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Payment issues, what can you do without losing the customer
Thread poster: Teresa Woischiski

Teresa Woischiski  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:48
Member (Jul 2017)
English to German
+ ...
Jun 30

Hello colleagues,

I have an agency which is giving me a lot of work and I am very thankful for that. It pays my bills.
But: they have in their contract the statement, that they only pay after 2 months.

Additionally to that, they don't pay after two, but not even after 3 months. Sometimes I have to wait another 2 months for the money. I cannot live like that. I need a regular income in order to pay my fix costs.

I write an overdue notice every month. Usually, then they pay. This time I did not even get a response. I am very anxious and furious as well.

Does anyone have experience with how to deal with this matters? Especially because the client is an agency and important to me as I recently started this business and do not have that many agencies to choose from yet.

Thank you very much for your help.


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Christophe Delaunay  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:48
Member (2011)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Not acceptable Jun 30

Teresa, by accepting such conditionsn you not only shot yourself in the foot but also acted against the whole community.
I don't even want to know the rate you accepted. Please, do respect yourself and you'll be respected.

Good luck with this agency!


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Teresa Woischiski  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:48
Member (Jul 2017)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
? Jun 30

hi Christopher,

I don't understand in what way this answer should be helpful. I don't need any sarcastic comments here. Thanks.


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
I agree Jun 30

Christophe Delaunay wrote:

Teresa, by accepting such conditionsn you not only shot yourself in the foot but also acted against the whole community.


With the statement above... anyway you should write to this agency with kindly manners by explaining your problem.


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:48
Member
Italian to English
Prevention is better than cure Jun 30

I sympathise with your situation. Unfortunately, prevention is better than cure. Luckily there are some things you can do, so don't despair just yet!

Before you begin working with an agency, check their payment record. The site Payment Practices (http://www.paymentpractices.net) is excellent - there is a yearly fee, but it is regularly updated, and considered the "go-to" site by many translators. You can also make an entry on the Blue Board, although you possibly don't have access to it, not being a paying member.

On the few occasions I have been forced to chase up non-paying customers, I had a lawyer write me a letter threatening legal action if they did not pay. It cost me a fair bit less than a hundred euros, and had the desired effect. Often agencies "try their luck", especially with newcomers, thinking that the translator will not pursue the matter.

For the future, though, I really would urge you to expand your client base. You need to be contacting agencies on a regular basis, so that you don't end up relying on one customer, and finding yourself in trouble when they don't pay. Having all your work come from one customer may also be problematic from a taxation point of view.

Best of luck.


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:48
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Stop working for that client Jun 30

You say this client "pays [your] bills" -- but it doesn't if it doesn't pay and/or doesn't pay on time! It's pretty clear that you should stop working for this client as soon as possible.

In the meantime, if they are sending you a lot of regular work then they are also relying on you, so you can tell them that until you receive payment you will not be able to accept any more jobs from them. Sometimes that will spur them into action because then they are directly affected.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 09:48
English to Croatian
+ ...
Blue Board. Jun 30

Do these people have a Blue Board record on ProZ?

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:48
German to English
If payment after 60 days is acceptable to you ... Jun 30

... then you should tell them that, from now on, you cannot accept any new projects if they have any overdue invoices. I would then send them a payment reminder at 50 days to warn them of the approaching problem.

If payment after 60 days is not acceptable to you, then do the same thing with a payment term that is acceptable.

If you are in any way concerned they might go out of business (and almost every translation agency probably ought to be looked at as an at-risk business), then you should also set a limit on the outstanding balance, and refuse to take on new projects until they have paid enough invoices to keep you below that limit.

The important thing is to keep the rules clear and simple and stick to them and to make sure the the PMs and (if possible) the accounting department are aware of them and have filed them away.

And, regarding Christophe's and Angie's comments: If you are not willing to risk losing the agency, there is not really anything you can do until you have found other better clients.

For the short term, I think Angela's suggestion is the simplest and best: Send them a payment reminder that also informs them you will not be able to do any work until all overdue invoices have been paid.
Blueboard threats are probably also useful for agencies and scary Lawyerese may also be effective, although I would think that applies more to direct clients than to more or less deadbeat agencies.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:48
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Be professional, but persistent Jun 30

When I started out I fell for an agency like that as well. However, all the advice from our colleagues got me out of this situation quickly.

Without access to the Blue Board here, you can send them an email in which you are announcing legal steps unless they pay you by a date you will provide.

You should indeed stop working with this client as soon as you possibly can afford it - considering the present circumstances you could do it right away since they're not paying you anyway or only when they feel like or have the required cash flow.

I know, giving up a client isn't easy. Still, the time you're probably spending on being (rightfully) upset and concerned with how you are going to pay your bills, can be spend searching for new and reliable clients. Always check their reputation and payment practices. Sign up for the ProZ.com scammer alerts (it's free - and I'm not saying that your client is a scammer, okay?), and, most importantly, try to get several new clients interested in collaborating with you.

Please pay close attention to their Terms & Conditions before accepting any work from new clients. Only you know whether you can afford to accept payment terms of 60+ days. Not allow them to "gargle" you means that you take pride in yourself and your work, a pride that is also being reflected by the rates you are willing to accept.

Regarding your "problem" client, just don't accept anymore work from them until they have paid you.


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Teresa Woischiski  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:48
Member (Jul 2017)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Jun 30

Everybody,

thanks a lot for your help and tips.

I now feel more confirmed in standing up here and in taking action.

Thanks a lot, once again.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:48
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't let this happen to you Jun 30

Teresa Woischiski wrote:
I have an agency which is giving me a lot of work and I am very thankful for that. It pays my bills.
But: they have in their contract the statement, that they only pay after 2 months.

Additionally to that, they don't pay after two, but not even after 3 months. Sometimes I have to wait another 2 months for the money.

No, you don't have to wait. You can do several things to stop yourself being treated like a slave by these people. If you're OK with accepting 60-day terms, fine. I'm not but I know some are. But you absolutely have to make sure they stick to those terms. Not sticking to them means they are breaking the laws of commerce, and liable to be sued. You don't have to beg them to pay, or borrow from friends or family. You should chase them for your payment from day 61 - and keep doing so until they pay. If you're both in Germany, or even both in the EU, you can take them to court for a very small sum. Believe me, you WILL win. Suing for non-payment for labour is a no-contest. And don't accept another word of work until you've received every cent.

The fact that they aren't answering this time is worrying. It might be worth checking on their financial status, so check their record on the relevant country's register of companies. If they've already filed for bankruptcy then you can only follow the procedures. If they haven't but you suspect they're in difficulty, it might be worth contracting a debt recovery company to collect. That will be very speedy and at least you'll get more than half what you're owed.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 09:48
English to Croatian
+ ...
BB record. Jun 30

The OP just sent me their BB page in a private message. Here is a little detail from it:

Overall:

3.4

Past 12 months:

1.9

And there a LOT of entries, I am truly surprised they have not been banned. Is it because of an occasional 2 after a load of 1s?

[Edited at 2017-06-30 10:37 GMT]


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Andrejs Gorbunovs  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 10:48
Member (2013)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Should keep in mind Jun 30

When approached by similar outsourcers, I always remember about the now bankrupt Pearl Linguistics (https://slator.com/industry-news/pearl-bankruptcy-leaves-linguists-clients-scrambling/), who had a horrible BlueBoard record and they paid with similar delays, in the end they went under and a LOT of translators were left unpaid, if I am not mistaken, thy failed to pay freelancers for the sum of +/- 1.5 m British pounds.

The example above just shows that one day your client who provides you with a lot of work can disappear with all your unpaid payments, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Just don't work for such people.


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:48
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
WOW Jun 30

Lingua 5B wrote:

The OP just sent me their BB page in a private message. Here is a little detail from it:

Overall:

3.4

Past 12 months:

1.9

And there a LOT of entries, I am truly surprised they have not been banned.


Me too.

Guess in the end they always paid, albeit late?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:48
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Only formal non-payment issues spark the possibility of a ban Jun 30

Lingua 5B wrote:
I am truly surprised they have not been banned. Is it because of an occasional 2 after a load of 1s?

There needs to be at least three outstanding claims of non-payment, I believe, rather than simple 1s. Many translators won't change their entry even if they finally get paid - rightfully if they would never think of working with that outsourcer again. So it isn't a straightforward case of three 1s and you're out.

Oh dear, there's obviously a deterioration in an already bad situation here. Very fast action is need, IMHO, even if it means losing some of the money to a recovery firm. And then all contact needs to be broken with them, unless they pay for each job in advance. To continue working with them and offering them credit would be playing with fire.


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