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Do agencies' automatic invoicing procedures drive you mad?
Thread poster: Christine Andersen

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:40
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Jul 19, 2011

Warning: this is a rant, but I will be extremely grateful for any any constructive suggestions!

I am finding that more and more agencies are setting up systems where first you have to log in just to see the files for your job.
Then you have to log in and upload the translation, and finally type a lot of details about yourself, your bank and all the rest in their database, just to get paid.

Now that so many people have ADSL and mailboxes large enough to accept file
... See more
Warning: this is a rant, but I will be extremely grateful for any any constructive suggestions!

I am finding that more and more agencies are setting up systems where first you have to log in just to see the files for your job.
Then you have to log in and upload the translation, and finally type a lot of details about yourself, your bank and all the rest in their database, just to get paid.

Now that so many people have ADSL and mailboxes large enough to accept files by mail, why are they dropping the good old problem-free e-mail?

Instead of sending an invoice, you have to go through a mysterious procedure where they tell you what they think they owe you, or you have to type in a rigmarole about the job, deadline, etc. etc.

None of it results in a valid invoice that the tax authorities will accept, so I have to do all that too.

Instead of setting my details out on a standard invoice template, and then simply adding the client's information, I end up having to type everything again and again.

Passwords are invariably something like da089ada2BE#&
and they ask you to type them, not cut and paste...

The latest agency asked me for FIVE referees as well. They could not wait for the translation, so they have agreed to pay me anyway, but it seems like an enormous amount of wasted time on top of five thousand words. No way am I going to annoy five of my other clients by asking for references, so I am probably not going to get any more jobs from this client.

*****
Could we start adding a grade for HASSLE on the Blue Board?

Or should I just learn to love typing my name, address and account number over and over again?
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Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 12:40
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Dropped the client Jul 19, 2011

Hi Christine,

It seems to be a growing trend. I had similar hassles with a client. I repeatedly had trouble logging on to their website. When I e-mailed them I didn't get help, and I never did get paid for my last invoice. I decided not to work for them anymore and mentioned the reasons on the Blue Board.. Not a constructive suggestion I'm afraid but it worked for me.

More recently a client informed me that they will only be working through their website using a certain
... See more
Hi Christine,

It seems to be a growing trend. I had similar hassles with a client. I repeatedly had trouble logging on to their website. When I e-mailed them I didn't get help, and I never did get paid for my last invoice. I decided not to work for them anymore and mentioned the reasons on the Blue Board.. Not a constructive suggestion I'm afraid but it worked for me.

More recently a client informed me that they will only be working through their website using a certain CAT tool. Training was provided for free but I hate CAT tools. I regret losing that client but it is another kind of hassle that I can live without.
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apk12  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:40
English to German
+ ...
Agree Jul 19, 2011

Agree, and what I love most are translation agencies of that kind in the very heart and core of Europe who surprisingly never heard about the payment terms legislation, where you are expected to agree to send your invoice at the very end of the month (even in cases when let's say you have a middle large translation with a deadline on 1st -> the invoice is then expected to be sent on 31st, after you received an invitation to send such an invoice in, of course, not earlier! So, even later if such ... See more
Agree, and what I love most are translation agencies of that kind in the very heart and core of Europe who surprisingly never heard about the payment terms legislation, where you are expected to agree to send your invoice at the very end of the month (even in cases when let's say you have a middle large translation with a deadline on 1st -> the invoice is then expected to be sent on 31st, after you received an invitation to send such an invoice in, of course, not earlier! So, even later if such an invitation happens to arrive a bit later...) -> and with a following payment term of 60 days after receipt of invoice! Where do those agencies live, in which parallel universe - -

No way, I prefer nice direct clients. Upfront is a term that does not shock them and for those who return and who you set up an ongoing business relationship with, normal payment terms are something both sides enjoy. Normal. This is neither 90 nor 60 not 45 days. As one of the tanslators who often contributes to this forum said several times: our business is translation, not moneylending.

But regarding fully automated payment procedures: recently there was a translator (into Slovakian I think) who had to wait a couple of time for her $1000. After raising her voice, they finally answered (not to her email requests, the agency in question is too busy with marketing some ominous "patented" comment fields LSP services which they ask translators to send in for free...) - but I heard they finally replied. On a page somewhere. Their explanation: the payment is fully automated and her paypal address was misspelled. That's why. Aha... sure. I can't help but wonder whether there was either a cloud full of words above the people in the office while the translator was ranting in a group on linkedin: "let's wait a bit.. let's simply hope she finally forgets about her invoice..." - or whether an automated cloud itself said silently: "let's wait a bit, typo-typo-, maybe she forgets about the invoice, we accept every additional profit ..." - All the time there was nothing, no reply to emails, no reaction at all.

When I recently started a nice talk with somebody from ProZ here [a developer], he listend patiently for the period of one or two posts (I said something about freelancing being not a one way street and that this screening beta idea might be nice but we need the other side of that business - an agency screening area, something like this...) - this were some posts simply talking about the topic that obviously the BB with its restrictions is not enough, that we might need an additional option. The beta screening talk was just a pretext for this, sure - but it was funny to see how the talk finally ended. And not much later you see a translator finally turning to posting a message into the PRO area just in order to share an experience that simply drove him/her mad. While other options are obviously missing. There seems to be an additional option needed, yes.



[Edited at 2011-07-19 17:41 GMT]
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Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:40
French to German
+ ...
Invoicing as anything else... Jul 19, 2011

I had to deal once with such an automated system, but it was straightforward.

Personally, I think that procedures such as those described by Christine are time wasted for translators and time won for agencies. In other words, my assumption is that such systems will *always* work in favour of the agency, if only because of their complexity.


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:40
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Project management Jul 19, 2011

These systems mean that you are handling their management tasks yourself. While I doubt that this can be surpassed for a given client (they will not set up alternate procedures just for a few stubborn/common-sense translators), I believe the added workload should be reflected in the rates one is charging.

References are out of question, of course. Sending a list of your clients to potential competition, along with your rates and specifics of specialization does not seem like a good
... See more
These systems mean that you are handling their management tasks yourself. While I doubt that this can be surpassed for a given client (they will not set up alternate procedures just for a few stubborn/common-sense translators), I believe the added workload should be reflected in the rates one is charging.

References are out of question, of course. Sending a list of your clients to potential competition, along with your rates and specifics of specialization does not seem like a good idea...
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Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:40
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Yes! Jul 19, 2011

There is one agency in particular, very good in other ways, whose automated payments system does indeed drive me mad. I've reported on it (anonymously, of course) in this forum before.
The agency says it doesn't want invoices. It enters the amount due to the translator in its online system often a good week after the translator returns the work. The translator then has to enter an automated "request for payment" into his/her account in the agency's system after going through its logging-on
... See more
There is one agency in particular, very good in other ways, whose automated payments system does indeed drive me mad. I've reported on it (anonymously, of course) in this forum before.
The agency says it doesn't want invoices. It enters the amount due to the translator in its online system often a good week after the translator returns the work. The translator then has to enter an automated "request for payment" into his/her account in the agency's system after going through its logging-on procedure. Only then does the 30 days before payment start to run. If the agency is slow to enter the sum due to the translator in its system, this often means that the "30 days net" becomes 60 days net - or even more - if the agency doesn't make the entry until some days into the following month. Even then, payment can be delayed because "the accountant is away".
It looks to me like an excuse to delay payment.
Of course, I have to create an invoice myself anyway, for my own records and for tax purposes.
What to do about it? Since these people refuse to admit there's anything wrong with their system, all one can do is put them at the bottom of one's priority list.
Annoying, isn't it?
Jenny
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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:40
Swedish to English
+ ...
Do not drive me mad . . . Jul 19, 2011

I seem to be in a tiny minority. I do occasional work for an agency with a system that initially seems complex and cumbersome, but I have grown to like it. Indeed, dealing with them, and particularly invoicing them, takes less time and effort than other agencies.

 

Cecile Andrade
United States
Local time: 14:40
Member (2010)
Portuguese to French
+ ...
Some are more of a hassle than others... Jul 19, 2011

we always have a choice (it's obvious), don't work again with those agencies who are too time consuming, all we can do is refuse what is impose upon us and set our own conditions. We enter in an agreement with our service providers which terms are to be negociated and not only accepted by translators who are also running a business that needs to be worth doing at any level. I have put those type of clients aside.

[Edited at 2011-07-19 18:16 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-07-19 18:17 GMT]


 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:40
Member
French to English
+ ...
In some cases, yes Jul 19, 2011

Entering my details into agencies' databases isn't one of my favourite pastimes, I must admit; if it's their database, surely it's their job to maintain it rather than mine? I have databases of my own to worry about, and would never think of asking an agency to add its details to my records. Maybe you should do that with these annoying agencies! Then you could ask them to accept invoices the normal way in return for waiving the requirement. I don't have a problem with online invoicing systems pe... See more
Entering my details into agencies' databases isn't one of my favourite pastimes, I must admit; if it's their database, surely it's their job to maintain it rather than mine? I have databases of my own to worry about, and would never think of asking an agency to add its details to my records. Maybe you should do that with these annoying agencies! Then you could ask them to accept invoices the normal way in return for waiving the requirement. I don't have a problem with online invoicing systems per se, but one of my clients has an irritating one that almost never works, so the PM usually has to do some tweaking to allow me to submit invoices.

I think this offloading of clerical work may follow from the increasingly common view held by agencies that freelancers are employees rather than partners or independent contractors, which I tried in vain to counter today in a lengthy email exchange with an agency eager to sign me up for a project. The PM wanted the usual - copies of certificates, detailed information about my experience, references "if possible", etc. Before providing any of this, I asked her whether her agency agreed to my rate. She ducked the question ("at this stage of recruitment we don't usually talk about rates...") and persisted in asking me for the details she wanted, apparently expecting me to cave in. After much toing and froing, she conceded that no guarantee could be given; after all, it would depend on how well I did in the test, she pointed out. I politely reiterated my position (i.e. no answer = no documents) and said that I would be happy to discuss the matter further if I received a definite answer; in the end, I had to stop replying as she just wouldn't take no for an answer! Full marks for tenacity, but I won't jump through administrative hoops unless I know it will be worth my while.

Five references? Wow. Earlier today, someone asked me for three references for an 800-word translation. I don't mind doing short unpaid tests, but always refuse to bother clients for references just so that I can work for their competitors, citing confidentiality agreements as the reason. Only once did a potential client refuse to deal with me because I wouldn't provide references, so the policy hasn't done me any great harm so far.

[Edited at 2011-07-19 20:48 GMT]
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Adam Łobatiuk  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:40
Member (2009)
English to Polish
+ ...
I actually like those Jul 19, 2011

At least I don't have to type or copy and paste long project numbers and keep track of tiny amounts among large ones. I've only had to provide my details once for each client, so it's really just a few clicks now. The only ridiculous case is with the Polish office of an international company for whom you have to complete the online process and then send a hardcopy of your actual invoice. I don't blame them, because the online invoice is really not valid here, but if international clients are hap... See more
At least I don't have to type or copy and paste long project numbers and keep track of tiny amounts among large ones. I've only had to provide my details once for each client, so it's really just a few clicks now. The only ridiculous case is with the Polish office of an international company for whom you have to complete the online process and then send a hardcopy of your actual invoice. I don't blame them, because the online invoice is really not valid here, but if international clients are happy with the invoices their systems generate, I am too.Collapse


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:40
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Me too Jul 19, 2011

Tina Vonhof wrote:

Hi Christine,

It seems to be a growing trend. I had similar hassles with a client. I repeatedly had trouble logging on to their website. When I e-mailed them I didn't get help, and I never did get paid for my last invoice. I decided not to work for them anymore and mentioned the reasons on the Blue Board.. Not a constructive suggestion I'm afraid but it worked for me.

More recently a client informed me that they will only be working through their website using a certain CAT tool. Training was provided for free but I hate CAT tools. I regret losing that client but it is another kind of hassle that I can live without.


I agree entirely with everything Tina says. In my case it was an agency that required me to go through a needlessly complicated payments procedure that boiled down to *me* having to chase *them* for payment. I only did one small job for them and then dropped them. I won't be working for them again. This was the same agency referred to by Jenny in her post above.

Agencies reading this: please keep your payments system simple. Ordinary email is all we need.

[Edited at 2011-07-19 19:42 GMT]


 

Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:40
French to German
+ ...
OT: never ever! Jul 19, 2011

Jabberwock wrote:

(.../...)

References are out of question, of course. Sending a list of your clients to potential competition, along with your rates and specifics of specialization does not seem like a good idea...


We should take the habit to question the requirements of agencies as much as they question our expertise.


 

Jean Chao  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:40
English to Chinese
+ ...
I dropped the "request-for-payment" agency too... Jul 19, 2011

They ask the translation to be done in 24 hours, but they want you to remember to "request" to be paid. So the funding was sitting there (so I was told) for a few months until I was instructed to make the "request". Needless to say, my late request and their routine accounting procedures delayed this payment for a few more months. I think I got the payment like six months later because of my "bad memory". I figure I have too much to remember and worry about in my life, so I stopped working ... See more
They ask the translation to be done in 24 hours, but they want you to remember to "request" to be paid. So the funding was sitting there (so I was told) for a few months until I was instructed to make the "request". Needless to say, my late request and their routine accounting procedures delayed this payment for a few more months. I think I got the payment like six months later because of my "bad memory". I figure I have too much to remember and worry about in my life, so I stopped working for them.Collapse


 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Well said! Jul 19, 2011

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:


We should take the habit to question the requirements of agencies as much as they question our expertise.


They are only our customers, after all, and not our bosses.

[Bearbeitet am 2011-07-19 21:23 GMT]


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:40
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Works for me Jul 19, 2011

I only have one client that uses an automated system but it works perfect.

You email your files and then go to their website and load your invoice, you type in 5 details, which you can copy/paste from your invoice and you upload a copy of your invoice (the only conditions are PDF format and letter size paper). I then get a confirmation email with all the details which I can file and use if there is a late payment (which has never happened and I have been working for them for over 2
... See more
I only have one client that uses an automated system but it works perfect.

You email your files and then go to their website and load your invoice, you type in 5 details, which you can copy/paste from your invoice and you upload a copy of your invoice (the only conditions are PDF format and letter size paper). I then get a confirmation email with all the details which I can file and use if there is a late payment (which has never happened and I have been working for them for over 2 years).I get paid 30 days later like clockwork (actually usually before the 30 days). I have often wished all my other clients used the same system.
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