How do you make sure private clients pay?
Thread poster: Alistair Ian Spearing Ortiz

Alistair Ian Spearing Ortiz  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mar 21, 2011

Hello everyone,

Until now I've worked only with translation agencies or reputable companies. Nevertheless, I've recently been contacted by a few private individuals who've found me on the Internet and would like me to translate documents for them. I've had to turn down their requests because I've been quite busy with other translations lately, but in the future I might want to accept them.

Of course, I know I should be especially vigilant if I want to be paid. I've thought of not sending the translation until proof of payment has been sent, for example.

What other measures do you take to make sure that private clients pay?


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 12:06
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
No problems Mar 21, 2011

I work a lot with private clients on legal and immigration documents. We exchange e-mails with my cost estimate and payment terms and the client's confirmation to go ahead with the job. If it is a business I ask for a business address and/or website.

I send an invoice along with the translation that says 'payment within 30 days'. Maybe once a year I have to send someone a reminder but almost everyone pays promptly (usually relatively small amounts though). In all those years the few invoices that were never paid were larger and they were to translation agencies.

I should add that many of my private clients are from other parts of the country, so meeting in person is not an option - everything goes by mail. Quite a few come back later with more documents or they recommend me to others.


[Edited at 2011-03-22 15:35 GMT]


 

Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:06
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Payment up front Mar 21, 2011

When working for private individuals (generally for translation of short personal documents: birth and marriage certificates, academic transcripts, etc.), I require payment before I deliver the translation.

If the client is local, we generally meet in person and exchange cash for the translation and a receipt. If they are not local, they pay via Paypal and then I deliver the translation (via e-mail or "snail-mail").


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
Money up front or valuable documents Mar 21, 2011

Frequently I do get requests from private individuals to translate personal documents. My policy on that is that I either ask for my fees in advance or else the value of the documents themselves and difficulty in obtaining them should be sufficient to insure payment. I have had cases of refusal to pay where I have had to threaten to hold documents until payment was made, and that has worked. In other cases I just collect on delivery because the client has come well-recommended or is already known to me.

This of course all involves original documents and personal contact with the client. On the Net it is a different story. I would say it would be good to collect at least half before starting and the rest before delivery. Otherwise there would be a considerable risk of non-payment.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:06
English to German
+ ...
Amazingly enough, private customers are the last ones to play tricks on you. Mar 21, 2011

At least, that's my experience. Just the way they wouldn't stiff their architect, their lawyer or their doctor. Especially when it comes to translations of personal documents, job application letters, CVs, immigration papers, legal affairs and such - anything that has a huge impact on their personal life.

They also are not aware of all those interesting business practices implemented by an increasing number of professional language service providers - using the translator as a no-interest credit institute.

I am cautious with largish projects, though, such as book translations for which the author hasn't even found a publisher yet.


 

Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:06
English to Russian
+ ...
Seconded Mar 22, 2011

According to my experience private direct clients are better payers than reputable agencies.
They never wait for 30 or 45 days. They pay immediately upon receipt of my invoices.

[Edited at 2011-03-22 05:39 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-03-22 05:39 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:06
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Not normally a problem Mar 22, 2011

I specialise in CVs so I often deal directly with the "owners". I do ask for payment in advance for a CV but I don't wait until a cheque clears and I just ask for proof of initiating a transfer. I've also proofread quite a few academic papers and they tend to be more expensive so I only ask for a deposit. My experience has been that the balance arrives pretty much by return. So far!icon_smile.gif

The main problem I find is vagueness. Answers to questions like "what's the wordcount?", "when do you want it?", "do you want to pay for style improvements or just basic error correction?" all get answered at first by a vague "oh, I don't really know". But then it's normally the first time for them and you need to lead them through the process.

As I say, I've never had anyone fail to pay. On the other hand, I do often spend quite a while quoting and discussing it with them, only to have them disappear at the last moment. I suspect they were shocked at the amount but didn't like to admit they couldn't pay it.icon_wink.gif


 

Alison Sabedoria  Identity Verified
France
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
As Sheila says... Mar 22, 2011

Payment isn't normally a problem with private clients - most people out there are thoroughly decent, as others have suggested.

I agree with Sheila that the main problem is that it may well be the first time they have needed to use a translator and they don't really understand what's involved.

Part of the translator's job is to explain clearly and guide the client through the process. Even if they can use Word to type, many people have never noticed that it can actually count words!

And yes, they do sometimes disappear, as I tend to after receiving builders' quotes!


 

Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:06
German to English
+ ...
Direct clients are awesome! Mar 22, 2011

Direct clients are the best, and I would try to never turn them down. Not only do they usually pay on time, but they also pay almost double what the agencies do. Plus, never underestimate the word of mouth; before you know it, more and more direct clients will come calling (and paying).
icon_smile.gif


 

christeld  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:06
Norwegian to English
+ ...
How do you make sure agencies pay? :) Mar 22, 2011

I invoice them. Just as I do my agency clients.

I have yet to experience late payment from a direct client, if anything I find that they make payment quickly and without any fuss.

Whereas I have experience late payment from agencies. I've also experienced both rate negotiation and threats and discount demands. None of which I experience from my direct clients.

I agree with Sheila though, direct clients often require a bit more hand holding when we're taking those first few tumbling steps towards collaboration. I find I ask more probing questions of direct clients than I do of agency clients who usually know how they want the finished product delivered.

I also love the fact that direct clients frequently make you feel like you've helped them out of a really tight situation and big you up so much that you can't help but feel good!


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:06
English to German
+ ...
I second that. Mar 22, 2011

christeld wrote:
I also love the fact that direct clients frequently make you feel like you've helped them out of a really tight situation and big you up so much that you can't help but feel good!




icon_smile.gif


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:06
German to Serbian
+ ...
I agree with others.. Mar 22, 2011

Direct clients pay either upon delivery or upfront ( or partially upfront). I imagine if they pay me upfront, they will also pay an agency upfront or right upon delivery. That being the case, why the agency then waits for 30 or 60 days to pay out the translator?

For the topic starter: ask 50% or full advance deposit, offer money-back guarantee, choose only established and verified businesses. Just use common sense.



[Edited at 2011-03-22 13:22 GMT]


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:06
Member (2008)
French to English
Know your client Mar 22, 2011

The key here is still to know who you're dealing with. Direct clients, especially local ones, are usually fairly easy to either meet or check their actual existence - registered business address in the case of a business, home address and meeting in person for individuals. If they know you can come after them, payment isn't usually a problem, at least in my experience. The rare direct client who has had difficulty paying has usually been due to financial difficulties, not fraud.

[Edited at 2011-03-22 13:43 GMT]


 

Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:06
English to Russian
+ ...
nice question Mar 22, 2011

... why the agency then waits for 30 or 60 days to pay out the translator?...[Edited at 2011-03-22 13:22 GMT]


they know the rules of the game...


 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How do you make sure private clients pay?

Advanced search







Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search