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End client doesn't pay
Thread poster: Jorim De Clercq

Jorim De Clercq  Identity Verified
Ecuador
Local time: 11:10
Member (2012)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Dec 5, 2014

Hi everybody,

Almost a year ago, I did a big translation job for one of my regular clients.
I never had payment problems with them. They always paid on time and they were one of my best clients.

But now they say that one of their clients hasn't paid them and that they are going to pay me when their client pays them.
My client is still very friendly, so I don't want to damage our relationship too much.

But as the payment is almost 9 months over due, I'm a bit worried. I know that whatever happens, my client should always pay me.
What can I do?

Thanks!


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:10
German to English
You're not going to get paid Dec 5, 2014

This is a risk management issue. Over the years I've had a few clients who delayed payment by a few weeks or a month, but they paid and remained good payers. In many businesses, accounts over 90 days past due are sent to a collection agency.


My client is still very friendly, so I don't want to damage our relationship too much.


The relationship is already severely damaged. Under no circumstances should you continue to work for them. You're the one being friendly. Maybe it's time to stop being friendly.

But as the payment is almost 9 months over due, I'm a bit worried. I know that whatever happens, my client should always pay me.


It seems clear to me that your client isn't going to pay. If it's a large amount, find a collection agency or an attorney who specializes in payment collection. If it's a smaller amount, write it off to experience and start looking for a new client to replace this one. Do that anyway if this client eventually pays.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:10
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Act like a professional Dec 5, 2014

You already seem to know that it doesn't matter at all whether their client pays or not. That's good.

Now, it really doesn't matter how friendly your client is to you. It's them who already have damaged your relationship.

Act like a professional. Do the usual routine: Send payment reminders, charge overdue fines, charge interest. Notify them that you will take legal steps if they still don't pay. If they still don't pay, take legal steps. Make an entry in the BlueBoard.

You can do all this in as friendly a manner as you like.




[Bearbeitet am 2014-12-05 13:11 GMT]

[Bearbeitet am 2014-12-05 13:12 GMT]


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Gregory Flanders  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:10
French to English
+ ...
They have to pay. Dec 5, 2014

The fact that your agency hasn't been paid has nothing to do with what they owe you. Legally they're completely unrelated: you were contracted for a job at a specific rate for a specific deadline, you completed your end of the bargain and now they have to pay you. It's as simple as that.

Nine months is a long time. I'm nice for 30 days past the deadline, but after that, it's time to threaten to use a collection agency. Or have a lawyer friend draft a simple letter stating the basics of my first paragraph, that usually gets some attention.

Good luck!


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Jitka Komarkova (Mgr.)  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 18:10
Member (2013)
English to Czech
+ ...
No way! The client is obliged to pay. Dec 5, 2014

gflan wrote:

It's as simple as that.



Your client is obliged to pay. It is you who has to stop being friendly and start acting. It seems to me you have already given up the chance of getting the money...
And I believe that what you get here - expressed in your peers' answers - is what you actually think.
Stop being corteous and start being assertive.
It is you who has to ask for your money, nobody else will do so for you.

Good luck!


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Viviane Marx  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:10
German to Portuguese
+ ...
Agree Dec 5, 2014

Erik Freitag wrote:

You already seem to know that it doesn't matter at all whether their client pays or not. That's good.

Now, it really doesn't matter how friendly your client is to you. It's them who already have damaged your relationship.

Act like a professional. Do the usual routine: Send payment reminders, charge overdue fines, charge interest. Notify them that you will take legal steps if they still don't pay. If they still don't pay, take legal steps. Make an entry in the BlueBoard.

You can do all this in as friendly a manner as you like.




[Bearbeitet am 2014-12-05 13:11 GMT]

[Bearbeitet am 2014-12-05 13:12 GMT]


I agree. Take these steps as soon as possible. If you wait too long, it'll be more difficult to and hard to get the money and you have to pay lawyers and so on.
Good luck!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
This time and next time Dec 5, 2014

This time, you've really left it far too long, IMHO, and you're being far too lenient with your client. You're sending out a clear message: "it's all right; you pay me when you're ready, I won't badger you for money". That may be the way you respond to a debt from a friend, but it really isn't the way to do business.

I'd advise you to either send a formal final demand yourself, written on paper and sent registered post to the company's registered office (Google for example texts), or pay a lawyer to send them a letter. If they still don't pay within the time-frame stipulated (max 2 weeks), then further action depends on a couple of things. If you and your client are based in the same country, and it's a relatively small sum (no more than a couple of thousand dollars), maybe there are simplified procedures in place to sue them, such as the small claims courts we have in the EU. The courts would normally order the losing party to pay all court costs, and non-payment cases are almost always settled in favour of the supplier - you have an unalienable right to payment for your labour. However, if you're in different countries or if the sum is very large, legal fees can escalate to a point where you can't afford to pay them (even if you'll be reimbursed one day). In that case, debt recovery companies become the better solution. They will take about a third of the money they recover, but at least you'll have two-thirds, plus the satisfaction of knowing that you made the client pay.

But before you do anything else, try to ascertain whether the client is still solvent. Can you access the company register of the client's country? That's often possible on-line nowadays. There's absolutely no point in spending money trying to recover a debt from a company that's insolvent - the best lawyers and courts in the world can't do that.

Next time (I'm assuming this is now an ex-client, but you may have the same situation with another), send a polite email just a short while after the payment date. Follow it with a more formal reminder a short while later. If you haven't received any sort of reply, now contact various email addresses and try the phone, Skype etc as well. Don't give them any room to say they never received your reminders. After that, it's time for the final demand, as stated above. What's a "short while"? In my case it varies a little but I often send the polite note at +7 days, the second reminder at +14 days, the "all contact points" communication is at +21 days and once it's a month overdue I'll regrettably have to issue a final demand, which is really the start of recovery procedures.

"Can't pay" is something that we do unfortunately have to deal with from time to time. It's why you should never allow one client to owe too much. "Won't pay" clients should be made to pay, one way or another.


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:10
Finnish to English
Never wait Dec 5, 2014

Never, ever wait for overdue payment too long.

For example, if a work provider says 30 days, then chase after 30 days - 60 days, after 60 days, etc.

Whatever you think of your agency they do NOT regard you highly

Threaten to take legal action and then they might pay you


best wishes and good luck

S


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:10
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Do you have a written agreement? Dec 5, 2014

Does it say anything about late payment?
Does it say anything about copyright?

You could mention that you own the copyright to the translated text until you are paid, and nobody can use it. It worked for me in the past.
Katalin


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:10
Member (2008)
French to English
Pirating your translation Dec 5, 2014

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:

You could mention that you own the copyright to the translated text until you are paid, and nobody can use it. It worked for me in the past.
Katalin


Agree. Once when I had such an issue I discovered that more than just an unpaid bill, it's an economic crime, since the end user is now using material that you have the copyright to. It's legally not much different than internet pirating. Corporations will sit up and take notice when that is pointed out to them.

[Edited at 2014-12-05 19:24 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:10
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Get moving! Dec 5, 2014

Jorim De Clercq wrote:
But now they say that one of their clients hasn't paid them and that they are going to pay me when their client pays them.

Irrelevant. You did not have a contract with the end customer or had a chance to assess their credit worthiness. The one you had an agreement with was your customer, and they should honour their part of the agreement if you have honoured yours.

Jorim De Clercq wrote:
My client is still very friendly, so I don't want to damage our relationship too much.

Being friendly is a way of delaying the payment. My advice is that you begin to take legal action against these people. I hope you have a contract, purchase order, accepted invoice, etc.


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Gad Kohenov  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 19:10
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Did you remember to ask for a PO? Dec 6, 2014

If you did you can give them a "1" in the Blue Board (if they are Proz members). If that does not help you will need a collection agency located in your clien't s country. If they are not too far from where you are and the sum is considerable, pay them a "surprise visit" and collect your money. If you don't have a PO you are in trouble. All you can do is try to contact the end client and show them a copy of the invoice you sent to the agency. Once they see the hefty commission the agency charged them, they will consider working with another agency. You can always contact a lawyer in the country of your client. I am sure Proz members could guide you if you mention the country and city where your client is located.

Happy hunting,

G.K.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:10
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Wrong, wrong, wrong! Dec 6, 2014

Gad Kohenov wrote:
If you did you can give them a "1" in the Blue Board (if they are Proz members). If that does not help you will need a collection agency located in your clien't s country.

Sorry, but I profoundly disagree with the idea of using the Blueboard as a collection method. Adding a score to the Blueboard should be considered carefully, but once a score has been added, it should stay there. The Blueboard is a feature aimed towards helping the community stay out of trouble with unreliable customers. If we add a 1 and then remove it as soon as we have been paid, we are not helping the community at all.

Gad Kohenov wrote:
All you can do is try to contact the end client and show them a copy of the invoice you sent to the agency. Once they see the hefty commission the agency charged them, they will consider working with another agency.

I completely disagree with this suggestion on three counts:

1. Privacy should have the utmost priority in our profession. Contacting end customers is a severe violation of the privacy we owe to our agency customers, and so it is reflected in all service contracts we sign with end customers.

2. By contacting the end customer, you would de facto admit that you do have a business relationship with the end customer, and that it is OK not to be paid until the end customer pays.

3. The margins charged by our agency customers should not be our concern at all. We should be concerned with charging reasonable, sustainable rates, whoever the customer is, agency or direct customer. Agencies have their role in the industry and they are the ones who have to think about their business model or margins, not us.


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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:10
French to German
+ ...
It's their risk not yours Dec 6, 2014

If the agency has been paid by the end customer or not is not your problem. You only deal with YOUR client and your client is the agency. So they have to pay you wether they get the money from their customers or not.

No matter if your relationshiph will be damaged with your agency. I would not work with them anymore anyway. The way they act is an absolute no go. They have no respect for you and don't bother how you cope for living! And: Who guarantees you that the next time they won't act the sam way?

It's their risk if their customers don't pay, not yours and they ought to have enough cash flow even if they don't get paid!...

I sincerely wonder why you wait 9 months without undertaking anything!?! I would have sent them a reminder at the latest 3 weeks after the payment delay, then a second one and then they would have heart of my lawyer. (But this probably would not have been necessary because they would have understood that I do not accept working for nothing...)

I would not contact the end customer neither, but I would leave a 1 on the blueboard and not change the 1 even if they pay (you may just can add that after I don't how many months you finally got your money if you ever do).


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Sorry, I have to disagree Dec 6, 2014

Gad Kohenov wrote:
Did you remember to ask for a PO?
If you did you can give them a "1" in the Blue Board (if they are Proz members). If that does not help you will need a collection agency located in your clien't s country. If they are not too far from where you are and the sum is considerable, pay them a "surprise visit" and collect your money. If you don't have a PO you are in trouble. All you can do is try to contact the end client and show them a copy of the invoice you sent to the agency. Once they see the hefty commission the agency charged them, they will consider working with another agency.

If you've been stupid enough to get nothing at all in writing, then you'll clearly have more trouble convincing the client to pay, but that doesn't mean the facts have to be in a PO, and not having one doesn't stop you following all the normal courses of action.

You can make an entry on the BB for any client you've ever worked for. If they don't have a BB record, and even if they've never heard of ProZ.com, you can first create the record, then add your entry. The BB should be used to inform your peers of your experience, good or bad, and entries shouldn't be changed, though the text can usefully be updated (just for a while, I believe) to show developments.

As for contacting the end client, that's probably putting you in breach of contract, too. Opinion is divided as to whether we ever have the right to do it. I have to say I did it once; not to ask the end client for payment or help in getting payment, but to inform the end client that by publishing the website I'd translated (and not been paid for) my copyright was being contravened and that I was giving them due notice before putting the matter in the hands of my lawyer. My own client did pay up immediately afterwards, so I suppose I should have been happy, but to be honest it left a very bad taste in my mouth. I'm not sure I'd ever do it again.


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