Mobile menu

Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Constraints laid by agencies on invoicing by freelancers
Thread poster: IanDhu

IanDhu  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:09
Member (2005)
French to English
Feb 19, 2008

I'm rather upset at several agencies' "restrictive covenants" on my invoicing them for work that I have devoted great effort to delivering on time, to demanding professional standards.

Here are some of the practices I should like to ask for your help with:


  • work must be invoiced within a time limit, sometimes a couple of weeks;
  • invoices must be submitted at a certain date, every two months, obviously for the agency's convenience, and often at considerable inconvenience to myself - that actually happened to me;
  • the invoice, in addition to stating the identifying information, document title, wordcount or time, rate, amount and VAT or VAT exemption information, must include the agency job manager's name;
  • in addition to the foregoing constraint, I believe at one point, a client even required me to include mention of the delivery date and time, but this requirement was rapidly withdrawn.


The time limit for billing is undoubtedly not legal: there is a legal limitation period for submitting bills.

In the case of the requirement to include the job manager's name, that particular point is not material to the billing, and is merely doing the accountant's work in his or her stead, probably for internal allocation purposes, not germane to the billing of services by an outside provider. I think requiring the addition of the job manager's name may also be a way of buying time, since if it is forgotten, the client presumably feels able to challenge the invoice. If a client were to challenge mine on such flimsy grounds, I think I'd send him a writ!

Where I would appreciate your help is in telling me whether such practices are legal. Now tell me what you think. I hope we can generate some useful exchanges, and perhaps find a way of curbing this bureaucratic proliferation.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:09
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...
Er... sorry... Feb 19, 2008

I seem to miss something. Do you want to be paid for your work? If yes, then what are the problems with sending an invoice? If writing an invoice consumes too much of your time, I would recommend buying Translation Office 3000 where invoices are created by a few mouse clicks.

Direct link Reply with quote
 
Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:09
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
I'm missing something Feb 19, 2008

Are these requirements imposed after the fact? If they are, you have a cause for complaint. However, once they've told you what their requirements are, you should know them and be willing to either follow them or tell them "Sorry, I can't deal with your invoicing" the next time they call.

To see whether these practices are legal, you need to consult an attorney. However, I am fairly sure the attorney will say they're permitted. And in any event, are you doing enough work for these people to make suing them a viable option?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:09
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Yes, I agree that agencies' invoicing requirements can have a nuisance value Feb 19, 2008

Hi Ian,

Yes, join the club. The practice that I hate most is when agencies want me to fill in their own form, to create a - usually rough and ready - invoice, instead of sending them my own regular style of invoice. In addition, the forms sometimes contain technical or formatting errors which makes the issuing of a respectable-looking invoice either difficult or impossible.

Work does not, of course, have to be invoiced within 2 weeks, but - depending on the country you are in - within, for example, 6 months or a year. Nevertheless, there is no advantage in waiting two weeks to send an invoice. I issue all mine on the spot, immediately - yes, even when the next extremely urgent job is waiting to be done. I do not find clients' urgent jobs more urgent than my requirement to be paid promptly for the job I have just completed.

Anyhow, it is advisable to issue both invoices and reminders exactly on time, because that appears to often encourage clients to pay sooner - or deter them from delaying in payment.

As for issuing invoices every two months, on a certain date - I would not give any client such extended credit. It should at least be every month, I should think. However, I insist on invoicing every job separately. I do that even with my most regular client, because, as well as working for that client regularly, I need to be paid regularly. It makes sense. They get regular translations, I get regular payments. You cannot afford to issue a collective monthly invoice to any client who provides a noticeable part of your income, because that will adversely affect your cash flow.

As for the content of the invoice, that is largely determined by the rules of the tax authorities in your country. Invoices have to provide the essential information, no more and no less. However, I write the name of the PM on my invoice in any case. It does not do any harm, and I feel that I have the name of a person whom I can personally chase if I do not receive payment.

I am very strict with the amount of credit I give. I stipulate 30 days before accepting the work. The clients get used to it, and have to agree to it if they want me to accept the work. If they then break their part of the contract, they do not get any more translations from me. You have to show them that the supplier is in charge of whom he/she sells to, and on what terms, I think.

Astrid


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:09
Swedish to English
+ ...
Let's view this from another perspective Feb 19, 2008

Have you ever considered what your position in the food (translation) chain is? Many freelancers on this site seem to think they are have to agree to what ever terms and conditions an agency makes. FYI, in the relationship freelancer vs. agency, the agency is the client.

Let's view the practices you mention form this perspective.

An customer contacts a manufacturer asking him to supply a stained glass window. The customer ultimately intends to re-sell (and add extra value by fitting) this window for an end-client

We then have three actors:
C = customer
M = manufacturer
E = end-client

Let's now imaging a few situations that might occur between C and M (let's totally disregard E as I can easily write another bunch of stories about him :

A) C states that unless he receives the invoice for the windows within two weeks, he will not pay.
B) C states that invoices can only be sumitted on the 20th of the month and only every two month, or he will not pay.
C) C states that the invoices M supplies should, on top of any information that is legally required, also includes the job manager's name, or he will not get paid..
D) C states that M should include the delivery date and time, or he will not get paid.

Now what can M do if he disagrees to any of these conditions?

A) M can inform C that he, M, is the supplier and thus is the person/entity making the offer (of supplying the windows). If C finds this offer unacceptable, he has every right to go elsewhere to find his window. (Please note that, in some/most jurisdictions there are laws regarding suppliers imposing unfair terms and conditions).
B) See A.
C) Why should M have a problem with this (as long as the requirement was made clear when the contract was made, or at least prior to the invoice being issued)?
D) See D. Although it might be somewhat much to ask for time (particularly in a global environment, date should be enough).

Now, could we all stand up and put one/all hand(s) on whatever part of the body we normally use for solemn oaths and say after me:

I am the supplier, I offer the service(s), I inform clients of what my contractual terms are.

---

If you have made sure to inform C of your terms and conditions (again, remember who is M (the manufacturer/supplier), prior to accepting the assignment) none of these issues should arise at a later date.

Madeleine


Direct link Reply with quote
 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 23:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Some best and worst practices Feb 20, 2008

Ian,

Let's examine your list.


IanDhu wrote:
Here are some of the practices I should like to ask for your help with:


  • work must be invoiced within a time limit, sometimes a couple of weeks;
    IMHO work should be invoiced upon delivery. If it's so deadly urgent that the time taken to issue an invoice will make a difference, okay, it can be done, say, within the next 24/48 hours.

  • invoices must be submitted at a certain date, every two months, obviously for the agency's convenience, and often at considerable inconvenience to myself - that actually happened to me;
    No way. I am boisterously denying service to any agency willing to pay me beyond 30 days. It usually means one or more from:

      a) Agencies with cash flow problems that they are attempting to solve at their suppliers' (translators') expense;
      b) Secondhand outsourcing, or re-outsourcing. An agency bad-mouthed by translators everywhere (BlueBoard included) for its payment (or lack thereof) practices, outsources the job to an unknown one; or
      c) Agencies (?) that have no intention of paying translators, they just want to have more time to vanish and erase their tracks.


    However a normal practice is for an agency to have one payday every two weeks, when they'll pay all amounts due to their vendors. On that day they grapple with PayPal and alikes at once, or go to the bank to get all wire transfers issued.

  • the invoice, in addition to stating the identifying information, document title, wordcount or time, rate, amount and VAT or VAT exemption information, must include the agency job manager's name;
    No problem about this. The specific PM who assigned you the job is responsible for okaying your invoice. If it gets "lost" in the accounting system, anyone can re-route that invoice to who will put it in the payment system.

  • in addition to the foregoing constraint, I believe at one point, a client even required me to include mention of the delivery date and time, but this requirement was rapidly withdrawn.
    This should be a very disorganized agency. I once worked for one. I uploaded the translation to their ftp site as instructed two days before the deadline, and sent the PM an e-mail saying so. About 10 days later, she sent me an e-mail saying that my work was late, and asking me when I expected to finish it. I told her it had been sitting on their FTP site ever since. Only then she found my e-mail about the early delivery.

    IanDhu wrote:
    In the case of the requirement to include the job manager's name, that particular point is not material to the billing, and is merely doing the accountant's work in his or her stead, probably for internal allocation purposes, not germane to the billing of services by an outside provider. I think requiring the addition of the job manager's name may also be a way of buying time, since if it is forgotten, the client presumably feels able to challenge the invoice. If a client were to challenge mine on such flimsy grounds, I think I'd send him a writ!


    I tend to disagree on this one. The accountant gets an invoice to pay. If the agency is larger than a one-man-show, chances are s/he has no way to find if that invoice's legit, if the rate is correct, if the job was delivered, and so on. If this accountant has to show it to each PM asking "Is this yours?" it will be a waste of time. If they know the PM is John Doe, they'll just ask Johnny to okay and initial it before they pay.

    Direct link Reply with quote
     

  • Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
    Denmark
    Local time: 03:09
    Member (2003)
    Danish to English
    + ...
    I make out my own invoice and attach the PO Feb 20, 2008

    I make out my own standard invoice.

    I work for several agencies that like a monthly invoice, and it suits me.

    I make out a standard invoice that my accountant will accept, with the mandatory information, client's VAT no. etc. etc. I have an English and a Danish version, but they are in practice the same.

    Plus job number (the client's, but then we know what we're talking about and billing for), delivery date, number of words and/or hours, rates, amounts and total.

    I do try hard to get the invoice off as soon as possible after the job is delivered or the end of the month, while I can still remember it! But otherwise I have everything noted on a sheet of paper and archived electronically...

    When I have made out the invoice my way, I simply copy and paste the client's Purchase Order(s) at the bottom, i.e. on the next page or pages, and send the whole lot as an e-mail attachment. Then they can sort out their own details in their own format.

    One agency doesn't care as long as they get the job numbers, and I do a lot of work for them, so I don't bother with their POs.

    Direct clients and once-in-a-blue-moon clients get the standard invoice, usually sent as an answer to the mail with their order and any other correspondence about the job, but I change the subject from Re... to INVOICE and send a CC to their invoicing address if any. I've never been paid twice for the same job but I practically always get paid once.

    Invoicing is always a bore, but if you want to get paid, you have to make yourself a good cup of coffee or whatever you prefer, and simply do it as rationally as possible. I'm hopeless at figures, so I have my accountant check everything before I send the invoices off... and believe me, it's worth it!



    Direct link Reply with quote
     

    tectranslate ITS GmbH
    Local time: 03:09
    German
    + ...
    See answers in bold Feb 20, 2008

    IanDhu wrote:


    • work must be invoiced within a time limit, sometimes a couple of weeks; Illegal in most jurisdictions I know.
    • invoices must be submitted at a certain date, every two months, obviously for the agency's convenience, and often at considerable inconvenience to myself - that actually happened to me; Obnoxious - your choice whether you want to agree with it.
    • the invoice, in addition to stating the identifying information, document title, wordcount or time, rate, amount and VAT or VAT exemption information, must include the agency job manager's name;So? They want to be able to find out if the invoice is correct. We use PO numbers for this.
    • in addition to the foregoing constraint, I believe at one point, a client even required me to include mention of the delivery date and time, but this requirement was rapidly withdrawn.That's interesting, because stipulating the delivery date on the invoice is actually a legal requirement in many countries, including the EU member states.

    Lastly, let me add that for proper advice, you'll need to talk to a lawyer. We can only give pointers and opinions here, not legal counsel.

    HTH,
    Benjamin


    edit: Typo fixed.

    [Edited at 2008-02-20 00:38]


    Direct link Reply with quote
     

    Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
    Finland
    Local time: 04:09
    Member (2003)
    Finnish to German
    + ...
    State your terms Feb 20, 2008

    In future you should make it a habit of stating your invoicing terms together with the offer to the client.
    I invoice end of month, and date them 30. day. Only with new clients and larger jobs would I invoice right after delivery.
    There is one client that wants invoices be submitted by uploading. They always pay promptly and I have no problem with that.
    If stated in the PO all information the client needs should be included in your invoice.

    Hope this helps!
    Heinrich


    Direct link Reply with quote
     

    Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 02:09
    Member (2000)
    Russian to English
    + ...
    Invoice plus monthly statement Feb 20, 2008

    Only once agency of all those I work for requires not only an invoice but an end-of-month statement for work done for them during the month. Since they send me work on average once a year or less frequently than that, It was easy to forget this requirement, so I would chase them up when payment was long overdue, be reminded of this, send the statement and eventually get paid, months late (but it's now happened enough times for me to be more aware of this irritating requirement).

    Direct link Reply with quote
     

    IanDhu  Identity Verified
    France
    Local time: 03:09
    Member (2005)
    French to English
    TOPIC STARTER
    Neither valid nor legal Feb 20, 2008

    Jack Doughty wrote:

    Only one agency of all those I work for requires not only an invoice but an end-of-month statement for work done for them during the month.


    Thank you, Jack.

    That surely cannot be a valid or legal requirement in order to get paid: the invoice on its own establishes the debt. That agency is playing for time. My present policy is that anyone who gets in the habit of paying late doesn't get a second chance.


    Direct link Reply with quote
     

    IanDhu  Identity Verified
    France
    Local time: 03:09
    Member (2005)
    French to English
    TOPIC STARTER
    The obvious difficulty in invoicing bits & pieces Feb 20, 2008

    José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:


    • work must be invoiced within a time limit, sometimes a couple of weeks;

      IMHO work should be invoiced upon delivery. If it's so deadly urgent that the time taken to issue an invoice will make a difference, okay, it can be done, say, within the next 24/48 hours.




    The fundamental inequity is that the agencies I work for have facilities that I as a sole translator don't. I think these agencies are playing on the fact.

    In addition, when one has a scattering of different jobs of differing lengths, a lot of them small stuff one takes on as a goodwill gesture, and the deadlines are staccato, it is very difficult, you will appreciate, to bill upon delivery.


    Direct link Reply with quote
     

    Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
    Local time: 03:09
    Italian to English
    + ...
    I agree, they can be a pain Feb 20, 2008

    I'm lucky in that all my clients are currently happy with my standard end-of-month invoice, which also lists job numbers, total words/cartelle, rate and total per job. I have one client which told me I had to sign and send back each PO by fax or post after delivery, which I did for one month and have never done since - they're still paying me... and another which just wants the PO sent back by e-mail with the total cartelle and amount, which I'm happy to do.
    In the past I've had clients which insisted on me using their own invoice format, or reporting a code which wasn't the job number and was found only on the PO, and all sorts of other weird practices, but they've been left by the wayside.

    Anyway, while I agree it's annoying, at the end of the day I think it's best to be pragmatic and agree to their requests, as long as they don't cost you too much time or money.
    I probably wouldn't agree to the two-monthly invoice though.

    [Edited at 2008-02-20 10:15]


    Direct link Reply with quote
     

    José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
    Brazil
    Local time: 23:09
    English to Portuguese
    + ...
    It's like living in a hotel Feb 20, 2008

    IanDhu wrote:
    In addition, when one has a scattering of different jobs of differing lengths, a lot of them small stuff one takes on as a goodwill gesture, and the deadlines are staccato, it is very difficult, you will appreciate, to bill upon delivery.


    Have you ever lived in a hotel? A Standard one, not residential?

    It's comparable to what you describe: a meal here, laundry there, phone bill, a drink at the bar, some snack from the suite minibar, pay TV, and so on. Guess what? They subtotal your bill every week for you to check and sign in approval, though you'll only pay monthly. But that will prevent you from saying, 4 weeks later, Hey, I didn't drink a Sailor's Demise at your bar! This looks like my signature, but it's too shaky to be it!

    So I guess if you are willing to close the account with all those 99¢ translations every two months, maybe you should send them, say, every Friday, a list of jobs delivered on that week. If they failed to receive (or to notice that they received such a small file attachment) one or more of them, you'll know well in advance.


    Direct link Reply with quote
     

    ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
    Canada
    Local time: 22:09
    English to French
    + ...
    I was going to explain my personal views on this, but... Feb 20, 2008

    Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote:

    Now, could we all stand up and put one/all hand(s) on whatever part of the body we normally use for solemn oaths and say after me:

    I am the supplier, I offer the service(s), I inform clients of what my contractual terms are.



    ...this sums up what I was going to say. No need for more.


    Direct link Reply with quote
     
    Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


    To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


    You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

    Constraints laid by agencies on invoicing by freelancers

    Advanced search


    Translation news





    TM-Town
    Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

    Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

    More info »
    SDL MultiTerm 2017
    Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

    SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

    More info »



    All of ProZ.com
    • All of ProZ.com
    • Term search
    • Jobs