Afraid of being left unpaid
Thread poster: Inga Petkelyte

Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:13
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
May 26, 2014

In March, I started collaborating with a translation agency in Spain, Catalunya. Altogether, I did 12 tranlsations of over 110,000 words for a tender project within 1,5 months for this single agency.
And now the payment time came... Originally, they said their normal payment term is 60 days. Now they say it's on the 25th of the month after the 60-day term.
Which translates in the payment term of 60 + 1 to 31 additional days, i.e. up to 91 in total.
IMO, imposing an additional month of waiting for payment is an absolute disrespect for translators and a dishonest attitude, too. We translators never say, ok, i will deliver the job done on the day x of the month after the due date, do we? If needed, we push our kids away, we don't sleep at night but do deliver the job on time.
In the meantime, though, several invoices turned to be (over)due.
I asked them to send me the copies of the first transfers, but... no copies, and no answers to my emails.
And this is a company that was undergoing an ISO certification in the beginning of the monthicon_confused.gif
So - what shall I do?
I have already had a bad experience with another Spanish agency - promising promising promising and yet no payment since 2011.
Thus, I am not inclined to postponing my receivables in this case.
I have contacts of the direct client, the company and the members of the board yet I hate even thinking about this option.
What would be my more "normal" resources?


 

Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:13
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Blue Board May 26, 2014

I assume you checked the Blue Board record of the agency in question before accepting the work?

And, whether or not you'd checked, now that you are not being paid on time, you should make a Blue Board entry reporting your experience with the company. (Note that anyone with a profile on ProZ.com can make Blue Board entries at no charge.) Here is the link for the Blue Board:

http://www.proz.com/blueboard/

If you do not find the agency listed, you should create a new Blue Board record for that agency. ProZ.com staff will approve the record, after which your entry will become visible.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What are your escalation procedures? May 26, 2014

Inga Petkelyte wrote:
I have already had a bad experience with another Spanish agency - promising promising promising and yet no payment since 2011.

What have you done about this one? Have you just left it at sending them emails for three years?

I have contacts of the direct client, the company and the members of the board yet I hate even thinking about this option.

Contacting the end client should certainly be a very last resort as this can put you in breach of contract too and is generally regarded as a rather unprofessional practice. However, if the end client is using your translation by publishing it (whether as a book, article or on the web), then you can argue that they are doing so illegally as you retain copyright until full payment for your work. So you could contact them regarding that, though never ask them for payment of course!
What would be my more "normal" resources? [/quote]
There are all sorts of ways to escalate a claim for payment, and things are quite straight-forward within the EU. However, you need to be absolutely sure that the client CAN pay - if they've gone into receivership then there's no point spending time doing anything other than registering your claim with the official receiver. The company register in the client's country should be able to give you that information (maybe for a fee).

If it's a case of WON'T pay rather than CAN'T pay, then you should always have an escalation procedure to follow. Yours may vary from mine, and there are certain steps that are required by your country's laws. But in general they would be:
1. friendly reminder email at due date + n days (mine is 1 day for repeat offenders, 7 days for new clients, 15 for normally good payers - or whatever I see fit and have time for)
2. rather more formal email after another n days, copied to a second email address if possible
3. optional email(s) to the accounting department; finance director; managing director...
4. formal final demand email, giving n days to pay before legal action starts and restating invoice details and payment details so there's no way out
5. formal final demand sent by registered post to the company's registered address (which should be the one on your invoice), with a copy of their signature to be returned to you as proof of delivery
6. optional letter from your lawyer promising action very soon

I normally skip (4) but never (5) as that provides proof that will stand up in court. (6) can be a really worthwhile investment (maybe as little as 50€) as it shows that you mean business and will not just roll over. Your lawyer might also recommend a letter to the end client, which you could send first to your own client. Some people handle intermediate steps in a more personal way, with phone calls and even personal visits, but I know that wouldn't work well for me. It's absolutely essential to keep things polite yet formal, never descending into insults, threats or harassment. It isn't a personal matter and you need to be very businesslike about it. They are 100% wrong; you are 100% within your rights to demand full payment.

After that you have to either take them to court or call in a debt recovery company. For a debt within the EU there's a very simple process called an EU Payment Order. You can complete it online and print it and/or store it in PDF form. When I sent that form to a client they finally paid without me having to actually submit it to the court. On another occasion (internal to France), I filled in the forms for the Small Claims Court, paid some money and in due course (several months' wait) the client had to pay my invoice, interest, court fees, bailiff's fees... OK, payment was very late, but it was paid in full (less phone calls, postage etc.), and he paid over twice the amount due! Debt recovery can work well, I'm told, though the company will of course take a cut.

Note that payment of an invoice, where you have proof that the client accepted delivery of the goods or services (as I'm sure you have - emails are good enough), is an unalienable right within the EU and probably world-wide.


 

Jane Proctor  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:13
French to English
huge gamble May 26, 2014

Why agree to these terms in the first place? Do you enjoy being trampled on?
2 months credit (now extended) for a zillion words in 6 weeks?
Next thing they'll hit you with quality issues.
I'm sorry to sound harsh... You've worked FLAT OUT, and although naive, of course you should get paid.


 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:13
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Wrong tone of voice May 26, 2014

Jane Proctor wrote:

Why agree to these terms in the first place? Do you enjoy being trampled on?
2 months credit (now extended) for a zillion words in 6 weeks?
Next thing they'll hit you with quality issues.
I'm sorry to sound harsh... You've worked FLAT OUT, and although naive, of course you should get paid.




Globally valid terms of payment don't exist, which makes globally valid reactions to late payment difficult. I have actively and passively accepted a wide range of payment terms.

My first advice to Inga would be: don't panic and don't spoil your relationship with this agency.

Cheers,
Gerard


 

Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:13
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Sorry, Gerard, May 27, 2014

Gerard de Noord wrote:

My first advice to Inga would be: don't panic and don't spoil your relationship with this agency.



but they're not even answering her emails, so, what relationship? Is this really an agency anyone would want to work for?

Hit them hard with everything you've got, Inga. Sheila gave you some excellent advice.


 

Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:13
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I like to live trusting people May 27, 2014

But I will definitely report this experience on the Blue Board.

60-days payment term - it has little of liking; sometimes, and I'd say quite often, it is a "take it or leave it" option. Before taking orders from this agency, I talked on the phone with another translator that now and then works for them. Not really enthusiastic about this agency but "they paid". in up to 90 days, "as usual in Spain".

Quality issues - I doubt if they could stand: the first order was for 17.775 words in 7 calendar days, delivered on 20.03. So there was sufficient volume and time for claims, if any. Instead, 11 other orders followed, no a single complaint or note.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
If it's a case of WON'T pay rather than CAN'T pay, then you should always have an escalation procedure to follow. Yours may vary from mine, and there are certain steps that are required by your country's laws. But in general they would be:
...

Note that payment of an invoice, where you have proof that the client accepted delivery of the goods or services (as I'm sure you have - emails are good enough), is an unalienable right within the EU and probably world-wide.


It's a masterpiece of advice, Sheila, my most cordial thanks. It is certainly useful for many other fellow translators, for such situations do happen. I didn't know about the EU Payment Order, it's worth investigating more and having it at hand.

About this company... Yesterday, after posting the thread, I received a phone call. Pretty after hours in Spain. The female voice used "professional, professionalism" in every second phrase, though failed to introduce herself neither did she tell her name when asked several times. Later, I came to know it was the owner of the company!
My direct contact in the company had validated the invoices, now this female voice was telling that person was nothing and that it was she who decides.
Then she started questioning whether I am legal, "wherever you are".
I came to conclusion I have to ask for a Criminal Record proving the company owner is not a crook before entering into any kind of collaboration :-> :-> :->

The situation is very disappointing. But let's give a credit to this company, maybe with a new day, they will have a clearer view of everything.


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 21:13
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not unusual May 27, 2014

This practice of paying is not at all unusual. They say payment after 60 days but that is when they put your invoice through to their accounts payable department for processing in the following month, so actually it amounts to 90 days. I would wait until then before taking any action, such as an entry on the Blue Board. Meanwhile, don't accept any more work from then until the payment is made.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Really? May 27, 2014

Tina Vonhof wrote:
This practice of paying is not at all unusual. They say payment after 60 days but that is when they put your invoice through to their accounts payable department for processing in the following month, so actually it amounts to 90 days.

I can see you have to be very careful in reading between the lines when negotiating with these agencies. I always put the due date on my invoices so that it's totally clear - and I expect payment to be in my bank on that date. I did have one client not long ago who said it was her company's practice to start counting the 30 days I allow not from the invoice date but from when she'd approved the invoice and the accounts department had processed it. She assured me this was "normal practice" in Switzerland; I assured here it wasn't my practice to deal with such practices; so her company made an exception just for meicon_smile.gif. There's no end to the ways companies will try to tilt things in their favour but the bottom line is that if they're happy with our work we can normally tilt it back. If not, who needs an uphill slog to get paid for every job?


 

Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:13
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Undersigned and underlined May 27, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

If not, who needs an uphill slog to get paid for every job?


That's my point of view, too.
We work hard enough on the direct task, now, to spend our days chasing the other party ? Thanks, no thanks.
On the other hand, if that is someone's "normal practice" they ought to inform the translator and let them decide whether they are willing or not to finance the company for 90 days.
That, I would never undersign.


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:13
Member
English to French
About payment terms and risk May 27, 2014

It is obvious logic but as a reminder: more can happen in 3 months than in one.

In 2001, I had a very active French agency customer who accounted for a good share of my turnover. Payment terms were 60 days end of month. I knew it was long, but they used to send me a lot of work, and I didn't really care when they were 15 days or 1 month late. I had enough cashflow to bear such delayed payments, and my follow-up was sloppy.

Then 9/11 occurred. They were still sending me work, but invoices weren't getting paid. I started to notice and stopped taking on work from them, while trying to learn more about payment.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, they filed for bankruptcy in November 2001, and I wrote off 3700 euros of unpaid invoices. Besides losing 30-40% of business.

Had I been more careful with payment delays, I would have lost less.
Since then, I got my act together, and I certainly no longer accept 60 days end of month!

The longer the payment terms with a returning customer, the higher the risk of losing quite a lot of money in case of bankruptcy...

Philippe


 

Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:13
Member (2013)
English to Italian
Disagree May 27, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Contacting the end client should certainly be a very last resort as this can put you in breach of contract too and is generally regarded as a rather unprofessional practice.


Well, while I agree that you should only consider it as a very last resort, I have to say I do not consider it as a 'rather unprofessional practice'.

Under most legal systems, you own the copyright on your translation until it's paid in full. In case of non-payment, you may consider the end client (indirectly) responsible for copyright infringement, although this is clearly not their fault. In these circumstances - if you're getting ready to contact a lawyer - bringing the issue up to the client is a matter of common sense, at least IMHO.

I only had this kind of problem once. I simply toold the agency I was going to contact the client unless they paid the same day, and they paid in one hour. My invoice, back then, was 60 days late. I didn't feel unprofessionalicon_smile.gif


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
@ Domenico May 28, 2014

I didn't say I'd never do it; in fact I once gave notice to a client that I would do it (my unpaid work was on-line promoting a soon-to-open hotel). He ignored me so I telephoned the end-client. He was actually abusive and I was really upset, but payment arrived from my client less than 24 hours later, together with a horrible email. So it was maybe the right thing to do but it wasn't pleasant.

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:13
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Non-payment May 28, 2014

I have had about 5 or 6 instances of clients who tried not to pay me.

In the end, I convinced them all that paying me was a better option than what would happen if I pursued them by other means.

There is nothing an outsourcer dreads more than being banned from Proz because of repeated negative feedback on the Blue Board; they will do almost anything to avoid getting negative feedback. This sometimes means that some of the consistently positive BB comments are too perfect to be believable; nevertheless, judicious use of the Blue Board has been very helpful in getting me paid.

In other cases, a detailed step-by-step description of the debt recovery process can be very helpful; this sets out a gradually escalating series of actions that would be taken by a debt recovery agency. The mere prospect of this has persuaded one or two people to pay me and be done.

In one other case, I convinced a non-paying client to cough up by simply letting them know that I was in discussion with my lawyer.

It also helps to discuss cases of non-payment in these forums (without, of course, mentioning the name of the outsourcer). Outsourcers read these forums and if they know you're going after them, they'll track your posts to see if you're serious, or if you're just moaning and looking for sympathy.

In all cases, the key thing is to stay focussed on getting paid. Your non-paying client needs to be convinced that you mean business and are going to go through right to the end- no matter how small the amount.

So don't be emotional or angry and don't lash out, wasting your energy on solutions that don't work. Just go through the procedure, with complete coldness, like a machine that has been set in motion. You need to be resolved, in your own mind, that **you are going to get paid**. This is just another task.

[Edited at 2014-05-28 08:13 GMT]


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:13
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Negative feedback on the Blue Board May 29, 2014

I would leave a notice at the Blue Board.

I never accept 60 days-payment terms, 30 days is the maximum for me, but I often ask for ten days only. If the agency is well going 30 days shouldn't be a problem.


 


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