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Late payment from an agency. Not sure how to react...Help!
Thread poster: Annika Thornton

Annika Thornton  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:29
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
+ ...
Jul 30

Hi,
I have an invoice that's a week overdue from an agency based in Ireland. They are rated 5 on the Blue Board, hence I thought I was safe, but they have been having "Internet banking issues" for the last week and they are now telling me that it's going to take another week for the money to go through. I'm not sure whether to believe it or not!
I've only been freelancing for a few months and this was the first invoice that I sent out back in June. In the terms and conditions at the bottom it's clearly stated that there's a 10% surcharge for late payment (in accordance with rules where I'm based) so they should pay this as well.
Working with them has otherwise been great and I was looking forward to working with them again (I've done one other job for them since) so I'm not sure how to react without our professional relationship going sour.
Has anyone else had a similar experience? Any advice?
Thanks!
Annika

[Edited at 2018-07-30 12:06 GMT]


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 07:29
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Annika Jul 30

I’ve never worked with them, but as everybody else says that payments are on time I will give them the benefit of the doubt and wait one more week. I had a similar problem with a customer a few years back and I was fully paid and we are still working together…

Joe France
 

Jean Dimitriadis  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:29
Member (2015)
English to French
+ ...
This discussion is likely to go down Jul 30

Hello Annika,

This discussion is likely to go down if you do not edit your title and post, since "Outsourcers may not be discussed specifically", as per the forum rules: https://www.proz.com/siterules/forum/8#8


Yolanda Broad
 

Annika Thornton  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:29
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Oops Jul 30

Oops I didn't realise, thanks for letting me know!

 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:29
French to English
Suggestions Jul 30

Your client is either telling the truth or not. The fact remains that payment is late. In absolute terms, the problem is theirs to resolve. There is no reason you should bear the brunt of a late payment. Bear in mind that the T&C for the +10% are there for a reason. There is probably no condition that if they didn't mean to be late, or if it's due to reasons beyond their control, etc. that the 10% is not due.

Reply acknowledging receipt of the mail indicating that they are having technical problems.
Include an invoice with the additional 10% explaining that whilst you appreciate the reasons for late payment, the fact remains that the contract provides for +10% that you have duly added to the invoice attached.
They might be a little upset, but if you handle it politely, you will be acting in a perfectly professional way. After all, there is no reason that you should suffer from their late payment.

It also means you cover yourself as just in case there is something more sinister going on behind the scenes. If a company is having cashflow problems or is about to go bankrupt, then you need to formalize a claim. If the company has genuinely had the type of problem they have described, any financial loss they suffer will be something they will be able to make an insurance claim for in order to be indemnified. (If not, again, it's not your problem). Getting your invoice paid is your problem and politely mentioning the 10% will show you mean business. You should not feel a need to apologize for simply applying a basic contractual term.

[Edited at 2018-07-30 12:31 GMT]


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:29
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Same thing happened to me Jul 30

Dear Annika, the same thing happened to me about a year ago but my case was far worse. The agency concerned had been sending me a lot of work before so we had built some kind of relationship but this one instance, it did not pay my invoice - it was for a really big amount - and did not even reply to reminders, emails, mobile phone calls or smses. Naturally, I was worried when I saw this agency did not answer at all! I might have understood or even accepted if there had been an answer but not without any communication at all. At least I would know the agency still existed but not like this - complete break-off of all communication, as if it had disappeared from the earth! After all, you never know when an agency goes bankrupt. I had to literally trick the agency by withholding my ID on the mobile to get it to answer and it became LIVID! (People contacted this agency on a mobile number not a fixed line). I realised this was break time as I did not want to go through this trouble again and I realised the agency would not give me any more translations but I did not want this relationship either even if I had really liked the stuff it sent me to translate. I was finally paid-after 15 days of non-communication on the part of the agency. Then the agency did not send me any more work but it now sends me some work when it needs something urgent.

Well, at least your agency communicated with you so I would give it the benefit of the doubt but point out the extra charges incurred. You have to realise you might, and a very big might - lose this agency but you have to decide if you want to go through the same thing happening or not, now. I do hope you will get paid if the agency had a rating of 5 especially. Good luck.

[Edited at 2018-07-30 13:35 GMT]


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 00:29
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
One week, whose terms? Jul 30

First of all, I have never received payment on my terms from any agency. Agencies usually have their own payment terms and that is understandable because with many payments incoming and outgoing they have to have their own system to make that work. They cannot pay one translator within 30 days, and one within 45 days, and one withing 60 days. If you want to work for an agency you have little choice in the matter. Only when they are significantly overdue on their own payment terms is when you start worrying about it and start reminding them. If they respond that they have had technical or other problems, give them the benefit of the doubt. One thing you could consider is to always invoice for each job separately and immediately, don't let a backlog develop.

Teresa Borges
Kevin Fulton
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:29
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't throw good money after (maybe) bad Jul 30

Annika Thornton wrote:
I was looking forward to working with them again (I've done one other job for them since)

I would advise you to hold off doing any more work for them until they've paid the overdue invoice in full. They could be on the verge of collapse so it would be unwise to risk more. It's my practice as a general rule, although I don't always apply it if things are generally going well (i.e. it's probably a hiccup rather than a real warning sign) and the client doesn't owe too much. It also pays to have an idea in your head of how much credit you're prepared to offer each client. Again, mine's flexible, but that limit is still hovering around in the back of my mind, setting off alarm bells when necessary.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you. From what you've said I'm inclined to think it's a genuine "oops - sorry" moment rather than a long-term inability to pay. Hope I'm right icon_smile.gif .


 

Juan Aquino Marquez
Mexico
Local time: 01:29
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sorry if Ive note read some FAQ... Jul 30

...but Id like to ask if is there any help, pre-tested steps as to what to do, or where to take a case if the payments are due long on international job relationships.
Sometimes, I've had some invoices had to wait a long time, and I dont know if is there any advice on it.
Thank you!

[Edited at 2018-07-30 16:52 GMT]


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:29
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Gently does it Jul 30

Annika Thornton wrote:
I have an invoice that's a week overdue from an agency based in Ireland. They are rated 5 on the Blue Board, hence I thought I was safe

Looking at the Blue Board alone is not enough, but it may be useful. With those 5 stars in mind, if you have just started and if you have - perhaps - not that many clients, I would give them the benefit of the doubt. If they are just horrible clients, it doesn't matter if bridges are burned, but if they look as if they could be a decent client, I would let it go, wait, and see how the situation develops.

Dan


Josephine Cassar
Anthony Teixeira
 

Angus Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:29
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
This is a normal risk of doing business Jul 30

I am sorry that this happened to you on your first invoice, but the fact is that late/non-payment issues are a normal risk of doing business as a freelancer and are something that you will have to learn how to deal with. Our colleagues have given you excellent advice on how to handle the translation agency, but you will also need to develop a risk management strategy to limit the impact of future events such as this on you.

The simple fact is that one never knows when late/non-payment issues are going to arise. It can happen with a big invoice amount just as easily as a small one. It can also happen with an agency you have worked with happily for years and have always paid on/or ahead of the deadline for payment as they suddenly run into financial issues, or have a big client who has failed to pay them on time and this has knock-on repercussions for you. Although in strictly legal terms they can't refuse to pay you on the grounds that they haven't been paid themselves the hard financial reality of the situation is that if they don't have sufficient money available their staff and office rent etc. are always going to end up getting paid before you do, as they have to prioritise what are the most essential bills to pay.

The important thing is that you need a strategy in order to deal with these situations. The first part of this strategy is to build up a financial buffer of savings to cushion yourself against the consequence of not receiving payment on time. The point of this is to ensure that you do not find yourself in the position of being unable to pay your own essential outgoings, i.e. rent/mortgage, taxes and grocery bills etc.

The second part of the strategy is to have established your policy with regards to how and when you are going to action the various stages of escalating pursuit of payment. This starts out with a friendly reminder that payment has not been made, followed by a more formal one, application of various penalties (if applicable), adding a review to the Blueboard (if you decide the case meerits it), issuing a letter before action and finally passing the debt to your solicitor for debt collection or taking court action yourself if you feel competent to do that.

I tend to apply my escalation strategy strictly with new clients and those who don't communicate in response to my reminders, whereas I am a little more flexible with long term clients, who have generally paid on time in the past and communicating responsibly with me about the issue. The reason is that in the latter case, I may still want to keep the client on good terms, if the relationship has otherwise been a productive one and the payment issue proves to be a one off blip. Sometimes a softer "slowly, slowly catchee monkey" approach can produce can produce better results with a client with whom you have established a good working relationship. Indeed one long term agency client who has had cash flow issues due to not being paid on time themselves by their own major end client has agreed to pay me in instalments. I consider this preferable to the situation I might have faced if I had chosen to play hard ball with them, as in that event they might only have paid me when they were in a position to pay the invoice in full and that would have meant having to wait longer and I would also have been more exposed to the risk of them going bankrupt.

However, all clients need to know that you will be firm with them and pursue matters to their ultimate conclusion if they don't pay up in the end. Indeed, I am currently in the process of taking court action against one client who has dragged their heels over payment.


Josephine Cassar
Dan Lucas
Sheila Wilson
Joe France
Teresa Borges
 

Anthony Teixeira
Japan
Local time: 16:29
Member (2011)
English to French
+ ...
Welcome to our industry Jul 30

They are rated 5 on the Blue Board, hence I thought I was safe


The Blue Board is a fantastic tool to filter OUT, rather than in. Recent bad review(s) = run away, all 5s = proceed with caution. Good agencies turn bad, sneaky ones force their translators to give them stellar ratings. There's always a risk, although in your case I don't think you're facing a bad payer.

They have been having "Internet banking issues" for the last week and they are now telling me that it's going to take another week for the money to go through. I'm not sure whether to believe it or not!


"Internet banking issues" do happen, to translators too by the way. It's annoying, and support isn't always as responsive as they claim to be. I would give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

In the terms and conditions at the bottom it's clearly stated that there's a 10% surcharge for late payment (in accordance with rules where I'm based) so they should pay this as well.


It never hurts to show a little flexibility, especially if the collaboration has been great so far. Sometimes translators too run into issues out of their reasonable control (CAT tool bugs, hardware issues, etc.), and good agencies show understanding when it happens rather than cut out your payment.

And a sad trend of our industry is that agencies pay when they decide to rather than when you ask them to. It's frustrating, a no-no for some. Personally, as long as they meet their own terms or give me a clear deadline, I'm more or less OK with it.

Working with them has otherwise been great and I was looking forward to working with them again (I've done one other job for them since) so I'm not sure how to react without our professional relationship going sour.


There's still communication and a general time frame regarding your payment, that's rather a good sign. If they don't get back to you after a week or so, gently ask them for an update. Be more firm if excuses pile up or if they stop answering. Another option would be to offer an alternative payment method if their alleged troubles don't get solved.

[Edited at 2018-07-30 22:49 GMT]


Josephine Cassar
Sheila Wilson
Teresa Borges
 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:29
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Very sound advice Jul 31

Angus Stewart wrote:

I am sorry that this happened to you on your first invoice, but the fact is that late/non-payment issues are a normal risk of doing business as a freelancer and are something that you will have to learn how to deal with. Our colleagues have given you excellent advice on how to handle the translation agency, but you will also need to develop a risk management strategy to limit the impact of future events such as this on you.

The simple fact is that one never knows when late/non-payment issues are going to arise. It can happen with a big invoice amount just as easily as a small one. It can also happen with an agency you have worked with happily for years and have always paid on/or ahead of the deadline for payment as they suddenly run into financial issues, or have a big client who has failed to pay them on time and this has knock-on repercussions for you. Although in strictly legal terms they can't refuse to pay you on the grounds that they haven't been paid themselves the hard financial reality of the situation is that if they don't have sufficient money available their staff and office rent etc. are always going to end up getting paid before you do, as they have to prioritise what are the most essential bills to pay.

The important thing is that you need a strategy in order to deal with these situations. The first part of this strategy is to build up a financial buffer of savings to cushion yourself against the consequence of not receiving payment on time. The point of this is to ensure that you do not find yourself in the position of being unable to pay your own essential outgoings, i.e. rent/mortgage, taxes and grocery bills etc.

The second part of the strategy is to have established your policy with regards to how and when you are going to action the various stages of escalating pursuit of payment. This starts out with a friendly reminder that payment has not been made, followed by a more formal one, application of various penalties (if applicable), adding a review to the Blueboard (if you decide the case meerits it), issuing a letter before action and finally passing the debt to your solicitor for debt collection or taking court action yourself if you feel competent to do that.

I tend to apply my escalation strategy strictly with new clients and those who don't communicate in response to my reminders, whereas I am a little more flexible with long term clients, who have generally paid on time in the past and communicating responsibly with me about the issue. The reason is that in the latter case, I may still want to keep the client on good terms, if the relationship has otherwise been a productive one and the payment issue proves to be a one off blip. Sometimes a softer "slowly, slowly catchee monkey" approach can produce can produce better results with a client with whom you have established a good working relationship. Indeed one long term agency client who has had cash flow issues due to not being paid on time themselves by their own major end client has agreed to pay me in instalments. I consider this preferable to the situation I might have faced if I had chosen to play hard ball with them, as in that event they might only have paid me when they were in a position to pay the invoice in full and that would have meant having to wait longer and I would also have been more exposed to the risk of them going bankrupt.

However, all clients need to know that you will be firm with them and pursue matters to their ultimate conclusion if they don't pay up in the end. Indeed, I am currently in the process of taking court action against one client who has dragged their heels over payment.

Well worth putting in practice, sound, constructive and balanced.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:29
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Nicely put Jul 31

Anthony Teixeira wrote:
They are rated 5 on the Blue Board, hence I thought I was safe

The Blue Board is a fantastic tool to filter OUT, rather than in. Recent bad review(s) = run away, all 5s = proceed with caution.

Exactly my approach. The Blue Board is clearly being manipulated by some agencies.

I recommend that the OP look into Payment Practices (http://www.paymentpractices.net/) as it is often useful, and cheap for the information it offers (less than £20 a year).

She should also consider the Zahlungspraxis mailing list (http://www.zahlungspraxis.info/).

In the UK, membership of the ITI includes access to a credit checking tool.

Regards,
Dan


 

Annika Thornton  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:29
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jul 31

Thank you everyone for these detailed and very very helpful responses! I'll definitely be putting these tips into practice.

 
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