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New client from abroad, should I ask Purchase order?
Thread poster: Anne R

Anne R
Italy
Local time: 06:41
English to French
+ ...
Feb 16, 2012

Hello

I would like some advice from more experienced freelancers.

I recently wrote to an international association with offices in Canada and South Africa, among other, to offer my services as a translator, one staff contacted me after a week and ask me to send my CV and rates, which I did , with references. Yester day this sent me their internal glossary, and this morning she sent me a small text over 100 words for translation.

I asked her whether this is a test translation - since I had offered to do a short one - but she answered it is not, that I could charge for it and she suggested I send her invoices at the end of each month. So this is nice, since this is an association for which I wanted to work, as I like the subject they are dealing with.

My question is: should I ask her for a purchase order or something “official” and can I ask her what she reckons their monthly needs maybe. I do not want to appear rude, this is my first client of 2012 since I am trying to establish myself as a freelance translator, but I was quite surprised that it went “so quickly” and that no purchase order or reference number was offered on her part.

Any advice welcome, many thanks!

Anne


 

Martina Pokupec  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 06:41
English to Croatian
+ ...
Definitely Feb 16, 2012

You should definitely ask for a purchase order!

This can only be seen as professional from your side.

Good luck!


 

Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:41
English to German
Ask politely Feb 16, 2012

Hello Anne,

Congratulations for this good start.

It is not rude to ask for a PO and the approx. monthly quantity, I believe.

I would confirm this first order, thank them for it and politely ask for some kind of basic agreement in writing. Furthermore, I would politely ask whether they can give you a rough estimate of their monthly need.

Annett


 

Agnes Lenkey  Identity Verified
German to Spanish
+ ...
You need to feel comfortable Feb 16, 2012

Hi Anne,

Me too I am new as a freelancer, before I worked as an in-house translator and, up to now, for direct clients. I have already experienced payment problems, so I only can suggest to you that you only work if you "feel comfortable". This means you need to see things quite clear and politely address the issues that you are not sure of. I consider that if somebody is a serious client/outsourcer, he can understand your concerns, and, above all, give you clear answers. So I simply would advise you to work only if you really feel comfortable and have written information and as more information as you can. If it is a company, check all their payment practices in the BB, WPPF, etc.

This is very general, I know. But be careful, it feels so bad to work and not get paid, it is really important to try to avoid this at all cost. One can be (I was) very deceived if things do not come to a good end despite of all the precautions you have adopted.

Best regards,

Agnes


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:41
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Definitely a PO or some kind of letter Feb 16, 2012

If this association are not used to issuing purchase orders, at least they must send you a proper signed letter (even in scanned form) for this first job. The letter should state the nature and description of the job, the language pair, the volume, the agreed rate, delivery date, and payment terms.

The job is very small indeed and you will imposing them some administrative work, but they will surely see this as your best interest in having a clear picture of the job for both sides.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:41
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Always Feb 16, 2012

Anne Rabier wrote:

My question is: should I ask her for a purchase order ?



You should *always* ask for a Purchase Order and should never work without one.

This could be a formal PO or simply an email confirming the job, the deadline, and the rate.

I suggest you reply politely along the lines of "Thank you for offering me this opportunity. As soon as I receive your Purchase Order and confirmation, I will be glad to start work on the translation."

[Edited at 2012-02-16 10:16 GMT]


 

Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:41
Member
French to English
+ ...
Send a quote yourself Feb 16, 2012

Unlike others, I do not expect to get a Purchase Order from most of my direct clients; instead, I send them a quote for approval based on the document for translation and the agreed upon terms (and my General Terms of Sale). I kindly ask them to sign, scan and return the document to me to confirm the job (or, if they prefer, to send me a purchase order).

From my experience, translation agencies will send a PO (sometimes, indeed, you might need to prompt), but many direct clients prefer just to sign my quote.

I would suggest asking your client whether they prefer that you send them a quote for approval or if they plan on sending you a PO to confirm the job. That way you give them the choice but show that you are not willing to work without the terms confirmed in writing.

In any case, as others have said, do get something in writing before you start the job.

Good luck!
Jocelyne


 

Anne R
Italy
Local time: 06:41
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all! Feb 16, 2012

In the end I have decided to do this translation first, which I just sent back, and then I have asked them to send me information about their procedure, among other more general questions, asking for a purchase order or official reference code that I can make reference to on my invoice.

I thought it was the right thing to do and the translation was so short I can take the risk. The idea of making a quote is all good if you are given a delay to answer to the question can you translate this and for when - as a client I have actually seen those and think they are a good idea.

Now I hope they'll answer and let me know how they'll proceed.
Fingers' crossed!


 

Vincent Lemma  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:41
Member (2008)
Italian to English
+ ...
Start on the right foot Feb 16, 2012

Hi,

A PO is a staple in a translater's work, thus not only is it normal that you ask for one, but it is likewise commonplace that an agency send you one.

Certainly, it is all to tempting to just lunge at an assignment, especially when your at your first bouts. Nevertheless, consider your professional development from a broad perspective. You are not just a translator but you are your own marketing company. Starting work without a PO is (a) too risky (b) unprofessional and can lead to bad future habits (speaking through experience here).

All this said, always remember to be kind. As Tom posted, even an informal email does the trick. However, when accepting large jobs make sure that a PO is sent as soon as, or soon after, starting the job. I like to use the ask directly but in a fleeting manner "oh got the files, maybe still need the PO", they'll get it.

I advise you check out some of the conferences here on ProZ on marketing yourself and your business, as well as looking into external readings on translation businesses.

Above all, take your time and have fun!
Cheers,

Vincent


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:41
Member (2008)
French to English
In Canada, Offer + Acceptance = Contract Feb 16, 2012

Anne Rabier wrote:

My question is: should I ask her for a purchase order or something “official” and can I ask her what she reckons their monthly needs maybe. I do not want to appear rude, this is my first client of 2012 since I am trying to establish myself as a freelance translator, but I was quite surprised that it went “so quickly” and that no purchase order or reference number was offered on her part.

Any advice welcome, many thanks!

Anne


In Canada, a clear offer and acceptance is a legally binding contract, no PO is necessary and many companies don't use a PO for services such as translation. Issuing a PO, especially for a small service such as a $100 translation, would often require making a requisition to the Purchasing Department, so for such orders is often not done.

Just make sure that you have a clear agreement on the price, delivery and all other conditions before beginning, and keep copies of your correspondence in the job folder. The courts here have made it clear that email correspondence is a valid record of an agreement.

The more important thing is to check that you are dealing with a reputable company with a track record of paying. Testing each other out with small jobs is a valid way of checking each others' busines practices - just keep an eye on payment times.

I might add that there is a vast demand for English to French translation and in some parts of the country few to fill the demand, which could be a perfectly valid reason why it went so quickly.

[Edited at 2012-02-16 11:39 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
At least make sure the company exists! Feb 16, 2012

John Fossey wrote:
In Canada, a clear offer and acceptance is a legally binding contract

I believe this is true of (almost) all countries. POs give translators a warm, safe feeling but they actually give no extra security. However ...

Just make sure that you have a clear agreement on the price, delivery and all other conditions before beginning, and keep copies of your correspondence in the job folder.

I would add that "other conditions" include the word count (i.e. how the price was arrived at), the full postal address for the invoice, tax details as necessary (VAT numbers for within the EU, for example).... It's amazing how many translators finish a job and then realise they didn't have the same idea of the word count (and therefore the price) as the client or who don't have all the required information to draw up a legally-binding invoice. How can you ask a court to uphold your claim against "Barbara@yahoo.com"?

I have had a few agency clients who have sent a real PO or who have specified exactly what they think the job comprises (i.e. similar to a PO) that I have been happy to agree to and start work. However, for most clients (many agencies and all direct clients) things don't work that way. They send a text and I respond with either a formal quote or an email setting out all the job details clearly, with my delivery date and my payment terms, and asking them to (a) provide their address etc and (b) to explicitly agree to and accept everything in my email. Only when I receive their agreement will I start translating. Then we both know the "rules of the game".

The more important thing is to check that you are dealing with a reputable company with a track record of paying.


I don't believe you have to avoid working with anyone who doesn't have a series of fives on the ProZ.com Blue Board, although I would certainly avoid those who have a proven bad record. Sometimes, it pays to take a risk, but only after limiting it to the minimum. I'm happy to accept a small job from a new, totally unknown, client but I will first check that their address really exists, their VAT n° (if they have one) is valid, their company is registered, etc. I'll also search for them on the web and check their website etc. Then I just make up my own mind whether to do a small job for them.

Good luck with your new client, Anne


 

Anne R
Italy
Local time: 06:41
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
last.. Feb 16, 2012

To summarize and answer to some of you and put it all in a context:
- This is not a translation agency but an association working in the Development & cooperation sector, they are pretty famous in their field - they participate to UN events etc.) and have a website and all, and the person who contacted me is listed on the website together with her responsibilities.

She has just gone back to me saying they were very happy with my small translation and has asked me about my further availability since there are organising an international forum in April, about which she actually sent me the link, so it could be quite busy for translations. However to my previous question about PO or reference code, she has answered: "I don’t have any reference codes but I would suggest starting from (their) Company name001 and going from there? "

Now, from my experience with my first client in that sector - intl development - such networks/alliances are not always completely 'organised', and do not have thoughts about such issues. So I want to get back to her that I'd be pleased to go into a collaboration, ask that they give me written confirmation that they agree to my translation rate, but what can I say to insist – in a light way – on having something else than this reference code which does not really satisfy me? Would that be rude to ask if their Finance department can issue me with a supplier number that I can refer to in my invoices?

Oh God oh God, I guess I’ll definitely have to register on another webinar for marketing skills, yes!


icon_frown.gif


 

Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 07:41
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
The necessity of a PO Feb 16, 2012

I have clients that don't send PO's at all, some that send an order confirmation email, and others that send POs at the end of the month.
The main purpose of a PO is to confirm the agreed price and conditions, and in case of non-payment, to prove to third parties that you have entered into a contract with the client. And for this purpose, I think any written confirmation - be it in the email body or as a separate document - titled Purchase Order, Order Confirmation or similar, and including the file/project name and/or number, word rate, total price, delivery date, other conditions and the client's address and invoicing details, should be sufficient. Also, you don't necessarily need a supplier number for invoicing - among my clients I know only one or two that use such numbers.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Supplier ID: Anne Rabier Feb 16, 2012

Anne Rabier wrote:
She has just gone back to me saying they were very happy with my small translation and has asked me about my further availability since there are organising an international forum in April, about which she actually sent me the link, so it could be quite busy for translations.


Congratulations, Anne. I hope you're happy with their rates and that they pay on time.

However to my previous question about PO or reference code, she has answered: "I don’t have any reference codes but I would suggest starting from (their) Company name001 and going from there? "
.....
what can I say to insist – in a light way – on having something else than this reference code which does not really satisfy me? Would that be rude to ask if their Finance department can issue me with a supplier number that I can refer to in my invoices?


I'm not really sure what you're looking for here. The invoice that I personally would send would be addressed to them (of course!) and have a unique number (I include my own client code in this - others have different formats). Then I'd list each of the files I had translated during the month, giving word counts, rates and total amount for each file. I wouldn't want a supplier number - I have a name, Sheila Wilsonicon_smile.gif

I'm sure others have different systems, but as long as it's clear to you and you can justify your invoice to them if they query it, then it's OK.

Oh God oh God, I guess I’ll definitely have to register on another webinar for marketing skills, yes!


It's true that marketing, along with other business skills, is something that few freelancers pay enough attention to. There are formal short courses that are well worth going on.

By the way, bear in mind that you should plan to have at least 4-5 regular clients and still have some time for others. This is so you limit your business risk - if one client stops sending work (or payments), it shouldn't take too long to recover. If you work 100% for one client you are in effect acting as an employee without any of the benefits - no paid holidays, no sickness benefits, and ... no redundancy terms if they don't need you any more.

Sheila


 

Anne R
Italy
Local time: 06:41
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, a whole learning exercice! Feb 16, 2012

By the way, bear in mind that you should plan to have at least 4-5 regular clients and still have some time for others. This is so you limit your business risk - if one client stops sending work (or payments), it shouldn't take too long to recover. If you work 100% for one client you are in effect acting as an employee without any of the benefits - no paid holidays, no sickness benefits, and ... no redundancy terms if they don't need you any more.

Sheila [/quote]

Yes this is a start, I am happy, I decided to go for it and to take the risk. Getting 4-5 clients and working part time may be enough at the beginning. I guess the fear of the freelance at the start is eith not making any client at all, or getting too many potential clients and not know ho to refuse potential work if that is offered at a busy period.

Sueurs froides...

Thank you Sheila for always taking the time to give an advice!

Humm, I don't seem to understand how this quoting works, I thought I had selected only 1 paragraph of your answer and I get this long post again...



[Edited at 2012-02-16 16:55 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-02-16 16:56 GMT]


 
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