Avoiding non-payers as a group of translators
Thread poster: TranslateLab

TranslateLab  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 01:38
English to French
+ ...
Jan 24, 2014

Dear fellow translators, hi!

I have currently launched a 'translation website' for my partners and me (we 'share' clients, as we do not work in the same language pairs).

Since we are starting to attract some traffic to the website, I was wondering how some of you deal with non-payers. Let me explain:

We have a simple contact form where clients enter their information and we contact them as soon as possible. They send us the files that are to be translated, we send them the bill, and they are supposed to pay that bill after the work is completed. But if the client is dishonest and decides not to pay, well he can do so - it's the Internet, we won't find him/her. I'm thinking about a 8000 words project that I'd rather not lose.

What solutions do we have? On some other websites (SDL, Translated), I think clients have to enter their MasterCard information and pay BEFORE completion of the project. I'm not sure this is a good solution for small, starting businesses like ours (no reputation, clients might be afraid of getting scammed).

Anybody had to deal with that before?

Thanks in advance,

Nathan


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:38
Member (2003)
French to English
Terms and conditions, contracts, risk management, credit control... Jan 24, 2014

The fact that your clients make initial contact with you via the internet is neither here nor there. You're entering into a contractual relationship so you need to establish some terms and conditions of business (including your payment terms, which jurisdiction covers your agreement, etc.) and get the details of the agreement in writing, either through a formal contract or at the very least an exchange of correspondence. You also need to know who you're dealing with – so get proper contact details (not just an e-mail address) before you do the work. Check them out: if it's a company you can check e.g. the relevant trade register. If it's a translation agency you can check here and/or on other translator sites and talk to colleagues. If it's an individual and/or the job is large consider asking for a down-payment and/or ask for references from other suppliers. Keep track of your credit control; don't let debts get out of hand and if necessary use whatever enforcement mechanisms are available to you.

None of this applies just to translators: these are the basic issues any business has to deal with and there are lots of business advice organisations who can help you if you're just starting out.

Good luck!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:38
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It's as Karen says Jan 24, 2014

Each and every one of us has to deal with managing this risk every day. And it does need managing. Thankfully, there's only a small percentage of the population that's dishonest, but Sod's Law ensures you'll come across a dishonest client at some time if you don't do something to avoid them.

TranslateLab wrote:
We have a simple contact form where clients enter their information and we contact them as soon as possible. They send us the files that are to be translated, we send them the bill, and they are supposed to pay that bill after the work is completed. But if the client is dishonest and decides not to pay, well he can do so - it's the Internet, we won't find him/her. I'm thinking about a 8000 words project that I'd rather not lose.

How simple is your "simple contact form"? If all you ask for is a simple name (i.e. something you can use for personalising your email) and an email address, then you aren't managing the risk at all. You're laying yourself open to abuse.

But you say you send them the bill, so presumably you're collecting enough information from them to be able to issue a proper invoice. To invoice a company for a B2B service you must surely need the company name, registered address, maybe tax details, as well as contact name(s) and details such as email address(es) and telephone number(s). Once you have all that information, you have every right to follow them through the courts for payment, or pass the job of collection to a debt recovery firm. Just because it's the Internet does not absolve a client from the duty to pay, not in any shape or form. And it would be worth it for a debt of approx $1000 for those 8000 words.

But it's only sensible to minimise your risk by actually checking some or all of those details before starting work. Look up the company name on their country's company register, Google for them, check their IP address against their address, ring the company, check out the address on Google Earth... There's a set of Wiki articles here on managing business risk: http://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Category:Risk_management

Sure, you can use any one of the pre-payment interfaces, where the client can pay by credit card, PayPal or just about any other payment method, before you do any work. But (a) I imagine you have to pay for that one way or another, and (b) that's not likely to go down too well with B2B clients. They expect to have an account with you, i.e. to pay within n days of being invoiced.


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