The shift to online project management, invoicing and payment - bad news for translators
Thread poster: Arthur Livingstone

Arthur Livingstone
Israel
Local time: 18:41
Member (2009)
Hebrew to English
Oct 11, 2016

I have recently found that I am spending less time actually translating and more time complying with all kinds of requirements to accept work online, to upload the completed work, to upload an invoice and then to follow up on progress and payment.

Until now I had thought it sufficient to accept the work from the PM, receive an official PO, do the work to the best of my ability and then to send my invoice either to the PM involved or to accounts@...

All this has changed since many of my agencies have taken steps to cut down on their own bookkeeping and put the onus on the translator to meet all kinds of demands in order to get payment at the end of the day.

Common problems are as follows:

In the absence of any other address, invoices are sent to the PM who ignores them and does not advise that they should be sent to some other address.

Missing information on invoices used as an excuse not to pay but not raised at the time the invoice was issued, such as: inexact name of the company, missing PM name, missing tax number, or missing bank account information. I cannot change my invoices; I have to go through a process of cancelling them, reissuing them and then closing the original invoice against the original invoice. Most of this information is inessential and at the whim of the particular agency which could simply add it to the invoice without going back to the translator and putting the entire work load on him/her.

I have almost 200 different clients in around 20 different countries. Some of them give me regular work and some perhaps only once or twice a year. Many of them have now shifted their project management and bookkeeping online which is certainly more convenient for them and cuts their costs. However, I have to remember (or constantly refer to my own notes or the client's instructions) all the various methods they are now employing. Some of these are reasonably efficient and user-friendly, others are distinctly not. All of them involve me in hours of additional work.

I am the first to admit that I have not spent as much time following up on payments as I should have, but I consider that if I have issued an invoice and it has been received at the other end, it it the client's responsibility to pay me and not mine to chase up payment.

To add insult to injury, I was informed by a client who owes me a considerable amount (in sterling, so I have already taken a beating on the exchange rate since the work was done) that because I did not invoice it properly (i.e. I sent it to the agent and did not upload it to their site) they are going to deduct 10% for late invoicing.

I have now taken the step of suspending my work with any company for which I have outstanding invoices until the matter is settled to my satisfaction.

Perhaps the time has come for some guidelines to be followed by all agencies either working with an online platform or intending to.

My own (minimal) suggestions are these:

(1) If an invoice is issued to an incorrect address or is issued with insufficient or incorrect information, the translator should be notified immediately and given explicit instructions on how to remedy the situation. Since translators are usually busy working at their main occupation, reminders should be sent until the translator does what is necessary.

(2) The translator's invoice number should appear in any reference to an invoice.

(3) The translator should be notified when payment is made, stating the translator's invoice numbers to which they refer.

I would like to hear from any other translators who are experiencing similar problems as to how they are coping with them.

Arthur Livingstone


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:41
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Onus Oct 11, 2016

I feel your pain.

IMO if you issue an invoice on your headed paper, correctly set out according to the tax requirements of the country in which you work, then that invoice must be paid.

I don't think there is any onus on the translator to comply with non-statutory "payment requirements" specified by the agency.

This is indeed becoming a bl**dy nuisance since every agency has its own requirements.


 

Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 18:41
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
A dedcution for late invoicing?? Oct 11, 2016

Yes to all of this, and to what Tom in London said. Not to mention all the different passwords you have to remember...

What especially got my back up is the "late invoicing" deduction. I don't think that is even legal! The client can't just invent reasons to reduce the payable amount as they see fit. I would not accept, but fight - and then drop the client.


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 17:41
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
One of possible solutions Oct 11, 2016

Arthur Livingstone wrote:
I would like to hear from any other translators who are experiencing similar problems as to how they are coping with them.


Hi Arthur,

Actually, I am not experiencing any similar problems; I use TO 3000 which is a perfect solution (there are a few other similar programs but I haven't used any of them).

TO 3000 allows you to create a database of your clients including all their contact data, used currencies, payment terms etc etc etc. There is also a field where you can add some special notes, and, moreover, you can add custom fields, if necessary.

You can create invoice templates for all your customers, so invoicing for a special project takes a few clicks only. In case something is changed on the client's side (e.g. their email address) you can easily change this information in your template.

The software allows you see the schedule of the jobs for a certain period, the lists of your paid and outstanding invoices and many many other useful and necessary information.

In other words, you have all necessary information at hand, in a single place, easy to find, you don't need to remember multiple details as they are already included in your database - you just open this or that record and you can see everything.

Just try TO 3000 (or any similar software), and you will see that your life becomes much easier.

What about your suggestion ("Perhaps the time has come for some guidelines to be followed by all agencies..."): this is just unrealistic, sorry...

Natalia


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:41
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Agree, agree, agree Oct 11, 2016

I absolutely agree with you about this ghastliness, Arthur.
I'm madly busy right now but will reply more fully later.


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 18:41
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Cut out the difficult clients Oct 11, 2016

If someone makes you too much work just push their message into the garbage can next time. I have too clients who want online invoicing, but they are prompt payers and there was never any issues. In any case your invoice must be correct, even when you send it in a letter.

Another solution: outsource invoicing to a special agency.


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:41
Member (2014)
English to German
Feedback Oct 11, 2016

Give feedback and explain why you cannot and will not spend your time with their admin.

One of my customers repeatedly asked me to update my availability on their system, a request I ignored, they have stopped asking now - I assume others did the sameicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2016-10-11 15:30 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My belief too Oct 11, 2016

Tom in London wrote:
IMO if you issue an invoice on your headed paper, correctly set out according to the tax requirements of the country in which you work, then that invoice must be paid.

I don't think there is any onus on the translator to comply with non-statutory "payment requirements" specified by the agency.

I don't think the onus is on the agency (aka the client) to tell us how to invoice, or remind us to do so, or let us know when payment has been made.

All the client needs to do is (a) accept the invoice and (b) pay it. Simple!


 

Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:41
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Strange requirements Oct 11, 2016

Arthur Livingstone wrote:

Missing information on invoices used as an excuse not to pay but not raised at the time the invoice was issued, such as: inexact name of the company, missing PM name, missing tax number, or missing bank account information. I cannot change my invoices; I have to go through a process of cancelling them, reissuing them and then closing the original invoice against the original invoice. Most of this information is inessential and at the whim of the particular agency which could simply add it to the invoice without going back to the translator and putting the entire work load on him/her.



I'm reading what you wrote just after cancelling an invoice issued in May, because the agency added a billing address and I misread the new and too long instructions sent. Of course, they said nothing in May.

On the other hand, a new client has just sent me a too long registration form and a too long agreement to be signed for services I don't even offer. One of the clauses is "Contractor shall not perform any services for a client while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol."

Just wondering whether to refuse future jobs from both of them or just do what the latter suggests. Too tired for anything.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:41
English to Portuguese
+ ...
There are systems and systems for project management Oct 11, 2016

I serve many old school agencies, the worst outcome being:
"Hey, job #3707's deadline was yesterday. When are you gonna send in your translation?"
"I e-mailed it to you three days ago at 12:04 PM, your time, still awaiting your receipt confirmation."
"By gosh, you're right! It's here. Thanks. Ya know, I get so much spam that I missed it."

To avoid this, the "modern" way is to have an online project management system.

I know there are many of these, so I'll cover my extreme experiences.

The worst experiences I has were with Plunet. Maybe the system is not as bad, but it is so widely customizable (from the differences I saw in it from one agency and another), that I think most agencies overuse its features, turning the experience into a bureaucratic nightmare. On top of that, I don't know if whether it requires massive hardware muscle, or if it had the bad luck of finding its way only into agencies fitted with slow servers.

The best experiences I had were with TPbox. All its interfaces, in spite of different agencies, look and feel about the same. It simply organizes the interaction between translators and PMs, and leaves room for direct support between them, as well as among peer translators, when it's the case. Invoicing and payment are merely two natural steps in the process, after the translation has been uploaded and cleared.

I imagine that there must be a whole series of shades between one and the other, and I have seen neither from the PM's side. So, as they say, your mileage may vary.


 

Luca Tutino  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:41
Member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
Adjust your rates accordingly Oct 11, 2016

Tom in London wrote:
IMO if you issue an invoice on your headed paper, correctly set out according to the tax requirements of the country in which you work, then that invoice must be paid.


I agree. However, I understand the need for automation and I am keen to comply with client requests about invoicing, using my own admin system (better than the commercially available I have tried, in my opinion) to note all details on their requests.

But many systems are abysmal (see examples below). My problem is not that I cannot find the information, but the added effort multiplied by the number of clients.

In these cases can practically respond in one of two ways:
1. My rates are upped accordingly, or
2. The client gets deleted from my management system.

Some possible pain points:

- Invoicing websites have names and url different from the agencies'. The number of these systems seems to be infinite. The User Interface logic of each system is totally different, automation-resistant, often unnecessarily complicated and even misleading. Like another new software for each of these clients.
- The multiplication of reference numbers for each project/invoice and invoice adds complexity to my own administration.
- Instruction to send invoices within one or very few days from the end of the month = impossible to concentrate on an urgent translation at that moment.

- Forced delayed invoicing adds a non-negotiated or -agreed additional delay to negotiated payment terms.
- Actual payment terms are difficult to find, and guessing the payment date requires the solution of complex equations depending on many dates (delivery, submission, approval, acceptance, acknowledgment, batches, availability, payment calendar...)
- In some cases, the system only accepts an invoice after it has been prepared by the client. Once it is ready it must be accepted. A delayed acceptance means a delayed payment. (And no acceptance = NO PAYMENT!!) This means that I am expected to keep accessing the system and finding the right page to check if the invoice was prepared until it finally arrives.
- The added bureaucracy of the process makes it difficult and longer to resolve any PO or invoice problems. Sometimes direct communication with the administration is simply impossible, even in the case of an outstanding payment.


 


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