How to manage a client that doesn't pay?
Thread poster: Coline Roux

Coline Roux  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:41
Member (2012)
Italian to French
+ ...
Apr 24, 2012

Good evening everybody,

I have a (good) client that is not paying me. This client gave me big projects and the company paid me the first and second but at this time, my work for them was still minor (less than 1000 euros). They used to be late to pay.

But I worked, in January and February, on really big projects for them. One projects had really short delays so when I offered them to have a subcontractor, they were glad and accepted. But now, they owe me a lot of money and I owe my subcontractor. They still haven't paid me and they barely answer my emails, they just said they were waiting for their client to pay them. As a beginner, I don't really know how to manage this situation. I already threatened them with penalty fees.
So for me the next step is to send them a statement with all the overdue invoices and the penalty fees. And maybe a registered letter with recorded delivery.

Do you have any advice or model of letter for me?


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Anne Pinaglia
Netherlands
Local time: 02:41
Member (2011)
Italian to English
+ ...
Registered letter Apr 24, 2012

This is your next step in order to protect yourself. If in fact this turns into a situation where the client will not pay you, you need to prove that there was due diligence in collecting the debt (proof of emails, return receipt of registered letter, etc.). Hopefully you won't need to take this to a lawyer, but you should at least take the steps that would be required of you to prove you've done all you can to recover the funds.

Also, I'm not sure where your client is, but I believe French companies have a 60-day payment period (I could be wrong here) and Italian ones are 90 days. Make sure that you are over those limits.

If you are in fact over those limits and it is clear on both sides that they cannot/will not pay for whatever reason, I would write them an email giving them a detailed outline - and timeline - of what you plan to do to recover the debt, which would include hiring a lawyer at the very end of the list (for which they will be responsible for some if not all of the fees, depends on your contract, if you have one). This way you can be sure that there is no miscommunication.

By the way, their client not paying them is not your problem, and unfortunately (for you) your client not paying you is not your outsourcer's problem.

Good luck!



[Edited at 2012-04-24 22:26 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
Patience is a virtue Apr 25, 2012

Unless you have a contract stipulating payment within a shorter term, I would wait until at least 90 days are up before initiating legal proceedings. In Spain, many companies now even have a 120-day wait...

However, do keep a record of all your emails and other correspondence with the company in case you have to take costly legal action, but if the client is "good" as you say, they may just have a temporary cash flow problem. Unfortunately, when a company has to wait until its clients pay before they can pay you, it usually means they don't have a sound financial base so any work undertaken for them involves a degree of risk.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Risk management Apr 25, 2012

Coline_ wrote:
They used to be late to pay.
...
But I worked, in January and February, on really big projects for them.

So they gave you warning signs, but you ignored them.

There's a lot of advice here on ProZ.com for managing your business risk, so I would look at all that before accepting any more work from anyone, Coline. There's even a free webinar, I believe.

[/quote]Do you have any advice or model of letter for me? [/quote]
IF THIS IS A CLIENT IN FRANCE, then a registered letter is definitely the way to go. You'll find lots of examples of the "mise en demeure" on the web. Basically, set out all the info, demand payment within nn days (15?) - and give them everything they need to make that easy e.g. PayPal id, bank details - and end by saying that if you don't receive payment then you'll have to take legal action. Don't threaten them, just inform them you won't go away!

Payment deadlines are there to be kept, and your contract is between you and your client. Their client doesn't enter into the equation - that's their business risk, not yours.

Sheila


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:41
Member
French to English
+ ...
Not my idea of a good client Apr 25, 2012

Coline_ wrote:

I have a (good) client that is not paying me (...) They used to be late to pay.

(...) They still haven't paid me and they barely answer my emails, they just said they were waiting for their client to pay them.


Could you explain why this client is good?

If it's just because it paid you for the first two jobs (and you say payment was late), I don't think that necessarily means it's good. I've read threads about agencies that pay translators for the first two or three jobs, which tend to be small, and then try to scam them with a much bigger job. I suppose the motive is to persuade the translator that the agency is acting in good faith and has simply fallen on hard times, in the hope that the translator will believe that the agency will pay eventually when it can, and therefore won't take legal action.

That old "we'll pay you when our client pays us" excuse is just about the oldest in the book, and it doesn't augur well. Like Sheila says, the end client doesn't come into it. Your agreement is with the company you worked for.


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