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How do you make sure you get paid when you are supposed to?
Thread poster: Holly Nathan (X)

Holly Nathan (X)  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:24
Italian to English
Aug 4, 2011

I would like some advice about how to make sure that I definitely receive payment once the 30/45/60 days stated in the payments terms of agencies are up! I have had a couple of really annoying cases of agencies not paying me by the date they should because their client hasn't paid them so they can't pay me. I got paid in the end (a week or so late) but I find it humiliating having to email and ask where my money is.
Ok lots of people are going to tell me this is illegal, that I should cont
... See more
I would like some advice about how to make sure that I definitely receive payment once the 30/45/60 days stated in the payments terms of agencies are up! I have had a couple of really annoying cases of agencies not paying me by the date they should because their client hasn't paid them so they can't pay me. I got paid in the end (a week or so late) but I find it humiliating having to email and ask where my money is.
Ok lots of people are going to tell me this is illegal, that I should contact proz, never work with an agency who does this to me ever again and all the rest and that is all very true but the fact of the matter is that none of this protects you from the chances of it all happening again once you start working with a new client.
Do any of you write anything on your invoices to do with late payment charges (10% if one month late, 20% if two months late)? If so, I presume you explain to the client when they offer you a job that they need to accept your terms. As a freelancer do you have the right to make up these terms or do you refer to European legislation?
Basically, I find most agencies are honest enough and do actually pay when or before the date they should so I don't want to seem stroppy, BUT I DO want to avoid that horrible situation where the date comes round for a big payment and you have to make naggy phone calls because they haven't paid you yet.
I don't know! I thought 60 days meant 60 days (not "we will start to think about making your payment on day 61, think a bit more on day 64 and pay you on day 74)").

Thank you very much for your advice. It will be very interesting to hear how you handle this.



[Edited at 2011-08-04 10:37 GMT]
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:24
Member (2008)
Italian to English
me too Aug 4, 2011

I work for a couple of agencies in Italy who habitually pay me after NINETY days- except that nearly every time I have to remind them (about a week after the 90 days have passed). They always do pay, but it's getting to the point where I'm going to have to warn them about their lax procedures and that I'm going to stop working with them.

Ultimately that's the only solution: stop working with people like that (after making sure you have posted a negative BlueBoard rating as a warnin
... See more
I work for a couple of agencies in Italy who habitually pay me after NINETY days- except that nearly every time I have to remind them (about a week after the 90 days have passed). They always do pay, but it's getting to the point where I'm going to have to warn them about their lax procedures and that I'm going to stop working with them.

Ultimately that's the only solution: stop working with people like that (after making sure you have posted a negative BlueBoard rating as a warning to others).
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Holly Nathan (X)  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:24
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
trying to avoid a strop Aug 4, 2011

Hi Tom
I don't want to get stroppy though because I have always been paid and so turning round and saying "Well, I'm better than this, I'm not going to work with you again" seems a bit silly when you consider:
a) I would lose a lot of work
b) I would lose a lot of interesting work
I'd be cutting off my nose to spite my face, wouldn't I? I hate hearing "well, we can pay you when the client pays us" and then when I ask for a more precise date I simply get told "soon". "Soo
... See more
Hi Tom
I don't want to get stroppy though because I have always been paid and so turning round and saying "Well, I'm better than this, I'm not going to work with you again" seems a bit silly when you consider:
a) I would lose a lot of work
b) I would lose a lot of interesting work
I'd be cutting off my nose to spite my face, wouldn't I? I hate hearing "well, we can pay you when the client pays us" and then when I ask for a more precise date I simply get told "soon". "Soon" generally turns out to be a week later, which isn't going to land me in too much trouble financially but the fact is that I don't know what "soon" means and if one unlucky day "soon" turns out to be "6 months" is there no way I can protect myself? I can't believe that legally I have no rights and just have to sit back and wait and keep checking my bank account every day. I have been told that it's just part and parcel of business but it winds me up no end! Oh well!
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Eileen Cartoon  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:24
Italian to English
90 days does not necessarily mean 90 days Aug 4, 2011

Most agenencies I work with in Italy have 90 days end of month date of invoice payment terms. However, this means that if I write the invoice on the 15th of the month, the 90 days won't start until the 1st of the next month. I find they usually pay relatively on time and I don't usually have to ask. However, this may be the difference if your discrepancies are just a week or so.
Eileen


 

Tina Colquhoun  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:24
Member (2005)
Danish to English
+ ...
Don't get emotionally involved... Aug 4, 2011

As Tom says, either stop working with these people (anything over 30 days is just a liberty - as is that tiresome 'we'll pay you at the end of the month following month of invoice' nonsense) or stop feeling so guilty about chasing what's yours.

You use very emotive language such as 'humiliating', 'horrible' and 'naggy'. It is no such thing. This is a business relationship involving an agreed exchange of services and monetary compensation. These people are using you as a free line of
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As Tom says, either stop working with these people (anything over 30 days is just a liberty - as is that tiresome 'we'll pay you at the end of the month following month of invoice' nonsense) or stop feeling so guilty about chasing what's yours.

You use very emotive language such as 'humiliating', 'horrible' and 'naggy'. It is no such thing. This is a business relationship involving an agreed exchange of services and monetary compensation. These people are using you as a free line of credit. Presumably, they didn't feel 'humiliated' when they asked you to provide your service and certainly don't seem to feel 'humiliated' about using you to improve their cash flow situation. Why should you feel bad?

Before the event: Yes, make sure they know your terms are strictly 30 days (or whatever they are).

After the event: No-nonsense demand for payment highlighting the fact that your terms are 30 days (or whatever) and that payment is now overdue in a business-like manner should be all that's required while you decide whether to dump them or not. (Dump anyone who tries the 'my client hasn't paid so we can't pay you' immediately!).

Remember also that if they have 100 translators waiting for money, the ones that shout the loudest will usually get paid first.

Tina
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Holly Nathan (X)  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:24
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
so Aug 4, 2011

part and parcel then, we can conclude
It's just in the past I have seen websites and forum posts here where translators say they charge for late delivery and I was just wondering how they went about putting that into practice. I was curious to learn about the legal side of it. Anyway.......doesn't matter.......as I said, we are talking about a week.


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:24
Flemish to English
+ ...
Part and parcel: my foot! Aug 4, 2011

Holly Nathan wrote:

part and parcel then, we can conclude
It's just in the past I have seen websites and forum posts here where translators say they charge for late delivery and I was just wondering how they went about putting that into practice. I was curious to learn about the legal side of it. Anyway.......doesn't matter.......as I said, we are talking about a week.



Read through this site. The European guideline for combatting late payments in commercial transactions has been mentioned many times. http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/single-market-goods/fighting-late-payments/index_en.htm#h2-1
It has been implemented into law in every E.U.-country. Why don't you make this guideline your guideline.

A payment-policy, I picked up at a multinational corporation: first time, a polite reminder, second, time a less friendly reminder and third time a credit-collection agency or a lawyer.
Translation is a return business, but I am most happy to get rid of late payors.If Italians knock at my door : It is either C.O.D. or no, thank you. I have the experience of a payment after 136 days once, but not twice. On the one hand, there is a heap of invoices to be paid and on the other hand la dolce vita with regard to payment.
I've been on holiday. I found a reminder for a small sum. The reminder says that if I do not pay next time £5/€7 will be added to the sum due for administrative costs.

Try the pack and parcel of this trade when you go to your local supermarket, your doctor, your dentist, your hairdresser, a restaurant....


[Edited at 2011-08-04 14:54 GMT]


 

Holly Nathan (X)  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:24
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks williamson Aug 4, 2011

Thanks very much, very helpful stuff. I will have a good read of it all. I think it is important to know where you stand and sometimes I wobble.

 

MikeTrans
Germany
Local time: 17:24
Italian to German
+ ...
Communication with your clients... Aug 4, 2011

Hi Holly,

the best article, in my opinion, and the HowTo rules for payment issues with clients are summarized here:

http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/328/1/-Collection

Greets,
Mike


 

Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
Member (2009)
French to English
Collections are not humiliating Aug 4, 2011

Never feel ashamed of sending a collections notice. This is just as much a part of your business as looking up words in a dictionary. The trick is to make collections just as much a part of your routine as sending invoices. I check every Friday to see if any of my invoices are past due by more than a few days. I leave a little margin for mailing time and internal procedures, but do not allow any slack for "my client hasn't paid me yet." Dealing with this cash flow issue is explicitly one of the ... See more
Never feel ashamed of sending a collections notice. This is just as much a part of your business as looking up words in a dictionary. The trick is to make collections just as much a part of your routine as sending invoices. I check every Friday to see if any of my invoices are past due by more than a few days. I leave a little margin for mailing time and internal procedures, but do not allow any slack for "my client hasn't paid me yet." Dealing with this cash flow issue is explicitly one of the duties of a translation agency.

The first letter is a simple reminder and 95% of the time, that is enough. If that fails, I start sending email and calling more often. At one point, I was calling an agency every few days, but I did finally get paid. And no, I never worked for them again. It is simply not worth my time.
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Holly Nathan (X)  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:24
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
yes mike non-malicious Aug 4, 2011

Do not mistake poor communication and organization and banking mistakes for an attempt at non-payment. Never be too harsh on non-malicious non-payers. They are probably working as well as they can and a harsh tone will not help the situation. In fact, you may offend someone and lose a good client. Late payment is better than no job at all. If you cannot differentiate between non-malicious late payers and malicious non-payers, you could lose a valuable client by being too harsh during the collect... See more
Do not mistake poor communication and organization and banking mistakes for an attempt at non-payment. Never be too harsh on non-malicious non-payers. They are probably working as well as they can and a harsh tone will not help the situation. In fact, you may offend someone and lose a good client. Late payment is better than no job at all. If you cannot differentiate between non-malicious late payers and malicious non-payers, you could lose a valuable client by being too harsh during the collection process. The trick is to collect the debt in such a way that your professional relationship is not damaged, so you can remain partners for many years to come.

That's what I meant about not being stroppy. Thanks for this article.
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Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 18:24
Italian to Danish
+ ...
Not acceptable! Aug 4, 2011

Quote
"I hate hearing "well, we can pay you when the client pays us" and then when I ask for a more precise date I simply get told "soon". "Soon" generally turns out to be a week later, which isn't going to land me in too much trouble financially but the fact is that I don't know what "soon" means and if one unlucky day "soon" turns out to be "6 months" is there no way I can protect myself?"
Unquote

Lots of work, interesting work, whatever - this is just not acceptable.
... See more
Quote
"I hate hearing "well, we can pay you when the client pays us" and then when I ask for a more precise date I simply get told "soon". "Soon" generally turns out to be a week later, which isn't going to land me in too much trouble financially but the fact is that I don't know what "soon" means and if one unlucky day "soon" turns out to be "6 months" is there no way I can protect myself?"
Unquote

Lots of work, interesting work, whatever - this is just not acceptable. You are far better off getting rid of clients like that. When starting a cooperation with a new agency I make it very clear that I do translations, not financing, so I require payment in max. 30 days from delivery. If we have a ongoing cooperation I would invoice more jobs at the end of the month and expect payment to be done exactly 30 days later. And never in my life would I accept a statement like "I cannot pay you till the client pays me.".

Although I translate from Italian, I do very little work for Italian agencies, because it is just not worth the hazzle. I get my IT/DA jobs from Danish agencies or from other agencies around the world. Because when we all stop to accept payments conditions like the above, then the not-so-serious Italian agencies will have to close down, since the jobs go where they can be done: to serious agencies with a big team of freelance translators.

I have skipped dozens of agencies due to having to spend time on chasing my money... and I don´t miss them at all!

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Holly Nathan (X)  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:24
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
yes but I originally wasn't talking about whether I should continue to work with them or not Aug 4, 2011

Dinny wrote:

Lots of work, interesting work, whatever - this is just not acceptable. You are far better off getting rid of clients like that. When starting a cooperation with a new agency I make it very clear that I do translations, not financing, so I require payment in max. 30 days from delivery. If we have a ongoing cooperation I would invoice more jobs at the end of the month and expect payment to be done exactly 30 days later. And never in my life would I accept a statement like "I cannot pay you till the client pays me.".



The original point wasn't whether I am better off without these people but how to feel protected from a legal point of view when I start to work with ANY NEW agency. So, you lay down all these guidelines for your new client and they say yes sir no sir three bags full sir (maybe.......) and then they turn round after 30 days and say they haven't been paid so they can't pay you. What do you do Dinny when that happens? Is there anything on your invoice which says you will charge interest at this amount starting from this date etc?


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:24
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Unfortunately Aug 4, 2011

Holly Nathan wrote:

Thanks very much, very helpful stuff. I will have a good read of it all. I think it is important to know where you stand and sometimes I wobble.


Those European guidelines, as implemented under Italian law, include a nifty little extra clause that means nobody needs to bother about them. I can't remember where they are but if you find them and read them carefully, you'll see that they have no real force.


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
In memoriam
Establish a New Practice? Aug 4, 2011

When you order something online, by mail, buy at the store or receive any kind of service, unless prior credit arrangements have been made, you must pay up front with cash, check, credit card, etc. You generally pay for your utilities after consumption, but then they are a necessity and if you fail to pay, they'll soon cut you off and you'll be stuck.

Why, then, should our service be any different? Why should we be expected to hand over the merchandise and then "hope" that the clien
... See more
When you order something online, by mail, buy at the store or receive any kind of service, unless prior credit arrangements have been made, you must pay up front with cash, check, credit card, etc. You generally pay for your utilities after consumption, but then they are a necessity and if you fail to pay, they'll soon cut you off and you'll be stuck.

Why, then, should our service be any different? Why should we be expected to hand over the merchandise and then "hope" that the client will be good to us and pay us within a reasonable time? Why not establish a new practice for translation and demand payment up front like everyone else? Online it can be done though credit cards.

Or do we have a slave mentality?
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