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My client refuses to pay me, does anyone have an idea on what to do?
Thread poster: Anna Augustin

Anna Augustin
Germany
Local time: 05:54
Member (May 2018)
English to German
+ ...
May 9

Hi everyone,

In February, I worked for a client and we had agreed on quite the price. I had worked with them before and they paid me timely, so I wasn't worried when they really rushed the project.

Today, I am still waiting for my money. I sent them what feels like dozens of emails, I called them numerous times (no one ever picks up) and even though their CEO has responded one or two times ("I'm on an important business trip in Asia, I will get back to you." Yea, sure...) no payment.

Since we're talking two months rent, I really need that money and especially March was no fun money-wise. I am beyond frustrated with them and I don't really know how to handle this situation professionally, since I don't know enough about what I can do (they are in the US, I am in Germany).

Does anyone have any experience with this they'd like to share?
I have kind of given up on ever receiving the money, but I don't want them to get away with this either.


Many thanks for your attention, this is my first post in the forumicon_smile.gif

[Bearbeitet am 2018-05-09 19:42 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Step 1 May 9

In my language pair ITA-ENG, I occasionally run into this problem, and over the years I have developed a process for ensuring that non-payers quickly change their minds and pay. It has never failed me (touch wood).

However each country has its own mores, its own customary practices, and its own procedures; I would not presume to advise on what is the best approach to take in the US.

If your client were in Italy, Step 1 would be to decide, quietly and with a level head, that getting this bill paid is simply another task, to be taken through until completed. Not getting emotional about it, not being angry, and not howling at the moon. Just getting on with the task in a rational, logical manner.

Step 2 would be to give this client a very poor BlueBoard rating, and to inform them that you have done so.

Step 3 might be to send them a link to this discussion thread so that they can watch it develop.

After that, I think the requirements for the US would be different and I would not presume to advise - although I assume they would vary from State to State.

Step 4 might be to appoint a lawyer based in the same city as the non-paying client. I think physical closeness is very important in these cases, so that if your case goes as far as requiring a personal visit, your lawyer will be able to arrange it without too much trouble.

Don't worry about legal costs because if your lawyer is worth her/his salt, you'll get payment in full + interest + damages + legal costs.

[Edited at 2018-05-09 14:59 GMT]

PS one last thing: be absolutely inflexible. Do not accept any excuses that your client may advance (away on a business trip, etc.). Do not show any sympathy for any difficulties the client may claim to be having. Those (if they exist) are not your problem.

[Edited at 2018-05-09 15:16 GMT]


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Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:54
English to French
+ ...
Court depends on the amount owed May 9

Anna:

If your claim is < $5000 (that amount probably varies from state to state), you need to go to Small Claims Court, which is free and doesn't require a lawyer. HOWEVER, plaintiff and defendant are required to attend the hearing (if the plaintiff does not attend, the case is dismissed, if the defendant doesn't, he/it is found guilty, generally speaking). One can be represented by a lawyer, but that may make a victory not cost-worthy.

Above the maximum SCC amount, one needs to file a civil lawsuit, which does require a lawyer. FWIW, fees in the USA charge AT LEAST $300/hour, more in big cities.

I don't think a collection agency would be worthwhile, not only because they typically take 30% of the claimed amount, but also because I don't think they are very effective without a judgment.


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Viviane Marx  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:54
German to Portuguese
+ ...
STEP 4 May 9

Tom in London wrote:

Step 4 might be to appoint a lawyer based in the same city as the non-paying client. I think physical closeness is very important in these cases, so that if your case goes as far as requiring a personal visit, your lawyer will be able to arrange it without too much trouble.

Don't worry about legal costs because if your lawyer is worth her/his salt, you'll get payment in full + interest + damages + legal costs.

[Edited at 2018-05-09 14:59 GMT]

PS one last thing: be absolutely inflexible. Do not accept any excuses that your client may advance (away on a business trip, etc.). Do not show any sympathy for any difficulties the client may claim to be having. Those (if they exist) are not your problem.

[Edited at 2018-05-09 15:16 GMT]





This happened to me last year. After 3 months phone calss, e-mails and reminders, I looked for a lawyer. After just one lawyer´s letter, the client paid every cent including interests and the legal costs.
Good luck


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

MODERATOR
Great advice Tom May 9

Thanks for the guide Tom.

Certainly worth taking note, for all of us.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Personal visit May 10

Dylan Jan Hartmann wrote:

Thanks for the guide Tom.

Certainly worth taking note, for all of us.


I've never worked out why my "method" works, but I think it has something to do with the prospect, further down the line if the client still refuses to pay, of a personal visit by bailiffs with the power to seize property.

When the non-paying client realises that you are going to go all the way, they pay up.


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Philippe SALMON
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:54
Member (2013)
English to French
Useful line in invoices, and something you can do if you feel brave May 10

We sympathise! We had to take someone to court for non-payment. It worked but was very stressful and time-consuming. Also it was annoying that we took the legal action, but the (many) other creditors got their money without contributing to legal costs.

I know this is late in the day for you, but here are my guidance points:

1. Never ever accept ANY work especially if they're thousands of miles away, without checking their Blue Board rating (and Payment Practices.net). Occasionally I get approached by agencies with a poor score (obviously desperate to recruit because of negative ratings) and I always reply : "Yes I'd be delighted to take this on. However, our policy where a potential client appears to have some payment issues is to work with them with payment upfront".
I've never heard from them again.

2. Include the following on your invoices :
"Payment is due within 14 days. After 28 days, we reserve the right to charge interest of 8.5% in line with the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act"
I know that this law refers to UK and Europe but the client may not know that...

3. If they don't pay on time send a nice email saying "It seems that payment of our invoice (attached) has been overlooked. I really don't want to have to re-issue it with the 8.5% added so I would be grateful for prompt payment". This nearly always works.

4. If that doesn't work, say that you will have no alternative but to publish your concerns on the Blue Board or Payment Practices and that this may result in them finding it difficult to get translators to work for them. If they don't respond, follow through.

5. Find a model letter for threatening legal action in their country on Google, customise it accordingly and send it "signed for".

6. In the UK and Europe, use the Small Claims Court as mentioned by other members. Most will pay when they get an invitation to court, partly because in most countries a judgement will affect their credit rating.

7. If you are brave and definitely don't want to work with them again, you can post something on their Facebook page or about them on Twitter.

Another useful strategy we have is to get my (adult) stepdaughter to ring the client. She is delightfully polite and charming, introduces herself by name and asks about the invoice. She doesn't SAY she is working for a debt collection agency but because the client doesn't know she isn't, this results in payment, usually immediately. Unfortunately she runs her own business and has two children so she can't make her services available to other translators...


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Great idea May 10

Cheryl Salmon wrote:

.....
Another useful strategy we have is to get my (adult) stepdaughter to ring the client. She is delightfully polite and charming, introduces herself by name and asks about the invoice. She doesn't SAY she is working for a debt collection agency but because the client doesn't know she isn't, this results in payment, usually immediately. Unfortunately she runs her own business and has two children so she can't make her services available to other translators...



Great idea !

Now I just need to find an adult stepdaughter....


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 00:54
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In the days before politically correct and anti-harassment laws... May 10

JUST FOR FUN...
(this can be flagged for entire threads, not messages alone)

I was told that many, many years ago there was a firm in Rio de Janeiro offering an unusual collection support service.

For a fee, they'd post a man - as tall and fat as they could get - wearing an eye-catching bright, checkered coat, with a white pane sewn to its back having "DEBT COLLECTOR" boldly written on it with black letters. The man would merely stand for hours on the sidewalk, right in front of the entrance to the debtor's quarters.

If questioned, challenged, or asked to move on, the man would merely say that he was there waiting for a client, who would bring him papers to collect a bill, in front of that very address. As they didn't know each other, the coat was the agreed method for the client to spot him. For the more persistent delinquent payers, such men would work in shifts, replacing each other every few hours. It was said to work wonders in a very short time. The 'collector' would vanish as soon as the outstanding bill had been settled.

Of course, nowadays there are laws to prevent this kind of harassment.

But - like the Italians say - se non è vero, è ben trovato.


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Anna Augustin
Germany
Local time: 05:54
Member (May 2018)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you so much for your input! May 10

First off, thank you all very much for your input. It really means a lot to me that you validated my feelings about this, as this is the very first time a client of mine withholds payment.

If your client were in Italy, Step 1 would be to decide, quietly and with a level head, that getting this bill paid is simply another task, to be taken through until completed. Not getting emotional about it, not being angry, and not howling at the moon. Just getting on with the task in a rational, logical manner.


This is probably one of the best advice. This situation has caused some anxiety, as I really need(ed) the money and had serious troubles paying my own bills. I will definitely try to stay calm about these situations next time.

Step 2 would be to give this client a very poor BlueBoard rating, and to inform them that you have done so.

Check and check!

If your claim is < $5000 (that amount probably varies from state to state), you need to go to Small Claims Court, which is free and doesn't require a lawyer. HOWEVER, plaintiff and defendant are required to attend the hearing (if the plaintiff does not attend, the case is dismissed, if the defendant doesn't, he/it is found guilty, generally speaking). One can be represented by a lawyer, but that may make a victory not cost-worthy.

Thanks very much for that input. I researched the Indiana Small Claims Court and I'll see what I can do legally.

Another useful strategy we have is to get my (adult) stepdaughter to ring the client. She is delightfully polite and charming, introduces herself by name and asks about the invoice. She doesn't SAY she is working for a debt collection agency but because the client doesn't know she isn't, this results in payment, usually immediately.

This is absolutely brilliant! Your stepdaughter must be very brave.

This thread has given me hope that maybe I can still do something about this. I won't let this go and set a precedent so I know what to do next time this happens.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 23:54
Member (2008)
French to English
Two more points that can be used May 10

I have found from time to time two points that has generally got quick payment from a bad payer:

- Bringing their attention to the copyright issue. Tell them that since payment has not been made you retain the copyright and neither the agency nor their client has the right to use the translation. If it is posted online without having been paid for, it may constitute online piracy, which could be a criminal offence, not merely civil.

- Point out that non-payment is a breach of contract and nullifies any NDA agreed to, thereby permitting you to contact the end client directly and demand that the translation is either paid for or taken down.

Any time I have had to resort to these methods I have received prompt payment. The most recent time the payment was accompanied by a note criticizing me for being "aggressive", but they paid (this was after more than a year)!

I have no idea whether these methods would succeed in court or not, but it has never been necessary to try.

[Edited at 2018-05-10 11:56 GMT]


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Torok Andrei
Romania
Local time: 06:54
Romanian to English
Set them in default and establish the competent court at your jurisdiction May 10

The services contracts that I use are drafted so as to lawfully stipulate that the Parties are de jure in default and in order to settle any claims between the parties, I have stipulated that the competent court will be that from my headquarter. Therefore, If push comes to shove, I will claim the payment in court, in an expeditious procedure (payment ordinance in Romania). Now, as I say expeditious I am aware that it will last AT LEAST two months.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:54
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
I was going to suggest the same about copyright May 11

John Fossey wrote:

- Bringing their attention to the copyright issue. Tell them that since payment has not been made you retain the copyright and neither the agency nor their client has the right to use the translation. If it is posted online without having been paid for, it may constitute online piracy, which could be a criminal offence, not merely civil.


I was about to write the same thing.


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Anna Augustin
Germany
Local time: 05:54
Member (May 2018)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
They responded! May 12

I sent them a calm but demanding email with your help. I told them about the BlueBoard rating, the copyright issue and that any non-disclosure agreements we might have had are nullified, thus I am legally in the right to contact their client. Also I told him that I consulted a lawyer in their county and that we are getting ready to file a Small Claim at their county court.
It worked wonders!

They sent me an overly friendly email with loads of apologies and justifications.
They asked if they could send half now and the other half in 10 days, but I refused and said I want the full payment. And guess what? Another awfully polite email saying that they're happy to oblige and pay me.

I couldn't be happier (well, I possibly could, had I the money already icon_wink.gif )

Thanks so much for your help! I learnt a lot from this and next time I won't be as panicky or worried as I was with this case. As Tom said: "Getting [a] bill paid is simply another task."


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
OK but.... May 12

OK but have you received payment in full?

By the way: if the agency asks you to change the BlueBoard rating you gave them - DON'T. They only paid because of it. Leave your bad rating as a useful guide to others.

[Edited at 2018-05-12 10:07 GMT]


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