Dealing with bad-faith clients
Thread poster: GaelleSTW (X)

GaelleSTW (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:04
English to French
+ ...
Jan 8, 2016

Hi, all!

I am new in the translation industry, and I have some questions I hope you can help me with...
Well, my questions are quite simpe:

- Do you ask for a partial payment when you start working with a new client? I tried to ask many times but the answer is always "No", .....And that doesn't necessarily mean the client is dishonnest because I almost always get my money at the end....But How to manage this? Which guarantee do you use, if you use some? How to avoid being played for a fool ?....

- Second question: when a client doesn't pay you , what can you do? For instance, I did a job for a company which has not been paid and it seems they are not paying people (as I saw many querries and bad comments on their Blueboard) but when they approached me I checked on their Blueboard and it was all good... I tried to send a formal notice by post but they did nit collect it, and the price a lawyer would cost me is much higher than the invoice total.... What do you do in such cases?

Thanks for you help in advance and sorry for my bad english....

Gaëlle

[Edited at 2016-01-08 10:59 GMT]


 

Vadim Kadyrov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 14:04
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
First, Jan 8, 2016

you have to thoroughly check them out as potential clients. Most probably, people with all 5s on BlueBoard will pay you.

Second, avoid agencies from certain countries (do I have to name them?).

Third, try to always look for the best clients, which are direct clients, actually. These folks can and usually do make upfront payments. You are in France, which means you have a lot of these clients there. Just use some marketing tricks to get them.

And, fourth, if you face a non-payment problem, be creative! Here are some thoughts I came across - https://engrutra.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/non-payers-when-clients-vanish-into-thin-air/

Generally speaking, in a year or two you will be able to distinguish paying clients from bad ones.

[Edited at 2016-01-08 10:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-01-08 10:25 GMT]


 

Robin Joensuu  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:04
Member
English to Swedish
+ ...
Threats of different actions Jan 8, 2016

I am currently in a similar situation. Long story short: a company didn't pay any of my invoices and the people handling my accounting/factoring didn't see this until after 6-7 months after the last invoice was sent.

After trying to do things "nice" for about a month, I threatened to blacklist them, give them a low Blue board rating etc etc. When they didn't respond to that I started sending mass "spam" emails to their whole project management with numerous freelance translators on cc. The last part made them get their act together.

I am not sure I recommend the last part through as I got a number of replies from pissed off translators asking me to bugger off, calling me a crook and what not. Personally I hate fighting with people, but apart from legal actions, blacklisting, warning colleagues and being as much a nuisance as possible are the tools we have.

[Redigerad 2016-01-08 11:52 GMT]


 

dlecount
Germany
Local time: 13:04
German to English
+ ...
It may be necessary to cut your losses, but it's worth doing research in advance Jan 8, 2016

GaelleSTW wrote:
- Do you ask for a partial payment when you start working with a new client? I tried to ask many times but the answer is always "No", .....And that doesn't necessarily mean the client is dishonnest because I almost always get my money at the end....But How to manage this? Which guarantee do you use, if you use some? How to avoid being played for a fool ?....


Depends on the size of the job. If you're doing a job worth several thousand euros with a brand new client, then I would argue that you should insist on a partial downpayment before performance.

It's also helpful to dig around the net for information about the client and examine the client's website - that can give you a sense of how serious the client is. There are a lot of rogue agencies out there, and a lot of them have poorly written websites, unusual e-mail addresses, missing postal information etc.

If you're crying out for work, you can take your chances with smaller jobs first and see how reliable they are at payment. It's unlikely anyway that many serious clients will ask you to do a major job from the outset (although not impossible, especially if it's urgent and out-of-hours). As a rule, if a brand new client (agencies in particular) entrusts you with such a major job from the outset, that should also generally get alarm bells ringing. Smaller jobs let both parties test the waters to see how a working partnership can go - the client can see how you are as a translator, and you can see how reliable they are in payment.

(I will qualify that by mentioning that my very first job with one of my clients was a huge job through an agency that had to be done by working 36 hours straight - that should have had alarm bells ringing but I was a little naive at the time. As it turns out, it was the end client that was the fraudster - the agency turned out to be a serious enterprise and I had a fruitful working relationship with them for five years until they ceased trading).

- Second question: when a client doesn't pay you , what can you do? For instance, I did a job for YOURCULTURE which has not been paid and it seems they are not paying people (as I saw many querries and bad comments on their Blueboard) but when they approached me I checked on their Blueboard and it was all good... I tried to send a formal notice by post but they did nit collect it, and the price a lawyer would cost me is much higher than the invoice total.... What do you do in such cases?


They didn't collect it? I'm not sure specifically how registered post works in France, but here in Germany registered post can either take the form of "registered upon signature" (Einschreiben) or "registered upon delivery" (Einwurfeinschreiben). If you send something by a postal service that requires the signature of the recipient, they can easily reject receipt upon seeing your address, but proof of that rejection can demonstrate acting in bad faith. You can also have a court-registered dunning letter sent, which costs a bit, but does include notarised proof of exactly what you sent.

Of course, all this presupposes that the amount due is collectable in the first place. If pursuing payment is going to cost more than the invoice is worth, you may be forced to cut your losses and learn from the experience. You need to figure out a threshold at which it becomes worthwhile to pursue the matter, because doggedly chasing up payment out of principle may end up costing you more time and money than you get out of it.

At best, you can refuse to work with the client again, and should they eventually pay the owed amount with an extreme delay to get you to accept jobs again, you should insist on full advance payment before work commences.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:04
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Check potential clients very carefully before agreeing to collaborate Jan 8, 2016

Vadim Kadyrov wrote:
you have to thoroughly check them out as potential clients. Most probably, people with all 5s on BlueBoard will pay you.

Generally speaking, in a year or two you will be able to distinguish paying clients from bad ones.

It's true, I agree - you do develop a "nose" for trouble. If you really need the job but you're not confident about being paid, then ask for partial payment up-front, or even full payment, and then stick to that decision. Asking for it, then doing the work without it is tantamount to saying "I'm powerless - I'll even accept non-payment". But (in Europe at least) it's normal for companies to do business on credit terms, although 30 days is quite enough. Consumers need to pay up front but you aren't in a business/consumer relationship - you're a (very small) business providing services to another business. If you get contacted by a private individual, then they should expect to have to pay up front; a company won't.
Second, avoid agencies from certain countries (do I have to name them?).

I know what you mean, but I don't think blanket bans are the way to go. I would certainly be ultra-careful, but there are good clients the world over.
Third, try to always look for the best clients, which are direct clients, actually.

Not necessarily a good ploy for a new translator though as there's a lot more responsibility working with direct clients. A good agency will provide lots of help in terms of fielding questions, giving advice and feedback, and proofreading your work before delivering it. And there ARE good agencies out there.

So, check out every potential client every way you can. Not just the company you think you're dealing with either. Check out what the Scam Centre here on ProZ.com ( http://www.proz.com/about/translator-scam-alerts/ ) has to say about ID theft, subscribe to the scam alerts, and follow the good advice in the Wikis linked to there.

If you find one who doesn't pay, first check out their official record on their country's register of companies, usually available on the web. If they can't pay then there's no point in chasing - just register your claim and cross your fingers. If they simply don't want to pay then you must carry out normal escalation procedures, as any other business would do. A final demand by registered post is a necessary step. Within your own country, or within the EU, there are simplified legal procedures which don't require a lawyer and may cost only around €35, which is reimbursed by the client in the end. Then there are all sorts of other non-official remedies - as mentioned elsewhere - or bring in a debt recovery company who will deduct their take from the amount they recover, meaning you at least get around 70%.

Never forget that you have an absolute right to payment for your labour, and an action for non-payment is the most likely to succeed. I believe it's very rare for the courts to find against the issuer of an invoice, even if they only have a couple of emails to prove the job was assigned to them and the work wasn't repidly rejected for quality issues.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:04
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Go for reputable agencies Jan 8, 2016

It may be difficult to get them to work with you at all, but if your qualifications and your work are up to standard, some will, and they pay.

I like medium-sized agencies - 'big enough to cope, small enough to care', as one of my clients put it. They support beginners. They go for slightly demanding clients, and they expect quality, but they are good to translators too (or the good ones move on when they get the chance...).

They may not pay the highest rates, but absolutely on the reasonable side, and on time. Bigger agencies normally pay too, but I have dropped several of them for other reasons. Read the comments as well as the figures on the Blue Board - that will help you develop that 'nose' for the good and bad ones.

Read carefully between the lines when clients send mails, and check out their websites. If they are all flashy graphics and no real information, simply turn them down - you don't have to give a reason.

If they are ISO certified and/or show credentials, the chances are they are OK.
Learn to recognise the logos of associations like ATA, ATC (Association of Translation Companies), EUATC (European Union of associations of Translation Companies) ALC (Association of Language Companies), ITI and other associations. In the unlikely event that you don't get paid, you can ask these associations for help.

Best of luck!


 

GaelleSTW (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:04
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jan 9, 2016

Thanks for all your kind answers.
One last question (sorry....)
What happens if an client doesn't pay you because he faces himself a non-payment (not for quality reasons, but just because the final client is a bad payer?) Is he responsible to pay you? thanks again


 

Claire Soulié  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:04
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
You should be paid Jan 9, 2016

Hi Gaelle

Yes your client should still pay you even if their own client hasn't. You should agree on payment terms before taking the job, and write the terms on your invoice. Your commercial relationship is between you and your own client, not between you and your client's client.

I don't know the amount the job was for but it might be worth contacting a debt recovery company. They are not exactly lawyers, I think, but they have packages for a fair price : http://www.sefairepayer.com/recouvrement-creances-professionnels/factures-impayees/impact.

I have used one such company in the UK for a very overdue invoice and was paid the same week.

All the best
Claire


 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:04
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
I believe that directly violates the Blue Board rules Jan 9, 2016

Robin Joensuu wrote:

...I threatened to blacklist them, give them a low Blue board rating etc.


As far as I understand, that is a direct violation of Blue Board rule # 9:

9 The Blue Board may not be used to coerce. Using the Blue Board, or threatening to use the Blue Board, in such a way as to pressure an outsourcer or service provider into taking some action, is strictly prohibited.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Wrong approach Jan 11, 2016

Robin Joensuu wrote:
After trying to do things "nice" for about a month, I threatened to blacklist them, give them a low Blue board rating etc etc. When they didn't respond to that I started sending mass "spam" emails to their whole project management with numerous freelance translators on cc. The last part made them get their act together.

Sorry, but such actions are damaging for the profession. Disclosing information to third parties about your business with a customer is most unappropriate, since one of the traits of our profession is total privacy. Whenever any translator acts against privacy, our progress towards becoming widely respected independent professionals gets hindered. Furthermore, by CC-ing third parties, you are dragging them into your business issue, exclusively for your purposes and not to protect or further our profession.

Nevertheless, I completely sympathise with your situation and totally encourage you begin legal action against any non-payer, and add them to the Blueboard with a low rating (no need for an explicit comment).


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Of course!! Jan 11, 2016

GaelleSTW wrote:
What happens if an client doesn't pay you because he faces himself a non-payment (not for quality reasons, but just because the final client is a bad payer?) Is he responsible to pay you? thanks again

Your business relationship is with your customer, not with their customers. Your customer takes part of the money paid by the end user of your translation, and also assumes the risk that the end user does not pay. Your customer has to pay by all means. Never take non-payment by a third party as an excuse for lack of payment of your invoices.

Sometimes an old customer with a good payment track can get in a bind if a customer does not pay them some big job you have been working on. In these cases, you might want to be flexible and allow them some extra time. Such cases are naturally open to a reasonable negotiation, but every conscious customer knows that they have to pay you in any case.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:04
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I dont' think it's a violation Jan 11, 2016

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:

As far as I understand, that is a direct violation of Blue Board rule # 9:

9 The Blue Board may not be used to coerce. Using the Blue Board, or threatening to use the Blue Board, in such a way as to pressure an outsourcer or service provider into taking some action, is strictly prohibited.


I see translators moaning about invoices outstanding for nine or ten months already, still unsure, seeking peers' reassurance on whether it justifies posting an entry on the client's Blue Board record. I'd do it within a couple of weeks after the agreed payment date, if I saw that the client has chosen to stall for time as much as they can.

Each translator may select their fuse length, and the client can't guess it. Therefore warning them that "unless the overdue payment has been settled by a certain date, an entry on the Blue Board will be made" is not blackmail.

IMO the blackmail Proz wants to avoid is from the client, viz. "Give us a 5 on the Blue Board today, and your invoice due six months ago will be paid on Friday next week." This completely thwarts the intent of having the Blue Board.

On account of the rules, I won't be naming agencies that do it here. However it's easy to spot them. Just look for a wave of 5s in a 2-3 days' period after a stream of 1s and 2s has driven their LWA average below a certain preset level. If you go over that agency's BB history, you'll see this phenomenon repeated every now and then.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 13:04
English to Polish
+ ...
... Jan 12, 2016

GaelleSTW wrote:

Hi, all!

I am new in the translation industry, and I have some questions I hope you can help me with...
Well, my questions are quite simpe:

- Do you ask for a partial payment when you start working with a new client? I tried to ask many times but the answer is always "No", .....And that doesn't necessarily mean the client is dishonnest because I almost always get my money at the end....But How to manage this? Which guarantee do you use, if you use some? How to avoid being played for a fool ?....


Hi, Gaelle! I suggest identifying (narrowing down) your problem and trying to find a solution to it.

Analytically, your problem is not really a potentially non-paying client but the risk involved due to the uncertainty of being paid or not. And that is something you can address by asking for payment in advance but also in other ways. I would suggest exploring the other ways, notably ways that don't inconvenience your clients or potential clients. In fact, by reassuring them that they don't have to pay anything in advance you can assuage their own doubts, set them more at peace and make them feel more comfortable hiring you, meaning more work for you (and perhaps better rates). One of such alternative solutions could be insurance against non-payment, as long as you can find an insurance provider whose terms don't require unreasonable steps on your part (screening, background checks, business intelligence or any especially conversation with the client about the subject, which would defeat the goal of not putting pressure on the client). Or set aside a liquidity reserve and find the limits of your comfort zone, i.e. level of risk you're willing to take and how to identify it.

- Second question: when a client doesn't pay you , what can you do? For instance, I did a job for a company which has not been paid and it seems they are not paying people (as I saw many querries and bad comments on their Blueboard) but when they approached me I checked on their Blueboard and it was all good... I tried to send a formal notice by post but they did nit collect it, and the price a lawyer would cost me is much higher than the invoice total.... What do you do in such cases?


Lawyers and courts are usually more expensive than any relatively small-sized business dispute over non-payment. Unless you can simply process your invoice with some e-mail evidence through an e-court or use a conventional small-claims court with similar ease, collection is simply going to be too expensive to bother, most of the time.

This is why you need overcommitting, i.e. taking too big jobs from too uncertain payers.

Regarding the BlueBoard, the mechanism is simple:

Almost all contracts imposed on translators by translation agencies include confidentiality clauses. Some contracts, even from Proz.com's BlueBoard outsourcers contain an explicit stipulation that prohibits online criticism. If you violate that provision, there is a contractual penalty to pay. (Which is generally illegal in common-law jurisdictions but legal in civil-law systems.)

Thus, some of those companies outlaw negative or neutral feedback but obviously are not going to complain about positive feedback, even where it technically violates their contract with you.

Next, companies are obviously going to contest negative entries, but nobody's going to contest or verify positive entries.

Also, Proz.com staff drafted the rules so that there are very few things and circumstances you're allowed to post feedback on, or because of. Naturally, nobody's going to vet or investigate positive feedback for compliance with the rules, only negative feedback.

This skews the BB in favour of the company, especially if there is a huge lot of positive opinions, like 4.9 average out of 200 ratings.

In short, the system is biased and can be very easily abused to serve as a powerful PR tube for an abusive company.


 

Adrian MM. (X)
Local time: 13:04
French to English
+ ...
Gauge the translation client's solvency Jan 14, 2016

Dealing with a social security claimant vs. a trans. agency or directly with a multinational corporation may call for slightly different approaches:

1. in the case of the former, ask for full payment upfront: UK Solicitors may require a non-bouncing cheque or banker's draft, plus signing of a declaration of no money-laundering of the payment made upfront!

2. in the case of the latter, do a Blue Board, credit or company search (check if still trading, share capital and any over-indebtedness/loans) and if within an accessible and non-suspicious offshore jurisdiction. NB: UK partnerships, unless an LLP, present a particular non-disclosure and no-registrability 'challenge' since disappearance of the Registry of Business Names in London 40 years ago.

3. ask for a 10%-50% deposit on a hefty assignment to show bona fides and the balance on delivery or within a specified period post-completion.

4. do not ask for any money upfront, but do not release the translation until full payment is in your a/c.

5. interpreting briefs, e.g. including lengthy travel time & hanging round a court on a case that never goes to trial and is settled, may call for a different approach.

[Edited at 2016-01-14 12:09 GMT]


 


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