Potential direct client - not sure I'm prepared
Thread poster: DARKastheRAIN
Mar 10, 2016

So I recently emailed an individual asking for permission to use something they'd written as a sample translation for my portfolio. To my surprise they not only gave me permission but also asked me if I was interested in doing a paid translation for them.

I have mixed feelings about it because on the one hand it seems like a great opportunity, but on the other I'm not sure I'm prepared to handle a direct client as I've never had one before. I've never even sent an invoice because all the translations I've done have been through a translation service that takes care of the business side of things themselves.

How much is involved in dealing with a direct client? Is it as simple as sending them an invoice with the translation and waiting for a paypal transaction or do I have to do something more to make sure they pay?

I'm also not sure how much to charge. As a relatively inexperienced beginning translator should I charge below the standard rate for my language pair since they were the one who sought me out (in a manner of speaking). They've also asked me if I could format the translation for them according to the guidelines of a third party publisher. Do translators usually charge extra for something like that?

Thanks for your time, and sorry if I've repeated questions that have been asked a million times.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:06
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What an interesting predicament! Mar 11, 2016

Could be a fairy tale in the making? But you're right to seek advice as it could turn into a nightmare. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to give any advice at the moment as we're lacking so many details. So I'm afraid I'm going to reply with more questions.

- Are you legally able to issue an invoice? How about VAT? Tax authorities vary in their requirements but many are very strict. Cross-border transactions are the most strictly enforced so knowing where you both are would help.
- Do you think you are able and willing to do the job? It might seem fun now but I'm sure you want to do a good job. Also, there will be a deadline. Are you prepared to work, work, work on this job? You don't seem to be a pro translator so I imagine you have other calls on your time.
- What sort of volume? Whereas one 1000-word translation might be OK (not too much for you to handle; not of much interest to the tax people; not too big a loss to either party if it falls through), several hundred thousand words would be totally different.
- Is it a private individual or a company? An individual should pay at least some money up front. A company would only normally pay an advance for a high-volume job.

As far as the rate is concerned, beginners earn more by being slower. They do more research, more cross-checking, more rounds of proof-reading. So they earn less per hour. But if they can't deliver a good translation, they shouldn't take on the job. And if the client is going to get a good product he should pay normal rates. Not high, but not peanuts either. ProZ.com holds "community rates" under the Tools tab, taken from the information we give in our profiles.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
DARKastheRAIN
TOPIC STARTER
Further details Mar 11, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

- Are you legally able to issue an invoice? How about VAT? Tax authorities vary in their requirements but many are very strict. Cross-border transactions are the most strictly enforced so knowing where you both are would help.


I'm in the U.S. and to the best of my knowledge the client is in Russia.

As to legality, that's my main dilemma; I know so little about it. Do I need some kind of business ID or tax ID?

- Do you think you are able and willing to do the job? It might seem fun now but I'm sure you want to do a good job. Also, there will be a deadline. Are you prepared to work, work, work on this job? You don't seem to be a pro translator so I imagine you have other calls on your time.


I aim to be a full time translator, though I'm not there yet. My plan was to start out by applying to agencies (hence the attempt to build some kind of portfolio) and not try to move on to direct clients until I was more comfortable with the industry, but it seems a shame to dismiss an opportunity like this without at least giving it due consideration (it's right in my intended specialisation field and exactly the kind of material I want to be working with).

As for my translation ability, I'm a lot more confident about that than my business savvy. My biggest weakness is probably speed at the moment. I take longer than the average translator, but I'm fairly confident in my ability to create a quality translation given adequate time (if it turns out this client has a super tight deadline I'll probably end up declining).


- Is it a private individual or a company? An individual should pay at least some money up front. A company would only normally pay an advance for a high-volume job.


Private individual (university professor, if that's relevant)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:06
Member (2004)
German to English
See the text first Mar 11, 2016

The very first thing you want to do is ask to see the thing you are going to be asked to translate - you want to weigh it up and make sure that you feel completely confident about handling it.

The size of the job will be quite a factor in your decision - if it's something quite small and you feel you can handle the subject matter, there is little to be lost by taking it on. If it is a huge job that is going to take weeks or months, you want to think carefully about what time you have available and how you will handle things such as the risk of non-payment.

After that, dealing with a direct client is really very little different from dealing with an agency, except that all the responsibility for quality and administration is in your hands. Don't set your price too low at the outset in your eagerness to get the job, or because you feel you should charge a "beginner's" rate - you will need to spend extra time on proofreading, and furthermore if this leads to a long-term relationship, which it may, you don't want to be feeling after only a few months that you are charging too little. And remember that whatever price you charge will be reduced by whatever income tax you have to pay on it.

Like Sheila, I am not clear about whether you are dealing with an individual or a company. Either way, you must have their full contact details (address, telephone, email) and satisfy yourself that they are who they say they are. If it's an individual and it's a big job, ask yourself why they are doing it and whether you are confident that they have the means to pay for it (for example, if someone wants their unpublished novel translating, can they really afford the cost of that?).

If formatting is going to take extra time, then it needs to be charged for (for example, if you normally charge EUR 0.10/word for working from a Word document, then you might decide to charge EUR 0.12/word for working from a pdf). However, if it is just a case of following somebody's style guidelines as you write, I wouldn't really regard that as formatting and personally I wouldn't charge extra for it. Overall you simply need to charge a price that you feel is a fair reward for the time, effort and skill you are putting in.

Good luck, and I hope your translating career goes well.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:06
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
Rate Mar 11, 2016

DARKastheRAIN wrote:

I've never even sent an invoice because all the translations I've done have been through a translation service that takes care of the business side of things themselves.


In addition to the good advice Sheila and Armorel already gave you, if by "translation service that takes care of the business side of things themselves" you mean one of the online "fast" (and usually cheap) crowdsourced translation services around, and if you somehow know the client you mention uses that service, then perhaps you could use the rate that service applies to end clients as a reference, since usually those rates are fixed and publicly visible.
Incidentally, this would also give you a little more peace of mind regarding their solvency and willingness to pay, as I believe that when using those services end clients actually have to pay the full amount in advance (so perhaps you could propose that condition as well, especially for the first project).


Direct link Reply with quote
 
The Misha
Local time: 08:06
Russian to English
+ ...
If nothing else, do yourself a favor Mar 11, 2016

and don't start your next communication with the client with a "So" - unless they are actually a Russian client based in Russia. They wouldn't know the difference then. Aside from that, have a look at the text - the entire text, that is - and if you think you are up to it, go for it. How else would you know? In this blessed country of ours, you don't have to do anything except declare the extra income at the end of the year and pay tax on it, if even that (that would depend on your overall situation, of course. You may have no liability at all in the end). If you pay an accountant to do your taxes (which you really shouldn't, it's no rocket science), he or she will handle the Schedule C for you. Otherwise, buy a copy of TurboTax Premier or Home & Business, or a similar competing product when the time comes. It will guide you right through it.

Your biggest problem here is making sure that you do get paid, especially these days, seeing that the client is in Russia and you have absolutely no recourse there, for all intents and purposes. This is where it stops being measurable "science" and becomes an art. Only you, based on your previous interactions with this particular client and a whole lot of other factors can assess how trustworthy the client is. And you can still turn out to be wrong. It's an ever present risk factor.

Either way, good luck to you. If you can actually do the job itself, all you have to fear is fear itself. Whoever said that.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:06
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
I am not a lawyer Mar 11, 2016

DARKastheRAIN wrote:

As to legality, that's my main dilemma; I know so little about it. Do I need some kind of business ID or tax ID?


These matters are actually quite lightly regulated in the US. You can do a translation project for almost anyone (barring terrorist organizations, etc.) and then take their money. If they are in the US, they will have you sign a 1099 and report your income to the IRS; if they are not in the US, it's your responsibility to report this income. You don't need to incorporate or do anything else. Just accept the money in any account you own and report it on your tax return. Voila!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:06
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
Incorporation, VAT, etc. Mar 11, 2016

Tim Friese wrote:

You don't need to incorporate or do anything else. Just accept the money in any account you own and report it on your tax return. Voila!


Actually, much depends on where the OP lives, in addition to the client...

In some countries, if you earn more than a given amount you need to be VAT registered, complete different tax forms, etc. It would be wise if the OP checked this with an accountant/tax advisor.

P.S. I didn't notice the OP's second post (which I guess was pending approval...)

[Edited at 2016-03-11 18:11 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:06
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Maybe use a portal but don't work for peanuts Mar 11, 2016

Thanks for the additional information. It seems as though there shouldn't be too many legal hurdles. Do have a look at the Risk Management Wikis on this site under the Education tab, and maybe now would be a good time to familiarise yourself with the Scam Centre there, too.

So, before you make the final decision, you'll be taking account of content, volume, complexity, deadline... You'll need to make sure you know EXACTLY what he needs in the way of style guide and formatting. You need to get loads of things explicitly agreed with him, in writing. Not just those things mentioned above but also HOW he has to pay and WHEN. You also need to think about the possibility that he won't just say "Wow, it's great!" when he sees it. What are you prepared to do about that? Personally, I say that I'll entertain reasonable queries and requests for changes until the payment due date, but no later. All that forms the contract even if it's just a set of emails. Then if you're both happy you'll need his express authorisation to go ahead with the work.

DARKastheRAIN wrote:
I've never even sent an invoice because all the translations I've done have been through a translation service that takes care of the business side of things themselves.

I see Mirko suggested doing it through an escrow-arranging portal and that could certainly be a good idea. I've done that - used a freelancer's portal but on terms agreed between us, not the daft rates some people were used to bidding there. I preferred it because it guaranteed payment unless there were valid quality complaints (which I couldn't see happening). But if you go it alone then you'll need to send the invoice with the translation or shortly afterwards. I believe you can trial the ProZ.com invoicing facility without being a full member, but you'd need to check.

You might want to consider getting an experienced translator to check your work prior to delivery. In that case you'll be reducing your income, but it might be worth it as I sense you're seeing this partly as a training exercise.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Whoa... Mar 12, 2016

Literary translation? That's another ball game altogether, as far as I know. You may need to be talking contracts, copyright, credits and the whole intellectual property gamut (the translation is technically an intellectual property). Wait for someone in the field to speak up before any conclusive move.

Direct link Reply with quote
 
DARKastheRAIN
TOPIC STARTER
Academic Journal Mar 12, 2016

Parrot wrote:

Literary translation? That's another ball game altogether, as far as I know. You may need to be talking contracts, copyright, credits and the whole intellectual property gamut (the translation is technically an intellectual property). Wait for someone in the field to speak up before any conclusive move.


It's more of an academic journal submission.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:06
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I don't get it Mar 13, 2016

DARKastheRAIN wrote:
I've never even sent an invoice because all the translations I've done have been through a translation service that takes care of the business side of things themselves.

But you surely have issued the invoice for your tax authorities? Sending it to a customer is just as simple as sending an email. Since you have done paid work in the past, you surely know already how to handle the tax/administrative side of things in your country?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
US tax issues Mar 14, 2016

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

DARKastheRAIN wrote:
I've never even sent an invoice because all the translations I've done have been through a translation service that takes care of the business side of things themselves.

But you surely have issued the invoice for your tax authorities? Sending it to a customer is just as simple as sending an email. Since you have done paid work in the past, you surely know already how to handle the tax/administrative side of things in your country?


In the US, the tax authorities (IRS) don't ask you to submit copies of your invoices. As an independent contractor, you are supposed to track and report your income and pay the taxes yourself.
When you work for a company (direct client, agency, etc.) they also should track their payments to you, and if it is over the threshold (which is I think $600 currently) per year, they should issue a Form 1099 to you that includes the amount they paid you. They also send a copy to the IRS. You should report all your 1099 earnings on your tax return and pay taxes on them.
Foreign clients don't issue 1099s and don't report directly to the IRS, but you are still obligated to do so.

So, if the OP has never issued an invoice, and/or doesn't know how to pay taxes on his earnings that means that his earnings were under $600, or the agency he is talking about is not based in the US, so he never received a Form 1099 that would have alerted him to report his earnings.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
DARKastheRAIN
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Mar 16, 2016

Thanks for all your responses. They've been really helpful.

Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Potential direct client - not sure I'm prepared

Advanced search







Across v6.3
Translation Toolkit and Sales Potential under One Roof

Apart from features that enable you to translate more efficiently, the new Across Translator Edition v6.3 comprises your crossMarket membership. The new online network for Across users assists you in exploring new sales potential and generating revenue.

More info »
Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search