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Growing control of translation agencies
Thread poster: Odile Stuart

Odile Stuart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:22
Member (2006)
English to French
+ ...
Mar 9, 2016

Hello to all readers,
I am getting increasingly irritated by translation agencies needing to control every stage of the translating relationship in terms of finance.
I don't mind using their website to manage jobs, but I find it really insulting when I prepare a perfectly correct invoice, send it to them, only to have it ignored and being asked coldly to use their own process. The translator is made to feel subservient to their need.
I have always thought that as a translator, it is to me to prepare and forward an invoice for a production order I have accepted.
At least, translation agencies should have the decency to use my data on the invoice I forward and input the data themselves!
Any thought or similar experience on this?
Thank you.


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:22
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
I very much agree Mar 9, 2016

Being asked to use someone else's system for every aspect of running MY side of the business is really off-putting -- I'm even a bit wary when clients start sending templates and "suggesting" I use theirs.

I usually drop clients who insist on using their own systems for things like invoicing.


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:22
Member
English to Italian
Agree Mar 9, 2016

I guess this is just another ill effect of this essentially being a buyer's market...

Probably the only possible remedy would be working with small agencies or end clients.


 

Odile Stuart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:22
Member (2006)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Evolving tendency Mar 9, 2016

Mirko Mainardi wrote:

I guess this is just another ill effect of this essentially being a buyer's market...

Probably the only possible remedy would be working with small agencies or end clients.


Thank you for your comment.
I think it is the evolving trend now. I perceive also it is the hallmark of a younger generation. But despite the perceived efficiency of this new trend, irrespective of it being a buyer's market, it also comes out as very rude: It is good and reciprocated communication that is injured here.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:22
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
management systems Mar 9, 2016

Odile Stuart wrote:

Mirko Mainardi wrote:

I guess this is just another ill effect of this essentially being a buyer's market...

Probably the only possible remedy would be working with small agencies or end clients.


Thank you for your comment.
I think it is the evolving trend now. I perceive also it is the hallmark of a younger generation. But despite the perceived efficiency of this new trend, irrespective of it being a buyer's market, it also comes out as very rude: It is good and reciprocated communication that is injured here.


It's all down to the management systems they have in place.

These systems have been designed for agencies. They have all sorts of bells and whistles including schedules where translators can let PMs know their availability, which would be great for them. However I would never fill them in, I never fill in the one on Proz either. The thing is that whether I take on a job depends only partially on my availability. Some jobs I just don't want, but to make sure the client doesn't get put off I prefer to say I'm not available rather than say that their source text is too boring for words. Then some jobs I really really want and I'll work later into the evening to squeeze it in.

I know of agencies that use these systems but which still send good old-fashioned e-mails to offer jobs, and I think their system is intelligent enough to grab the necessary info from the invoices sent in provided they stick to a certain format... or do the poor PMs have to copy and paste the info from my invoice into their format? not sure and don't really care so long as I'm treated with the respect I deserve.


 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:22
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Opposite reaction here Mar 9, 2016

I hate writing invoices, especially for small amounts - to me it feels like a completely tedious, boring exercise, even more so when SDL match rates are involved. Just ugh. That means I'm delighted to work with clients who have their own invoicing systems. All I do is check the amounts, put my own number (i.e. my invoice ID number) in the right place, save a copy to the appropriate folder on my computer and voilà, it's done. I love it. It just depends on your personal preferences, obviously. I would be fine with all my clients using an automated system.

 

Serena Basili  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 22:22
English to Italian
+ ...
Never happened to me by far Mar 9, 2016

and I really hope I will never experience this issue because I can't PHYSICALLY use another invoice system: In order to comply with the Italian fiscal rules, I have to put a stamp (read: buy a stamp and glue it to my printed invoice) on each invoice above a certain amount that is not very high...

[Edited at 2016-03-09 10:59 GMT]


 

Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 22:22
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
turn the tables Mar 9, 2016

Odile Stuart wrote:

At least, translation agencies should have the decency to use my data on the invoice I forward and input the data themselves!
Any thought or similar experience on this?


"Decency" does not seem to be much of a factor in this business in general.icon_frown.gif

As far as invoicing procedures go, different agencies follow widely different approaches which mainly revolve around cost-cutting.
You can easily turn this around by considering the invoicing procedure as part of the job, i.e. charging a higher rate for clients that make you do work to get remunerated.


In my case, I have one agency where I don't even have to prepare invoices -- they generate and send me invoices which contain all the info I require. These invoices never contain mistakes and always get paid swiftly.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's an agency that requires me to prepare an invoice for every single effing job and then to enter numerous details into their stupid effing database.
Due to the kafkaesque drudgery involved, I charge this second agency a significantly higher rate, which helps alleviate the pain.icon_smile.gif
I also only accept rather big jobs from them.


 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:22
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Agree Mar 9, 2016

I agree. I've actually just fired an agency that I really liked to work with during the last years. They informed their suppliers that from now on, they would all have to use their online invoicing system, and they got the cheekiness to sell this as some great news their translators should all be happy about. I'm not. All job and customer data already are in my invoicing software. For me, creating an invoice actually already is the proverbial single click now. Being forced to use their online system would mean extra work. Imagine every client did this...

I explained that if they want me to take over clerical work for them (which is what this boils down to), I'd be happy to do this, but certainly not for free.

Incidentally, they informed me that from now on, they would stretch my already generous payment terms to 30 days after the monthly invoice (which comes down to an average term of 45 days). And all I would have to do is to pay them 1% of the invoice amount. Now isn't that great?

Seriously, if any outsourcers read this: Think twice. Some posters in this thread said that they actually like online invoicing systems. Fine with that. But don't try to shove it down our throats.

I'm quoting from the short discussion I've had with someone from that agency:


An invoice will be just a couple of clicks away, and we only received raving comments from our test-panel, so they confirmed our gut feeling. They were even willing to pay up to 2% after testing [our onlince invoicing system].


Well, if it's only a couple of clicks, why don't you do those clicks yourselves? And have your translations done by your "test-panel"?

[Edited at 2016-03-09 14:07 GMT]


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:22
Member
English to Italian
Wow... Mar 9, 2016

Erik Freitag wrote:

And all I would have to do is to pay them 1% of the invoice amount.


An invoice will be just a couple of clicks away, and we only received raving comments from our test-panel, so they confirmed our gut feeling. They were even willing to pay up to 2% after testing [our onlince invoicing system].



Now that's really crazy... (even more than the fact than now it's clients who invoice vendors, I mean...)


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:22
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
hmm Mar 9, 2016

Woodstock wrote:

I hate writing invoices, especially for small amounts - to me it feels like a completely tedious, boring exercise, even more so when SDL match rates are involved. Just ugh. That means I'm delighted to work with clients who have their own invoicing systems. All I do is check the amounts, put my own number (i.e. my invoice ID number) in the right place, save a copy to the appropriate folder on my computer and voilà, it's done. I love it. It just depends on your personal preferences, obviously. I would be fine with all my clients using an automated system.


I do relate to the beginning of your post, invoicing is by far what I hate most about free-lancing.

But I do also hate checking amounts.

And in the event of a discrepancy, which can happen to the best of us after all, I feel that having to persuade the PM that they made a mistake and to please change what they logged in their system is much worse than having to deal with a PM who is trying to persuade me that I made a mistake and to please alter my invoice.

It's simply a matter of being in control of your own money. One of the reasons I prefer free-lancing to having to kowtow to a boss. I've had more than my fair share of bosses who try to pull a fast one on me, whether it's for stuff as petty as refusing to reimburse the soap I bought for the employee's washroom while he was on holiday or simply not paying my salary for six months.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:22
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
it's that crazy Mar 9, 2016

Mirko Mainardi wrote:

Erik Freitag wrote:

And all I would have to do is to pay them 1% of the invoice amount.


An invoice will be just a couple of clicks away, and we only received raving comments from our test-panel, so they confirmed our gut feeling. They were even willing to pay up to 2% after testing [our onlince invoicing system].



Now that's really crazy... (even more than the fact than now it's clients who invoice vendors, I mean...)


it's that crazy I'm hoping I've misunderstood. You mean you get to pay them 1% of what they owe you for the privilege of doing their admin? and some test-panel translators were prepared to double that? do they get to do the admin twice as well? or do they have the privilege of doing admin that's twice as complicated or twice as finicky?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
No way would I do their clerical work Mar 9, 2016

I've worked with two agencies that have prepared and sent an "invoice". One provided an input box for me to include whatever I needed: invoice number, tax code and legally required phrases etc. I was happy to go along with that. The other didn't even lend itself to being printed, let alone modified! Weird! In that case, I insisted on sending my own invoice. I've never had an agency ask me to do anything more time-consuming.

 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:22
German to English
No big deal Mar 9, 2016

I'm with Woodstock on this one.
Offering an automated system not only saves the client administrative effort, it also saves money as well (time = money). Put yourself in the place of the client with, e.g. 100 translators, each of whom submits an invoice every month in a different format with respect to both structure and document type (Word, Excel, PDF), each of which has to be manually entered into the agency's accounting system and retained for a specified period of time. An automated system takes care of this in one step, while providing a means to supply the tax authorities with fiscal information in an acceptable format. To be honest, I'm surprised that more agencies haven't put an automated system in place.

On the few systems I've used, it's been possible to save the web page on which I've entered my invoiced amounts so that I potentially have a paper record in case I need one.

I have a couple of clients who have partially implemented automated systems, but haven't activated the invoicing modules in their respective software. I wish they would, as it would save me time, since the system could potentially automatically include the fee for each job into the invoice.

With one direct client, I have the opposite situation. According to their bookkeeping department, different services come under different provisions of their national tax code, so a separate invoice has to be issued for each type of service. I work for 4 different departments, each of which wants to be invoiced separately. As a consequence, occasionally I've issued as many as eight separate invoices at the end of the month. They pay quite well which compensates for the time it takes, but it's still a pain.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:22
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
More or less the same here Mar 9, 2016

Jan Truper wrote:
...
As far as invoicing procedures go, different agencies follow widely different approaches which mainly revolve around cost-cutting.

In my case, I have one agency where I don't even have to prepare invoices -- they generate and send me invoices which contain all the info I require. These invoices never contain mistakes and always get paid swiftly.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's an agency that requires me to prepare an invoice for every single effing job and then to enter numerous details into their stupid effing database.


Two Danish agencies generate invoices according to the regulations I have to observe for the tax authorities.
One pays well and is a pleasure to work with all round, and one is OK when their deadlines are manageable.

I simply refuse to work with the others. Their rates are medium to low anyway, and they tend to need new passwords every time I try to log in -- which is necessary several times, to download source files, deliver target files, and then AFTER the end of the month to invoice... Those are typically the ones with tight deadlines and complicated QA procedures too.

If they send me a mail from a real person, I explain why I don't work with them, but if they only send me a 'Hello' from their system, I ignore them.

Send feedback at every opportunity - ignoring them is not really a good idea. If they think they are doing OK, they will find more ways to make you do their work for them.

And don't forget to tell the helpful agencies you like what they are doing a couple of times a year - to make sure they carry on getting it right!

icon_smile.gif


 
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