what do I do if someone doesn't pay me?
Thread poster: heatherd

Local time: 08:44
Italian to English
Sep 30, 2009

I recently did a translation from an outsourcer (an individual) who is registered on the proz site. I was not paid when promised and after many email reminders and a telephone call to the person in which payment was promised to me by the end of the week....I still have not been paid. What can I do?? And if there is no hope of getting paid, can I somehow alert other users of the site to how this person has treated me?


Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:44
French to German
+ ...
The obvious reply is... Sep 30, 2009

make your LWA (Likehood of Working Again) publicly known by using the Blue Board - http://www.proz.com/blueboard

There is no other way to "sanction" outsourcers who take the liberty of not paying translators for the services they provided.

[Edited at 2009-10-01 04:59 GMT]


Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:44
Italian to English
Options Sep 30, 2009

Hello Heather

Sorry to hear of your difficulties.
It would be helpful to know the actual timescales involved and the in which country the outsourcer is located, as practices do vary (ignoring for a moment what you were promised).
If the delay is really unacceptable, you can make a Blue Board entry; full details are only visible to (paying) Members but all Users can post entries. The purpose is to say whether you would work with this outsourcer again, not to risk claims of defamation by making accusations. Giving a score of 1, without comment, is enough to deter translators from working for this outsourcer in future.
Secondly, you could submit a Support Request to staff, providing full details of the order. They may be able to take action against this outsourcer, such as preventing them from posting jobs in future or even removing the profile in extreme cases.
No doubt others can give you advice on Debt collection agencies and legal redress but only if you can tell us the country and sum involved.


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:44
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Post an entry in the BlueBoard... Oct 1, 2009

...as the very last resource. Only if you are certain that this person will not pay and you are sure you want to definitely break up the relationship with this outsourcer.

The BlueBoard entries are for good. You cannot take them back once you made one. If the situation is so bad and you have warned this person about legal action if no payment is made, a BlueBoard entry would at least help other translators to keep safe from this person.


Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:44
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Collection agency Oct 1, 2009

- If it's worth it (what amount are we talking about?), send a collection agency. They will keep a percentage and collect the money for you.

- Do not work for individuals/agencies that you are not sure about. Difficult to determine, but:

I have notice that when people raise the image they have about themselves, then they develop certain "selective" insticts that help them increase their income. People generally trust other people who seem to be in the same financial/social class as they are themselves. Translators nowadays consider themselves as "low to average income", and they adjust their behavior accordingly, that is, they tend to accept work for individuals/agencies that they know nothing about, since they are not selective, and they tend to accept bad terms and rates (because they think that's what they deserve).

Personally, I never trusted any "individual" who was not in my immediate reach (living in the same area, owning a business in the same area, working for a legal or other "serious" firm, etc). The whole "globalization" issue remains shady until global regulations are established. Without easy to access global collection systems, the global markets are not diffrent now than they were 50 years ago.

This does not mean that I recommend that you do the same thing, but it gives you an idea about my own standards which are aimed at protecting my income and my reputation in the market.

[Edited at 2009-10-01 15:11 GMT]


Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:44
German to English
+ ...
Lawyer Oct 1, 2009

Eleftherios Kritikakis wrote:
If it's worth it (what amount are we talking about?), send a collection agency. They will keep a percentage and collect the money for you.

If it's worth it, let an attorney do it for you. They will collect the money for you and charge the defaulting party for their work.



Denise Yang
Local time: 15:44
English to Chinese
big company is not necessarily trustworthy Oct 2, 2009

I worked for an individual once a few years ago, and got paid without any problem.

In my near 10-year translation career (as a freelancer in the last five years), I' d always been paid until recently. Everytime when I decide to work for an agency, I check their website to get a rough idea about them, but this time it was a bad experience still.

To make it short,

I finished a small case for this seemingly big US agency's HK office in May, and then issued my invoice at the end of May. According to the information they had provided before I accepted that assingment, the invoice should be paid within a month.

On July 15, I wrote to their payment window, asking about the payment status, but no one replied.

On July 25, I wrote again to that window and c.c. some other contact windows which I fortunately accidentally got from the person who assigned that invoice job to me.

Their HK Production Lead replied this time and c.c. the person in charge of payment (thereafter "Payment Person") asking him(her) to check this invoice’s payment status.

Payment Person did not reply to me, but replied to the Production Lead (c.c. me) that their company has a USD$50 minimum policy (which I had not been told before and did not know of until then), and asked Production Lead if they would either assign me more work to add up to USD 50 or pay the invoice and closed my file.

After reading that c.c. email, I expressed my intention to end my vendor relationship with them. But Production Lead said they'd like to continue to work with me, and that they would try to assign me some works.

She did try to assign a job to me, but I couldn’t take it. So on July 28, I replied to her that it was ok for their firm to further delay the payment until the end of August, if I still couldn’t or haven’t taken any other new job by then. She agreed.

On Aug. 27, Production Lead wrote to me (c.c. Payment Person) that Payment Person would work out the solution to help me get paid for that invoice.

I got no update since then.

On Sep. 14, I wrote to Payment Person (c.c. Production Lead ) to request the wire of payment.

This time, Payment Person finally replied (addressing to me the first time), saying that their bank has a $ 50 limit for wire transfer, so s(he) has to keep my invoice on hold.

I could not believe that everything returned to day one, after two months waiting and after the firm promised to take care of it and to pay my invoice.

So I wrote to Payment Person and Production Lead, making it clear that I would rather close the vendor relationship and get paid, and that they cannot keep a vendor’s invoice on hold forever on the grounds of below their minimum amount, without any time limit. After all, you must pay a vendor's remaining invoices anyway, however small they are, when you close a vendor's file, right?

Then Production Lead replied that Payment Person was in the process to get my payment processed, and that Payment Person should get back to me once there's any update from their Treasury.

On Sep. 18 (Friday), Payment Person asked me to resubmit the invoice. I resubmitted that same day.

On Sep. 19, Payment Person told me that it would go with THAT WEEK'S payment cycle.

On Sep. 29, I sent email to them again asking about the payment status. And they don't answer my email since.

And until now, Oct. 2, it is still not paid, without any explanation given. I finally realize the firm's Treasury has no intention to pay that invoice, even though they are obliged to do so. (but I really believe Production Lead was trying to help at first )

To be honest, that invoice is just a small money. If they are sincerely trying to solve this matter, I am willing to offer/accept alternative ways for them to pay that money, in order for them to save the cost of international wire transfer. But I was disappointed at how they dealt with this and how they delayed and avoided their vendor's payment request. It is a small money, but it's my money, and that amount may mean nothing for an average US or HK person, but big enough to provide a week's meals for a poor child and for saving an animal. I would rather donate that money to charity than be forced to donate it to that firm.

However samll a job is, we do our best to deliver good quality, so I think it's fair to ask an agency to pay for our quality work, however small the dollar amount is, isn't it?

I just don't understand how an (big) agency would like to damage their reputation for such a small money?

[Edited at 2009-10-02 08:04 GMT]


Denise Yang
Local time: 15:44
English to Chinese
update Oct 14, 2009

This US-based agency saw my post here and probably my entry on the Blue Board. They finally contacted me, made some clarification and made the payment today. When they contacted me, they suggested that I consider modifying my posting after I am paid, but I did not respond to that suggestion. Because I did not want them to think it as a condition for them to pay for my work. Now that they made the payment, I'd like to update the information. And I hope no other translators will need to experience the same thing with them again.

I tried to delete my payment request on the Blue Board, but a message shown seems to imply that I have requested to delete the whole entry. I wouldn't want to do that. Anyway, I'll check the Blue Board again to see if my LWA entry is still there. If it's gone, I'll make an entry again, and this time, maybe, just maybe, raise the rating a notch higher. After all, they finally faced it, apologized and effected the payment.


QUOI  Identity Verified

Chinese to English
+ ...
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush Oct 14, 2009

Cliché but so true. Always ask for payment up front, particularly if it is a first-time and/or private client. Even offer a small discount for advance payment. What's the point of having a happy and satisfied client when you don't get paid?


Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:44
Italian to English
Blue Board Rules Oct 14, 2009

Denise; I suggest you refer to the Blue Board rules: http://www.proz.com/?sp=siterules&mode=show&category=blue_board_bb_blueboard.

There are time limits on editing etc. I'm not an expert on these, so if you are not entirely clear how they relate to your case I suggest you send a Support Request: http://www.proz.com/support?mode=ask&sp_sub_mode=ticket_submit.

[Edited at 2009-10-28 17:57 GMT]


Denise Yang
Local time: 15:44
English to Chinese
thanks for information Oct 15, 2009

Russell, thank you for the links.


Christopher Fitzsimons
Local time: 08:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Similar story Oct 28, 2009

I had a very similar experience. I did a very large job worth over 1000 Euros for a company in a very short period of time and the payment terms were 60 days. At the time I was living in the UK and the agency is Portuguese. The deadline for payment came and went and despite repeatedly contacting them by e-mail and receiving replies assuring me that I would be paid, that the general manager/vendor manager was out of the office today/this week but that it would all be sorted out as soon as they returned and so on, payment did not occur. I actually moved to Portugal around three months ago and this agency is located near to where I am living. So I threatened to come into their offices to enquire about the non-payment and received an e-mail apologising(again) for the delay in paying my invoice and assuring me that this wouldn't be necessary as payment had now been made. Which, needless to say, was a lie. I e-mailed the PM, general Manager and Vendor Manager almost daily for a month with no avail.

So around a week later I visited the office and spoke to the Project Manager face to face. Of course, the Vendor Manager and General Manager were both out of the office on that particular day due to some strange twist of fate and the poor, innocent PM was adamant that payment had already been made. I resigned myself to waiting for her e-mail to clarify the situation and verify that payment had been made. Didn't happen. I should mention at this point that the payment was being made to my UK account which complicated me actually checking if the amount had been sent(3 day delay on international payments) as I didn't have a Euro/Portuguese account at that time. So, I went back to their offices and this time, instead of being polite and courteous, got angry and emotional, shouted (in a professional and non-aggressive manner!) at the PM and demanded that my invoice be paid and that I be given proof of the payment having been made. Keep in mind this was a month after the deadline for payment had passed and I had been informed for the entire month that payment would be/had been made. I.e. I had been repeatedly lied to. So. To cut a long story short, miraculously it was possible to call the Manager and to produce proof of the bank transfer which had been processed the previous day as the PM had told me. Strange, then, that the date on the payment receipt was that same day of my visit, and the time of the transfer around 10 minutes after I had appeared in the office... Odd indeed. I was also informed at this point that my invoices, as well as those of three other translators who were owed money had now been paid and that the reason for the delay was simply that we were new freelancers whose details had not yet been correctly entered into their system. Yeah right.

By this point I had made a Blue Board entry, a few days before my second visit. After my payment had finally been made, after me wasting my time and energy chasing the PM I received an e-mail from the Manager asking me to remove my Blue Board entry as payment had now been made. Needless to say I did not reply, although I seriously considered it. So the manager replied, on the Blue Board, citing the financial crisis:
"Well... payment was made late, that's true. But do you really know the actual financial Crisis all companies are going through? It was a pleasure to work with you."

I found this insulting, degrading and condescending, to say the least.
The moral of the story. The financial crisis has nothing to do with translators not receiving payment for their work. Greedy, selfish and devious agencies exist and unfortunately there are many of them. I honestly don't think I would have received payment for this job If I hadn't a.) made a blueboard entry b.)been incredibly persistent to the point of visiting the offices of the agency twice and c.) threatened legal action. The amount of the invoice was too much to ignore and to let go. Had it been a lower amount though, I probably still would have persisted as this is an issue of values, decency and basic respect.
In short- be persistent, do everything you have to do to be paid for your hard work and then ensure that other translators do not fall into the same trap. I also contacted the cIOL of which I am an Associate, to inform them of the behaviour of this agency. Best of luck.



John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Getting personal Oct 28, 2009

Christopher Fitzsimons BA(Hons) ACIL wrote:

In short- be persistent, do everything you have to do to be paid for your hard work and then ensure that other translators do not fall into the same trap. I also contacted the cIOL of which I am an Associate, to inform them of the behaviour of this agency. Best of luck.


Well done Chris. I recently took a very similar approach with one ex-client. They also paid when things started getting personal.


Vincenzo Di Maso  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:44
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
injunction decree Oct 28, 2009

You could ask for an injunction decree. They use to work. It's hard to oppose for a client that is wrong


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