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Should I swallow a large loss to keep a good client?
Thread poster: Sharon Sideris
Sharon Sideris  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:32
German to English
+ ...
Dec 7, 2009

Just want to gather a few opinions before making this big business decision.

I am in the unfortunate position of being mainly reliant on one large client. I have tried to diversify but it seems hard at the moment and also the fact that I am almost always working on something for my main client means that whenever I hear from a possible new client I have to say no and the relationship never takes off. Anyway, the end result is that my main income is from this client. They pay on time, are not all that difficult to work with, and I have built up a good working relationship with some of their employees.

The situation now is that I did a large job that took over two weeks of my time. The client had some complaints about the document, which were not errors, more questions of their preferred terms, I made the alterations they wanted and sent it back within hours.

It seemed odd to me at the time that they were making such a fuss, now I am starting to realize it was all a ploy not to pay. The agency says the end client will not pay and they will not pay me. The job is in the thousands of dollars. It is such a large amount of money I feel like I can't afford to lose it, but then again, cannot afford to lose my major source of income either by going after them, which puts me in a difficult spot.

Does anyone have any similar experience/input?


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
My two cents Dec 7, 2009

I have had somewhat similar experiences.

You might be jumping the gun at this point. Take a deep breath and let things play out. Do you really think a good, reliable customer is going to ask you for a 100% discount on a huge job?

It sounds what they are really doing is negotiating a discount, which you should consider doing.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Your client's story sounds implausible Dec 7, 2009

If the problems in your translation were minor, you quickly fixed them, and the document was delivered to the end client in time to be of use, then I do not believe the end client would not pay.

Something seems very fishy here.....

Anyway, to cut to the chase of your question, if you really are as dependent on this client as you say you are, I think you need to continue the relationship until you can get out of it. But you at minimum should get a signed agreement to the effect that your client must pay you as long as you deliver the work on time, and as long as any errors/problems that are identified are quickly remedied. At most, you might agree to a 10% discount in such instances.

You should not cut off your nose to spite your face. But you should also take some measure to protect yourself.

A very difficult situation for you. I sympathize and I hope it works out.


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Sharon Sideris  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:32
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It does seem odd Dec 7, 2009

Of course I don't know what is going on behind the scenes, whether the agency has tried to recover anything from the end client, whether they do not want to upset them because they are a huge client of theirs (the end client is a large multi-national company). It does seem odd to just suddenly send out an email saying "OK you are not getting paid this really large amount of money even though you did the work" and expect me to accept it. I do think the problem is with the end client though rather than the agency. I could tell by the tone of the emails forwarded to me about the changes that they were trying to make a huge big deal over changing these terms.

I think the upshot is, I will swallow this but will start looking around for new clients, they are out there I just haven't been making the effort to find them.


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Strange Dec 7, 2009

I second the comment that something sounds strange here.

A good, solvent customer doesn't normally make payment a big issue. If your work was not up to standard they might be justified in asking for a discount. However, if they are asking for a free two-week job - don't be niave - this is NOT a good customer. Are they having financial problems?

It might be time to pick up the ole phone and have a nice chat. You don't want to start down the road of bitter misunderstanding.

Good luck!


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I think you should still move to protect yourself... Dec 7, 2009

...against future shenanigans of this kind. If the agency is not willing to assure you that they won't pull this again, then how can you be sure you won't get stiffed for another couple week's worth of work? And if they don't pay you, you cannot define them as "a good client."

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Audra deFalco
United States
Local time: 00:32
Italian to English
+ ...
agreed Dec 7, 2009

I agree with everything that has been posted thus far. It's a very unfortunate situation, and I do sympathize with you.

I've never been in that situation, but perhaps you would do well to diversify your client base. I would also open up a discussion with the agency you work in conjunction with and see if you can keep on top of this. Worst case scenario you might have to offer a small discount just to appease them.

I hope it all works out for you!


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:32
Member (2008)
French to English
Protect yourself, for now and for the future Dec 7, 2009

Sounds like you had better do whatever is needed to keep them on as a client for now, since you're dependent on them, while you begin to take steps to be less dependent on them. From a business point of view, about 20% is the most that is safe to be depending on any one client for.

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xxxDesdemone
Local time: 01:32
French to English
End client Dec 7, 2009

If you know who the end client is, consider contacting them and ask them if they paid the agency. I think the sooner translators get aggressive with agencies who pull this kind of junk, the better off everyone will be. DO NOT accept non-payment and tell them you will take legal action. You're right - they'll probably dump you. But don't you think you'll be much better off in the long run? As you say, other potential clients have contacted you and you've had to turn them down, so there's more work out there. If everyone stopped accepting crap rates, crap agencies would disappear.

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:32
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Open for abuse Dec 7, 2009

Sharon, you certainly seem inclined to give up at a rather early stage. This does not bode well for the future if you encounter other abusive situations. The particulars here aren't really clear, so I'll refrain from specific recommendations regarding the money, but I think this is much too soon to stop the discussion.

I would focus on getting other clients ASAP and restricting the volume of work with this one to allow more time for the necessary marketing and cultivation of contacts. Distribute your risk with a much wider client base or expect replays of this rather ugly scene in the future.


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:32
English to Russian
+ ...
I am sorry to say that... Dec 7, 2009

but you can even pay them some premium in order to keep them on your client list.

However, what is our goal as freelance translators - keeping our clients on the list or making our living, doing work for them against fair remuneration?


[Edited at 2009-12-07 19:57 GMT]


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Libero_Lang_Lab  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:32
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
Don't box yourself into a corner Dec 7, 2009

Sharon, I certainly don't think that turning down work from other agencies/direct clients in order to keep on satisfying this one voracious, and apparently capricious, client is a healthy situation to be in. Even if they were not presenting you with the current headache, monogamy is not necessarily a virtue when you are a freelance, because if/when divorce proceedings are filed, you have absolutely no marital rights. Controlled promiscuity is to be applauded. Spread yourself around a little more, and in doing so you'll spread the risk. Also, it never hurts for a client to know that you're busy, and not hanging on their every job.

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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:32
French to German
+ ...
Agreeing... Dec 7, 2009

with Kevin's post.

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Ismael Torres
Local time: 00:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
Before taking legal action... Dec 7, 2009

Before taking legal action, I would offer to accept 50% of payment and have the other 50% applied towards discounts on future jobs, but only if the client agrees to pay a 20% advance on all future projects. If that doesn’t work then I would take legal action. In addition, I would let my fellow translators know that they should be careful when dealing with this particular client.

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Cedomir Pusica  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 06:32
Member (2009)
English to Serbian
+ ...
Be professional Dec 7, 2009

I believe that the Agency is faced with a non paying client and in a situation to blame it all on you. This is NOT acceptable. Their stance should be more reserved, in that they should try to be more subtle in asking you to absorb the losses (which you should offer now that you had not agreed on liability).

My suggestion is:

1) Tell the Agency they should insist on the end customer paying for the translation and take legal action against them (end customer)
2) Offer flexibility regarding the payment date (until the dispute is resolved)
3) Ultimately, offer a reasonable discount (what you would normally offer in case of a normal complaint)

Be professional! If I was the Agency I would find it quite odd if you accepted to give up your effort and probably exploit you even more Don't let them know they are your major supplier.

In the meantime, work toward building a wider customer base.

Good luck!


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