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Delivering translation without any guarantee of being paid - What should I do ?
Thread poster: Mathieu Coulon
Mathieu Coulon
France
Local time: 09:14
English to French
Oct 26, 2008

Hi everyone,

I'm currently a 19-year-old French student in Foreign Languages and plan to become a translator at the end of my studies.

In parallel with my studies, I've replied to a job offer, which asks for a English to French translator for a website in gambling activities.

I was given a test which I succeeded in, and therefore my employer (seemingly from Eastern Europe) told me I would be paid $15 per 600 words, what I agreed.

As a consequence, I was paid $18 on my Paypal account for the test, which was 700 words.

Now, I've received a 21000-words project (so basically more than $500), for which I was given a 2-weeks deadline.
I've started to translate it, but I fear I don't have any guarantee that I will be paid since there is no real agreement but the e-mail in which he says I will be paid.

I know very little in terms of legislation and of common practices since I am not a translator for the moment.

In your opinion, what should I do ? Should I ask right now for any guarantee ? Should I translate the thing, then send him a part of the project and ask to be paid before I send the rest ? Should I send the whole document and just hope I will be paid ?

I've no real idea about what to do, I actually don't know whether my situation is legal, but what I know is that it would be really problematic for me not to be paid, since I'm spending a huge time on it, and $500 represent quite an important amount of money for a student like me.

Thanks a lot for any advice you would give me.

Regards.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-10-26 17:15]

[Modifié le 2008-10-26 17:18]


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Tomas Mosler, DipTrans IoLET MCIL MITI  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 09:14
Member (2008)
English to Czech
why? Oct 26, 2008

Which general / forum rule exactly prohibits to mention any specific business name?
(Anyone with basic command of Google can dig up a bunch of - for example Czech - agencies paying 0.025 usd / sw within any minute, so I kind of don't see the point.)
Just curious.

Edit: to clarify - this was inspired by a hint (now removed) from a fellow forum member, indicating the name was (originally) given.

[Edited at 2008-10-26 19:51]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:14
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Here we go again.... Oct 26, 2008

Mathieu Coulon wrote:
Now, I've received a 21000-words project (so basically more than $500), for which I was given a 2-weeks deadline.
I've started to translate it, but I fear I don't have any guarantee that I will be paid since there is no real agreement....


First off, never start ANY job until all the terms for it are clear. Never.

I assume you are aware of the fact that this is a ridiculous rate for the job, about 25% of what can probably be considered serious. That's your problem - you'll get wiser with time I assume. $500 for what promises to be two weeks of full work is pretty ridiculous; I think you can do about as well working at McDonald's.

With regard to the payment/delivery problem, why not inform the client that this job is COD? If they don't agree, then cancel it and move on. As far as the exact mechanism is concerned, you work it out. You could insist on the advance to your PayPal account after which you send the file, or you could send it as a passworded ZIP file and send the password after you get paid. Paying such a trivial sum should be no problem at all in this case. If the company won't do this, blow them off and find better clients.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:14
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
In your position, I would back out of the deal fast Oct 26, 2008

These are the reasons:

1) Alongside your studies, it will be impossible to translate 21,000 words within 2 weeks. It is fairly unlikely that you will be able to translate fast enough to finish it in the time, and that alone will give the agency (from its point of view) enough reason not to pay you at all.

2) In any kind of business, no above-board business will place an order of that magnitude with a new supplier, without having first established an ongoing business relationship. Therefore, the mere fact that the order has been placed with you, a new supplier, gives you reason for concern.

3) The rate paid is far too low, for a student or anybody else.

I would also like to point out that the person who placed the order with you is not, as you express it, your "employer", but a "customer". In that context, it is to be remembered that it is the specific task of a customer to try and get away with whatever they can. You have to bear this in mind when negotiating work.

Have you discussed the other terms, such as payment deadlines, who pays the bank transfer fees, etc.? Even if you are only paid $500 for that large quantity of work (correctly expressed: you only charge your customer $500 for that amount of work), that sum is too large for you to allow your customer to pay you by PayPal. The PayPal fees are too high for that kind of amount of money.

So, my advice is to back out of it, and take on smaller jobs, and smaller risks, from a number of different agencies, and with amounts and deadlines that will not jeopardise your studies.

If you continue, you will need to require payment in instalments, however the customer will not pay you in instalments, since, in most cases, customers like to have as long as possible to pay AFTER receiving the complete, finished job. In the case of $500, most customers cannot manage to pay in 30 days - or anything remotely similar to it - either. If you need the money, you will probably have to wait ages for it.

Astrid


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:14
English to German
+ ...
A quick note on fairness and good business practices Oct 26, 2008

Aside from agreeing to a ridiculous rate which indicates that you didn't do your homework regarding the going rates in the first place:

You are the one who is considering to breach an agreement and you even make it public in a forum that is visible to the rest of the world, including your client. Yet you are questioning your client.

You already stated publicly that you started work, meaning that you agreed to the conditions, i.e. rate and delivery date. In written form, so to speak.

Now you are planning on backing out and to drop the project out of the blue.

Your clients rely on you as much as you rely on them regarding payment.

There are black sheep among outsourcers -
and there are black sheep among translators. Those who stand outsourcers up.

Fairness is a two-way street.

This will be an excellent lesson for the future.


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Mathieu Coulon
France
Local time: 09:14
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Oct 26, 2008

Thank you for your answers.

Actually, the translations which I was given are quite repetitive, so finally it is not so long to be translated.
Until now, I've done like 600 words/hour, that's why I thought that 15$/hour was not so bad (but for sure, I believe you if you tell me it is too low).

But for sure, if the original document was harder, I would not manage to translate at that speed.

Nicole, I cannot see where I say I may breach the agreement. I have engaged myself in an agreement which I will fulfill, for sure, even with what I've read here.

I have tried to look quickly at prices for non-technical translations, and the prices I found are, for sure, higher than these, but since I am not an "agreed" translator, I do not pretend that my work is worth this value.

I think I will adopt the passworded zipfile option, which I had not thought to.
Moreover, thank you Astrid for underlining the payment problems, I'll try and solve this point quickly with the "client".

[Modifié le 2008-10-26 19:32]


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:14
Swedish to English
+ ...
Boring things like taxes, etc. Oct 26, 2008

Mathieu Coulon wrote:

I was given a test which I succeeded in, and therefore my employer (seemingly from Eastern Europe) told me I would be paid $15 per 600 words, what I agreed.


Now, I've received a 21000-words project (so basically more than $500), for which I was given a 2-weeks deadline.

As Astrid has already pointed out, this person is your customer, client or whatever. That is unless he/she has offered to pay all applicable employer taxes and social security fees. Assuming this is not the case you will have to take these into account when deciding whether the rate offered is acceptable.

You don't give any indication as to where you reside, but if it's anywhere in Western Europe, taxes and social security can reduce your revenue (yes revenue, not income) considerably. When freelancing living in Sweden, for example, I used to do a rough calculation and deduct 60-65% when considering what to charge clients. All this assumes you intend to stay legal.

Considering the rate you have accepted, maybe you should look at Kevin's suggestion next time around?

As to the 21,000/2 weeks for an inexperienced translator - I do hope your university gives you a long autumn break.


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:14
Swedish to English
+ ...
Have you agreed this with the client? Oct 26, 2008

Mathieu Coulon wrote:
I think I will adopt the passworded zipfile option, which I had not thought to.

What were the agreed payment terms? If, let's say, you agreed to 30 days from invoice date, the client would expect to receive a usable file on the agreed date and to pay within 30 days. Whatever the terms were, you can't unilaterally change them at this late stage.

You can of course consider this strategy for future assignments, from this client or others. But you might find that some/many/most clients are unwilling to accept this kind of arrangement.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:14
English to German
+ ...
No discussion of specific outsourcers in the forums, please Oct 26, 2008

Tomas Mosler wrote:

Which general / forum rule exactly prohibits to mention any specific business name?

Forum rule no. 8, to be precise - thanks for taking a moment to review the applicable site rules.

Best regards,
Ralf


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xxxUSER0059  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 10:14
English to Finnish
+ ...
Meta: edit after edit can make a discussion confusing to the verge of incomprehensibility Oct 26, 2008

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-10-26 17:15]

[Modifié le 2008-10-26 17:18]


Now you are planning on backing out and to drop the project out of the blue.


Nicole, I cannot see where I say I may breach the agreement.

[Modifié le 2008-10-26 19:32]


(In addition, at least one message in this thread has been memory-holed altogether, or so I seem to recall.)

The features that allow participants and administrators to transform a discussion into a moving target, as has happened here, seem less than meaningful. The logical interconnectedness of messages must not be removed; otherwise we end up guessing at what was really said.

If said features are considered necessary, there should at least be a way to call up the original message in order to see what the responses actually refer to.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 09:14
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Think again... Oct 26, 2008

I think I will adopt the passworded zipfile option

I remember hints from people in a similar situation thinking loud the same way. It sure gives one a feeling to be in control. On the other hand I dont remember to have ever read about anybody doing it - forget about doing it and achieving anything. They probably all realized you may end up in a tit-for-tat situation: you get a mail about a vinculated payment, to be released upon receiving the zip password ... and on and on it goes.

I would do the job and send it in - with an invoice of course. And if this is too hard on your nerves, I would ask for a partial payment for a partial delivery. It's all about trust, how to build it up, and in this case, how to keep it. Without any guarantee of being paid? You have a contract, even if it is "only" emails. And the same Email is the contract for the other side - a guarantee that you will deliver. So that they can deliver up the food chain - to get paid to pay you.

Regards

Vito

[urejeno ob 2008-10-26 21:05]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:14
English to German
+ ...
Well told, Vito. Oct 26, 2008

[quote]Vito Smolej wrote:

It's all about trust, how to build it up, and in this case, how to keep it. Without any guarantee of being paid? You have a contract, even if it is "only" emails. And the same Email is the contract for the other side - a guarantee that you will deliver. So that they can deliver up the food chain - to get paid to pay you.


That's the way it goes.



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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:14
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Vito is right Oct 26, 2008

Vito Smolej wrote:
I would do the job and send it in - with an invoice of course. And if this is too hard on your nerves, I would ask for a partial payment for a partial delivery. It's all about trust, how to build it up, and in this case, how to keep it.


You've already stepped in the cow pie, so you might as well go for the full course lesson. It might turn out just fine; these things usually do. In eight years of business I've had very, very few invoices go unpaid, though I had to chase some of them. However, for the future, you might want to think very carefully about the terms under which you do business with clients over whom you have little legal leverage if something goes wrong. If you are nervous, ask for advance payment or at least partial payment in advance. Chasing payments across national borders can be a real nuisance. But consider also that the client might be just as nervous about being let down by you. In the end it really is all about trust.

If somehow you end up getting shafted and the client doesn't pay, you haven't lost much, since at the rate you agreed to, you are almost working for free anyway


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:14
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
None of us can guarantee we'll be paid Oct 26, 2008

Mathieu Coulon wrote:
I was paid $18 on my Paypal account for the test, which was 700 words.

Well that's a good start isn't it? I've never done a 700-word test, but I've done some free ones

I fear I don't have any guarantee that I will be paid since there is no real agreement but the e-mail in which he says I will be paid.

An email saying that you will be paid IS an agreement (provided you keep to your side of the deal and provide a usable translation within the agreed time-limit). A 6-page contract can make everything absolutely clear, but it doesn't actually guarantee money in the bank.

Many of our peers have pointed out the things that you may wish to do differently in the future, but I think you've as much chance as the rest of us of being paid at the end of the day.


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