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Time between invoice and payment
Thread poster: Mary Watson

Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:51
German to English
+ ...
Jun 12, 2003

I know there is probably no hard and fast rule, but - what have you all found to be a typical lapse of time after you invoice a job and receive payment? I sent a job off to a well-known agency 2 months ago, and have not received payment. Should I send a reminder to the client?

Also, I sent a job to a new client 2 weeks ago. She has promised me twice she is doing the wire transfer, but I've not received it yet. I'm not that worried, (yet), since she did get a good review here on the blue board. Should I send an email?


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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:51
French to English
Payment terms Jun 12, 2003

Hi Mary,

Mary Watson wrote:

I know there is probably no hard and fast rule, but - what have you all found to be a typical lapse of time after you invoice a job and receive payment? I sent a job off to a well-known agency 2 months ago, and have not received payment. Should I send a reminder to the client?

Also, I sent a job to a new client 2 weeks ago. She has promised me twice she is doing the wire transfer, but I've not received it yet. I'm not that worried, (yet), since she did get a good review here on the blue board. Should I send an email?



It's best to determine payment terms with a client before starting a job. The most common terms are 30 days net (ie. from date of invoice), but there are also 45 days, 60 and even 90 days. You should ask your clients what their payment terms are, and you can also set your own.

In general, if a payment is late, I'll send a friendly reminder 10 days following the due date and ask whether they have my invoice (one client hadn't received it in the first place!).

In your case, for the first client, I'd send a friendly reminder like I described in the paragraph above. For the second client, I'd wait. It's too early still to make inquiries. Wait until 30-40 days afte the invoice date and *then* inquire.

I hope this helps,

Erika


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Jason Roberts  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
Dutch to English
+ ...
A few points about payment Jun 12, 2003

To start with, I would tell you that when you are starting a relationship with a new client it is not a bad idea to have some pretty strict terms of payment up front, which you can the relax on future jobs. By \"strict terms\" I guess I mean that you take the initiative by telling the client your expectations, and not simply accepting some thing like \"end of the month following month in which invoice is sent\". You might end up being comfortable with these terms, based on things like the pay, ratings of the agency by peers, how the project fits in with your skills and career goals etc. I don\'t think it is wise to blindly accept terms that make it overly hard for us to survive. In fact, with clients that don\'t have a Proz Blue Board listing or some other means of verifying how they treat translators I ask for 25% up front...especially if they are located in another country since collection can be a real headache in these cases. I have only been badly burned once(to the tune of more than $1700), by a \"reputable\" agency in London. In retrospect there were some warning signs that I should have seen.

I have only skirted your question so far. In my opinion 2 months is way too long to wait to hear back from the client. I usually follow up with the client if I don\'t hear back from them with some sort of information within 2 working days of sending the invoice. Usually a nice little \"did my invoice come through okay?\" email does the trick. For your second instance, where the client has promised to pay twice and hasn\'t come through, seriously consider putting this information in a blue board review...but tell the client you may do this first. This will save your peers from potentially getting burned by this person, and put a little presure on her to make good on her promises if she wants to continue to be able to hire good translators.

Lastly, you didn\'t mention this point, but I believe it is always worth stating to fellow translators in the U.S. because we hear this excuse for delayed payment so often. Your contract with a client that is functioning as an agency is entirely and totally seperate from their contract with their client. They can not legally delay payment to you according to the terms you agreed upon because their client has not paid them (in the abscence of seriously bad work on your part, and even that has to be proven pretty convincingly). No translator should ever feel required to wait for payment for work completed for an agency because the agency hasn\'t been paid for that project yet, unless that was a specific part of your contract.

Wow, I didn\'t mean to write so much when I first started typing...back to work I go.

-Jason

Mary Watson wrote:

I know there is probably no hard and fast rule, but - what have you all found to be a typical lapse of time after you invoice a job and receive payment? I sent a job off to a well-known agency 2 months ago, and have not received payment. Should I send a reminder to the client?

Also, I sent a job to a new client 2 weeks ago. She has promised me twice she is doing the wire transfer, but I\'ve not received it yet. I\'m not that worried, (yet), since she did get a good review here on the blue board. Should I send an email?



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Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:51
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your replies Jun 12, 2003

Thanks to everyone who responded; your replies helped to confirm some of the thoughts I had on handle these situations. It's great to get feedback!

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Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Calculated Business Risk Jun 12, 2003

Jason Roberts wrote:
They can not legally delay payment to you according to the terms you agreed upon because their client has not paid them...

Still, if a client can prove that they cannot pay you, there's not much you can do except wait.

Plus, if the client gets in trouble (financially) they're not obliged to let you know about it.

Even if you take them to court, and win, there's still the issue of collecting the money. If push comes to shove, the client can file for bankrupcy, and a few months later open shop again under another name.

Anyway, this type of risk is expected when working as a free-lance professional. All we can do is try to keep the damage to a minimum.

[Edited at 2003-06-12 16:20]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 14:51
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Depends much on the country Jun 13, 2003

Here in Scandinavia 14 days netto are so usual, that it mostly works to put the date on the invoice without prior agreement, and if the payment has not arrived after three weeks nobody takes offence, if one sends a reminder.
But in other parts of the world one should inquire about the firm's practice. Yesterday one client answered, that they pay always on the 10th of month all their bills. Other firms pay twice a month.
Sure after two months its time to inquire!


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:51
Flemish to English
+ ...
Each translator his/her own policy Jun 13, 2003

For direct clients:

Upfront payment of 25% the total estimated value of the translation wherever they are based.

In the European-Union: According to the European guideline on late payments with "special attention" to the Belgians, Italians, the Spaniards and the French. Notwithstanding that there is an E.U.-guideline and an national law that invoices have to be paid after thirty days, this payment -rule is not customary yet in these countries. Agencies in these countries have been used in end of month +45, 60 and in the case Italy 90 days or more.

Read though the different payment practices bulletin boards and you will see why I drew this conclusion. It is also based upon experience. One good piece of advice: do not work for these markets. It will save you lots of troubles.

Outside Europe: according to the going business practices of payment after 30 days (or earlier).

If you have to deal with the most famous notorious payment offenders such as the one who still posted on Proz this morning. Upfront payment of the total estimated value of the translation. If they are serious, they will pay you. Password will be given when payment is received. Otherwise, you simply do not work for them.

For large assignments: Agencies and direct clients: Upfront payment of 25% of the total estimated value and payment after every finished part. Upon reception of finished part password will be given. When you go to the baker and the butcher, you pay immediately.
I do not give credit.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:51
German to English
+ ...
Butchers, bakers and translators Jun 13, 2003

When you go to the baker and the butcher, you pay immediately.
I do not give credit.


My doctor, solicitor and estate agent send me an invoice when the work is completed. These vocations are "professions". I guess that answers your recent question.

Marc


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:51
Flemish to English
+ ...
Professional? Jun 14, 2003

Recently, I posted a topic with as essential question:
Please define the term "professional translator".
Until now, a well-defined answer has not been given according to which standards a person can call himself a professional translator.
The word "professional" seems to be a "bromide" to make a distinction between those who earn their living with a trade and those who earn their living with a liberal profession or to distinguish oneself.

I recently went to two doctors: one was a general practitioner and the other was one specialst. When they completed their examination, they required payment, not 30 days after the delivery of the service, but immediately.
Besides, the translation world is a jungle where everybody tries to negotiate the best. In the past, I used to be very flexible about payment terms, but not any more.


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Jason Roberts  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
Dutch to English
+ ...
Professional Translator..... Jun 14, 2003

Easy, one who does translation for pay. The term 'professional' says nothing about the quality of translation, or whether someone does it full-time to the exclusion of all other money-making activities.

It may seem like an oxymoron, but I find that as my rates have gotten higher and my payment terms more strict that I get more and more work. I find myself in the position now of sometimes having to turn work down, not only because of low pay, but because I have too much to do, something that a few years ago I never would have dreamed could happen. Watching some of the things people say in these types of discussions makes me think that many translators are stuck in a rut of setting too little value in their own services and accepting nowhere near enough pay and ridiculous payment terms. I think that mind-set needs to change.

-JR

Williamson wrote:

Recently, I posted a topic with as essential question:
Please define the term "professional translator".
Until now, a well-defined answer has not been given according to which standards a person can call himself a professional translator.
The word "professional" seems to be a "bromide" to make a distinction between those who earn their living with a trade and those who earn their living with a liberal profession or to distinguish oneself.

I recently went to two doctors: one was a general practitioner and the other was one specialst. When they completed their examination, they required payment, not 30 days after the delivery of the service, but immediately.
Besides, the translation world is a jungle where everybody tries to negotiate the best. In the past, I used to be very flexible about payment terms, but not any more.


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Jason Roberts  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
Dutch to English
+ ...
One more option for collecting from a non-paying client Jun 14, 2003

I have never had to do this with a client, thankfully...but my wife is a type of freelance professional in a totaly unrelated field, and sadly we have had some experience with this in her work. Filing for a lien against the property of a rouge client is a very simple matter. This can give you a measure of protection, even in the case of bankruptcy.

Also, no one has mentioned the option of using a collection agency yet. Depending upon the size of the amount owed and if you think your chances are decent you will ever get paid, there are collection agencies out there who may be willing to collect your debt for you in return for a (often quite lofty) percentage. Collection agencies sometimes have offices in several countries, and can be usefull in collecting $$ from clients in other legal jurisdictions. For translators, however, I think this option should be seen as a last resort.

-JR

Dyran Altenburg wrote:

Plus, if the client gets in trouble (financially) they're not obliged to let you know about it.

Even if you take them to court, and win, there's still the issue of collecting the money. If push comes to shove, the client can file for bankrupcy, and a few months later open shop again under another name.

[Edited at 2003-06-12 16:20]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:51
Flemish to English
+ ...
Professionals with strict payment terms Jun 20, 2003

MarcPrior wrote:

When you go to the baker and the butcher, you pay immediately.
I do not give credit.


My doctor, solicitor and estate agent send me an invoice when the work is completed. These vocations are "professions". I guess that answers your recent question.

Marc


I went to the hospital for some checkups. Here is a quote from the payment terms of the hospital:
"The hospital charges have to be paid within 15 days mentioning the references.
Possible disputes have to be transmitted to the hospital in writing, mentioning the reference number of the invoice.
In case of late payments, the total sum will be raised by 10% with a minimum of €35.
Without further proof of default late payment interests of 12% are due starting from the issuing date of the invoice by the hospital
For all disputes the court of .. .shall be the only competent court".
--
This is a "shining example" of good payment conditions for and by "professionals"


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sylver  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:51
English to French
A noteworthy correction Jun 24, 2003


ment Practice
Normal payment duration after invoicing is one month. Even that is established as European Payment Practice.
[/quote]

This is not really correct. "30 days" is not "the normal payment duration", according to this directive, but the MAXIMAL amount of time after which it should be sent (unless JUSTIFIED contractual agreement made before the begining of the job.)

Ideally, a job is done and paid at the same time. You give a job, you get money. However, due to the fact that there is a certain amount of admin to perform when doing the payment (a few seconds for your butcher, but not for a company with an accounting department), it is logical to grant some time for your client to pay.

For agencies, they may also expect a client to pay before they relay the payment down the line, to minimalize their cash flow needs, and that's fine so long as it is within 30 days, or whatever you agreed before.

About the customer that told you twice she is sending the money after 2 weeks, give her some time. She knows very well that she doesn't have to pay before 30 days. But she might be used to better standards and trying to keep up with it.

What might be happening is that she gave the invoice to process to the accounting dep, told you that payment was on the way, and found out a little bit later that it had not been done. (lost invoice, accounts backlogged, ...) In any case, you should be gratefull for her feedback. I would be MUCH more worried about the other one.

Cheers,
Sylvain


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