Non-paying European agencies
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:03
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 4, 2008

I started working for non-US agencies for the first time this year and my experience has been quite discouraging. I was just wondering if anyone else was having the same experience as I am.

This agency in Spain owed me over $1800. There were no quality issues as they repeatedly asked me to do more work for them. They did not respond to e-mails. However, when I posted negative feedback about them here, they finally sent me a check, begged me to remove the negative feedback and then asked me to do more work (which thankfully I refused).

Unfortunately, this check was written on a CLOSED account and was returned. They still owe me over $1800. I tried to post negative feedback again, but was told I could not do so twice in the same month, but I have contacted a moderator. I have also contacted the end client and informed them that since I was not paid, the copyright to the translation belongs to me and they are forbidden to use it.

Another agency in the UK owes me over $800 and they are simply not responding to e-mails. The last time they were late (for a much smaller amount), I complained, they apologized and finally paid. This time - no response whatsoever. I will have to post negative feedback about them as well.

Unfortunately, this is $2600 I am out and I have had to borrow money to make expenses this month. I have never had this problem with US agencies.

Sorry, I just needed to vent. It is heartbreaking to do all this work and not get paid, especially when we are struggling with the economy here. I am so tired of all the scam artists and people in the business who know nothing about translation and who are just trying to make a quick buck, that I am seriously considering throwing in the towel and quitting. Maybe I will return one day when all the rats are gone.

[Edited at 2008-05-04 05:29]


Ivana Friis Wilson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:03
Member (2008)
English to Danish
+ ...
Contact the embassy? May 4, 2008

I am really sorry to hear about your troubles with European agencies. Have you tried talking to the relevant embassy in the US? Or just threaten to do that? It seems to have had some effect in similar cases reported here.

I am relatively new at this and I am shocked to find how many dodgy agencies are out there. I am hoping to mainly source direct clients myself, stories like yours scare me.


Miguel Garcia Lopez  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:03
English to French
+ ...
Debt collecting agency May 4, 2008


You must contact a debt collecting agency, rather than the Embassy.
Look at this post for more information :

You will have to prove you gave them a service. Copies of relevant PO will certainly be the best.



Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:03
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Did you check the BLue Board first? May 4, 2008

It is a great help, I think - and another reasonable precaution is to never let a new client run up a very big bill before paying you.
I don't think the location of the agency has anytning to do with their ability or willingness to pay. At least I have clients on both sides of the Atlantic, and there is no difference as regards payments.
HOpe you will be able to get your money in the end.
A debt collecting agency is undoubtedly the best option.


Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:03
Dutch to English
+ ...
Sorry to say it ... May 4, 2008

... but you've really only got yourself to blame. Allowing any new agency - European or otherwise - to run up a bill of USD 1,800 is foolhardy to say the least.

Your problem isn't necessarily geographical. I only work with European agencies - as do many of us - and have never had a problem, so you need to ask yourself when dealing with any new agency, in Madrid or Timbukto, why on earth they'd be outsourcing that amount of work to a newbie on their books.

If they were established and reliable, one of their regulars would be doing it.

It's water under the bridge for you, but this may be useful advice for anyone else contemplating working with an untested client: build up a relationship first, before extending any significant credit. In fact, never extend credit you can't afford to write off.

I agree it's heartbreaking to work for nothing but the 'rats' will always be there Jeff - regardless of what you decide to do - rather work on your gullibility instead. The Spanish agency obviously saw you coming and took advantage of the situation.

Hope you come right

[Edited at 2008-05-04 18:00]


LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:03
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Happy endings May 4, 2008

Just to let everyone know, this story does have a happy ending. After receiving negative feedback, both companies have paid via PayPal.

Both companies have excellent BlueBoard ratings - one has 108 "5s".

As Lawyer Linguist said, it is best to do a few small jobs for a new agency first, but usually when the agency has a very large job and has exhausted their regular translators, they have tons of work and keep asking you to do more and it is hard to say no. Before you know it, you have amassed quite a large bill.

[Edited at 2008-05-04 20:23]


Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 02:03
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Glad you got paid May 4, 2008

Glad you got paid, Jeff.

In retrospect though, do you really think the word 'European' belongs in the thread's title?


Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:03
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Payment May 4, 2008

Sometimes when I outsource I will pay a bit up front to the translator in case there might be some doubt as to my credibility. It also makes the translator understand that the work will be compensated, which takes away stress.

I can understand that if an agency in Country X fails to pay you get angry at others in the same country. On one hand, this is illogical; on the other hand, sometimes this is how reputations are won and lost, often through no fault of their own.

It should be noted that due to the nature of our business it is very common that the owner of an agency is not from the country in which it is located.


Lucinda Hollenberg  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:03
Dutch to English
+ ...
Receive payment first before removing negative comment May 5, 2008

Hi Jeff,

I am glad to hear that the problem was solved to your satisfaction. I have had someone ask me to remove a negative comment and I told them that I'll be glad to do so the moment the money is in my bank account.

It is unfortunate that the world has to come to this. I agree with 'Lawyer-Linquist' not to let the amount for a new client run to high. I nudge them - even old clients - gently if the amount is climbing to a height that makes me uncomfortable. Good idea to follow.

Have a great day!


John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
Get something up front May 5, 2008

I agree with Edward Potter's point about getting something up front.

I have twice asked for part-payment upfront over the past six months. On both occasions, the 'clients' were new to me and wanted a lot of work done.

Both immediately made bank transfers, and I proceeded calmly with their translations.

If they had refused to pay in advance, then I would have declined their work.

Business is business - in Madrid, Tokyo, or Wichita, Kansas.


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