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Client agreed to pay by source wordcount, but now only accept target wordcount
Thread poster: Hoa Hoang

Hoa Hoang  Identity Verified
Vietnam
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Feb 1, 2012

Hi all,
I am having a problem with one of my clients. 3 months ago an agency approached me with some 14k words to translate from Vietnamese to English. When I quoted by source word count, they agreed, so I did the job and sent them. Now they told me they would only pay me by target word count. The problem is the target word count is a lot less than the source (10k vs. 14k), and I stand the risk of losing a good amount. When I asked why, they said there was no way they could verify the source word count as the original file is a .pdf file, so I sent them the converted .doc file for them to see the exact word count for themselves. But now they said their client would only pay them by target word count.
Please tell me what should I do in this case? They offer to pay an extra $50 for me, and that's it! And they will not pay me if I don't send them an updated invoice with the target word count.
Any advice is greatly appreciated!


 

Enrique Cavalitto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 17:54
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
Purchase order? Feb 1, 2012

Hi Hoa,

What was agreed in the purchase order?

Regards,
Enrique


 

Hoa Hoang  Identity Verified
Vietnam
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not mention Feb 1, 2012

Hi Enrique,
They did not mention source word or target word in the POicon_frown.gif, I just saw TBA words . I guess I was careless this time, wasn't I?


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:54
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Any other correspondence? Feb 1, 2012

Hoa Hoang wrote:

I guess I was careless this time, wasn't I?


Yes, possibly. However, is there any other e-mail correspondence between you two where the source word count is agreed/mentioned?


 

Hoa Hoang  Identity Verified
Vietnam
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Email? Feb 1, 2012

Hi Lisa,
Yes in my reply to their email I clearly stated that my rate was by source word, and they went with it.


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:54
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Is this in writing? Feb 1, 2012

When you say they 'went with it', did they agree to this in their reply? If so, have you directed them to this correspondence?

 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:54
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
What *exactly* did you agree to? Feb 1, 2012

Hoa,
As others have mentioned, the exact nature of your communications with the agency is important here.

In my experience, the typical scenario for a non-editable file (scanned pdf) is for the agency to give you an estimated source count, but expect to you bill on target count. Unless the scan is near-perfect quality, with no dead images containing text, no handwriting obscuring surrounding text, etc., getting a truly accurate source word count from an OCR is very difficult, at least to get quickly. I only have one client who routinely sends POs based on my rate and the source count of a scanned document, and even then their estimates are normally about 5-10% low due to the above-mentioned factors (I run my own check, of course, and we work out any discrepancies). OTOH, another client sends all their PO's with detailed source word count estimates (generally accurate), but in the fine print (easy to miss) it says they want to be billed by the actual target count.

All in all, while admitting that I don't know the pricing conventions in your language pair, I'd say that billing a non-editable document by source count is probably a less typical scenario than the other way around. If you think about about it, billing by source count is really just a flat fee arrangement - did they say somewhere "we will pay xxxx for this translation"?


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:54
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Depends on the pdf Feb 1, 2012

I agree with Rudolf, although there are editable and non-editable (a scan or photocopy) pdfs. For the latter, I would normally charge by target word count, otherwise it's always source. I think you'll find a lot of agencies tend to prefer source if they have a reliable electronic word count, it means they know where they stand. The devil's in the detail though and what the agency *actually* confirmed to you in writing. If there was no such undertaking, I'm afraid you will have to write it off as a mistake on your part and ensure you have a cast-iron agreement next time.

 

Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:54
English to Dutch
+ ...
Agency was careless? Feb 1, 2012

This sounds to me like not (only) you, but the agency was careless in accepting source word count, where the end client only accepts target count.
If you have any written proof that the agency accepted target word count, I'ld say: stick to your guns. Maybe (if you really value your relationship with this agency) offer to cut the damage in half - in other words: accept the average of source and target word count.
If you don't have proof, then I'm afraid it's a write-off for you. If you do, it'll be a write-off for the agency.


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 23:54
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Take it as a lesson Feb 1, 2012

If the language pair differs considerably in wordcount, as in your case, you should have different word-rates. In my case Finnish has about 25 per cent less words than the same text in German, so I invoice for Finnish more than for German, if the words are counted. You should take the same approach from now on.

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 04:54
Chinese to English
Point 1: you are being cheated Feb 1, 2012

Be very clear on this. The conventions in your language pair are not relevant. The countability of a pdf is not relevant. The fact that source count is equivalent to a flat fee is not relevant. Certainly the agency's relationship with their end client is absolutely irrelevant.
The only relevant point is this: You agreed a pricing mechanism. The client is now trying to change the pricing mechanism to pay you less after the work is done. That's not OK. It doesn't matter if you've been careless. What they are doing is wrong.
Dishonest agencies rely on you getting confused at this point about whether it's your fault, or whether you *should* be charging by source or target count. Don't get confused, because none of that matters.
In all your correspondence with the agency be absolutely clear, and don't get drawn into arguments about irrelevant issues. You agreed to pay me by this mechanism. The total charge is xxx dollars. I expect payment by yyy.

Now, if they are really nasty, and just refuse, you will be in a difficult situation. It's very hard to get paid if the client is determined to cheat you. But mostly it doesn't come to that. Mostly, if you're polite but firm, the agency realises it is in the wrong, and ultimately you get your money.

Good luck!


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 14:54
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Accept it Feb 1, 2012

If you don't want to lose a client who can send you 14K documents, then I would accept what they offer you this time but make it absolutely clear that from now on you expect to be paid by source word count. Or do as Heinrich suggests and charge more per target word.

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 04:54
Chinese to English
Very confused by my colleagues' responses here Feb 1, 2012

Tina, Heinrich, others - I'm not sure exactly what it is about this case that makes you think Hoa should just accept the lower payment. I think you're being very unsupportive of a colleague who could use some support.

There are many things you can do to make sure you get what you are owed *and* maintain a good relationship with the agency. Good communication is the first - be clear and direct with them. And use a stick if you have to. Blue board rating or other public notice about their abusive behaviour.

But again, I can't stress this enough: you've done nothing wrong. The agency has done something wrong (this argument about how the client is paying them is a typical tactic). Don't let them (or any of these unhelpful colleagues) muddy the argument with talk of clients or conventions.


 

Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:54
French to German
+ ...
The importance of KNOWING things Feb 1, 2012

This shows once more how important it always is to KNOW what the deal between the end client and the agency was.

I mean, we are expected to go lengthy lengths, to sign NDA's, to comply with sometimes preposterous requirements etc. to get a job...

How come then that factors which are essential in order to accept and decline said job are withheld towards us until the crucial moment comes?

About 30% less payment on one single job is not exactly a small amount!

Quite absurd, and I fully agree with Phil.

[Edited at 2012-02-01 17:32 GMT]


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:54
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Let's not jump the gun Feb 1, 2012

It's still not entirely clear what was mentioned in the correspondence. Hoa gave a quote based on source word count, however there is a PO based on a TBA word count (slightly meaningless if it doesn't refer to a target count). It strikes me that the mistake happened at that point. There was either a genuine misunderstanding between the two or the agency was attempting to change the terms that had been agreed during the quoting phase. It does strike me that if a source word count had been agreed then the exact number of words should have been stated BEFORE the job started and included in the PO.

 
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Client agreed to pay by source wordcount, but now only accept target wordcount

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