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How to request an advance?
Thread poster: Anne Key
Anne Key
Local time: 00:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
Dec 2, 2008

Hello everyone,

Have any of you have ever felt the need to request/demand an advance for a big translation project?

I was recently asked (by a regular client) to complete a 50,000-word project. The deadline is 2 January 2009, and payment usually follows within 3-4 weeks.

I replied to inform them that I can't take on the job unless a 25% advance can be agreed to help the cash flow situation.

I would be expected to work for them on an "exclusive" basis (i.e. I won't be able to take on any other jobs in the meantime).

I don't know if I've done the right thing, but I've politely declined the work.

I'm slightly concerned that I may have ruined my business relationship with them.

On the other hand, I can't afford to wait until February 2009 to be paid...

Does anyone have any thoughts on the matter?

Many thanks!


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:59
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Payment in instalments? Dec 2, 2008

I think the best idea with a long job such as the one you describe is to ask the client if you can do it in instalments - say, a quarter at a time - and invoice them on delivery of each instalment, pointing out that you won't be able to work for any of your other clients while you are doing their job. If they agree, you can then (one hopes) get paid in instalments too, easing your financial situation and minimising the risk of not getting paid at all or having to wait until a month after completion of the whole job. I think a reasonable client would understand your situation.
Best wishes,

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hmm Dec 2, 2008

Anne Key wrote:

I may have ruined my business relationship with them.

if you already have a business relationship with them, and have established trust, then I would assume there is no question that you will be paid. I would suggest delivering the work a bit at a time, and invoicing for each bit. If indeed you do have a business relationship with them, then there should be a good degree of reciprocal understanding on this matter. I wouldn't see it as a major problem.

On the other hand, I would see it as a problem if you turn down the work. Presumably this client asked you on the basis of your previous performance, and felt able to entrust this big job to you. If you turn it down, they won't ask you again.

[Edited at 2008-12-02 08:08 GMT]

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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:59
Member (2004)
German to English
Hmm indeed Dec 2, 2008

To answer your question, yes - I have asked for (and received) an advance on a big job, but only when taking on a new large job for a previously unknown client, in other words as a sign of good faith that payment would be forthcoming. Your situation is different, in that you are asking for it for cash flow reasons.

What strikes me about your posting is this you say that the job is for delivery at the beginning of January and you would be paid at about the beginning of February. That is about when I would reckon to be paid for work I am doing now anyway - I invoice my regular clients at the end of each month, requesting payment within 30 days, so all the work I do in December will be invoiced on the last day of the month, for payment by the end of January. I assume that a lot of translators work on this sort of basis (leaving aside those in some countries where payment after 60 days is the norm).

In other words, from the point of view of cash flow I would have thought that the situation you describe is fairly "normal", and translators ought to be able to survive on that sort of basis (I know "ought" is easy to say, and no consolation if you can't actually manage like that). But the fact is that you have turned down what presumably would have been a good month's income, since it would have occupied you full time - have you any certainty that you will earn as much from other smaller jobs that will come in?

I think that asking for payment by instalments is fine, but I'm not sure that it would be appropriate for a job taking "only" a month. For a longer job invoicing monthly would certainly be OK, but I'm not convinced that it would be standard to invoice more frequently than monthly - although others may disagree on this point.

It seems to me that the real issue here is that you don't have enough of a financial cushion to see you through for the two months it will take to do the work and get paid. In your longer term planning, if at all possible, you probably need think hard about how you could build up a bit of a cushion of this sort, which will help you through times when work is thin on the ground or you can't work because of illness or holidays. I know that's not easy in these financial times, but it will help if you can make it a goal.

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Anne Key
Local time: 00:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
Many thanks everyone Dec 2, 2008

Hello again,

Many thanks for all your thoughts and suggestions. I've been in touch with my client, and have been able to resolve the situation. They've agreed to pay a small advance in exchange for part deliveries.

Armorel - yes, my main issue at the moment is indeed cashflow. I've been unable to build up a sufficient "cushion" (I have enough to see me through one month, but not two), but am working to rectify that situation. Hopefully this job will improve the cashflow

Thanks again for your help,


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