of course, it is sometimes difficult to put this in practice, but at least one should know about it and point out that one is well aware of his rights in front of the customer.

I claim always 30 days payment terms before accepting any PO and have included this clause in my invoices.

I know this is too late now for you, Maaike, but hope this helps in the future.

Good luck!


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xxx@caduceus
United States
Local time: 04:50
English to German
+ ...
collect Jul 28, 2006

KorTranz wrote:

It has been about 120 days since I sent her my invoice. I have almost given up, but I am planning on sending her "nice" e-mails until I hear from her.



I don't understand why there are so many colleagues, who are reluctant to ask for professional help and hire a collection agency. If it's been 120 days already, I wouldn't be too optimistic to receive any payment from such a customer. Sure, you have to pay a fee of about 22-30% of the total amount you recover, but even that is better than nothing. And not only that, businesses that don't pay their debts may end up with a bad credit report. Of course, there is no guarantee that this will ever happen, but at least there is a chance.

Payment collection, of course, may depend on the country you live in. If there are no means of collecting debt other than hiring a law firm etc., then I can understand that the cost of such an undertaking may exceed any reasonable fees and doesn’t justify it.

Freelancers need to approach non-paying clients just like any small business would, yet there are so many that just won't go after the money they worked hard for even if they could. Some might say they don't out of fear of losing their client, but why would you want to continue working for such a lousy client anyway?

KorTranz wrote:

I am even thinking about contacting the company that has given the job to her.



As far as contacting the end client, don't! Again, you have a contract with the agency (your customer) and not with the end client (the agency's customer). It's not the end client's problem that the agency has not paid you. They hired the agency, the agency hired you. Those are two separate deals.


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
careful about contacting the end client Jul 28, 2006

Renate Cisne wrote:
As far as contacting the end client, don't! Again, you have a contract with the agency (your customer) and not with the end client (the agency's customer). It's not the end client's problem that the agency has not paid you. They hired the agency, the agency hired you. Those are two separate deals.


Renate is absolutely correct. Unfortunately, it's not so simple as contacting the end client. There are legal ramifications involved in taking such a step, and you could end up being sued...

You may want to take a look at this related thread: http://www.proz.com/topic/37848

Susana

[Edited at 2006-07-29 04:33]


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