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Working for overseas clients
Thread poster: Anna Bekerman

Anna Bekerman  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:21
Spanish to English
Feb 11, 2009

I´m just starting out as a freelance translator based in Canada, and I´m looking for advice on submitting quotes for jobs in other countries (eg. Spain, US). Is it possible to work for clients from other countries? If so, how is payment arranged, and how is the income taxed?

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:21
English to French
+ ...
Same as working with Canadian clients Feb 11, 2009

Everything is pretty much the same as when you work with clients in Canada. The only difference is that you can't charge taxes to foreign clients (if you indeed are charging taxes).

So, you can just as easily work with clients from overseas. You will invoice them like you invoice your Canadian clients. You declare the amounts earned with clients overseas just as you would declare your income generated in Canada.

However, make sure you keep some things in mind when you deal with clients abroad. For one thing, each country has its own legal system, and there are still countries in Europe that have the worst legal systems ever. This means that, in case you happen upon a non-payment issue, it may be practically impossible to collect your money. Also, customs are not the same in all countries - Canadian clients are generally good at paying within 30 days - don't even hope for this kind of payment term in Spain or Italy, for instance, where 90 days is pretty much the standard, and it can be even worse. If you get paid in foreign currency in such cases, you may lose a lot of money if that foreign currency loses considerable value while you are waiting to be paid. This is something that happened recently with translators working with US clients - when our respective currencies reached parity, many of us this side of the border lost huge amounts of money.

Also, banking systems are different as well. It always takes longer to clear a foreign cheque, or even a domestic one written in foreign currency. Money transfers can easily go wrong - I can't count the number of times I've had to explain to European clients what the difference is between an IBAN and a SWIFT code. Then, there is the risk you take when you get paid in foreign currency - currencies are ever shifting, and you may lose money because of this.

To sum it up, the government has the same requirements for monies earned abroad when you freelance. There may be disadvantages in working with clients in some countries. You will need to investigate this. I believe your safest bet is to concentrate on Canadian clients for the time being, and occasionally pick up new clients abroad to fill in the gaps. I prefer working with Canadians, and this has nothing to do with discrimation - it is just so much easier to work with people whose mentalities are closer to mine and who are more or less in the same time zone, not having to pay the bank for exchanging foreign currency and not having to wait for a month for that foreign cheque to clear.


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Anna Bekerman  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:21
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
one more thing Feb 11, 2009

Thanks for the thorough response, Viktoria. Just to be sure, do you have to declare your income in the foreign country as well, or just in Canada?

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Damon Loomer  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
not much ES>EN work in Canada, though... Feb 11, 2009

Everything Victoria says is true, but in our language combination (ES>EN) you're not likely to find much work in Canada. 90% of my work in this combination is outside Canada, with US clients in particular, and they're easy to work with. No GST to collect either!

Good luck Anna!


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:21
English to French
+ ...
Not at all Feb 11, 2009

The logic is very simple: you declare income in the country where you earn the income. If your place of business is in Canada, you pay taxes only in Canada (even when the client is overseas).

Things would be different if you had a company (not a sole proprietorship) in a foreign country and you were carrying out your translation activities under that banner while you live in Canada. Then, you would also get the payment in that foreign country. In that case, if I am not mistaken, you declare your income in the country where your business is registered, even though you may have performed the actual work somewhere else. It's as simple as figuring out where you earned the money. But it gets complicated, because you still need to declare your income in the country where you live. So, I believe that you have to declare income in the country where you earn the income, and then, the government of that country deals with the government of the country you live in. I believe in such cases you still end up paying your taxes where you live, but you initially declare them where you earn them.

To comment on what Damon says, there may not be as much work available in Canada in your language pair as in the US or elsewhere, but there is some. So, you are probably better off trying to get as many Canadian clients as you can if you want to work in a simple, hasslefree setup, and regularly prospect in the US as well. Doing business with US companies is more or less the same as dealing with Canadians - the rates are similar and they also generally pay faster than Europeans. I don't recommend looking for work in Spain, especially if you speak American Spanish. To me, working with clients in Spain is a waste of time - save for a few exceptions, in my experience, the rates are very low, the payment takes forever, and sadly, there are a lot of crooks who never had the intention to pay.

[Edited at 2009-02-11 23:42 GMT]


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Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
Canadienne errante Feb 17, 2009

Hi, Anna,
I wandered a couple of hours over the border, but I am an unreconstructed Canadian, and check this section regularly.
Everyone's experience is different, and I just want to say that I have been very happy doing small outsourcing jobs for Spanish translators. (Not agencies.) For one thing, because they are in Europe, they offer more money than those in any other Spanish speaking country I have done business with. None of them has delayed longer than thirty days for payment (through PayPal), and I just got a note from one apologizing for being late after two weeks! Although my Spanish is Latin American, I translate into English, and I can understand their documents just fine. ( Just as you understand British English, I am sure.) My thoughts for you would be to use your intuition, common sense, Skype -- talking in person really helps -- and the Blue Board, get a purchase order for every job, and see where your path leads.


[Edited at 2009-02-17 23:07 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-02-17 23:08 GMT]


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