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Help: Client is late paying and this seems ridiculous!
Thread poster: David Jessop

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 11, 2009

Hello...

I have been very fortunate in the field with clients paying, and on time. However, I have recently had a situation where a client is giving me the run around and am wondering what you would do about it. It is quite upsetting. Let me paraphrase:

I started a collaboration with an agency here in Spain in July who told me they paid 30 days after the invoice was sent.

In September, they were 10 days late with their invoice payment. I wrote them an email explaining that sometimes the mail is slow in Spain and to confirm they had sent it. They responded by saying, "We are very sorry, the client has not paid yet. If within 2 weeks from now the client still does not pay, we will send you the check even though it is at cost of our accounting."

I responded and said, "This is very difficult for me. I have expenses and a monthly budget and I was planning on that payment on time."

They apologized again. I got my payment on that later date as they said I would.

This was September and I decided to keep working with them (perhaps mistakenly). Now it is November and they are 15 days late with another payment.

I sent them the same email I sent a few months back. Their response: "The customer has not yet paid us for this work so we cannot pay you until the middle of December, the date that the client has planned to pay us. Thank you for waiting." No apology, no nothing!!

I am quite upset about this!! I'm seeing red, to be honest. I don´t want to work for this client again because of this, it´s ridiculous. But on the other hand, I don´t want to be unprofessional or escalate the situation.

It just so happens that my girlfriend works for the end client company for whom I did the work, in another office. The agency already knows this. So I suppose one option is to tell them that I will speak with her so she can get in contact with the accounting department.

How would you handle this or how have you handled similar situations that have arisen?

Thanks for any tips...

Best,
David

[Edited at 2009-11-11 10:50 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-11-11 10:50 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-11-11 10:52 GMT]


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Use your contacts Nov 11, 2009

There isn't much point in having useful contacts unless you are prepared to use them. I would ask your girlfriend to make a fuss and get the payment made. Make sure the agency knows that you played an active role in getting them paid - so that they can pay you immediately.

I would not work for the agency again. They are linking your payments to their payments. This means they are eliminating the risk usually associated with accepting dodgy clients. As a result, they will inevitably find more non-paying clients. These agency people may be charming...but they are bums and they will burn you again.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:45
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Are you a translator or a financial institution? Nov 11, 2009

I've had several of these. Assuming an agency makes money on the spread between your price and theirs, if they pay late you are actually "sponsoring" their working capital at absolutely no gain.

They are responsible to ascertain their clients' credit just as you ascertain theirs (or any direct client of yours) via Blue Board or similar devices.

So if they have bills to pay, so do you. If they pay their bills with money that is rightfully yours, so you have to borrow money from a bank to pay your bills, why don't they borrow money from a bank and pay you? The answer is simple: because the bank charges interest, while you don't.

First, I implemented a house policy: absolutely NO jobs taken with payment term beyond 30 consecutive days. I had a couple of 30 "working" days, or on the 30th day of next month, and regretted them all.

Then I coined a phrase that I'm including on all my bids/proposals (unless offered quick payment):
While I strive to be among the best translators in my pairs/specialties, I have no objection to be ranked as the world's worst money-lending institution.

... and raised my prices in 20% for 30-day payment.

According to my calculations, if agency and end-client focus on the translation job, the longest it may take to check the work (twice) and get the translator paid is 12 consecutive days.

The other option would be having me financing agencies' working capital at abusively high interest rates, and having banks do the translation work, most likely at an appalling quality. Any translation agency owner envisioning such business model should be confined to a mental institution.


 

Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 07:45
English to Czech
+ ...
Late paying end client is not your problem Nov 11, 2009

Their response: "The customer has not yet paid us for this work so we cannot pay you until the middle of December, the date that the client has planned to pay us. Thank you for waiting." No apology, no nothing!!


This is an unacceptable excuse. Your business relationship is with the agency. The agency should pay you in time no matter when the end client pays them. I would remind them of this and post a BlueBoard entry.

It just so happens that my girlfriend works for the end client company for whom I did the work, in another office. The agency already knows this. So I suppose one option is to tell them that I will speak with her so she can get in contact with the accounting department.


I wouldn't do it. I don't think you should contact the end client, even if your girlfriend works for them.


 

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not sure if that´s right either... Nov 11, 2009

It just so happens that my girlfriend works for the end client company for whom I did the work, in another office. The agency already knows this. So I suppose one option is to tell them that I will speak with her so she can get in contact with the accounting department.


I wouldn't do it. I don't think you should contact the end client, even if your girlfriend works for them. [/quote]

I am unsure about this too because it does not seem very ethical on my part to do that. But neither is saying your payment terms are at 30 days when you start a working relationship and then changing them to "whenever we get paid, you get paid" and then not even letting the provider know that this is the case.

I have resolved to never work with this agency again. But I do not want to be unethical or reactive. I also don´t want to be taken advantage of.


 

PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 07:45
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Be a professional - find other clients! Nov 11, 2009

In my opinion the only unprofessional thing you could do is to roll over and take this.

Your client has no business telling you to wait for your payment till their client has paid. Could you do the same at the grocer's? Absolutely not, and it is none of your business whether or not the end client is paying - on time or at all. That is the risk the agency is running, and they should be prepared to accept this, otherwise they are the ones being unprofessional.

Whether you chose to have your girlfriend make a fuss to get the end client to pay is entirely up to you, but when you are finally paid by your client, I would simply say: Sorry, but your payment terms are unacceptable, and I have therefore decided to stop working with you.

Happy translating.
icon_wink.gif


 

Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:45
French to English
It's not what you know, it's who you know Nov 11, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:

There isn't much point in having useful contacts unless you are prepared to use them. I would ask your girlfriend to make a fuss and get the payment made. Make sure the agency knows that you played an active role in getting them paid - so that they can pay you immediately.


Absolutely, in this case. Assuming your g/f is, in fact, in a position to do this, then do it. Make sure the agency knows in advance that you, via your g/f, are making sure the agency is paid before December with the express purpose of ensuring that you get paid promptly.

If possible, make dark noises about how unimpressed the end-client is with this agency's business ethics. If possible, in fact, I would do my utmost to make sure the agency got no business from the end-client ever again. Under these particular circumstances, I would have no ethical qualms about working directly for the end-client, if my g/f ever contacted me directly to do so, for instance.

I do not usually subscribe to the view that one breach of contract warrants a second breach of contract (e.g. the advice sometimes given on here to make files unusable until payment is received) but I view ethics more broadly as a 2-way street, and if they are going to be devious and manipulative.....


 

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:45
Member (2007)
German to English
Possible carrot and stick solution Nov 11, 2009

I'm at an earlier stage of the same scenario.

Last week, an agency contacted me about accepting translation and proofreading assignments. They sent me a test translation, which I passed. Then I looked at their Blue Board profile.

For years everybody loved them; they had a long string of fives. Then, about a year ago, the threes and ones started appearing and they were banned from posting projects on proz.com.

Here is what I'm considering doing:

1. If and when the first assignment arrives, I will accept, but I will send a .JPG image of the recent Blue Board scores with comments along with the acceptance message

2. I will tell them that it is their turn now to pass a test: if they pay on time and in full, then I will give them a five on the Blue Board and accept future assignments.

3. If they do not pay on time and in full, then I will refuse future assignments and will award them a one on the Blue Board with an explanation of the deal here outlined.

4. I will also give them a bad mark in other forums like Yahoo.com's Zahlungspraxis group.

This would give them an opportunity and an incentive to return to the straight and narrow if they are so inclined. The worst that could happen is that I'd be out payment for one translation. The best is that I might be able to foster a good working relationship with a little help from the carrot and the stick.

You could take a similar approach, Mr. Jessop, by setting a new deadline and starting at step two.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:45
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Please make a Blue Board entry Nov 11, 2009

I agree that it's absolutely infuriating when agencies play this "we'll pay you when our client pays us" game. Such agencies are to be avoided in future. This is discussed frequently in these forums. Of course, your contract/agreement is with the agency, not with the agency's client, a fact of which the agency must be well aware.
As to whether or not to ask you girlfriend to intervene, I'm in two minds. You could certainly tell the agency that you have "a close friend" employed by the end client who could intervene to get the end client to pay up, whether or not she actually does so. For all you know, the end client may already have paid the agency and the agency is just trying it on ...
Whatever you do, once you've got the matter settled, please make a Blue Board entry to warn others of this agency's tactics.
Best of luck,
Jenny


 

Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 07:45
English to Czech
+ ...
Unprofessional Nov 11, 2009

Charlie Bavington wrote:

If possible, make dark noises about how unimpressed the end-client is with this agency's business ethics. If possible, in fact, I would do my utmost to make sure the agency got no business from the end-client ever again.


I disagree. It would be very unprofessional and it could backfire. What if late payment is actually the end client's internal policy?


 

polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
Clearly... Nov 11, 2009

if you wish to involvbe your g/f, then at this stage I suggest you keep things soft and get her to find out, if she can, what the normal payment lead times are in her company (particularly in relation to services like translation) and when the bill in question is expected to be settled vis-à-vis the agency. It may well be that the company has already paid and the agency is temporarily using "your" money, though that would be the worst case scenario.

If you discover that lead times are long and that this is normal practice for the particular firm, then the agency is being unfair in promising you what it can't or won't deliver. It is then up to you to decide whether you can accept the longer payment times as a matter of principle. Once you get into the swing, waiting a few more weeks may not be a problem so long as the payments are regular. In which case it is up to the agency to come clean and renegociate with you - you could charge more for the inconvenience factor, for example.

That said, if they agree terms with you, what happens between them and their client is not your problem and they should be made to understand this.



[Edited at 2009-11-11 13:11 GMT]


 

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:45
English to French
+ ...
The end client's internal policy is irrelevant Nov 11, 2009

Hynek Palatin wrote:

What if late payment is actually the end client's internal policy?

David did not negotiate with the end client--he negotiated with the agency. The agreement between David and the agency does not bind the end client, but it does bind the agency. And the agreement between the agency and the end client has nothing to do with David--that is the agency's problem. So, even if the end client could be the one to blame ultimately, the agency is clearly not respecting the deal it struck with David. At that point, whatever the end client does or says has absolutely no incidence on the payment issues David is having.

What you say, Hynek, reminds me of the typical reaction many women have when they are cheated on: instead of being mad at the husband, they are mad at his lover. How is this reasonable? Who didn't respect their end of the bargain?

David, any agency that bases its payment practices on the client's payment practices is either utterly careless or has issues with the notion of respect, in particular as regards their vendors. Either way, they are not trustworthy. Steer clear of such clients.

I have been thinking of doing something similar to what José proposes. I am seriously thinking of having different price ranges depending on how fast the client pays. On my quote and on my invoice, I would have something like this:

Amount charged if paid upon receipt: $1000
Amount charged if paid within 14 days: $1200
Amount charged if paid within 30 days: $1500
Amount charged if paid after 30 days: $2000 + daily interest

Can you see the word interest plastered all over the quote? I sure can! I know, it sounds hilarious. Still, I wonder how potential clients would react to that. Maybe I would get less replies on my quotes, but the ones I would get would probably be of much better quality...

[Edited at 2009-11-11 17:09 GMT]


 

Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:45
French to German
+ ...
Selling invoices! Nov 11, 2009

ViktoriaG wrote:

Can you see the word interest plastered all over the quote? I sure can! I know, it sounds hilarious. Still, I wonder how potential clients would react to that. Maybe I would get less replies on my quotes, but the ones I would get would probably be of much better quality...

Yes, I would think about that too - or saying "This invoice will be sold to my bank. I will get the cash immediately and you will be nearly forced to pay at maturity, else the bank will charge you late payment interests"....


 

Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 07:45
English to Czech
+ ...
Reply to Viktoria Nov 11, 2009

Viktoria,

I probably didn't express myself clearly.

ViktoriaG wrote:

David did not negotiate with the end client--he negotiated with the agency. The agreement between David and the agency does not bind the end client, but it does bind the agency. And the agreement between the agency and the end client has nothing to do with David--that is the agency's problem. So, even if the end client could be the one to blame ultimately, the agency is clearly not respecting the deal it struck with David. At that point, whatever the end client does or says has absolutely no incidence on the payment issues David is having.


I absolutely agree. Please read my first reply to David. I said: "Your business relationship is with the agency. The agency should pay you in time no matter when the end client pays them."

What you say, Hynek, reminds me of the typical reaction many women have when they are cheated on: instead of being mad at the husband, they are mad at his lover. How is this reasonable? Who didn't respect their end of the bargain?


In my second post I disagreed with Charlie's suggestion to "make sure the agency got no business from the end-client ever again". To achieve this, David would have to contact the end client and tell them not to work with the agency again because the agency did not pay him in time, using the end client's late payment as an excuse. Now, why would the end client care, especially if they were (hypothetically) a late payer too? What if they were actually happy with the agency's service and told them "Hey, your translator contacted us directly, make sure it doesn't happen again."?

I am not defending the agency, quite the contrary. I am saying that in my opinion David should demand the payment, make a BB entry and not contact the end client.


 

Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:45
French to English
No effort involved, one off suggestion Nov 11, 2009

Hynek Palatin wrote:
In my second post I disagreed with Charlie's suggestion to "make sure the agency got no business from the end-client ever again". To achieve this, David would have to contact the end client and tell them not to work with the agency again because the agency did not pay him in time, using the end client's late payment as an excuse. Now, why would the end client care, especially if they were (hypothetically) a late payer too? What if they were actually happy with the agency's service and told them "Hey, your translator contacted us directly, make sure it doesn't happen again."?

I am not defending the agency, quite the contrary. I am saying that in my opinion David should demand the payment, make a BB entry and not contact the end client.


I'm only making the suggestion in this particular case because his g/f happens to work for the end client, and she is au fait with the situation anyway. It's not as if it involves any effort whatsoever on David's part - he just (potentially) needs to give his g/f the nod. It is simply a case of attempting to leverage a very particular set of circumstances to David's advantage. In the normal course of events, I would not usually suggest contacting end clients (although some people do and depending on the circumstances, there may be valid reasons for doing so e.g. copyright); just in this set of circumstances.


 
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