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Deposit for large translations
Thread poster: leilaleka
leilaleka
Local time: 14:59
Mar 13, 2013

Just need some advice. I was offered a large project (250000 words) by a translation agency early in February . As it will take my partner and myself a few weeks to finish it I requested a 50% deposit. It was agreed and one month later still nothing. The agency says that client has not yet paid. It is placing me in a difficult financial situation as I am late with my bond, school fees, medical insurance and other bills. I did explain to the agency but still nothing and she now tells me she cannot drive a good client over the edge. I told her that she is liable for my deposit and not the client. What do you suggest? I am really in a bad situation as I delegated other project and have now been working on that one for 5 weeks. Am I being unreasonable? I feel I should contact the client myself and explain my situation or what must I do?

Thanks☺


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:59
English to Dutch
+ ...
Oh dear Mar 13, 2013

Your client does not abide with the agreement you made. That is bad. This means that in future you should never work for them anymore and that you should post a warning on the BlueBoard. You're definitely not unreasonable.

For now, there is something I don't understand. You said you asked for a 50% deposit. But you still started work? When you ask (and get offered) an amount upfront, you should never start work until you receive the down payment.

I'm sorry I can't give you better advice, advice that would help you in this predicament.


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 12:59
Japanese to English
Stop work Mar 13, 2013

Stop working immediately and start looking for other projects and clients. A client that agrees to pay $XXX and pays $0.00 is not to be trusted. Even if they do pay that 50%, don't finish the rest of the project. Consider it payment for the first 50% and make sure you receive the final 50% before even starting the second half.

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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:59
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Client payment is not your concern Mar 13, 2013

An agency that doesn't have enough cash flow to pay you independently of its client paying is not to be trusted at all in my mind.
You are perfectly reasonable to have asked for a deposit for such a large project, especially if it's the first time you're working for the agency.
What you could have done (perhaps this has to be put down to a learning experience this time), is not to even consider it a job until the deposit was in your account. A job isn't a job until it's confirmed and in this case, confirmation meant the payment of the deposit.


An agency should NEVER use nonpayment by its client as an excuse for not paying you. This isn't even legal. You have entered an agreement with the agency and by the very nature of freelance translation work, this agreement does not involve three parties. If the agreement had involved three parties, it would have had to explictly mention this, in which case you would have contact with the client yourself.

I certainly wouldn't advise contacting the client yourself. The client isn't your client, it's the agency's.
I would simply continue to look for other translation work and ignore this job until the deposit is forthcoming.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:59
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Stop work immediately Mar 13, 2013

Your customer is not performing his agreed duties. They should find the money to pay your deposit even if the end customer is not paying it. You do not have an agreement with the end customer.

It is best that you stop this job until this is resolved and let your customer immediately know about your decision. Do not deliver any work until the deposit has arrived as agreed.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:59
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Never contact the end customer Mar 13, 2013

leilaleka wrote:
I feel I should contact the client myself and explain my situation or what must I do?

Not at all. I would advise never to do this. Your agreement is with your customer, not with the end customer, and this applies to any aspect of the job. By contacting the end customer, you would be breaching the most basic of privacy rules.

As the colleague said, you should have waited for the deposit to start translating a single word of the project, since now you are in a position in which you are at risk of not seeing a penny and might have rejected other work along the way, so you lose in any case.


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leilaleka
Local time: 14:59
TOPIC STARTER
I did some work for her before Mar 13, 2013

I did work for that agency before for small projects and she always paid me. I started the job and am continuing as 2 people allocated until beginning of April for this project. I really trusted her and cannot understand how she can be so unsensitive to my problems as I always delivered my work in time. I know contacting client is not a thing to do and I never had to however in this case and due to the amount due I feel I should make them aware of my problems due to their non payment!

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:59
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You can't tell... Mar 13, 2013

leilaleka wrote:
I know contacting client is not a thing to do and I never had to however in this case and due to the amount due I feel I should make them aware of my problems due to their non payment!

How can you tell whether A) the end customer has really been asked to pay a deposit, and whether B) the end customer has not paid?


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:59
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Stop working Mar 13, 2013

You need to stop working on this and learn a lesson.

If you ask for a deposit you should never start working until you have the deposit.

You are also faced with the fact that if they were late paying the first 50% it is more than likely they will be late paying the second 50%.

The fact that they seem so unsympathetic also does not bode well.

The only thing to do in my opinion is to
1) let them know you have stopped working on the job and will not resume working on it until you receive the deposit;
2) because of their lack of professionalism (the fact they breached the agreement means they are not professional) tell them you can no longer trust them and that if they want you to continue working on the job they need to immediately send the deposit and that because you need to make sure you will be paid the rest of the money, when you deliver the job you will only deliver half the job until they send you the full payment and you will then deliver the rest of the job;
3) as they will probably not accept these conditions START LOOKING FOR OTHER JOBS IMMEDIATELY.

I would not contact the end client, even if the agency doesn't accept your conditions, after all the end client has no agreement with you.

[Edited at 2013-03-13 17:18 GMT]


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:59
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
No cash, no work Mar 13, 2013

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:

An agency that doesn't have enough cash flow to pay you independently of its client paying is not to be trusted at all in my mind.
You are perfectly reasonable to have asked for a deposit for such a large project, especially if it's the first time you're working for the agency.


This agency doesn't behave like a reliable business partner. And it doesn't matter whether their client had paid them, because the agreement is between you and the agency, and not between you and their client.

I agree with our colleagues. If an upfront payment had been agreed upon by both parties, then work should never commence before the agreed amount has safely arrived in your account.

Yes, you should make a BB entry.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I feel sorry, but... Mar 13, 2013

leilaleka wrote:
I was offered a large project (250000 words) by a translation agency early in February. I requested a 50% deposit. One month later still nothing. The agency says that client has not yet paid.


The fee for a quarter of a million words is a lot of money, and I don't think you should expect a small agency to have that kind of money just lying around. It should have been obvious from the start that the agency would wait for the client to pay them before the agency pays you. Otherwise the agency would suffer a serious cash flow problem and may not even have money to pay their translators.

I also think that you should not have accepted such a large job if you did not have enough money in the bank to pay your bills for at least a month or two. A big job is always a risk, moneywise. I also think that you should not have spent more than half of your time on the big job, so that you could have had other jobs to fall back on in case of payment problems. And here we are, now.

I feel sorry for you, but I don't think you should be quick to blame the agency of being dishonest. It is likely that they, too, have a money problem thanks to this large client (particularly if there are more than just one language combination involved).

Your experience reminds me of my own freelance career's start, when I accepted a six month long freelance job from an agency who said that I would get paid at the end of every month for the work done in that month, but then their client "changed the deal" (it was a large multinational) and said that they will only start transferring money to the agency after 50% of the work was done. I was fortunate enough to have had some cash reserves, but some translators could not wait (they were in the same situation as you), and so the agency owners mortgaged their own houses to pay those translators.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:59
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Plan B Mar 13, 2013

I guess that by now you have learned the lesson, if an advance has been agreed upon, not to start working before you have cashed it in.

You say you had worked for them before, so they have some reason to trust you. But what if you hadn't???

Just like you are suspicious of a client who will pay you after you deliver, any client is entitled to suspect you, if they have to pay you something before seeing your work done.

The solution is in mitigating risk on both sides, by means of partial deliveries and partial payments on the way. This can be weekly or fortnightly, but not longer than that in such a large project.

Let's see the sequence of events, assuming a weekly cycle where the closing date is mutually agreed to be every Tuesday.

  • 1st Tuesday - They tell you to get started on it.
  • 2nd Tuesday - You deliver what you have done in this first week, X words, with the corresponding invoice #1, to be paid by the 3rd Tuesday.
  • 3rd Tuesday - You deliver what you have done in the second week, Y words, with the corresponding invoice #2, to be paid by the 4th Tuesday. The client should be paying you invoice #1.
  • 4th Tuesday - You deliver what you have done in the third week, Z words, with the corresponding invoice #3, to be paid by the 4th Tuesday. The client should be paying you invoice #2.
  • ... and so on.

    The cycle is repeated every week, until the project ends.

    If the client fails to pay you invoice #1 on the 3rd Tuesday, halt work immediately and notify them. Your overall deadline should be extended by the number of days, in this case, that go from the 3rd Tuesday and the day they pay you invoice #1.

    If you want to play it even safer, on the 3rd Tuesday above, you'll only send the work done on the second week after you have received payment for invoice #1. In the end, you will always be receiving for work done and delivered one week before, so your client can't say they are risking anything at all. You'll be risking two weeks' work at most, no more than that, if you play it right and never accept any lame excuses.

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  • Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
    Netherlands
    Local time: 14:59
    English to Dutch
    + ...
    Small is easy Mar 14, 2013

    leilaleka wrote:

    I did work for that agency before for small projects and she always paid me. I started the job and am continuing as 2 people allocated until beginning of April for this project. I really trusted her and cannot understand how she can be so unsensitive to my problems as I always delivered my work in time. I know contacting client is not a thing to do and I never had to however in this case and due to the amount due I feel I should make them aware of my problems due to their non payment!


    I don't understand why you trust her so much. It's really easy to be correct and reliable when it comes to small projects and small amounts. She shows her real colours in this larger case: she doesn't keep her promises and is unsensitive to your interests. Never work for her again. Stop working for her now. Wait for her payment to deliver what you have so far, and then tell her you won't be doing the remainder of the job, as she breached the conditions of the agreement, whence the agreement is mute.
    Start looking for other jobs now.

    Jan Willem


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    Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
    Netherlands
    Local time: 14:59
    English to Dutch
    + ...
    Unreliable anyway Mar 14, 2013

    Samuel Murray wrote:

    leilaleka wrote:
    I was offered a large project (250000 words) by a translation agency early in February. I requested a 50% deposit. One month later still nothing. The agency says that client has not yet paid.


    The fee for a quarter of a million words is a lot of money, and I don't think you should expect a small agency to have that kind of money just lying around. It should have been obvious from the start that the agency would wait for the client to pay them before the agency pays you. Otherwise the agency would suffer a serious cash flow problem and may not even have money to pay their translators.


    Maybe a small agency doesn't have that kind of money just lying around, but then it shouldn't have taken on the job. Basic rule: if you can't deliver on your promises, don't make them. So the agency is simply unreliable, full stop.
    Of course, she could have been honest and told the translator, look, I know this is a risk for you, but I really won't be able to pay you up front or anytime before the client has paid me. The translator could then have weighted the risk, assessed whether it was worth it. But she made a promise, and went back on it. That's wrong, any which way you look at it.

    Jan Willem


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    Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
    Ghana
    Local time: 12:59
    Japanese to English
    Dishonest agency Mar 14, 2013

    Samuel Murray wrote:

    The fee for a quarter of a million words is a lot of money, and I don't think you should expect a small agency to have that kind of money just lying around.

    In that case the onus is on the small agency to say so. The translator asks for 50% up front, you say no, I can only give you 25%. Or 20%. Or 15%. Then you pay up. The fact that the agency owner agreed to 50% with no intention of paying throws up all kinds of red flags about this job.

    I think this job's a goner anyway. Leilaleka, it must hurt to lose the promise of upwards of $30,000 but you really need to stop work and find something else to pay your bills with.


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