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Should the client determine due date?
Thread poster: Alf Ivar Tronsmo

Alf Ivar Tronsmo
Norway
Local time: 05:14
Member (2009)
English to Norwegian
Aug 3, 2010

Hi

I have been doing some translations for a new client the last months. When they didn't pay my first invoice I had to send them a reminder. Their reply is that I should have read their PO, because there they state that they will pay after 45 days.

I have been working as a translator for a while now, and none of my clients have ever neglected my due dates on my invoices. To tell the truth I think it is strange that a client should be in position to determine my terms of payment. And I think 45 days is very long time.

As someone else said in another thread:
And it is usually the seller who dictates the terms and conditions of doing business: everyone operates like that. You go into a store and you will be subject to the respective store policy (e.g., in terms of refunds, returning merchandise, warranty, etc.). If you don't like a store's policy, you are free to go somewhere else.

I consider my self the seller here.

Am I way out of line when I consider to stop working for them, because of this?


 

Carla Catolino
Italy
Local time: 05:14
Member (2008)
Italian to English
+ ...
60 day standard rule Aug 3, 2010

Hi,

I am a translator living in Italy and translate from Spanish, French and Italian to English. I have never been able to put my own date on the invoice as most of my agencies (given the languages that I work with....they are European) have a 60-90 day pay period.


 

Stuart Dowell  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:14
Member (2007)
Polish to English
+ ...
I sympathise but... Aug 3, 2010

... if you agreed to work on the basis of their PO you also agreed to their payment terms. The time to discuss payments terms would have been when they were preparing the PO.

You could also have put forward the condition that the order be performed on the basis of your PO, in which you could have included terms and send it to the client for agreement.

By issuing a PO, your outsourcer was simply taking the initiative and in doing so getting terms that suited them, while sometime down the line you are left scratching your head.

As for who "usually" sets the terms and conditions, there is no universally accepted way of doing business that applies in each market. It may support your own point of view to quote the example of shops and believe that this should be a model for how the translation business should work but the real world is not like that.

I doubt whether supermarket giants approach milk producers and wait for them to send over their T&Cs, and the same could be said for numerous other markets in which the balance of power is on the buyer's side.

You are not out of line if you consider stopping working for your client because there is no right and wrong - there are simply terms that you can accept of refuse. You will just have one less client


 

Ana Malovrh  Identity Verified
Slovenia
Local time: 05:14
Member (2010)
German to Slovenian
+ ...
Translation agencies are not like direct clients Aug 3, 2010

Hello,

especially translation agencies tend to set due dates (and rates) by themselves.

If you look at relationship translator-agency from a certain angle, since the agency is not a normal customer, you can look at this relationship more like a relationship corporation-affiliate or branch. The affiliates usually have to follow the rules of the company behind it (or over iticon_wink.gif ).

On the other hand:

It just depends on your values really; are you going to sacrifice your income for a cause or not?

If you have enough clients or you know this particular client really needs your services, then you are in position to fight for a cause. If not ... well then my advice would be to follow the policy: "the customer is king".


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:14
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
30/45/60/90/120 days Aug 3, 2010

Hello Alf Ivar,

Next time, yes, read the PO at the start for interesting disadvantages to your good self, and get it sorted from the beginning. Customers sometimes have standard POs, but that doesn't mean they can't be changed. I have had many POs changed to my preference of 30 days - CALENDAR days, mind, none of the weekends, Whitsuns and St Wenceslases stuff, thank you.

If there is no PO offered, simply ask them to state specifically in an e-mail "I guarantee that payment will be made at X calendar days of delivery" (I recommend you say "delivery", and not "after date of invoice", because bills may pile up and you may not get around to writing a bill for ages, right?). It also helps to say, "i.e., paid on or around 16 September", just to make things crystal.

Having said that, last month a new yet-to-be-trained customer had no problem making that very commitment-statement in an e-mail with no questions asked, although on payday, following polite queries on my part two or three times in the same week along with a reproduction of his confirmation, while agreeing the bill was due (because he could hardly do otherwise), he still managed to string it out for another week with the buck-passing "the accounts department deals with all that, and I'm just the project manager" routine or the rather weaker "the accountant's off sick at the moment" nonsense.

As Mrs Thatcher said, "It's a funny old world." Bet nobody dared pay HER bills late.


Mervyn


 

Charlie Bavington (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:14
French to English
B-to-B, etc. Aug 3, 2010

Alf Ivar Tronsmo wrote:

As someone else said in another thread:
And it is usually the seller who dictates the terms and conditions of doing business: everyone operates like that. You go into a store and you will be subject to the respective store policy (e.g., in terms of refunds, returning merchandise, warranty, etc.). If you don't like a store's policy, you are free to go somewhere else.

Ah, another misguided, inappropriate and meaningless parallel between the world of consumer transactions and the world of B-to-B.

Out there where businesses sell to businesses (as we do when providing translations), the party with the most power is the one that sets the terms. If you have any leverage with your customer - unique service, minority specialisation, by all means use it and have them agree to your terms. If you are indistinguishable from thousands of other translators, replaceable within 5 minutes, you'll probably just have to suck it up.

See more in a similar vein here http://www.cbavington.com/Thoughts/WhoSetsPrices.shtml

[Edited at 2010-08-03 09:13 GMT]


 

Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 06:14
Italian to Danish
+ ...
By accepting the PO, you accept the terms Aug 3, 2010

I "dictate" terms of 30 days, which is normally accepted. But especially with Italian agencies they would try to negotiate longer terms, which I then usually reject, often loosing the job, too. There is just no way I'll accept terms of 60 or 90 days! However, if they really need the job done, even Italian agencies can bend their own rules.

I have a single client which insist on 45 days, but since the jobs are interesting, the rate is good and payment takes place like clockwork, I have chosen to be the one bending in this case.

But I would never start working with a new client without first having read through the entire PO! Once you accept the PO, you also accept the "small print" in it. No need to be upset with your new client. Just decide whether the client is good enough to bend your own terms, or whether they are altogether better lost than found.

Dinny


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
Power dictates Aug 3, 2010

Charlie Bavington wrote:

Out there where businesses sell to businesses (as we do when providing translations), the party with the most power is the one that sets the terms.


Charlie is absolutely right here. Terms and price reflect power. If you are dealing with a low-ranking employee and offering a service that is available from hundreds of suppliers then you may be offered 60, 90, 120 days.

On the other hand, if you are offering a specialist service or dealing with a high-ranking employee (or the boss) then you may be paid in advance or within a couple of days - providing you state your terms.

In my experience in Spain, direct clients pay within a month for non-specialist translation work and agencies pay at around two months (or so).

[Edited at 2010-08-03 10:06 GMT]


 

InfoMarex
Ireland
Local time: 04:14
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Payment times Aug 3, 2010

Dear Alf,

In all such matters, it is important to talk "to" the client, not "at" the client, and vice versa .

As a provider of services, your work is immediately payable. However, you do have to recognise commercial realities. An invoice can get into the accounting system of a large firm, and nothing on earth, neither hell nor high water, can get it paid until the "system" says so.

You should put clearly on all your invoices in the footer, the payment details you wish to have respected, e.g. here are ours below.

======

Invoices are payable within 30 calendar days
by Irish cheque or international bank draft to our postal address
by PayPal or Moneybookers — e. translations@infomarex.com
by electronic fund transfer to our bank account:
Account name : InfoMarex
Account address : PO Box 20, Celbridge, Co Kildare
Account number : 70 75 71 13
Bank Sort number : 90 09 14
IBAN a/c number : IE55 BOFI 9009 1470 7571 13
BIC/Swift Address : BOFI IE2D
Bank : Bank of Ireland, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

Registered business: 143258
VAT No. IE2682225B

========

But in offering to do a job, your offer specification to the client should first be on the lines of "€200 plus VAT, payable at 30 days" before even starting the work.

If your client in this particular case, without any malice, on their part simply pays at 45 days, well that is it. If you can live with the cash for that extra 15 days, well do. The client may not actually be a bad person, just an uneducated one in matters of your survival as a translator.

Clients in Mediterranean countries are notorious for saying "60-90 days" and expect to pay peanuts or bananas for your expertise. Know your client, and know what and when they pay. The rest is in the lap of the Gods.
Kind regards,

Michael J McCann
Infomarex


 

imatahan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 00:14
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Dear Alf, Aug 3, 2010

You don't need to work with due dates you don't agree with, and when I see in the job offers 45, 60, or 90 days payments, I don't even send a bid.

I think it is too much time. If they have or had regular workers, they'd be paying them at the most in 30 days.

But this isn't our case, because we are freelancers, service providers, and our payment is immediately due and payable. We may consider a week or 10 days for all the bureaucracy involved in a big translation company, like proofreading, accounting, records, signatures...

It depends on you to continue with them if you evaluate that for the volume of work they demand, if the delay is worthy or not...


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:14
Flemish to English
+ ...
Passwords Aug 3, 2010

Why don't you put two encrypted passwords on your translation.
The customer is able to see what he buys and to make remarkts.
Once you received payment through Paypal or Moneybookers (don't forget to transfer immediately to your account, otherwise he can still object to his payment) or on your bank-account, you give him/her the passwords. Especially with intermediaries this works like magic. Normally, when you buy something you pay immediately.
I know that there are password-crackers, but i've tried one on MsWord. Did not work.
---
Normally, according to the European guideline with regard to late payments in commercial transactions, it should be 30 days. After that, you can charge interests at the interest rate of the ECB.
--
However, in Italy after 10 years, they are not aware that such a guideline exists. I wonder what they do with all the other guidelines coming from Brussels: wait 10 years to implement them? Do they pay their utilty bills also after 60-90 days in Italy? ENI with will be very happy.

Don't work for Southern Europe. Peanut rates and late payments guaranteed.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:14
English to Portuguese
+ ...
You should choose your trade(s): translation and/or moneylending Aug 3, 2010

Since none of us - translators - keeps a stock of ready translations to deliver on order, which we purchased on credit from a manufacturer, unless we are paid COD, we'll be actually lending money to our client... at no interest.

So the payment term is part of our cost. Supposing your translation business had no capital other than the investment in education, training, hardware, software, Internet services, etc. etc., would your bank lend you the money you should receive immediately upon delivery of your work at no interest whatsoever? Well, my bank wouldn't.

So I made a one-sided deal with them: as long as my bank doesn't offer translation services, I won't lend anyone money at zero interest. Neither of us gains anything from competing with each other.

Of course, just as I need time to translate, my clients need time to do their administrative work to pay me. So individual direct clients pay COD; their administrative work is limited to writing a check. Corporate direct clients may need a week or so for the paperwork to cover its internal route. Agencies will want to check my work, and their end-clients will want to check what the agency has delivered them, so accepting payment within two weeks from delivery should be proper. If they are inefficient or simply lazy, I shouldn't be expected to pay for that. Any payment term beyond these will actually mean that I've loaned them money at zero interest.

Of course, clients that keep me busy all the time get a more flexible arrangement, so we can focus on our work, and only periodically on accounting.

The overly generous translators that take jobs from one-night-stand clients and accept payment in 45-60-90 and more days have created another trade within the translation industry which I've named the cash flow game. Some revealing signs of the players in such game, usually translation agencies or outsourcers are: people there seem to know too little about languages and translation to be in the trade, and their payment terms are always longer than 30 days.

So how is the cash flow game played? The outsourcer demands up-front - or at most COD - payment from the end-clients, and promises to pay translators, say, in 60 days. In this meantime, from the day they receive to the day they are expected to pay the translaror, they have all that money available at no interest. So they play around with it, and when it's time to pay the translator, they'll do it with the up-front or COD payment from the next job. You may name it a pyramid or a snowball, but if demand declines or halts, they'll default on paying the translator.

So I've made up my mind: I am in the translation business. If my prospective client needs an unsecured loan to pay for my services or anything else, they should borrow money from a bank or other financial institution, not me!


 

Alf Ivar Tronsmo
Norway
Local time: 05:14
Member (2009)
English to Norwegian
TOPIC STARTER
Indeed Aug 3, 2010

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Since none of us - translators - keeps a stock of ready translations to deliver on order, which we purchased on credit from a manufacturer, unless we are paid COD, we'll be actually lending money to our client... at no interest.
...

So I've made up my mind: I am in the translation business. If my prospective client needs an unsecured loan to pay for my services or anything else, they should borrow money from a bank or other financial institution, not me!



Hi
Exactly my point. Thank you.
I have in my relatively short career as a freelancer seen a lot of signs that we, the translators, have axcepted a lot from our clients. I think that we are too scared to loose a client to tell them how we want things to be.

Payment terms, often rediculous deadlines, rates.... we let our clients descide a lot. Try to buy a service anywhere else, and tell the service provider how much you will pay, when you will pay and so on...

A client can offer, ie via Proz, a job at as low rates as he wish. Someone will always take the job no matter what. Maybe it is about time we tell clients who is to descide in our business?


Not that I am a agitator, but.... icon_smile.gif


 

Arturo Delgado  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:14
English to Spanish
Your decision Aug 3, 2010

Method of payment should have been discussed and agreed upon before you started to work for this client/company.
Now that you know they pay after 45 days, you have to decide whether you want to work under these conditions or not.
If you need to keep the client, as someone else is advising you here, suck it up.
If you don't mind losing the client, give your ultimatum: "From now on, I need to be paid within xx days or I won't be able to continue working for you."
Good luck,
Arturo


 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz (X)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:14
English to Polish
+ ...
my advice Aug 3, 2010

1. Only listen to those who tell you you're right.
2. Call yourself a businessman but get self-righteous like a unionised employee.
3. And of course stop working for anyone who doesn't pay in advance.


 
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