Payment in exchange for translation.
Thread poster: WandyF

WandyF
United States
Local time: 01:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 2, 2013

Hello Everyone,

I've been attending the virtual conference this week on ProZ which has been very insightful. During the question and answer section of one of the presentations I posted a question that didn't get answered (lots of other translators submitted great questions) so I figured I would ask it here. I am interested in your feedback:

When it comes to releasing the translation in exchange for payment what is the usual protocol in the industry, to withhold the translation until payment is received or to release the translation to meet translation deadline risking the receipt of payment?


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Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:20
English to Spanish
Payment terms Oct 3, 2013

Hi Wandy,

You agree with your client as to payment terms, but some clients simply inform you of their own payment terms, and you take it or leave it.

The agreed payment term can be upon delivery, or 15 days, 30 days, 45 days or 60 days, after delivery of work.

This means that you are giving your client credit, and any time you give credit to somebody, there is the potential for you to get burned, although you usually do not (at least not in my experience).

[Edited at 2013-10-03 01:56 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:20
Member (2008)
French to English
Most common Oct 3, 2013

The most common protocol is net 30 days from delivery, with the invoice issued along with the delivery. This means, of course, that you had better know who you are dealing with before extending credit, and this is where the BlueBoard is very useful, as a clearinghouse for other translator's experiences.

The most important thing is to have an agreement on payment terms and to be satisfied that they will be respected before starting work.

There are, of course, other terms by agreement between the translator and client, but this seems to be the most common.

If the client is not listed on the BlueBoard, be very careful. There may be perfectly legitimate reasons why they are not, especially for end clients, but then you need to satisfy yourself some other way that you will be paid.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:20
English to Polish
+ ...
Don't be too quick to withhold translation Oct 3, 2013

You're better off chasing a non-payer than defending a law suit over a missed deadline.

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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:20
English to German
+ ...
How to reduce the risk of getting burned Oct 3, 2013

WandyF wrote:

Hello Everyone,

I've been attending the virtual conference this week on ProZ which has been very insightful. During the question and answer section of one of the presentations I posted a question that didn't get answered (lots of other translators submitted great questions) so I figured I would ask it here. I am interested in your feedback:

When it comes to releasing the translation in exchange for payment what is the usual protocol in the industry, to withhold the translation until payment is received or to release the translation to meet translation deadline risking the receipt of payment?


Hello Wandy.

The more experienced I get, the more cautious I become. And whenever I throw caution to the wind, I usually get burned.

First, the most important thing is the thorough review of the original text I am about to translate. I need to figure exactly how long it is going to take me, given my workload and the complexity of the particular new task. Then I add more time for any unforeseen obstacles (unforeseen research, etc. whatever can slow you down). It's the only way to meet the deadline YOU should set, not the client. Translation agencies' deadlines are often unrealistic, but one sees a big job and wants to grab it. When unforeseen things slow you down, often, you won't get the necessary added time from your client to meet the deadline at all or without compromising quality.

Once you submit the translation, you can only wait for payment. Therefore, I now will always have clients sign an order contract in which I define the deadline as "expected" deadline with the understanding that it might not be the one particular day but maybe a few days later (of course it could be earlier too). The contract also specifies MY payment terms = UPON delivery of translation and invoice with a 14 day grace period, although I usually expect payment much earlier if it is a new client. With new clients and big projects, I usually have a down payment (within 2 days of the official order date) built into the contract.

I don't submit to the 30--60- or even 90 days of waiting for payment. Nope. I am an individual who relies on prompt payment. And that's how it should be in any case. We shouldn't extend "credit". And as long as we're not paid, the translated material shouldn't even be "sold" to the end client by the middle men; best to work with the end client directly, of course.
So my advice is to tell your client when you expect the payment, and if you don't get it, at least you have a contract that they signed.
Important for translation agencies that they are on blueboard; if not, you can make a call for submitting them there. It's the only thing you can certainly do if they don't live up to the contract, tell everyone else about it.

HTH

B

[Edited at 2013-10-03 03:47 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:20
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I find the idea of "releasing" the translation to be insulting Oct 3, 2013

WandyF wrote:
When it comes to releasing the translation in exchange for payment what is the usual protocol in the industry, to withhold the translation until payment is received or to release the translation to meet translation deadline risking the receipt of payment?


To my mind, there are two types of payment-for-translation methods that show that you treat the client like an adult, with mutual respect and mutual expecation of responsibility. The two "mutual respect" methods are:

* First you pay me, then I do the translation, then I send you the translation.
* First I do the translation, then I send you the translation, then you pay me.

The method that I would find insulting, if I were a client, to the point of telling the translator that he can keep his bloody translation and choke on it if he wants to, is:

* First I do the translation, then I *withhold* the translation, then you pay me, then I *release* the translation.

This last method makes no sense anyway, because if you've already done the translation, then you've already placed all risk on yourself, and you will not reduce your risk by suddenly increasing it by withholding the translation until the client pays for it.

But, very well: you want to use the withhold-and-release method.

I would speculate that if you want to use that method, then you must make sure that the client understands this in advance and that the client accepts it as the normal course of business. It must not come to the client as a surprise. The client must be able to make payment as soon as the translation becomes available.

Even so, you're still running the risk that the client's accountant will be on sickleave at the very moment that the client urgently needs to have that translation, and withholding it from him will result in very bad feelings or even in him getting a rushed translation elsewhere and trying to blame its poor quality on you.

I'm not saying that the withhold-and-release method has no place in our industry -- only that it has no place in business-to-business service. If your client is a private person, then you can use it to great effect, especially if your client is truly a "child" (e.g. a student whose dissertation you edited or translated).

Here's another method you can consider:

If you want to make it possible for clients to get a translation quicker but still have some of the benefits of advance payment, especially if it is a very long translation, you can tell the client that you will start on his translation immediately (so that he can get it quicker), but that he must make payment for the translation within the next 5 days. Send a payment reminder once a day during those 5 days. If the client fails to pay after 5 days, then stop translating. The advantage of this method for the client is that it gives him more flexibility to organise payment, and the advantage for you is that if the client ends up not paying at all, you'll have lost only one week of pay. Note that even if the client ends up "cancelling" the deal by not paying after 5 days, you should still bill him for 5 days of translation (and send him the 5 days' translation, as he is entitled to it), and initiate the usual late-payer and non-payer procedures. Make sure the client understands that even if he cancels the contract, he will still be liable for the work that you have done up to the point of cancellation. You may or may not get your money.


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xxxnrichy
France
Local time: 07:20
French to Dutch
+ ...
Just one detail Oct 3, 2013

For individuals (driver's licenses, birth certificates, cv's etc.) always ask for payment before or against remittance of the translation. Don't take the risk here, they will be difficult to track.

For companies, it's a BtoB relationship, and payment standards are as described above. Payment has to be processed through their accounting department. Most of my clients pay after 30 days, which means in practice 45-60 days after the translaton.


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:20
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
There's no point doing the translation and then not handing it in Oct 3, 2013

The risk you take by working for clients you don't know is that you could do the work and they could not pay you for it.

This risk is not eradicated by doing the work and not handing it in because you've already done the work by then.

By the time you've spent the time on doing the work, your best bet is to hand it in on time. The work is of no use to you if you don't hand it in (and get paid for it of course). It's not like a commodity that you can sell to someone else.

The other reason it makes no sense to work in this way is that pretty much all translators will hand in the work, send the invoice and wait for payment so if you used the 'release-in-exchange-for-payment' method, you're making it more difficult for the client to choose you over any other translator.

The best way to ensure you get paid is to ensure that you first know who you are working with (read the forums to find out about scams and risk-management techniques), and to know what you can do in case you encounter payment problems. Sometimes it's wise to start off working with companies in your own country where at least you can easily find ways of collecting debts.

Most of the time though, if you've done your work correctly by managing risks, payments shouldn't be an issue. Payment issues are the exception, not the norm (although you won't find many conversations on the forums about great client relationships as people usually only ask for advice if they've had a problem).

I do understand your question because it's something I wondered when I first started off too.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:20
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
As a client... Oct 3, 2013

If I was a client ordering a translation with a specific commitment (for whatever reason) regarding the delivery date, I will most definately not assign the job to a translator who states that he or she will withhold the translation until payment has been made. Not because I might intend to cheat the translator, but because certain types of payment, e. g. bank transfers, will take a few days before the amount due will appear on the translator's bank statement.

B2B requires as certain trust in the other party, so that if a service provider or a client indicates a forehand that this trust is "shaky", then what's the sense in entering into a business relationship?

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:

This risk is not eradicated by doing the work and not handing it in because you've already done the work by then.

By the time you've spent the time on doing the work, your best bet is to hand it in on time. The work is of no use to you if you don't hand it in (and get paid for it of course). It's not like a commodity that you can sell to someone else.

The other reason it makes no sense to work in this way is that pretty much all translators will hand in the work, send the invoice and wait for payment so if you used the 'release-in-exchange-for-payment' method, you're making it more difficult for the client to choose you over any other translator.

The best way to ensure you get paid is to ensure that you first know who you are working with (read the forums to find out about scams and risk-management techniques), and to know what you can do in case you encounter payment problems. Sometimes it's wise to start off working with companies in your own country where at least you can easily find ways of collecting debts.

Most of the time though, if you've done your work correctly by managing risks, payments shouldn't be an issue. Payment issues are the exception, not the norm (although you won't find many conversations on the forums about great client relationships as people usually only ask for advice if they've had a problem).


Risk management is the key issue, aside from managing your time as a professional.

In a worst case scenario you spend the time on doing the translation, then withhold it for a few days until payment arrives and risk being sued for non-compliance regarding the delivery deadline.

Most probably the client will not pay you because of the missed deadline. Consequently, you will not only not get paid for your work, but have wasted your time (and money) on doing the translation, and might even be sued. This is (hopefully) highly unlikely to happen. Still, keep in mind that you definately don't want to be known (and word of mouth is a powerful tool) as a translator who's top priority is to get paid (understandable), and who is willing to withhold her translation (work for hire!) until payment has arrived, defying, even ignoring the client's deadline.

This may sound a little harsh, but keep in mind that both parties, you, the translator, and also your client, are taking "risks" when working with a thus far unknown business partner.

[Edited at 2013-10-03 07:45 GMT]


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WandyF
United States
Local time: 01:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all for your feedback! Oct 5, 2013

All,

I really appreciate all of you taking the time out to respond to my post. I found all of your feedback to be highly insightful and have brought up some powerful points to be considered. Not only have I found this valuable, I know that others that come across this discussion will find this valuable as well.

Once again, thank you all for your feedback.

-W-


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