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Has late payment become the rule?
Thread poster: Anne Seerup

Anne Seerup
Local time: 01:50
English to Danish
+ ...
Oct 1, 2003

This month nearly all my payments are late, and it seems that it has become generally accepted amongst agencies to be very laxed about paying their translators. They do pay eventually and I always do a background check before I accept work from a new agency - and still this happens. I mean the household bills, the credit card and rent cannot wait forever. I even have to send out reminders for amounts as small as Euro 50!! And worse if it is a cheque they do not send it until payment is due which means I have to wait another week before I get a payment that is already due. I think, however, this is partly my own fault as I do not like to send out terms and conditions but would rather base the working relationship on mutual trust. I do of course make sure that everything is agreed prior to accepting a project. However, I think I will have to get some proper strict terms together - and I am looking for some good templates available on the net? I am not too sure but I believe they would have to be valid according to EU jurisdiction or can I just work out my own.


Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:50
German to English
+ ...
To a certain extent! Oct 1, 2003

You don't mention where your customers are. I think to a certain extent payment practices depend on country. For example, I find my German customers tend to pay more promptly than my UK ones - and they pay by transfer rather than by cheque, so the money is in my pocket more quicklyicon_wink.gif

However, I have found that payments have been slowing slightly. Some of my customers even seem to adopt a 'wait to be nagged' policy, which is frustrating as it requires more time, effort and paperwork!


Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:50
Member (2004)
German to English
This is the biggest frustration that I have Oct 1, 2003

I really get annoyed because we have to work to tight deadlines and the agencies just pay when they feel like it. I have a spreadsheet and I put in the date I expect to be paid - if they all paid on time I would have over £1300 extra in my bank account today, which would make life much easier. Why can't people run their businesses in the same way that we have to - i.e. meet the deadlines for payments like we have to meet their deadlines for translating. I've stopped playing softball now - it's time for the hard stuff. After I've waited 14 days beyond the due date they get a soft reminder and after 30 days I tell them that they are in breach of the EU directive on late payments and are they aware that translators share information on payment practices. If no money has come in within a week I send out the revised invoice with the interest due - that usually brings about payment - excluding the interest but anyway at least they have paid. But who has time to constantly play these games? We should be spending our time translating - I wish I could employ someone to do this for me - that would reduce my stress levels! It's all part of being self-employed/freelance I suppose but it does annoy me!!!
In mutual sympathy.


Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:50
Flemish to English
+ ...
Dun & Bradstreet Oct 1, 2003

Where did I put those D&B stickers with "the matter will be given into the hands of D&B if payment is not received within 14 days".
D&B costs about 250 euro per year, but is well worth the money.
It might be an idea to have a D&B logo next to the Paypal logo and a reference to D&B on your website.
Agencies are intermediaries.
I wonder how the customers of these intermediaries would react if they knew that their client is in the D&B-database, which can be consulted by companies worldwide.

[Edited at 2003-10-01 09:19]


Jørgen Madsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:50
English to Danish
+ ...
We all have to stand together Oct 1, 2003

We ALL have to claim payment on time. If just a few of us accept late payment, agencies will wait longer and longer to pay.
I just wrote a UK agency yesterday to tell them that if they do not pay the attached invoice on time (after being very late on 4-5 invoices), I am forced to stop working for them.
I actually have the same kind of system as Gillian, and it's really a great help.
Besides I've made a subscription with a collection agency and have the stamp ready should I need it.
My advice: Send out reminders promptly and make arrangements with a collection agency. Unfortunately the times require this.

Happy collectingicon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2003-10-01 10:11]


Yelena.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:50
English to Russian
+ ...
I feel exactly the same - frustrated Oct 1, 2003

And especially this month. Is it because it's the end of the quarter? I am sick and tired of sending reminders, some of which are sometimes even left unanswered. 30 days following the month of the invoice has become a norm now - with agencies or direct clients. Direct clents can be no better than agencies, how many times did I have to ask them to reissue cheques because they failed to read the instructions on invoices! And then the cat-and-mouse game starts again...

Last week I received a cheque from an agency which forgot to include one job I did for them in early August. When I queried it, they said they now added it onto my account. That means I will receive payment at the end of October for the job I did at the beginning of August!!

Last month I started putting a short note on the bottom of my emails: "payment terms are 30 days net. I reserve the right to charge interest on overdue amounts at the rate of 8% per year from the date of the invoice. Interest will be charged on a daily basis. Your placement of an order indicates your acceptance of these terms." I don't know if that will work...

[Edited at 2003-10-01 09:44]

[Edited at 2003-10-01 09:45]


Local time: 02:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
then they make me feel bad Oct 1, 2003

Often I have a friendly relationship with the people I work with. I don´t translate for agencies but rather directly for publishers and governmental institutions, sometimes working directly with the original author. This past month I have had to call and call several people who I regard as friends demanding my money. Instead of apoligizing and PAYING they put it on me, acting as if I were paranoid and they were doing me a big favor by paying me 30 days after the agreed day. UGH! I live in Spain and lots of times people tell me I just have to learn to accept this ¨cultural difference¨ but I think all of us of as translators should stop accepting silly excuses and demand to be treated with respect.


Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:50
Flemish to English
+ ...
The cultural difference lags behind the law Oct 1, 2003

\"Acting as if I were paranoid and they were doing me a big favor by paying me 30 days after the agreed day. UGH! I live in Spain and lots of times people tell me I just have to learn to accept this ¨cultural difference¨
For the umpteenth time: Refer to this link: it has become law in Spain:!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=es&numdoc=32000L0035&model=guichett


HRiley  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
It sickens me... Oct 1, 2003

... that companies can get away with this. But I am heartened to read the good advice that many of you have posted above, and it's good to know that I'm not the only one with this problem!

I have been battling for several weeks to get payment of several invoices from a client, one of which was over 30 days late (on top of the 60 days - their conditions - they'd been allowed in the first place). It's similar to Madeline's situation, above, in that I have a "friendly" relationship with this company, having worked in-house there for a couple of years. Despite my good relationship with those *commissioning* the translation work, the Accounts department have behaved appallingly, making out that it is my fault that they haven't paid me (something to do with an internal, inter-departmental billing procedure that hasn't been obeyed - not my problem!!), refusing to answer emails and even, childishly, refusing to take my telephone calls. I'm stunned that people can get away with behaving so unprofessionally.
After various threats and letters I have at last received payment, for work that I did in JUNE!!


Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:50
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
keep fighting Oct 1, 2003

I do the same as Gillian, but my first reminder goes out one week past the due date, and a week after that they get another reminder stating that I would have no qualms about posting my experience on payment lists. I know I'm not as patient as some, but I never miss deadlines, either.

I've had a spate of late payments lately, but I've also had several people pay within a week or two after projects are completed. Seems like there is just no standard, and people tell you a lot about themselves when money comes due.


Aisha Rishi
Local time: 05:50
English to Urdu
+ ...
Same Here Oct 1, 2003

Just a small example.

I always finish the project before the deadline usually with one day to spare, whereas I recieved a cheque today, that was 4 days late. I checked the sending date and it was 16th August, whereas it should have been sent on 13th August. Would a client appreciate if we submitted a project 3 days late? I can't understant why the companies have this kind of attitude, its so un professional.


Ivan Eikås Skjøstad  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:50
Member (2002)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Call them! Oct 1, 2003

My experience is that the best way is to call the late payers (using the phone). This always helps, but some times I have to keep calling....until they finally pay.


invguy  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:50
English to Bulgarian
I can't see the logic Oct 1, 2003

If a farmer buys seeds or fertilizers on credit and pays only after the harvest, this is understandable. Same if a retailer receives expensive goods from a wholesaler/manufacturer and pays for them after they have been sold to end clients.

But what reasons do translation agencies have to (in effect) hold a translator's product without paying???

AFAIK clients pay to the agencies either when submitting the text to be translated, or when receiving the ready translation... anyway, hardly later than that. This means that the agency is holding the translator's money - and is able to operate with them - during those 30-60-90 days. What the...?! Are translation agencies morphing into financial institutions or what?

Banks at least pay you interest when they use your money - and the interest starts counting from the day you put the money in there. Viewed like that, it turns out that translators constantly give interest-free credits to agencies (!)

A delay of 10-15 days - all right, let it be 3 weeks - could be attributed to bureaucratic procedures. But 3 months?!? In the era of electronic banking?!?!?

If it's a big agency with many branches and centralized accounting - again, okay, I can understand. But I can't see the reason for small agencies with a single 40 sq.m office and a staff of 2-3 people to behave as if they are huge corporations where decisions take days to travel between management/execution levels.

Don't know about y'all, but I find this pretty odd... to put it mildly.

Then, there's another discrepancy that is striking. As some of you may remember, I am basically a graphic designer, and do translations rather occasionally, basing on a fairly long previous experience in the field. In design, I typically take a deposit at the time of signing the contract, then eventually receive 1-2 intermediate payments (on completion of intermediate phases - if it's a large project) and a clearance payment when submitting the final product (files, mockups, ready printed stuff, whatever). Payments after that date are a rare exception, and the client must explicitly ask for this, plus give valid reasons. BTW it is approximately the same when I work through ad agencies.

I have often wondered: why is it different with translations? Honestly, I can't see the logic - neither from an economic, nor from any other point of view.

Both a design and a translation are a result of intellectual labour. Both are custom products (not ready-made, like furniture or clothing). Both are ready for use as soon as they are submitted. Both do not pay off immediately (from a client's perspective) but within a certain period - therefore, paying for design or translation is a kind of investment, not a mere off-the-shelf purchase. Etc. That is, the similarity between those two products is obvious - which should presumably result in similar market practices.

Then where did those very different payment habits - or schemes, if you wish - come from?

There may be something I'm not getting here - and I would very much appreciate any thoughts or insights that you folks may have.

Granted, I had broken my links with the translation world for a while in the late 90s, so I have not followed closely the process of establishing of the discussed delays... maybe the answer is there?

BTW if it wasn't for that month-long waiting to get paid, I guess I would have been seeking to do translations more often - translating is a true relaxation (for me, at least) compared to the hectic atmosphere of the advertising industry.


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:50
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
My customers pay earlier now Oct 2, 2003

Seems I'm exception, but I really was surprised when a customer payed 2 days in advance (the money was on my account 2 days befor required paying day). The same customer had me waiting for large sums twice befor and paid only after I refused to work unless he transfers the money. Hope it lasts. Most pay within 14 days, and I myself use to pay at once to freelancers (whenever I can afford it), but it is understandable if agencies want to make sure that no reclamations come from end-customers befor they hand out the money.
On the other hand NOT ALL freelancers stick to deadlines either, and it takes much effort to keep customers happy with all kinds of explanations, when a translator does not deliver on time.


ysun  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:50
English to Chinese
+ ...
What are they afraid of? Oct 2, 2003

Good translation agencies would make payments within 30 days, even upon delivery.

Bad translation agencies are not afraid if you refuse to work for them just because they pay you late or do not pay at all since they can find plenty of translators (no matter those are qualified or not). That is why translators must meet deadlines while they do not have to. However, they would be afraid if all translators refuse to work for them. In other words, they are afraid if you put them on black lists, which are shared by thousands of translators through Internet.

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