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Making a living off translating
Thread poster: Angela Losfeld

Angela Losfeld
France
Local time: 17:42
French to English
+ ...
Jun 20, 2014

Hello fellow freelancers,

I know there are countless posts on this subject, but once again I am surprised at how long it takes most of the time to get paid in this business (between 45 and 90 days). Luckily, I have a full-time job and if it wasn't for that, I'd starve to death. Of course, I've just recently started as a freelancer and I understand it takes time, but I'm getting a lot of projects. However, payments are slow. I guess it's not time yet to quit my day jobicon_wink.gif


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:42
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Set your own payment terms Jun 20, 2014

The agency/client cannot unilaterally state the payment terms. You are also operating a business and you are also permitted to have your own terms and conditions.

For new clients, I put the exact date that payment is due on my invoice (usually 15 to 30 days) (...by accepting this translation and this invoice the recipient agrees to render full payment on or before XXXXXX, XX, XXXX in order to avoid penalties, late interest and collection proceedings).

Now, of course, the company has the right not to work with you in the future if they do not like these terms.



[Edited at 2014-06-20 14:53 GMT]


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:42
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not universal Jun 20, 2014

Hi Angela,

This is not universal. I have a solid base of agency clients who pay me reliably at 30 days after my invoice (or near enough that I don't notice). I got to this position by never working for a company again if they mess me about in any way, including of course being slow to pay. This means I rarely have to chase invoices (unless something has gone awry by accident, which is soon sorted out by a quick call or email).

In my experience the better agencies are well aware that if they want good translators they need to treat them decently and pay on time. So it's largely a case of weeding out the clients that don't respect you and focusing your efforts on those that do.

Rachel


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:42
English to German
+ ...
YOU need to define ALL terms Jun 20, 2014

Angela Losfeld wrote:

... I am surprised at how long it takes most of the time to get paid in this business (between 45 and 90 days). Luckily, I have a full-time job and if it wasn't for that, I'd starve to death. Of course, I've just recently started as a freelancer and I understand it takes time, but I'm getting a lot of projects. However, payments are slow. I guess it's not time yet to quit my day jobicon_wink.gif


Between 45 and 90 days is not an acceptable grace period to pay for professional translation services (more like 14 - 30 business days). You are being taken advantage off. You need to define YOUR professional terms (ALL terms, including the delivery date) and find clients who appreciate you as a serious business partner. Yes, you can listen to suggestions from clients and see if you can deliver by the date they want, but ultimately you need to be sure you can do that. And that's your decision.

Translating is OUR day job and it doesn't help us at all if other "part-time" translators accept such terrible terms just because they have a full-time job to fall back on - and they shouldn't be "accepting" terms defined by clients in the first place.

Remember, you are NOT an employee of a translation agency. You are the service provider and the translation agency or any other person who uses your services are the client.

Success as a serious translator is not possible if one let's oneself be taken in by crooks. And a serious translator will act professionally. That's the way to make it in this industry.

B

[Edited at 2014-06-20 15:32 GMT]


 

polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
France and the 60 - 90 days phenomenon Jun 20, 2014

In France, if you work for public sector companies (as direct clients), you will find that, regardless of European legislation that stipulates 30 days, these companies pay at 60 days (at best). It is on all their literature and stated clearly in the order form.
You have to remember that they often place huge orders for machines, buses, electricity generating plant, rubbish trucks and things of that ilk and the sums involved can be huge.
As a translator you can try to insist on earlier payment but the system tends to be in a groove with virtually no margin for manoeuvre. They are not going to change the system for one little translator.
The upside is that you can send off your bill as soon as you have finished your work in the sure knowledge that, other than in the event of accident (mail strike...), you will be paid EXACTLY 60 days later on the nail.
Once you get your cashflow going and if the workflow is big enough, it is really not that big a deal in the end.


 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 18:42
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
With sound cash flow, terms don't matter Jun 20, 2014

I usually don't care if I get paid in 30 days or 60 days. I do depend on my freelance income, but I definitely don't spend it as soon as I receive it. In other words, it doesn't matter if my next paycheck comes from the last job I did or the one before, or the one I did last year.

 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 00:42
Japanese to English
+ ...
Don't wait too long though Jun 20, 2014

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

I usually don't care if I get paid in 30 days or 60 days. I do depend on my freelance income, but I definitely don't spend it as soon as I receive it. In other words, it doesn't matter if my next paycheck comes from the last job I did or the one before, or the one I did last year.


Or the company might go belly-up on you. I kind of agree with you from a financial point of view, though. Are we all really living check-to-check like that?

From a respect point of view, though, it's unacceptable. But we as translators have to stand up and demand that respect, no one is going to hand it to us. That's not the kind of world that we live in.


 

felicij  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:42
German to Slovenian
+ ...
Not a problem... Jun 20, 2014

I would say. It happens only at the beginning of a business relationship. I have many clients and the usual term of 30 days. There is also 1 client that pays after 60 days (I agreed because the rate is decent). What I want to say is that I only had to wait for the payment 2 months at the beginning. Now I get paid every month because I send them an invoice every month and when (if) our contract ends, I will get payment for two months and not move a finger about it. It’s not all that bad if the client sends you plenty of projects…

 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:42
English to German
+ ...
Don't wait 45 - 60 days at some point in the future you might wait forever Jun 20, 2014

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:
With sound cash flow, terms don't matter

I usually don't care if I get paid in 30 days or 60 days. I do depend on my freelance income, but I definitely don't spend it as soon as I receive it. In other words, it doesn't matter if my next paycheck comes from the last job I did or the one before, or the one I did last year.


I can't agree with you and the other colleagues who so steadfastly defend such long waiting periods for payment. If you want to do that, that's fine. I don't. It sets a wrong precedence.

You never know when you are going to need the money. If your flow stops because you get sick, good luck. And it's not so much about cash-flow although if you've got a lot to fall back on, that's good, but this is not how a business should be run: You are the service provider and you set the example. 45-60 days and beyond is not a recommendable grace period without penalties.
As a matter of fact, there shouldn't be a grace period. Services are rendered and payment is due. I am not a bank. especially not a bank that doesn't collect interest.
You work your butt off and then you wait 60 days? What other business works like that?
And as far as the clients are concerned that simply won't budge and won't work with you unless you wait 60 days?
No thanks; what other hoops do they make you jump through? Low rates? I have excellent experiences with professional clients who are more than willing to pay right away.

Fair is fair. Unfair is unfair. I don't need the latter category. It can become a big hassle of chasing the money - eventually agencies like that tend to fold - cause apparently they never have the money to pay you right away. They are waiting to get paid first themselves before they pay you. Not a good thing. When they don't get paid, they won't pay you. It's those agencies that will use this as an excuse too. Complete rubbish. Not worth it.

So, if someone thinks it's quite okay to wait 60 days, I say, no way. Not in France either. Not in any business.

Just my thoughts.

B

[Edited at 2014-06-20 17:39 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
This is maybe a change for the worse? Jun 20, 2014

polyglot45 wrote:
In France, if you work for public sector companies (as direct clients), you will find that, regardless of European legislation that stipulates 30 days, these companies pay at 60 days (at best). It is on all their literature and stated clearly in the order form.
You have to remember that they often place huge orders for machines, buses, electricity generating plant, rubbish trucks and things of that ilk and the sums involved can be huge.
As a translator you can try to insist on earlier payment but the system tends to be in a groove with virtually no margin for manoeuvre. They are not going to change the system for one little translator.
The upside is that you can send off your bill as soon as you have finished your work in the sure knowledge that, other than in the event of accident (mail strike...), you will be paid EXACTLY 60 days later on the nail.
Once you get your cashflow going and if the workflow is big enough, it is really not that big a deal in the end.

As an independent EFL business trainer, I worked for many years directly with GRETA, CCI, ANPE/Pôle Emploi, various universities and lycées, tourist offices... I remember that back in the 1990s it was truly diabolical and I had to wait at least 90 days before it was even worth sending a reminder. All you could do was seethe - and see your family go hungry if you were in that awful situation (I fortunately wasn't). But Sarkozy promised at some stage (can't remember exactly when) that the public sector must set a good example. From that point on until my final invoices in June 2012, I was paid on the 30th day after invoicing, give or take just one or two days.

As far as private businesses in any country are concerned, I've never accepted longer than 30 days, after the first year of finding my feet and my rights. Of course, I haven't always been paid at 30 days, but my recovery procedures kick in from 31 days for new clients and repeat offenders. Happily, all my regular clients now pay my invoices within a couple of weeks, with the occasional oversight (e.g. over the end-of-year holidays), and those I can forgive. Those who need constant reminders simply get struck off my client list. I'd rather spend my time translating, editing, or just marketing/researching/reading or even sunbathing, rather than chasing payments. Private individuals are better as they don't quibble about paying in advance; but they rarely need vast volumes, and most have palpitations when they learn the going rateicon_wink.gif.

@Angela: you need to become more assertive as a service provider, aka business partner. Don't let them boss you around - you're your own boss! Maybe you'll want/need to be a bit flexible at the start, but within reason, and as you gain experience you'll want to weed out the low payers, the late payers, the high-maintenance clients (the ones that want endless extras for free and expect you to jump through hoops and lick their boots). As each new, better, client comes along, start saying "Sorry, busy" to the worst one, or adding surcharges etc. The more professionally competent you can make yourself out to be (as long as it's the truth, of courseicon_wink.gif), the more seriously they'll take you.


 

Angela Losfeld
France
Local time: 17:42
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Weeding my garden Jun 20, 2014

Thanks for your replies.

I agree with the fact that waiting beyond thirty days to get paid is unacceptable. As I've said, I'm a fairly recent freelancer and I'm trying to build up a solid client base and work with those companies or agencies with whom I get along and who pay on time which means within 30 days. In order to achieve that goal, I feel that I have no other choice than to accept these horrible conditions. I mean in order to attract the best companies/agencies, you need experience and to be able to justify that you have already worked on a wide variety of projects in different domains and have already used different tools. Like one of you have already said, it's a matter of weeding out the good companies from the bad and that takes time.

By the way, I currently find most of my translation work on proz and all of these slow payers (45 - 90 days) have a 4.5 rating or higher on the blue board.


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:42
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree that it is difficult at the beginning Jun 20, 2014

felicij wrote:

I would say. It happens only at the beginning of a business relationship. I have many clients and the usual term of 30 days. There is also 1 client that pays after 60 days (I agreed because the rate is decent). What I want to say is that I only had to wait for the payment 2 months at the beginning. Now I get paid every month because I send them an invoice every month and when (if) our contract ends, I will get payment for two months and not move a finger about it. It’s not all that bad if the client sends you plenty of projects…


Life is a lot easier once you have recieved the first invoice, especially if it's a new client and you're not 100% sure whether or not you're going to get paidicon_wink.gif After that it's a bit like having a salary to look forward toicon_smile.gif


 

Angela Losfeld
France
Local time: 17:42
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Better the second time? Jun 20, 2014

Life is better after the first invoice?

I'm a recent freelancer, but I'm not that new. I've already worked on around 50 projects.

And yes, it's clearly stated on my invoice that payment is due within 30 days but it looks like most companies/agencies (some do pay on time) don't give a s%!$.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:42
Member (2008)
French to English
Negotiating Jun 20, 2014

polyglot45 wrote:
You have to remember that they often place huge orders for machines, buses, electricity generating plant, rubbish trucks and things of that ilk and the sums involved can be huge.


I think you will find that for all of these "huge" contracts, terms are negotiated and are quite likely to involve up front deposits and progress payments. Not only that but in "huge" contracts there is the possibility of extra charges - how often have you heard about the cost to the government of some huge project being way over budget?

The fact is that if a supplier has what the buyer wants, government or otherwise, the supplier calls the shots.

And therein lies the difficulty for most translators - many of us view our work as a commodity, while in fact we need to become known as the #1 go-to for our particular specialty.


 

Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Stick to it Jun 20, 2014

Just stick to it. After a while you'll have regular payments at the end of each month, albeit 1-3 months from the date of invoice.

 
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