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Working for a non-paying agency?
Thread poster: StandaZizka

StandaZizka  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
English to Czech
+ ...
Jan 23, 2010

Hello everybody

After lengthy negotations I have been offered by an American agency a huge job lasting two months. However, the agency has got very bad BlueBoard rating and seems to be a non-payer or late-payer (some people say they must have waited up to 11 months..) – though the majority of translators’ feedback in BlueBoard goes two or three years back…

When I raised this with the agency, that has got btw payment terms net 60-90, they say that the “negative proZ feedback does not give them any justice” and “that they have revamped their accounting system and have been consistently paying translators on-time over the last couple of years” and btw, also putting lots of blame on translators themselves who apparently were not submitting invoices on-time or following their invoicing procedures…

My theory is that other translators who bidded for this specific job read the feedback on BlueBoard earlier than me and decided to back off… No wonder.

My questions to you are:
- is it a no-no situation and the rule for collaborating with such agencies is “hands off” because the risk is too high.
- are there any instruments or is there any legal document I could have them signed that would protect me from not being paid? They rejected my idea of paying me on 10-day basis after submission of the work I have done in that period, they’re only coming forward in paying my first invoice in net 30.
- are there other ways how to check upon American agencies? What about ATA?

Working for two months for a single agency that allegedly does not pay seems to be far too big risk… Anyway, what I’ll suggest them is that if their translators are now happy as they say and they want to get the negative feedback off, they should ask their happy translators to provide positive feedback…

Some of you may have bidded for the same job in other or same language combinations, not sure what’s the policy but probably best if I share the name with you off the list if anybody is interested.

Thanks for sharing your experience and ideas!

Kind regards


KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Manage your risk Jan 23, 2010

If you want to juggle snakes, don't be surprised if you are bitten. There are plenty of good companies out there to work with; let the doubtful ones be part of the necessary purge in a difficult economy. If agencies are having a hard time getting projects, then I will support the agencies that deserve to survive based on their record.


Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Dutch to German
+ ...
Don't take any unnecessary risks Jan 23, 2010

There is probably only one legal instrument or document you can have them sign:
a check for the pre-payment, but even that might bounce. Anyway, sugest it just for fun. If they would go for it after having rejected your 10-day-scheme, then you probably know what you are up to.

You have expressed your legitimate concerns and proposed them a payment scheme they probably would have accepted if they would like to return into the camp of serious outsourcers. They have rejected that, and maybe so should you, unless you like the thrill that comes with it when you fight for your money (often enough in vain).

[Edited at 2010-01-23 18:16 GMT]


Liviu-Lee Roth
United States
Local time: 19:25
Romanian to English
+ ...
check the agency on BBB Jan 23, 2010

Dear Stan,

You could check the BBB list if the agency is in the US. It may give you a clue, though not sure.

Good luck,



Teresa Borges
Local time: 00:25
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
What about dividing the job Jan 23, 2010

in four, five or six parts, invoiced separately?


Nadejda Vega Cespedes  Identity Verified

Local time: 01:25
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
Demand advance payment Jan 23, 2010

My advice is, demand prepayment or reject the job. Considering their current BB rating, they are in no position to dictate terms of payment. They may have revamped their accounting system, but since there seems to be no independent proof that it's actually the case, they'll need to make additional effort to restore their reputation.


Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
always Jan 23, 2010

lee roth wrote: check the BBB list

before making decision
divide large jobs into smaller pieces (Teresa Borges)

Otherwise you get dependent on their dubious decency.

[Редактировалось 2010-01-23 19:20 GMT]


Freelance DK  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
English to Danish
+ ...
Signed contract Jan 23, 2010

[quote]Sergei Leshchinsky wrote:

lee roth wrote: check the BBB list

before making decision
divide large jobs into smaller pieces (Teresa Borges)

But there is no rules about no/no jobs and even if you check the BBB and Blueboard 100 times and only find positive remarks...the company can still choose not to pay!

The only legal thing you can do is to secure a signed contract from the company, this you can use in court if necessary.

On the other hand you can find companies that are "good" payers even with bad Blueboard least they pay but maybe just later than expected and then they receive a low rating.

[Edited at 2010-01-23 19:52 GMT]


StandaZizka  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
English to Czech
+ ...
Thanks & contract template Jan 23, 2010

Thanks everybody for your suggestions... interesting ideas... especially, "leave the bad guys to rot", and "you are the one to dictate the conditions" - as for the latter one I have always wondered why our industry works so differently and it's the customer, not the provider of a service, who thinks that can dictate all the conditions despite we are the ones who make them stay alive...

I was hoping for some more recent feedback on BB since my 'call for entry', but nothing so far...

For future references, in your view what are the most important parts such a contract, I ask any agency to sign, should contain? Are there any templates? At the moment I normally require a signed PO, but perhaps that's not enough...

[Edited at 2010-01-23 21:23 GMT]


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Don't take the job Jan 23, 2010

Unless they agree to pay at least 1/3 of the job in advance, you then deliver 1/3 of the job, let them pay another 1/3 of the job in advance, then you deliver another 1/3 of the job, and agree to pay the last 1/3 of the job on delivery.

A bad BlueBoard record really means trouble ahead, as most people are reluctant to post a bad BlueBoard comment (it means permanently losing the customer) and only do so when the situation is really bad.


Local time: 01:25
I agree - don't take the job Jan 23, 2010

When the agency starts playing games with payment after you have delivered the translation, you are going to wish that you hadn't accepted the job.

There's lots of work out there - work with agencies that have a good track record of payment.


Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
English to German
+ ...
Why does the Nigeria Scam work? Jan 23, 2010

Because people are greedy (one of the capital sins). Notorious non-payers are using the same trick which obviously works since a few thousand years, and will continue to do...


Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:25
English to Japanese
+ ...
Just stay away. Jan 24, 2010

I agree to what everybody wrote above, such as asking payment in advance, don't take unnecessary risks, etc.

But these agencies, from my experience is that if you ask a payment in advance, you never hear from them again. Signing a contract is out of the question, since it seems you are based in Germany and the agency is in the US. When you get in trouble, even a signed contract would not help since it's international and complicated.

So my advice is, simply stay away from them.


seraalice  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 01:25
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
Do not take it! Jan 24, 2010

I am sure that I would not take it. Too risky!


Simon Mountifield  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
French to English
Check some of the other resources on the web Jan 24, 2010

Like many of the people here, I'd be very reluctant to put all my eggs in one basket - if you did accept the job and subsequently had trouble getting paid, then surely that would create major cash flow problems (we are talking about two months of revenues here). The other thing is that you would probably be turning down job offers from other agencies that you know are reliable payers. They say that they've cleaned up their act - if they're now so efficient, why aren't there any positive reviews?

I had trouble with an agency a few years ago and I had to take legal action to get paid. Ever since, I have been extremely cautious. It really is no fun when payment doesn't come on time and you've got to start chasing it up (sending reminder letters, waiting for replies, and so on, all of which takes time). Life can be stressful enough without such added worries.

The BB is a good place to start, but make sure you check some of the other sites on the web as well (I'm not sure whether I can mention them here, so I'll send them to you via PM).


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