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Odd question to a client: How much do you owe me?
Thread poster: Nicole Schnell

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
English to German
+ ...
Oct 6, 2009

Hello,

I do have a weird question. Each year I am losing about US $2000.00 because I tend to forget to invoice all the flurries of microscopic "joblets" for my favorite, my regular and my largest clients. Sounds sloppy and like a lot of money? Indeed. But I am not alone as fellow translators / friends revealed and acknowledged. I am not talking about favors, I am talking about: Tiny little rush jobs, additional pages of a website, number 27, 38, and 42 of a large series of small press releases, and such. Stuff, that should have been invoiced but disappeared into oblivion.

Now I am really embarrassed. Have you ever asked a client for a list of jobs you did but for which you never sent an invoice?

TIA,

Nicole


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:29
Italian to English
+ ...
No... Oct 6, 2009

I don't tend to charge tiny jobs of the type you mention, I throw them in as freebies (everything I do charge gets put in my spreadsheet straightaway). However, I have had to write to clients asking them to re-send me the jobs and correspondence sent both ways in the previous few days, when my computer crashed.

In your case, are your clients aware that you are (should be) charging them for these jobs? Have you written the charges down in the cover e-mails? If so, I'd be more inclined to hunt through my own e-mails than ask the clients to track them down, although I suppose if each microjob was given a job number by the client they would be relatively easy for them to trace.

Edited to add that I don't get "flurries" of joblets, just a handful a year - I might think again about charging for them if they added up to a substantial number.

[Edited at 2009-10-06 06:36 GMT]


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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:29
Member
German to English
+ ...
A summary? Oct 6, 2009

Could you put together a rough summary of what you think you've done, even if it's not close to being accurate, and ask the customer to confirm and add any more that you might have overlooked. It might just look a bit better then asking them to produce an entire list from scratch.

Regards
Mary


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hi, Marie-Hélène Oct 6, 2009

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

I don't tend to charge tiny jobs of the type you mention, I throw them in as freebies (everything I do charge gets put in my spreadsheet straightaway). However, I have had to write to clients asking them to re-send me the jobs and correspondence sent both ways in the previous few days, when my computer crashed.

In your case, are your clients aware that you are (should be) charging them for these jobs? Have you written the charges down in the cover e-mails? If so, I'd be more inclined to hunt through my own e-mails than ask the clients to track them down, although I suppose if each microjob was given a job number by the client they would be relatively easy for them to trace.

Edited to add that I don't get "flurries" of joblets, just a handful a year - I might think again about charging for them if they added up to a substantial number.

[Edited at 2009-10-06 06:36 GMT]


To be honest, I am not talking about freebies. They are on the house. With this particular client I am working with up to three PMs at the same time - five different PMs in total at the same company. I chiefly handle ongoing projects, some of which take up to two years to be finished. However, I often can't keep up with bookkeeping because during the course of such long-term projects the cooperation works similar to being a salaried employee. They are too busy to send their usually perfect POs, I am busy, and I forget...


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hi Mary! Oct 6, 2009

Mary Worby wrote:

Could you put together a rough summary of what you think you've done, even if it's not close to being accurate, and ask the customer to confirm and add any more that you might have overlooked. It might just look a bit better then asking them to produce an entire list from scratch.

Regards
Mary


Yes, sort of. Theoretically. There are no gaps in our file system. Going through hundreds of small files with varying formats to check the word count is what will turn into a nightmare, as entire clusters of projects were assigned with the same job numbers. I notified the client already in regard to the rough estimate for 2008. Rough, that is...


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:29
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Fixed fee? Oct 6, 2009

I see a little what your problem is, I regularly work on Market Research Questionnaires and "they" tend to modify the questions and answers depending on the feedback they get from the translators. So I often see 1 big assignment and several small follow-up ones for each project.

Now the easiest is to accept all the jobs and each time they come with somehting new you return the translation and say "That was 150 words, I'll add it to the bill"
(which you can do immediately, or you can put it in a spreadsheet.

Now if you have several of those clients it might be best to charge them a fixed fee
for all small jobs in the month - easy bookkeeping: 2000 usd / 12 months / 4 clients = 50 usd (you gotta make some profit!) each a month for ALL jobs under [enter you tiny joblet size here]. I works like a buspass - the clients are allowed to send you all sorts of mini jobs and you still get paid. - basically you sell them your time (which you have to reserve for small jobs)

If you do not have so many jobs, going through your email once a month and counting all the "I'll add it to th bill" mails shouldn't be so hard either....

===
Ed


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I guess we need a fulltime secretary Oct 6, 2009

Edward Vreeburg wrote:

I see a little what your problem is, I regularly work on Market Research Questionnaires and "they" tend to modify the questions and answers depending on the feedback they get from the translators. So I often see 1 big assignment and several small follow-up ones for each project.

Now the easiest is to accept all the jobs and each time they come with somehting new you return the translation and say "That was 150 words, I'll add it to the bill"
(which you can do immediately, or you can put it in a spreadsheet.

Now if you have several of those clients it might be best to charge them a fixed fee
for all small jobs in the month - easy bookkeeping: 2000 usd / 12 months / 4 clients = 50 usd (you gotta make some profit!) each a month for ALL jobs under [enter you tiny joblet size here]. I works like a buspass - the clients are allowed to send you all sorts of mini jobs and you still get paid. - basically you sell them your time (which you have to reserve for small jobs)

If you do not have so many jobs, going through your email once a month and counting all the "I'll add it to th bill" mails shouldn't be so hard either....

===
Ed


I am outsourcing invoicing, accounting and taxes already. Handling all the correspondence while doing my full time job as a translator is simply too much.

My question however remains the same:

Is a request for such a list undiplomatic?

[Edited at 2009-10-06 07:41 GMT]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:29
Italian to English
+ ...
I see your problem too Oct 6, 2009

But it sounds as if it would be just as much of a nightmare for your client to find the missing joblets, so it doesn't seem fair to ask them.
In specific response to your question: it would seem more than undiplomatic to me, it would seem unprofessional - it's your job to keep your accounts up to date, not theirs.

However, it sounds as if you have an excellent relationship with this client, so it might be worth calling them up and sounding out how they'd feel about you charging a lump sum to cover the situation to date (and resolving to keep better accounts in the future!). I also agree with Edward - a fixed fee seems the best way forward for these microjobs.

[Edited at 2009-10-06 07:33 GMT]


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Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2007)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Interesting! Oct 6, 2009

Other side of the coin:
Don't they remember when exactly they should pay to you?
IMHO the question should be as follows:

Why did you forget to pay me?


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nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:29
English to French
+ ...
the client need an invoice to pay Oct 6, 2009

M. Ali Bayraktar wrote:

Other side of the coin:
Don't they remember when exactly they should pay to you?
IMHO the question should be as follows:

Why did you forget to pay me?


Not exactly.
Usually accounting regulation orders that you have a valid invoice before making any payment to a supplier.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hi, M. Ali Bayraktar! Oct 6, 2009

M. Ali Bayraktar wrote:

Other side of the coin:
Don't they remember when exactly they should pay to you?
IMHO the question should be as follows:

Why did you forget to pay me?


That's easy: We agreed in our contract on our payment terms. If I send my invoice later, I will be paid later. Fine with me, but I would be insane to send an extra invoice for each little job. As true business partners, we would be insane to waste each others' time by bombarding each other with correspondence.


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Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2007)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Anyway, it is a payable account Oct 6, 2009

nordiste wrote:

M. Ali Bayraktar wrote:

Other side of the coin:
Don't they remember when exactly they should pay to you?
IMHO the question should be as follows:

Why did you forget to pay me?


Not exactly.
Usually accounting regulation orders that you have a valid invoice before making any payment to a supplier.


and should be remembered too.
What if your electricity or gas bill would be lost? Would say I have no bill so I shouldn't pay it?
It should be tracked. And they should send informative notes that they have a payable account and that they are waiting for the invoice.

By the way, it is very easy and costs just putting an appointment flag in outlook's calendar and it will alarm on that date.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:29
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
part of your job Oct 6, 2009

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:


In specific response to your question: it would seem more than undiplomatic to me, it would seem unprofessional - it's your job to keep your accounts up to date, not theirs.



[Edited at 2009-10-06 07:33 GMT]


Unprofessional, exactly. It's entirely your job. However, if your relatationship is good, you can of course indeed ask for their help once and try to keep your bookkeeping up to date next time, or agree on a different payment scheme.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not sure if I am supposed to do my client's bookkeeping Oct 6, 2009

efreitag wrote:

Unprofessional, exactly. It's entirely your job.



If I had any POs, I could write invoices without any problem. I am talking about the numerous jobs without POs. I do the bookkeeping for my direct clients. That's included in our rates. This one here is a translation agency, and it is their job.


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Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:29
English to Dutch
+ ...
Doable in an ongoing business relationship Oct 6, 2009

Hi Nicole,

As a PM, I've had requests like these every now and then, and I don't mind that much when they come from our regular team - some of the best translators just happen to be somewhat disorganised in their admin, and I consider dealing with that as part of my job. You do have to take into account though that you'll make a slightly less organised impression. Entirely up to you to figure out how much you mind that.

Though I don't suggest you make a habit out of it, and I wouldn't ask them to produce the list of missed minis within 24 hours, but I get the impression that there's a lot of trust and goodwill in your business relationship with this particular client. It does depend a bit on their admin system though. Either you're asking them to simply have their system tick off paid jobs on a printout of all jobs and they're done in under 15 minutes, or you're sending them on a wild goose chase through a year of hasty outsourcing and unregistered jobs... Try and formulate your request in such a way that it shows that you're aware of possibility #2, I'd say, and indeed leave open the option of settling it in a lump sum.

If you don't want to get into different setups altogether, for future joblets like these, I'd suggest to add a code to your confirmation mail (e.g. ADMINLATER) so that you can easily track back what you missed with GoogleDesktop or something similar. Let the PMs know about it too so that they know what the code's doing there - perhaps something like that could save you some time tracking back over your correspondence.


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