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Colleague unable to pay
Thread poster: Jaime McGill

Jaime McGill
Germany
Local time: 15:40
German to English
+ ...
Feb 18, 2011

Hi all -

So I took a rather large job from a fellow translator, one with whom I had never worked before, but who has buckets and barrels of 100% top-notch feedback as both a translator and an outsourcer along with plenty of well-publicized contact information.

I made the stupid, stupid mistake of failing to clarify payment terms until the end, so when I was told 60 days, I felt I had left myself little choice but to agree. That said, considering the size of the job and the fact that the slow holiday season was coming up, I probably would have taken the project anyway.

Per request, I sent a reminder note when the invoice was due, and learned that the end client hadn't paid up yet and the colleague was unable to cover the costs out of pocket. The translator is now preparing to take legal action against the client to recoup the costs and is extremely apologetic about the situation.

On one hand, based on the colleague's otherwise glowing reputation, I can well imagine that this is an exceptional situation... and as mentioned, the first 60 days were my own fault for not asking, so right now the payment is just a week or so overdue. On the other hand, having zero time frame within which to expect payment makes me terribly antsy, and I can't really afford to loan out four months' rent interest-free indefinitely, whether I believe the other person's heart is in the right place or not. The end customer being a jerk is not technically my problem because my agreement is with the colleague, right? But I can't very well go demanding money from people who don't have any, right?

... what would you do in this situation, fair readers?


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Sonia Hill
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:40
Italian to English
Your colleague should pay you Feb 18, 2011

Hi Jaime, this sounds like a bit of an awkward situation. However, as you rightly point out, your agreement was with your colleague and not with the end client, so whether or not the end client has paid has nothing to do with you. Your colleague was rather irresponsible outsourcing a job if they didn't have the funds to cover it.

I would politely point this out to your colleague. Perhaps you could reach an agreement on payment in instalments out of your colleague's own pocket if they really don't have enough money to pay you now. You're not the one who should be out of pocket here.

Personally, if I outsourced a job and the client didn't pay, I would do my utmost to pay the person I had outsourced it to, even if it meant a loss for myself. It's ultimately the only honest thing to do and that's one of the risks you take when you outsource work.

[Edited at 2011-02-18 19:39 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 15:40
English to Croatian
+ ...
Gotto love them... Feb 18, 2011

It's interesting that clients who have 60-day payment terms are always late with payment, at least in my experience. So you get this funny situation where they request a 2-day translation delivery, but are late with payment when 60 days is due.

For Jaime: if your amount is large, I'd suggest you to hire a debt collection agency. The colleague who outsourced work had to ensure funds upfront, or else they are entering a very risky area. None of this is your problem. I just hope you had a very clear and proper Purchase Order.

[Edited at 2011-02-18 14:56 GMT]


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imatahan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:40
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Jaime Feb 18, 2011

I've had a similar situation and I told the colleague (that is "VIP" in translations here, too) that I wanted to receive my payment because his problems with the client were only his. It took me 4 months to receive it (it was due in 30 days), but he finally has paid me.

Rememeber that if the colleague is hiring you, he or she is probably receiving more, sometimes double, than you in that job transaction.

Good luck.


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Anett Lindner
Germany
English to German
Not your problem Feb 18, 2011

Hi Jaime,

I fully agree with Lingua SB. When you outsource as a freelancer, you need to have the order sum available upfront otherwise you cannot assume the project for outsourcing as you dont have the required financial standing. Also I think this colleague could show their good will and assume responsibility by paying steady instalments. If the colleague has a good profile there must be other sources of revenue, too.

Wish you good luck.

Anett

[Bearbeitet am 2011-02-18 16:14 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:40
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Third vote for instalments Feb 18, 2011

Jaime McGill wrote:
I can't really afford to loan out four months' rent interest-free indefinitely, whether I believe the other person's heart is in the right place or not. The end customer being a jerk is not technically my problem because my agreement is with the colleague, right? But I can't very well go demanding money from people who don't have any, right?


You're being very patient and fair, Jaime. As I'm sure you know, you have a right to demand payment in full immediately after 60 days (as you say, that's long enough to wait!). You say you can't demand money from people who don't have any, but I doubt whether the law would see it that way: does this person have a computer, a car, furniture ...? If he does, they can all be sold to pay you.

Of course, it would be better if it didn't come to that but you are the one in the strong bargaining position here, you have the right to demand payment. Instalments have already been mentioned and that's certainly what I'd advise, too. Up to you and the client to decide the amounts, but make sure whatever you decide is put down on paper and signed by both parties. Defaulting on a single payment should result in the entire balance being due immediately.

If your client accepts this and keeps to it, OK: you're getting your money little by little (which is better than nothing and saves a lot of hassle) and he's able to pay in measured doses, which shouldn't be too painful. If he doesn't accept it or doesn't keep to it, then you have added ammunition to present to the courts, not that you need any.

(Edited to account for interim posts)

[Edited at 2011-02-18 15:22 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:40
English to German
+ ...
Charge interest. Feb 18, 2011

If I may quote from the invoice of large agency client to which I outsourced a project recently (yes, such things happen):

"Terms of payment: This invoice must be paid according to the agreed terms set above. Invoices, which are not paid within set terms, will incur a finance charge of 18% compounded daily."


Your colleague/outsourcer will rather take up a short-term bank loan than dealing with such interest rates.


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Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:40
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
It's your money Feb 18, 2011

Payment in instalments might indeed be a good idea if it's a very large amount. That would certainly save you a lot of hassle and benefit both parties (you see some money, the outsourcer gets more time to raise the money and can do so in manageable portions).

If you decide to wait a little longer make sure to set a new deadline for the payment. You certainly don't want to wait indefinitely - and you don't want to risk coming across as too accomodating (or else the outsource might assume that he has the option of NOT paying you at all if the end client doesn't pay up in the end!). Set a deadline you are happy with, but also one which is achievable for the outsourcer. There is not much point in setting a deadline if it is clear from the outset that it can't be met.

And probably most important of all: Make sure yourself and the outsourcer are very clear on the fact that any arrangement other than you getting the full amount immediately is entirely up to your goodwill. You have every right to demand your money now - and you surely have bills to pay yourself. Make sure the outsourcer understands this and also make sure you yourself are clear about that.

There is no reason for having a bad conscience or feeling too harsh when demanding payment - it's your money and you've already waited longer than you should have.

Whatever you decide to do: Good luck with it!


[Edited at 2011-02-18 16:09 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:40
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Another vote for installments... and my opinion about the "wonderful outsourcer" Feb 18, 2011

It is as clear as water (I don't mean wastewater) that your agreement was with the colleague, not with the end customer.

Should this colleague be the ideal business partner you had assumed he was, in this situation he would have gone to the bank for a loan to pay you your money, no questions asked, no comments made about the end customer. Mentioning the end customer is a very shabby attitude if you ask me. I have only dropped a customer in my life, and it was exactly because of that. I had to hear the same old excuse every six months or so, and got fed up with it.

Personally I would make a negative Blueboard record about this person so that others don't run into the same risk. I would understand if you did that once you were paid. I don't think the outsourcer deserves such pristine critiques. It is time to set things straight.

Now, having said all this, and since it looks like your outsourcer does not seem to be very inclined to go to the bank for a loan (or to cash from his savings) to pay you, I vote for a proposal of payment in installments, with the same interest and added fees you will pay your bank for the money you will need over this time. Don't settle for less!


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:40
Member (2005)
English to Japanese
+ ...
So sad Feb 18, 2011

It's so sad that there are still some people who think that they could get away with a lousy excuse that to force their service providers wait until the outsourcer gets fully paid from his/her end client. Like Tomas wrote, this colleague should go to the bank for a loan or like Sheila pointed out, if he has assets such as a car, a PC, furniture etc. he should do his best to cash them in and pay you. If I were in this colleague's situation, I would do everything to keep my reputation even if I had to take a loan from the bank or sell my beloved car or whatever assets I have. It takes time to build a good reputation and trust, but you could lose all that overnight.

But in the real world, there are still many outsourcers/agencies who think they need not to pay because their end client hasn't paid for various reasons. These clients REALLY need to be educated.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:40
French to English
Undeserved reputation, then? Feb 18, 2011

Sonia Atkinson wrote:

However, as you rightly point out, your agreement was with your colleague and not with the end client, ..... It's ultimately the only honest thing to do and that's one of the risks you take when you outsource work.


I agree with every syllable of that.

If the payments terms had been 30 days I might cut them some slack, but they are already taking the piss with 60 days, and if they say 60 days, the least they can do is try to make sure you are, in fact, paid after 60 days. One imagines they must have had an inkling the end-client was not going to pay, sometime before the reminder was sent, and they should have made provision in advance to pay up. Instalments if you must, but I'd be inclined to suggest this chump takes out a loan and pays the OP immediately.

And you need to hit that BB with a 1 immediately, too, before anyone else suffers as a result of such half-witted shenanigans. Glowing reputation my eye - that needs to be a previously-glowing-now-tarnished reputation for the good of us all, before the weekend is out. Nothing gets me quite as steamed up as non-payment, can you tell?

Good luck.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:40
French to German
+ ...
Credit is *NOT* a right,... Feb 18, 2011

it is a privilege.

In my interpretation of things, one can grant it (payment terms: 30 days) or not (upfront payment, no questions asked). Who has problems with this? Bad, slow payers or simply scammers - oh, you surely know them: these are the "quality nitpickers", among others.

I am aware that this will not help Jaime to be paid, but I would not be surprised if the "outsourcing colleague" would confess that they had taken no precautions at all to ensure payments.

And having some idea about the time some court procedures take and the money they cost, I even wonder if the colleague in question will not go bankrupt before the procedure ends.

Charlie Bavington wrote:
(.../...)
One imagines they must have had an inkling the end-client was not going to pay, sometime before the reminder was sent, and they should have made provision in advance to pay up. Instalments if you must, but I'd be inclined to suggest this chump takes out a loan and pays the OP immediately.

And you need to hit that BB with a 1 immediately, too, before anyone else suffers as a result of such half-witted shenanigans. Glowing reputation my eye - that needs to be a previously-glowing-now-tarnished reputation for the good of us all, before the weekend is out. Nothing gets me quite as steamed up as non-payment, can you tell?


Exactly.

[Edited at 2011-02-18 18:13 GMT]


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:40
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Practical advice Feb 19, 2011

Get something, anything, now. And make sure it is documented.

This is proof that the colleague admits he owes you money.

People who don't have enough money to pay will resort to all sorts of things, including lying that they ever owed you anything in the first place.

But try to work out an installment plan, with the first installment paid now.

Good luck!


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:40
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A variant of Edward's suggestion Feb 20, 2011

I really don't think you need the headache of having this matter drag on for months, worrying about whether you will get the agreed installments, etc.

I would therefore suggest making an offer to settle things now with some discount to make things attractive to the outsourcer (20%, 30%, maybe even 40%). No, it isn't fair, but at least this way you will get something, and the issue will be over with.

If you do decide to go the installment route, I would suggest you: 1.) not apply any discount at all; 2.) [as Ed says] get something now; and 3.) not extend terms for more than 4 months (remember, you've already waited more than 2 months).

If you cannot come to immediate agreement under any of these terms, then I suggest you go to a collection agency to handle the matter (and also inform the debtor of your intention to report the matter to the IRS).

I think it necessary to play hardball with people who show bad faith, and that seems clearly to be the case here. You also have to deal with such people under the assumption that you have no desire to work with them again (and, therefore, you must cast off any squeamishness you might have about trying to stay in their good graces).

The kind of person you are dealing with preys on the decency and compunction of others in order to evade responsibility.

Good luck.

[Edited at 2011-02-20 21:38 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:40
Member (2008)
French to English
"Can't pay" vs. "won't pay" Feb 21, 2011

In collections, it is always necessary to distinguish between those who 1) can't pay, and those who 2) won't pay.

With those who can't pay but would be willing to if they could you might come to an agreement to pay by instalments, providing that they are not going to go bankrupt. If there is a possiblity of them going bankrupt its important to file a legal action before the bankruptcy trustee gets to court - its the only way to get any payment in this case.

On the other hand, if you determine that its someone who "won't pay" - i.e., they have the means but have chosen not to pay for whatever nefarious reason - you have every reason to throw the book at them.

I had a colleague unable to pay me for a variety of personal reasons and I allowed her to pay it off over a period of a year. She did pay, in full, in the end.

[Edited at 2011-02-21 04:18 GMT]


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