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Would there be a way that we could send a client readable but non-useable samples of text?
Thread poster: Henry Hinds

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 7, 2009

Now here is an idea that suddenly came out of nowhere. As translators we are always faced with the dilemma of handing over the merchandise first and then risking not getting paid for it. Could modern technology hold an answer for us?

For instance, would there be a way that we could send a client readable but non-useable samples of text to prove that the job has been done, and then exact payment from the client before sending the useable version?

I have been thinking of some of these excerpts from books we find on the net, where one has to pay for the book in order to be able to actually take advantage of it. Those are just samples that are partial in nature. Would there be some way also that full read-only versions that cannot be copied or perhaps self-destructing versions could be generated?

Another strategy would involve taking small excerpts out of different parts of a longer document, sending that file (even in useable format) to the client and saying "the job has been done, as soon as the $$$ is received you will get the complete file".

Your reactions are invited.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-09-07 19:56 GMT]


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Diego Donati

Local time: 09:10
Italian to English
+ ...
Could be a good idea...but not really practical (unfortunately) Sep 7, 2009

Hi Henry,

I agree that translators are faced with this dilemma. I think that you could hand out samples of translated text from the finished document, and then hand out the full document once the work has been payed. But, on the practical side, you face the following things:

1) First of all, a lot of the work that freelancers do is work that is asked for at the last minute and needs to be delivered quickly, as the end client needs it as soon as possible. So you cannot expect to be payed straight away, unfortunately, as most agencies pay after 30, 60 or 90 days...And direct clients only pay after having received the work... You would have to change the whole translation industry and how it works.

2) Even if a mechanism like the one you described existed, then every translator would have to take it as a rule to hand out only sample texts and deliver the full translated text only when agencies have payed for the service...
Otherwise, agencies or direct clients will (obviously) just look for other translators that don't use this kind of technique.

3) From what I read and seem to see, there is a new trend that will slowly, but gradually, move all translation work on the web (it will probably be web-based) with translators logging in to the client's or agency's web translation application and translating directly in the translator account that has been created. A lot of Open Source work is currently being done on translation portals. So if this, in say 10 years becomes a reality, then the "sample" text solution that you propose will not be possible.

4) For the "usable" and "non-usable" file see point 1)

So your idea is a really good one, but not really (unfortunately) easy to put into practice, I am afraid.

Regards,

Diego



[Edited at 2009-09-07 16:15 GMT]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:10
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Having a bad day? Sep 7, 2009

I usually find that trust - invested after a bit of careful advance investigation - usually works better than any such schemes. If you feel the need for holding a text hostage, why not just ask for an advance of part or all the amount. Other translators and other businesses do this, and it works.

I've had private individuals for whom I had neither an e-mail address, a home address nor a phone number walk out of my office with an expensive stack of certified translations and my invoice (I refuse cash and insist on bank transfers). Never been stiffed yet.

You could always use a PDF with the security set to disallow printing and copying. This should take care of security for technically unsophisticated clients.


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xxxPaul Daubreu
Local time: 09:10
French to German
+ ...
More problems ahead Sep 7, 2009

Diego Donati wrote:
3) From what I read and seem to see, there is a new trend that will slowly, but gradually, move all translation work on the web (it will probably be web-based) with translators logging in to the client's or agency's web translation application and translating directly in the translator account that has been created. A lot of Open Source work is currently being done on translation portals. So if this, in say 10 years becomes a reality, then the "sample" text solution that you propose will not be possible.

Regards,

Diego


Not that I am to contradict you about the above quoted point, Diego, but this technique is already used by some agencies big and small which, as I understand it, cannot be named here.

I think the agencies and clients requesting translators to work online will have to give them some kind of (financial and legal) assurance that they will be paid, as I can think of at least two cases in which translators were not paid. The clients simply said that the contents of their websites were their own intellectual property and that translators could not give any proof that they had worked for these clients - I assume that the accounts were deleted directly after the translators had completed their job.

So while I can agree with you that Henry's solution seems to be hardly transposable in everyday's business, I also understand the need to secure payment from the client's side in one way or in the other. A simple solution would be to send an encrypted file to the client, together with screenshots of some excerpts held as .JPG files.

According to some colleagues who use this method (which, I agree, is not the most elegant I can think of), all of the clients paid them within hours, if not minutes. One must only be bold enough to try it out or to alternatively ask for an advance payment.

As per myself, and aside from the already mentioned advance payment, I tell potential clients with payment deadlines over 30 days that I will be selling my financial claims to a factor and that they agree to pay the amounts due to this factor.

[Edited at 2009-09-07 17:11 GMT]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No bad day, Kevin Sep 7, 2009

There are no bad days for me, Kevin, because I do not work the Internet market. My comment relates to the situation of most of the others here, not my own.

I agree that trust is certainly the best way for us to deal at any time. However, there are and always will be those who cannot be trusted. A store is not going to let an unknown customer just walk out with a load of merchandise by his or her statement, "don't worry, I'll send you the money tomorrow". No, that just does not happen. So my question is, "why should it happen with us?"

The idea of an advance is naturally a good one that is already used, and perhaps a mechanism such as the ones I mention could also be used to keep advances coming. A PDF a security set might be the technical answer I was wondering about. I don't know how that works, but others might. I don't plan to use it.

But... you let them walk out with the merchandise, refuse cash and insist on bank transfers? And never been stiffed? Then I truly admire the honesty that prevails in the society you live in. Here that would be unthinkable.

I dunno... I was taught NEVER to refuse cash, and if I ever did, everyone I know would say I'd gone over the edge!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:10
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Protected PDF probably Sep 7, 2009

Henry Hinds wrote:
But... you let them walk out with the merchandise, refuse cash and insist on bank transfers? And never been stiffed? Then I truly admire the honesty that prevails in the society you live in. Here that would be unthinkable.

I have thought about this many times. I am lucky to be able to say that not a single customer has missed a payment in 13 years. There have been delays sometimes, but payments have always arrived.

But I see your point for translations for direct customers who are new to you. I think that a protected PDF is the way to go: you cannot copy text from them and the only solution for your customer is to pay or to retype the whole job.


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 10:10
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
I do not think this can work Sep 7, 2009

Simply because the agency needs a USABLE (i.e. completed) translation text to send to their end client. Then they invoice the client, get paid themselves, and only then pay their translator(s) (guess why payment settlement terms for translators are 30 days and more "after invoice" where the usual payment term for the majority of other industries ranges from several working days to a couple of weeks?).

If no trust - then another option is to divide the risks 50/50. I.e. 50 per cent prepayment before you start your work, the remaining 50 per cent - after the delivery. If you do not trust at all - then full payment in advance, or no cooperation at all. No need to invent a bicycle...

[Edited at 2009-09-07 19:15 GMT]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:10
French to English
That's businesses Sep 7, 2009

MariusV wrote:

Simply because the agency needs a USABLE (i.e. completed) translation text to send to their end client.

This seems the major flaw in the plan - clients, whoever they are, need to be able to print, edit, cut/paste.... the delivered document. If you offer them anything less, you have failed to deliver a translation fit for purpose, I would say.


(guess why payment settlement terms for translators are 30 days and more "after invoice" where the usual payment term for the majority of other industries ranges from several working days to a couple of weeks?).

I don't know where you get your figures from, but I translate for a credit insurer, and their policies stipulate the terms of payment that policy-holders are allowed to grant to their customers. 180 days is not unheard of in commercial transactions. I think many of us fail to understand the full consequences of being in a business and tend to confuse the terms of payment we are forced to comply with as consumers (our outgoings) and the terms of payment we agree to/negotiate/are forced to comply with as commecial ventures (our income). See also http://www.cbavington.com/Thoughts/PayTerms.shtml


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Brian Young  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:10
Danish to English
payment terms Sep 7, 2009

When I do a job for an outsourcer, I demand and expect to be paid on time, no later than 30 days, and whether or not the outsourcer has, in the meantime, been paid, has no bearing whatever on that demand.
A translator will never be able to know when or if his/her translation has been paid for. An outsourcer can always say they haven't been paid yet. That is BS, and should have no influence on when the translator gets paid. Even if the outsourcer never gets paid, that is not, and should not be, the concern of the person who has actually done the job of translating. Unless you agree, in advance, to work on some kind of consignment basis, where you do the work, and hope the outsourcer can sell it, and get paid for it. And that is a very bad business model. Well, maybe for artists, who want to show at a gallery. But not for translators who have been asked to do a job. I never do a second job for any outsourcer who does not pay on time.
I also agree that if you have decided to do a job, then that does mean sending a finished product that can be used, and on time. If you have to worry about getting paid then you should probably drop that outsourcer.


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Mykhailo Voloshko  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 10:10
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
test translations Sep 7, 2009

Henry,

Your idea is good for test translations. The simplest method is a screenshot


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Another point Sep 7, 2009

Part of my point here is why should translators be playing on someone else's playing field. Why not play on our own?

Are all these outsourcers or "agencies" so big and powerful that they should force translators to adhere to their terms rather than the opposite? Are they so well organized that they can dictate to others who must comply or die? Are they all highly professional and solvent with such a commanding market presence that they have the power not only to tell everyone to jump, but how high?

A few may be, but I would think that many are not. Some can be no more than desperate individuals sitting with a computer in an apartment with the rent two weeks in arrears looking for their next meal that may be at your expense.

We as translators are not well-organized or powerful, but neither are "agencies". What I am looking at here is just one more way we can use to get them to play on "our" field.

Yes, Mykhailo, the idea of a screenshot sounds good also. "Here's proof the job is done; as soon as good funds are received, it's yours".


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:10
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Quite accurate in some cases Sep 7, 2009

Henry Hinds wrote:
Some can be no more than desperate individuals sitting with a computer in an apartment with the rent two weeks in arrears looking for their next meal that may be at your expense.


Even some of the bigger shops aren't doing much better these days. All the more reason to watch the payment practices carefully and note any trends at an early date. And reduce your vulnerability to individual organization's failure by increasing your client base among other things.

As bad as the situation may be for many agencies these days, even good ones, it is less dire I think for good translators in major language pairs. The ones I can recommend are as busy as ever for the most part. As I have mentioned previously, one of the responses of good companies looking for cost reduction or quality improvement in this so-called crisis is to seek more direct relationships with competent freelancers where it makes sense to do so. And quite honestly, most of what I see passing through agencies really doesn't require a middle man. I like having that middle man myself, because I prefer not to engage in frequent acquisition and end customer education efforts (one of the reasons why I write and distribute so many procedures to reduce redundant communication), but if companies have frequent translation needs they really are better off developing their own stable of freelancers in direct relationships.

But getting back to the topic of this thread, I really do think it's the wrong approach to hold the client hostage until you get paid. If that is really necessary, advance payment or avoiding the transaction entirely is much better. If one is so desperate that it is considered necessary to do business with dodgy characters or dubious agencies, another line of work might be worth considering.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:10
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dealing with reputable established agencies versus dealing with private clients Sep 8, 2009

In the former instance, there is a reasonable basis for trust that you will be paid (directories like the Blue Board, whatever their other flaws, are very helpful in this regard). In the case of a private client that you do not already know, there really is no basis for trust, and Henry's example very much applies. I don't get to haul $200 of merchandise out of Costco by telling the cashier I'll come back next week to take care of the bill, and neither should a translator provide $200 worth of service for a promise of payment in thirty days from someone who is unable to provide an established record of paying his creditors.

This is why with private clients (the precious few that I have!) I work on a "payment-prior-to-delivery" basis. This means I will agree to do the work for a determined fee, notify the client when the work is done, secure payment, and then deliver the work (and of course address any concerns there might be regarding the work thereafter).

The only exceptions I would make to this would be if I were offered a job from a direct client above a value of say $500, in which case I would expect a certain percentage of payment up front.

I've also applied this arrangement is some instances involving foreign agencies that did not have established records on the Blue Board or similar directories.......

To me, this seems fair and reasonable.

[Edited at 2009-09-08 02:53 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Translators as lending institutions? Sep 8, 2009

Henry Hinds wrote:
Part of my point here is why should translators be playing on someone else's playing field. Why not play on our own?


Dead right... or wrong, Henry!

At the very moment a translator accepts to be paid later than COD, s/he is no longer a translator (after all, the translation job has been completed) and becomes a lending institution.

I strive to be ranked among the best translators in my pair/specialties, however I'd be proud to be one of the worst money lending institutions in the world. Whenever a job/prospect is not sooo interesting for any reason, but still acceptable, instead of bluntly saying NO!, I raise my rates 20% and offer a 20% discount for payment in one week.

Henry Hinds wrote:
Are all these outsourcers or "agencies" so big and powerful that they should force translators to adhere to their terms rather than the opposite? Are they so well organized that they can dictate to others who must comply or die? Are they all highly professional and solvent with such a commanding market presence that they have the power not only to tell everyone to jump, but how high?


Of course not so many agencies - if any - have the cash flow to afford paying all translators immediately, but they can really expedite matters. The supply chain in translation is short. It doesn't involve buying seeds to plant what will feed livestock that will provide meat to make burgers, the latter being paid COD.

Henry Hinds wrote:
A few may be, but I would think that many are not. Some can be no more than desperate individuals sitting with a computer in an apartment with the rent two weeks in arrears looking for their next meal that may be at your expense.


This is the point... desperation! Thse guys should go begging on the streets. At least they won't have to buy Trados, among other things, before doing it.


My security solution? FAX them your translation, printed on recycled paper using some ornate script font that defies OCR and any fast keyboard operator. Of course you'll keep your Arial/Times/Courier file intact for delivery. My guess is they'll pay before the fax transmission is over.


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