Project cancelled but assignment finished
Thread poster: IFTranslator (X)

IFTranslator (X)
United States
Local time: 05:44
Oct 1, 2008

Just curious as to whether this has happened to other translators, and if so, what was the outcome.

I began working with an agency a few months ago - their PMs have always been pleasant to deal with, their assignments are interesting, good blue board rating, and I consider them a good client.

I was asked to do an assignment last week, confirmed by email, delivered it four days later, and was told a PO would be sent "soon".

I have completed assignments for this agency with just email confirmation in the past, and always received the PO, sometimes before and sometimes after delivery.

This time, however, the PO has not arrived. In response to my emails, the PM has revealed that there was an internal miscommunication within the agency, and the job was not needed after all.

This was told to me 3 days after delivery, a full week after the assignment was confirmed.

Obviously the agency is in a pickle, but I am insisting that a PO be issued to me so that I may complete invoicing by normal terms. I have been offered a 'deal' to be paid a higher rate for the next X number of words I translate for them, but I am a stickler for written agreements and also do not think it's very professional to solve a sticky situation with a promise.

I enjoy working with this client and would like to continue the relationship, but I am a little taken aback by this situation. Has anyone every experienced something similar? Any suggestions?


Amy Duncan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Just had something similar... Oct 1, 2008

Hi Andrea,
I had an agency contact me late Monday afternoon about a job. I had done a small revision job for them previous to this, but otherwise it was a new contact. I had checked out their BB rating, which was excellent. I told the PM I would need to see the job first or at least part of it. She sent me around 600 words of the job, I wrote back to tell her I would do the job (total 2000 words) and she said the deadline was 12 noon the next day (11 a.m. my time). I starting working on the part she had sent me while I waited for her to send the rest. I finished the part, and no sign of the rest of the job. I e-mailed her and she said she would send it the following morning. I wrote her back and said this would make the deadline very tight and that I preferred to get a head start on it, and she didn't reply.

Next morning (today) I get an e-mail from her saying the job was canceled. I told her she would have to pay me for what I did and she said it was just a "sample" and I shouldn't have done it. Well, I have never encountered anything like this before. To be honest, I was a bit suspicious of her when I did the first job because she bungled the word count not once, but twice. But since the company had such a good BB rating I decided to give them a second try.

There wasn't a lot of money involved, so if they don't pay me it's not the end of the world, but I felt the way this PM worked was very unprofessional and careless.

In cases like this there's nothing we can do but stick to our guns and hope for the best. We are not a fault, and don't think we should back down, even if we lose a client. In your case it would be a little harder because you have a history with these people, but in my case it won't be any great loss.

All the best,

[Edited at 2008-10-01 19:55]


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:44
Member (2007)
+ ...
Stick to your guns, Andrea Oct 1, 2008

You say it was confirmed so what else did you have to wait for? You were simply doing your job. If you wait for the PO so you miss the deadline, then that's wrong too. They give you a job, you do it, you're paid for it - those are the rules of business. If they change their mind, that's tough.


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:44
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Happened to me recently, but no problem Oct 1, 2008

It was a short minimum-fee job from an agency I didn't know. I did it immediately and was preparing to send it (only half an hour after receiving it) when I got an email saying sorry, it was too urgent, they'd had to allocate it to someone else. But when I'd told them I'd done it & was sending it with my invoice anyway, they immediately agreed to pay for it.


nordiste  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:44
English to French
+ ...
happened to me once - I was partially paid Oct 2, 2008

A half regular client - from whom I get orders now and then - once asked me for a translation (about 3000 words, very technical) - rate, conditions and deadline were agreed by email but no formal PO. It was not urgent.
So I started and then after 2 or 3 days I received an email saying the job was canceled by the end customer. I was offered to send the part I had aready done and invoice accordingly. Of course I was paid.

I think this was the only good way to manage the thing.

So you should invoice by your usual terms with this agency and insist to get paid.

If they are serious about their business, they have probably signed a contract with their end client so that in case of late cancelation from their side they have to pay at least part of the amount. But frankly this is not your problem.


John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
A never-never job at a higher rate Oct 2, 2008

The idea of paying you a higher rate on the next job is an old tactic. However, unless you have an exceptionally good relationship, you can be sure that there will never be another job.

Paying you a higher rate on the next job will mean somebody will have to accept less profit on the next job. Why suffer this loss of profit when the alternative is to simply give the job to another translator.

A PO is always good to have, but an email serves equally well as confirmation of an order.

[Edited at 2008-10-02 07:39]


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:44
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely - Call them and ask to talk to the vendor manager Oct 2, 2008

Andrea Pakieser wrote:
Obviously the agency is in a pickle, but I am insisting that a PO be issued to me so that I may complete invoicing by normal terms. I have been offered a 'deal' to be paid a higher rate for the next X number of words I translate for them, but I am a stickler for written agreements and also do not think it's very professional to solve a sticky situation with a promise.

I think you should call the company and ask to talk to the vendor manager. You delivered the job and the miscommunication is not your fault. You might want to offer them a rebate as a sign of good faith, but some payment should exist in my opinion.


Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:14
English to Tamil
+ ...
This is how I reacted in my case. What would you have done? Oct 2, 2008

I had a similar situation but it was an interpreting assignment. I posted a forum thread on that, see:
N. Raghavan


Marcus Geibel
Local time: 11:44
English to German
It sometimes happens... Oct 2, 2008

that an order is cancelled only after it has been partly (or in the worst case fully) translated.

But the clients I work for always ask me to send in what I translated so far, together with the respective invoice - so work done is always paid for.

If you delivered the entire translation in time, they will have to pay it in full. At least, they confirmed it informally via e-mail, or didn't they? This alone constitutes a work contract - in fact, had they told you on the phone to go ahead, this, too, would have been sufficient to make it a contract.

Anything else than paying you in full for the work delivered would be highly unprofessional - it is their very own business if they have a miscommunication problem internally!

Stick to your guns, as has been said before!

Good luck!



IFTranslator (X)
United States
Local time: 05:44
Thanks for your thoughts Oct 2, 2008

Despite the awkwardness of the situation, it's good to know that the rules of 'business as usual' definitely apply. I just sent an invoice without the PO number and received confirmation of invoice receipt without any questions, so hopefully that's all there is to it. Thanks for your support, everyone!


Cathy Flick  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:44
Member (2003)
Russian to English
+ ...
kill fees are normal Oct 3, 2008

It is normal for agencies to pay translators a "kill fee" when a job is cancelled after the initial agreement (which can be just a confirming e-mail). I've charged kill fees based on the amount of time already spent on the project, even if no translation can be provided. I first set up the source as a Word doc from hardcopy/pdf and do some research first, so might not have a single word translated even after many hours work. Even if I've started the translation, it's still in rough, unusable form (researching terminology/phrasing is a major part of the effort in my technical areas). But I've never had anybody ask for such "proof" that I was working on it; my hourly bill is sufficient.

Once in a big project, another translator and I were accidentally assigned the same part of the job. We happened to discover it ourselves because we knew each other and he was asking me some questions that sounded entirely too familiar.... I can't remember if he had finished the job or was still working on it when we told the project manager - but definitely both of us got paid whatever we invoiced for it.

A good agency will offer a kill fee if they cancel after the assignment is made. Just bill them for it with the assumption that they will indeed pay it. You did the job as requested, they owe you the money. It really will be easier for them than paying you a higher rate on somebody else's job, anyway.

Peace, Cathy Flick

Ph.D. Chemical Physics/M.A. Physics/B.S. Chemistry
Scientific Translator since 1978
Russian/French/German/Spanish/Italian into US English


Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Kill fee Oct 3, 2008

An e-mail to go ahead with the job is just as good as a PO. Maybe it wouldn't be accepted in a court of law, but this kind of thing is never going to get to court. It is morally the same thing, and they must know they haven't a leg to stand on.

John is right: be sure they will never send you another job at a higher rate. If they are willing to pay you more money, er, then how about now rather than later?

Cathy's "kill fee" is a very good point (and a cute term too), if you don't have a single word to show them for your toils, but have spent a good deal of time on it. Also, presumably you've booked time in your schedule and may even have refused other jobs in the interim. Problem is, they can say: Well, nobody mentioned a kill fee to us. Perhaps the best thing is to mention the fee with every offer, although it does sound vaguely like a threat.


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