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Why can we not set our own payment terms and conditions? A tired rant
Thread poster: Anne Seerup

Anne Seerup
Ireland
Local time: 09:00
English to Danish
+ ...
Oct 5, 2007

At the moment I have just so fed up with this whole translation industry and agencies in particular.
Just had another issue with an otherwise good client, where I did not get paid on time because my invoice date was set (by my invoicing program as default) to the 1st of the following month and not the last day of the invoicing month, and therefore the client had placed it under next months invoices. The invoice month was stated loud and clear, as August (not September).
Being a too friendly oaf, I just accepted their explanation and thanked them for making the exception and paying me after all. And after that I started fuming

This is just one out of many similar (or worse) experiences, where the missing/late payment is being blamed on something I did wrong.

Next time I get an electricity bill I will just refuse to pay it on time, because the date on their invoice does not suit me.
Or next time I go shopping I will just go in a take stuff with the message "I have no money at the moment, but I will pay you, once I get paid".

Yesterday I got this "amazing" job offer, where the client wanted longterm collaboration. One of their conditions was, that each translation job should stay open for 30 days to allow for client updates (meaning I would not be paid for all these extra updates, only for the initial translation job). Reason: It was a hassle to open up all these extra jobs.. There were also a whole lot of other stipulations and the offered rate was btw lousy.

We are the end suppliers, we should be setting the conditions. Without translators there would be no agencies.

I am aware that payment issues exist everywhere in the selfemployed world, but it seems to me that translators (including myself) are just too soft. We just swallow the bitter pill and accept ridiculous conditions. Why is that?

I happen to do graphic design as a second line of business and it feels like I have a lot more authority there, since I work with direct clients. I can charge much higher rates per hour, I get paid on time (mainly because I require payment as a deposit in order for the job to get printed.).

If I came up with the same rates and requirements to my translation clients, ie. an upfront payment as a deposit, I would probably loose most of them.


I am sure you have heard all this a million times before, but I just needed to let the steam out.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:00
English to German
+ ...
Working for direct clients Oct 5, 2007

Hi Anne,
You (almost) answered your (implied) question yourself:


I happen to do graphic design as a second line of business and it feels like I have a lot more authority there, since I work with direct clients. I can charge much higher rates per hour, I get paid on time (mainly because I require payment as a deposit in order for the job to get printed.).

If I came up with the same rates and requirements to my translation clients, ie. an upfront payment as a deposit, I would probably loose most of them.

Looks like you need to target other translation clients: quite obviously, you know how to do that in your other line of business. Why not build on that?

Best regards,
Ralf


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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:00
English to Polish
+ ...
Yes, you definitely have the answers, Anne Oct 5, 2007

Anne Seerup wrote:

We are the end suppliers, we should be setting the conditions. Without translators there would be no agencies.

I am aware that payment issues exist everywhere in the selfemployed world, but it seems to me that translators (including myself) are just too soft. We just swallow the bitter pill and accept ridiculous conditions. Why is that?


Do you really have to accept conditions that seem ridiculous to you for whatever reason? What would happen to your income if you dropped one or two agencies who offer them? Probably nothing ... They would soon be replaced by better payers.
If you have two lines of business, you can compensate a periodic low in one with a high in the other. Great situation, I'd say. Personally, I stopped accepting ridiculous offers years ago and am still alive - don't know about the other side, don't care either.

[Edited at 2007-10-05 16:37]


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Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:00
Member
French to English
You're all right Oct 5, 2007

Anne Seerup wrote:

At the moment I have just so fed up with this whole translation industry and agencies in particular.

snip snip snip

I am sure you have heard all this a million times before, but I just needed to let the steam out.


I know just how you feel.

Take a deep breath and make the deliberate decision to start marketing to better clients. It will take time, but as your client base grows with better clients, you can pick and choose which projects you want.

You can fire the really bad ones and keep the so-so ones for when things are quieter, maybe accepting a job here and there to keep your options open.

Do a little bit of marketing work whenever you can because, as you know, marketing usually does not pay off right away -- it takes a bit of time before new clients will start responding.

I have been translating for just over 16 years and I do some marketing whenever things are quiet -- usually once a month or so. I have regular clients I enjoy working with and new clients approach me every so often, usually after I have contacted them -- sometimes months afterwards.

Things will get better

Take care,
Karin Adamczyk


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Heidi C  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
We? Oct 6, 2007

Anne Seerup wrote:

We are the end suppliers, we should be setting the conditions. Without translators there would be no agencies.

I am aware that payment issues exist everywhere in the selfemployed world, but it seems to me that translators (including myself) are just too soft. We just swallow the bitter pill and accept ridiculous conditions. Why is that?



I don't understand either why YOU -second person plural- ( I don't) swallow the bitter pill and accept ridiculous conditions.

Who says it has to be like this? Whoever accepts it...

WE (first person, including myself) ARE the end suppliers and set the conditions.

If WE don't like the conditions, WE don't accept them!!!

That's the way any business works. PERIOD.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:00
English to French
+ ...
Reality check Oct 6, 2007

I think the real question here is not what one should do against such bad practices - the obvious answer if of course to refuse to work under such conditions. The question is rather this: are there really that many freelancers who politely suffer 90-day payment terms, being required to correct past work months later at no charge, etc.?

I agree with pretty much everything above, but the problem is that to many of us, this strategy seems daring, to say the least. Many freelancers feel stuck because they imagine they risk losing their established clients to look for pearls that are so scarce they may never find them. What then, they wonder? Too many of us find this too risky and decide to simply "tough it out" instead. This has a very bad effect on the industry because many outsourcers and agencies pretend that these bad practices are the standard and an increasing number of freelancers take their word for it.

I think that's what we should really be wondering about.

I agree with Anne that freelance translators seem to be too soft. I still don't understand why freelance translation is the only line of business where people allow for such bad practices to exist. If you look at any other type of freelancing job, it's always the service provider who sets the price and conditions, and if the client is unhappy - he will only find similar rates and conditions elsewhere.

What is wrong with freelance translators to let agencies decide what's good for us? Does anybody still remember the word negotiation? I always believed it is an integral part of the business we do - but I keep being told otherwise...


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:00
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
We can - and should Oct 6, 2007

Indeed we can - and should - set our own payment terms and conditions. Perhaps it's more difficult when just starting out as a freelancer, but once established it's just a matter of having the guts to say "no" to unacceptable conditions. Yes, some agencies (the stinkers) will drop you, but the good ones won't, as long as you've demonstrated your competence and reliability.
Having been in the transbiz for many years now, it gives me quite a kick (occasionally) to turn down poor rates, long payment delays or ghastly illegible files. Most of the time, I'm extremely busy in spite of my "bolshie" approach.
Yippee!
Jenny.

I meant to add that I think one profession where the "seller" doesn't have the upper hand is acting. There are too many actors (or would-be actors) chasing too few jobs, and lots of eager amateurs just longing for a chance to get their foot in the door (or on the stage or set) and prepared to accept any terms. The actors' union Equity was set up to try to rectify the situation and prevent unfair treatment of actors. I believe that now in the UK at any rate an actor can't get a job unless he/she is a member of Equity, but it's one of those Catch 22 situations - you can't get a job unless you're a member of Equity but you can't become a member of Equity unless you've had a professional acting job. Tricky. Is this the basic problem with our profession too? Are there too many translators (or would-be translators) chasing too few jobs?
Best of luck anyway,
Jenny.

[Edited at 2007-10-07 07:05]


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 11:00
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
I think it is simply a matter of agreement Oct 7, 2007

Well, clients, esp. agencies, have their "standard" system for payment settlement, I think (just for convenience reasons, say, if they cooperate with 300 invoicing free-lancers from all the world). So, imagine that they cannot simply afford to "process" each invoice on an individual basis - they make all calculations at the end of the month (or whatever) and it takes a day or two for their accountant to settle with the people. Imagine what would be if they need to settle with each translator "upon separate agreements". I think it is a simple "take it or leave it" thing just for technical reasons. But, in any case, you can negotiate with them - say they offer a longer payment term than usual, so you can ask for a bigger rate just for "crediting" them till they get paid from their end client. But if you accepted their conditions beforehand, I see no reason to get "fumed" - better negotiate first or accept/not accept their conditions (maybe they will chage these if you DO negotiate) instead of being a trash bin accepting whatever they propose.

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eva75
English
+ ...
Only work for direct clients Oct 7, 2007

Agencies seem to have very long payment periods. I have heard so many horror studies about translation agencies that personally I would rarely work for any of them.

If you already have clients in the graphic design industry, this is great. Target their partners in different countries. Network as much as possible. Make sure all your direct clients in this industry have your card, a link to your website, etc. Sell yourself as much as possible.

Yes, translators do have a tendency to be too soft (perhaps it's because it's a profession dominated by women??) You don't see doctors or lawyers accepting any sub-standard terms and conditions, so why should translators? Does it happen because so many of us don't know how to stand up for ourselves?

There should be some kind of European translators trade union that sets terms and conditions. I guess one day there will be such a body. Anything is possible.


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Anne Seerup
Ireland
Local time: 09:00
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Time to improve I guess :-) Oct 8, 2007

Great to read the different opinions on this matter .

I have actually become a lot less "soft" in terms of business dealings over the years, e.g. I stand quite firm with my rates and deadlines, even it that sometimes means losing a job. I don't go out of my way to meet ridiculous demands, because I value my own well-being and freedom (that was why I became selfemployed in the first place). And as it happens I often get the job anyway.
Yet, I still have a problem with the payment terms being set by the clients, so that is definitely the next improvement to my business. I don't mind arrangements with the clients, e.g. sending one invoice a month etc. since that makes life easier for all of us.

Also it is probably just time for me to move up a step, and target some new and better clients.


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Heidi C  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Way to go! Oct 8, 2007

Anne Seerup wrote:

Also it is probably just time for me to move up a step, and target some new and better clients.



Everyone should be doing this and not feel intimidated!!!


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 11:00
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Not defending long nets, but... Oct 9, 2007

It's always really a take-it-or-leave-it situation, but I got used to it with time. Look: agencies have their procedures as Marius pointed out, and one can hardly expect them to change these procedures on our demand. Besides, there are traditional payment periods in diffenent countries - my German clients paying two weeks after I invoice them, and Italian agencies, 60 days + end of month... On the other hand, the quality of clients and their reliability is much more important. For example, with the Italian clients, it's very high rates and not a single delay over 5 years of active cooperation - well I can easily put up with the longish net as it doesn't really affect my financial planning.

And setting our own terms and conditions doesn't mean they will be strictly adhered to

Cheers,
Oleg


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I think one should strike a balance Oct 9, 2007

Heidi C wrote:
Anne Seerup wrote:
Also it is probably just time for me to move up a step, and target some new and better clients.

Everyone should be doing this and not feel intimidated!


I agree. One should always target the better clients

But it is a fact of life that there are often more of the less nice clients, and they do tend to pay the bills. Therefore I think one should strike a balance: accept that some clients will have less nice terms, and at the same time actively pursue other, nicer clients.

For the type of client that sets his own terms, accept them. For the type of client that might accept your terms... well, go for it!


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Anne Seerup
Ireland
Local time: 09:00
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
End clients or better agencies Oct 10, 2007

Oleg Rudavin wrote:

It's always really a take-it-or-leave-it situation, but I got used to it with time. Look: agencies have their procedures as Marius pointed out, and one can hardly expect them to change these procedures on our demand.

Well, I guess I just need to target some end clients then instead of the middleman, so I can set my rates higher and determine my own payment terms. Or a combination of both end client and agencies will do.

Anyway I am building a website now, which is about time, just never got around to that yet. I have built websites for other people, but somehow my own one always got postponed...


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Anne Key
Local time: 09:00
Dutch to English
+ ...
Website is a good idea Oct 10, 2007

Hi Anne,

I agree, creating your own website is a good idea. I ran a website for a few years and generated a lot of new customers, it certainly helped "eradicate" most of my bad clients (having said that, I'm still waiting to receive payment from one particular client).

Good luck with the website, and make the most of your second line of income!

Anne


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