Client disappeared
Thread poster: schallinor


Local time: 07:45
Swedish to English
+ ...
Aug 28, 2011

I am wondering what to do about a (private individual) client who has not contacted me since handover of my translation three weeks ago, despite a number of emails to the two addresses I have for the individual. The client needed an academic paper translating; we agreed a price and a deadline (a couple of days before the deadline of the paper itself). Shortly before the deadline the client told me not to forget to tell her how to pay via PayPal as the client had never used it before, which I don't believe somebody not intending to pay would do... but any queries I sent during the job were quickly answered which makes this silence odd...

My instinct was that the client was trustworthy and still is, though I'm starting to wonder what the outcome will be.... any instincts from those more experienced?

Thanks in advance.


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:45
English to German
+ ...
Sorry to hear that Aug 28, 2011

But - did you also call your client on the phone or did you send anything via regular mail or fax? For every new client you are collecting all physical contact data before you start working, right?



Local time: 07:45
Swedish to English
+ ...
No... Aug 28, 2011

In this case I did not. Unwise I suppose.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:45
Member (2007)
+ ...
Some questions Aug 28, 2011


Nicole's question has already ascertained that you don't have a phone number for them. But surely you have a postal address, otherwise you couldn't have addressed them a proper, legal invoice, albeit that you would have actually sent it to their email address.

So, could you write to their postal address? Of course, different courses of action are required, depending on whether or not the payment is actually late. So, the second question is, is the payment late? My own rule is to always ask for at least 50% up front from a private individual, if not 100%, but I don't always obey it!icon_smile.gif If payment terms allowed them time to pay, then all you could send would be a polite "are you there?" letter whereas if payment is late you can escalate things with a formal, recorded-delivery letter demanding payment and talking of taking legal action.

It has to be said that if you don't have a postal address then there is very little to stop a private individual ignoring your pleas for payment. No court would uphold a claim for paymen against Jo Bloggs at jobloggs@freemailaddress.xx. The vast majority of us are decent, but it never pays to make it easy to get away with something.

Good luck this time, and perhaps better procedures next time.icon_smile.gif


Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule

Tina Vonhof
Local time: 01:45
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Possible explanation Aug 28, 2011

The above suggestions of phoning or writing are good ones. But knowing how many e-mails academics get and how busy they are, they may simply not have gotten around to acknowledging receipt of the translation, reading your subsequent e-mails, or the payment. This is not an excuse, just an explanation. No reason to worry just yet.


Valerie35 (X)
Local time: 08:45
German to English
Huh Aug 28, 2011

Tina Vonhof wrote:

But knowing how many e-mails academics get and how busy they are, they may simply not have gotten around to acknowledging receipt of the translation, reading your subsequent e-mails, or the payment.

When I was an "academic" I don't think I got any more e-mails than I do now. What a bizarre statement.

And ... either you are responsble or you aren't. It sounds like this customer is not responsible at the very least.

[Edited at 2011-08-28 19:09 GMT]


Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:45
Japanese to English
Assuming the client is real Aug 29, 2011

If the client is a real academic, it should be fairly easy to track him/her down to his/her place of work and press your claim. It may just have slipped your client's mind, but that's no excuse for three weeks of silence.


Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:45
English to French
+ ...
Cash Aug 29, 2011

I have ONE rule WRT non-corporate customers: I need to receive full cash payment in advance.


Teymur Suleymanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:45
Russian to English
+ ...
I've seen worse with people being much more "academic" Aug 29, 2011

I agree with the above statements. The person sometimes may take 1 year (I had that once, don't recommend going thru that to anyone) to come back with the payment. Or sometimes they just don't come back at all.

I remember years ago, when I was just a beginner, a 'reputable' journalist and author of books decided to write a philosophical treatise and asked for my translation. We agreed on the price. After it was done, he just raised his eyebrows and played dumb-founded saying that he never knew the price was ridiculous (duh!). I ended up having just the 50% prepayment he gave me in the beginning and the guy was gone. There's very little you can do about that.

That's why I'd suggest waiting and having their credentials on your wall, not to forget. If they prove to be rascals, then let us know about them. If they come back - warn others that this client takes 1000 years to come up with the due payment, we will make note of it. Eventually, they just hurt themselves.

For future however, I agree with the previous statements that an advance of 50%-100% is a must with private individuals where there's no payment guarantee and a high risk of client just walking away on you.



Joanna Wachowiak-Finlaison
United States
Local time: 02:45
English to Polish
+ ...
For the future... Aug 29, 2011

All my private clients have to pay me before I deliver the translation to them - be it in cash if they're picking it up in person, or bank transfer or PayPal if I e-mail/mail the translation.
Hope you didn't get burned too badly or that the person in question is, indeed, unable to reply to you at the moment.


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Another option Aug 29, 2011

Deliver the translation in a ZIP-compressed, password-protected file, along with a small sample (200 words) of your translation in unprotected form. Deliver the password when payment arrives. Do not accept bank checks for urgent jobs, since chances are that the check proves fake in some weeks. Accept only bank transfers and Paypal payments fully credited in your account.

Unfortunately, about the job at hand... you can safely assume that you will not be paid (will never find the "customer") and learn from the experience.

I'm affraid that you were plain naïve for not verifying the customer's identity with full company name, VAT code if in the EU, physical address, phone number supplied by the "customer" and a phone number found out by you using Internet (e.g. if the person claims to be from a University or this or that company, searching the web for the telephone of the University or company and asking to talk to the person). No contact verified by you in this fashion? Then no work is done. Full stop. Protect yourself from future cases like this!


jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:45
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I worked for an individual and she disappeared too. Aug 29, 2011

She paid me half of the fee ($40) in advance. As agreed, I will hand over my translation when she come back to my office and pays me another $40.

I finished the translation on time. It has been 4 weeks but she never came back to pick it up.


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