How can a Purchase Order protect a translator?
Thread poster: Ivan Niu

Ivan Niu  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:19
Member (2011)
English to Chinese
Oct 12, 2016

Last year a new client (a Greek translation company) gave me a big translation job. The job was completed at the end of the same year, but I haven’t received the payment. They refused to provide any feedback on quality and said it’s because their client hadn’t paid them. The purchase orders they sent to me are all I have by now.

This year another new client (a German translation company) gave me a big translation job as well. I asked if they could pay me 30% of the full amount as soon as I complete 30% of the job. They said this was against their rules and their purchase orders would guarantee my payment.

My questions are:
1) How could a Purchase Order sent via email protect a translator’s rights and guarantee the payment?
2) What could I do with the purchase order if the client (who lives so far away from my own country) refuses to pay?

Thanks a lot!
Ivan Niu


The Misha
Local time: 07:19
Russian to English
+ ...
It 1) can't and 2) you can't do a damn thing Oct 12, 2016

Purchase order or not, if you are in China, and they are in Germany, there is absolutely nothing you can do if they decide they don't want to pay you. Sure, there'll be plenty of those who say sue them and all that, but the costs are prohibitively high, and chances are you won't even get a visa to go there to file that suit. Your only recourse is badmouthing the non-payer anywhere you can think of and hurt their business this way, so maybe they'd budge and pay you. But if they don't care (which is the case with most deliberate non-payers), there's nothing you could do, not as a practical matter anyway.

Maybe you should think twice before jumping on a large job from an unfamiliar outsourcer on the other end of the world. I know I don't.

[Edited at 2016-10-12 17:37 GMT]


John Fossey  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:19
Member (2008)
French to English
Clarity and due diligence Oct 12, 2016

A Purchase Order mainly provides clarity and helps prevent misunderstandings.

Unfortunately, the only way it helps collect payment is if you use the services of a collection agency or take it to court.

Really, the only way to be pretty sure of getting paid is to do due diligence before accepting any work, and make sure that the outsourcer has a satisfactory history of payment, as shown on the BlueBoard and similar reports.

After the work is done it's rather too late to discover the client is a non-payer.


Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:19
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Solutions Oct 12, 2016

As John already said, check the client before you accept work for him, especially if it's a large job.

If your customer is an agency you can have a look at the blueboard on Proz and see if there are have been any issues with other providers.

Generally speaking agencies do not accept to pay before you've done the job, direct customers often do though.

Concerning direct customers I check them as well in order to avoid scammers, companies without money etc. and have a look on how much they make per year. Direct customers often accept to pay 30 to 50 % in advance. I have one that even pays 80 %.

In your case if it's an agency either tell them you make a bad blueboard entry if you do not get your money (that often works when you already wait a few weeks) or work with a debt collecting agency. If your customer is able to pay and if you have a PO in most cases you can get the money (there are only a few countries in the world where it's really difficult).

Choose your debt collecting agency carefully though. The rates vary a lot. I know one which you only pay if they get your money. If you want to I can send you their contact details, they work nearly world wide and the owner is a friend of mine.

If you wait too long though it's too late.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:19
Member (2007)
+ ...
Absolutely no link between PO and likelihood of being paid Oct 12, 2016

An exchange of emails that give a clear indication that your services are requested in exchange for payment is a legally binding contract in every jurisdiction I know anything about. And if those emails also confirm a delivery without any subsequent complaints about the translation quality then you've got legal grounds for demanding full payment.

So, PO or no PO you're entitled to payment. But if the company for some reason doesn't want to pay then, PO or no PO, you're going to have to chase them, through the courts if necessary.

As said, we need to avoid working with those who may be reluctant to pay. Due diligence will normally reveal who to avoid. If you're finding clients who have a good reputation but who still try it on, consider whether you're givng the right message. As an example, I'm afraid that by asking a client if they could pay staged payments for a large job then you're giving a very clear indication that they are in the driving seat, they are the boss. You need to give them your terms. If those terms are going to make you lose the job then you may want to negotiate - perhaps waive the advance payment in return for a more relaxed delivery date which will give you more time for other clients' jobs, to ensure ongoing income. And if a client gets away with refusing to pay for the best part of a year, without seeing bailiffs or debt recovery agents on their doorstep then they're getting a clear message that they'll never be forced to pay.


English to Russian
+ ...
No risk management Oct 13, 2016

Although email (an electronic paper) may prove the fact of communication (and an offer), yet it doesn't work properly when there're no proper business papers available--no CONTRACT. How come?
It really depends on place, status, residence, and so on--both yours and non-payer.

Furthermore, I always shudder to think of a specialist who didn't secure himself in a biz, say, to chunk the project and have them pay by instalments or something.

Take care


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Ivan Oct 13, 2016

Ivan Niu wrote:
They said this was against their rules and their purchase orders would guarantee my payment.

I agree with the other repliers here. The PO does not guarantee payment. The PO is simply a formal declaration by the client about e.g. the amount that they intend to pay you, but it does not "guarantee" payment. The fact that an agency issues a PO does not mean that they have the money available already. A PO can also be changed by the agency (e.g. if you or they discover a mistake on it, or if the nature of the job changes).

1) How could a Purchase Order sent via email protect a translator’s rights and guarantee the payment?

It doesn't (even if sent by snailmail or handed to you personally).

2) What could I do with the purchase order if the client (who lives so far away from my own country) refuses to pay?

The PO is simply additional proof that this is the amount that the client said that they're going to pay you. If the PO has a number, it makes it easier for the client's accounting department to find the information on their system.


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How can a Purchase Order protect a translator?

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