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Purchase Orders
Thread poster: Catherine Muir

Catherine Muir  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 11:26
Indonesian to English
+ ...
Mar 11, 2013

I work for several very good agencies. All except one always provide a Purchase Order up front. The other one doesn't. I always submit my invoice with the completed job (translation), so not having a PO means I can't submit an invoice, and the delay in submitting my invoice delays payment. How common is this practice, I wonder.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:26
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Why? Mar 11, 2013

Catherine Muir wrote:
I always submit my invoice with the completed job (translation), so not having a PO means I can't submit an invoice, and the delay in submitting my invoice delays payment.

I don't understand at all why the lack of a PO delays either submitting the invoice or paying it. Personally, I very rarely receive a PO from the agencies I work with, but I send the invoice with the translation (unless I invoice monthly, which I often do). What's stopping you doing the same?


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Catherine Muir  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 11:26
Indonesian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No PO number means accounting can't identify the job... Mar 11, 2013

If I were to submit an invoice without a PO number, the invoice would probably be set aside because accounts couldn't identify the job. I'd rather wait a few days and get it right, rather than have the invoice get lost in processing.

My query is to see what others' experience is with this, if any, because the general advices is always to get a PO at the outset. This particular agency is a very prestigious one with a good reputation, so I want to 'go with the flow' as much as possible, rather than make waves. They treat me well and give me interesting work with reasonable deadlines. The lack of a PO is usually because the job comes in PDF format and they don't know the word count, or some other issue that makes the fee basis uncertain until the end of the job.

Just asking. That's why!


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wotswot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:26
Member (2011)
French to English
@Catherine, @Sheila Mar 11, 2013

Catherine, I agree it's very annoying. I too had one agency who never provided a PO up front (they simply provided a "demande d'achat", which is a quite different kettle of fish and usually internal to an organization). They only provided their PO at the end of each quarter! I got so annoyed with them I just stopped working for them.

Sheila, I think most (reasonably busy) freelancers invoice monthly, as I do. For me a PO is any written proof of order (can simply be an e-amil with a reference number). And the upfront PO number/reference is essential as far as I'm concerned, because of the way I file my jobs (Agency [End Client] [Project Number] PO/Job Number, the items between square brackets being optional), so as you can see the only way of quickly identifying/finding a "Job" (typically in Windows Explorer) is with its PO Number (aka job number chez moi).

When an agency can't give me the PO number upfront, I have to save the job in a 'temp' folder then rename it once they give me it.
For instance:
Temp folder: c:\Users\Richard\Translations\AgencyA\Temp
Permanent (renamed) folder: c:\Users\Richard\Translations\AgencyA\PO12345
The other minor annoyance of 'temp' is that I always name my CAT projects exactly the same way as my job folder, for ease of reference. Having four or five jobs on the go at any one time, sometimes 2 or 3 for the same agency, this PO number is all the more important to me.

How do you uniquely identify your jobs?


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:26
Member (2008)
French to English
PO usually not necessary Mar 11, 2013

I rarely get a PO from most of my clients. An offer and acceptance constitutes a contract in most countries so the presence or absence of a PO has little to do with ability to bill or be paid. Some companies have policies about a PO (such as not starting until you have one), but that's specific to the company, not a general practice. My most frequent clients especially don't give me a PO as sometimes they are sending me several jobs a day and making POs for them all would slow down business. It's the customer's responsibility to identify the job for payment - I do always provide whatever information I have on the invoice, such as job number, buyer's name, document name, etc., and submit the invoice with the job, except for 2 clients that I bill weekly or monthly.

As far as word count is concerned, when I get a job without a word count the first thing I do is get the word count and quote the price, so there will be no misunderstandings afterwards. But it doesn't necessarily involve a PO, just an exchange of emails.

[Edited at 2013-03-11 16:45 GMT]


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wotswot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:26
Member (2011)
French to English
@Catherine, @John Mar 11, 2013

Catherine Muir wrote:
My query is to see what others' experience is with this, if any, because the general advices is always to get a PO at the outset.
Just asking. That's why!


I concur wholeheartedly with the above. IMHO any agency that can't give you a PO (or even just a number/reference) at the outset is badly organized. If they give you the job, it's because they've got the order, so they must have booked it into their system in one form or another (unless of course it's just a Post-it or a scrap of paper. I usually gently insist, and nine times out of ten they give me some form of reference.

John, how do YOU uniquely identify your jobs? I think you're taking PO too literally, for me it's just a unique job identifier, and surely you must agree that having a common identifier/PO number/identifier makes life much easier, no?

On top of which, many of the larger agencies are switching over to online portals, where they themselves have to uniquely identify each job before sending you the links to them (which often is a PO Number + a Project Number).


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:26
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Their file name is my file name Mar 11, 2013

wotswot wrote:
How do you uniquely identify your jobs?

So, whatever is attached as the file to be translated (of course, there may well be more than one per invoice) gets to be the name used in my "translation in"; "translation bilingual"; "translation out" directories. The date will identify exactly what files were translated when.

I also refer to their file name on the invoice, whether or not I also have a PO number. If their accounting department can't identify the job from that information, then they really have no interest in paying me. Those agencies soon become ex-agencies.

I don't know whether John Fossey uses the same naming standards as I do, but I certainly follow exactly the same procedure as him.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:26
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Just describe the job Mar 11, 2013

Catherine Muir wrote:
I always submit my invoice with the completed job (translation), so not having a PO means I can't submit an invoice...


If there is no PO number, simply describe the job as clearly as possible. The accounting department will send the project manager a statement of all invoices that was received and will ask him to sign off on it, and if the project manager can recognise the job from your description, they will confirm it, and the accounting department will pay it. No PO numbers are necessary.

Having a formal PO number theoretically makes it easier to track queries about jobs, but it depends on what arrangement the project manager and the accounting department have with each other.

On your invoice, mention the name of the project manager, the names of the files, possibly also a description of the work (e.g. end-client's name, or type of file), and the word counts (if relevant). This should be sufficient for both the accounting department and the project manager to identify the job.

Remember, for non-business clients you would have done this anyway. I think I must have worked as a freelance translator for about 3 years, with many business and non-business clients who all paid, before I became even aware of the concept of a PO number.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:26
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I just keep it all in one folder Mar 11, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:
wotswot wrote:
How do you uniquely identify your jobs?

Whatever is attached as the file to be translated (of course, there may well be more than one per invoice) gets to be the name used in my "translation in"; "translation bilingual"; "translation out" directories. The date will identify exactly what files were translated when.


For clients who send me no more than two or three jobs per week, I don't need PO numbers, because I simply save the name of the client plus the date of the deadline as the folder name, and I store copies of all related e-mails in that folder too (named using the subject line).

From clients who send more than one job per day, I prefer to know the PO numbers, but those numbers are almost always mentioned in the e-mail subject lines, so they are easy to keep track of anyway. Whether the client uses PO numbers or not does not affect the way I store my files.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:26
Member (2008)
French to English
My numbering systems Mar 11, 2013

wotswot wrote:

John, how do YOU uniquely identify your jobs? I think you're taking PO too literally, for me it's just a unique job identifier, and surely you must agree that having a common identifier/PO number/identifier makes life much easier, no?


I assign my own job number as soon as I get a firm order, based on the order date, and that's how its identified in my system. E.g., 1303111, meaning March 11, 2013, 1st order of the day. The job folder is identified with that number and the client's name. When the job is completed (meaning its delivered AND billed) the job folder is placed in an archive folder by client name. The invoice will contain that job number, which means it's cross referenced to the invoice number in my accounting system.

With many clients in my clientele I couldn't possibly use their numbering systems - many don't have one, or if they do they don't necessarily tell me and they're all different.. Then of course my invoice has a sequential invoice number generated by my accounting system, and that's what I use to communicate any billing questions with. If questions arise afterwards I can locate my file by either going to the client archive folder (where the individual jobs will be listed in date order, due to their numbering) or go into my accounting system for a cross reference by invoice number. Clients may not pay attention to my job number but they will always have a record of my invoice number.

[Edited at 2013-03-11 19:50 GMT]


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:26
French to English
+ ...
Frustrating, but what can you do? Mar 11, 2013

I see your point Catherine, but I'm not sure how to resolve it. Most of my agency clients are pretty good at providing a PO or job No. up front and this then has to be specified on the invoice before it can be paid. If not, I just use my own reference number and that seems to work fine if they haven't specified anything different. However, I do have one direct client in France who sends an e-mailed PO with the job, but who insists on sending the original of this, signed off by the in-house translation manager, once the job is completed, by post! This can often take a couple of weeks to materialise and then I have to duly sign the original and send it back, again by post, with my invoice - what a palaver! At one stage, they seemed to be delaying sending these to further delay payment of my invoice, which meant they were taking an inordinate time to pay - far longer than the terms agreed in our contract. We are talking about a major French company here, so there was little I, as a freelancer, could do - other than stop accepting the jobs, I suppose. Letters and reminders have been written, I can assure you, but all to no avail. Since then, matters have improved and, whilst the system remains the same, they are at least paying on time! I think the upshot is that all companies have their own system and if you like working with them otherwise, you just have to grin and bear it.....

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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 01:26
English to German
+ ...
My solution Mar 12, 2013

I send them my work, indicate what it costs and ask them to send me their PO so I can send them my Invoice. Then I send my invoice. However, this does not absolutely exclude that it gets lost somewhere, but this is another point.

Rolf


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:26
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I equally don't see why no PO would equal no invoice Mar 12, 2013

If you already have a good working relationship with this agency and they don't send POs, I really don't see why - as some others have pointed out - you feel that this needs to delay your invoicing.

Presumably they don't send you a job that just says "translation". There will be some job details that will identify the job for them in the e-mail they send you with their order.

There's no reason to get caught up in a PO number, just use however they identify the job for the invoice. e.g. you are asked if you're available to do a job and the file name is "Negative List for trade", you do the job and you simply put that title on your invoice.

I think that "always send the invoice" is a good golden rule to have. The most important part of your job is getting paid and you don't usually get paid without an invoice so don't let anyone/anything stop you sending your invoice.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
A nuisance Mar 12, 2013

I seldom get asked for POs and never from direct clients, only agencies. When I do, I tend to see it as a hindrance (and/or implying a lack of trust) and will be somewhat reluctant to work for the agency again unless the job is really tempting.

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veratek
Brazil
Local time: 22:26
French to English
+ ...
I like POs Apr 26, 2013

I like POs. I also accept that the client return my "quote" email stating all the terms and conditions and the details of the job, and saying they are accepting it all.
For clients that I don't know much about, I sometimes require a PDF signed version.


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