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How strict are you re: invoices?
Thread poster: Emma Page

Emma Page
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:49
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
Jun 25

I am relatively new to full-time freelancing, so I'm looking for some context here.

I primarily work with agencies who state their payment terms up front (30 days, 45, etc.) and stick to them. In the rare case that I have accepted work from someone who it quickly becomes clear is a scammer, I have done my best to get paid and then blocked/left negative feedback/moved on.

Not long ago I did some subcontracting work, where the payment terms were clearly stated upfront. 45 days for the end client, thus 45 days for me after the end client had been invoiced.

When the end client was slow to pay, the person I worked for let me know and was reasonable about it (assured me I would be paid regardless of whether they paid, etc.).

Here's my question. This person I am working for claims that "even though the terms were 45 days, really we shouldn't worry until 2 months have past because this is a standard issue in the industry".

To me, any late payment is an issue. I think that if we let people get away with paying 15 days late without any repercussions or alarm bells, we're just making things worse for ourselves. I am understanding of his situation, but I disagree with the mindset that it's no big deal. (For context, this is an invoice of a few hundred Euros. Not pennies, but not so much that it will make or break me for the month). I expect to get paid by the due date of my invoice, full stop.

How strict are you all with your payment deadlines? Do you consider an invoice due date to be a contract (assuming it is mutually agreed to begin with), or is it a "suggestion"?


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Don't get angry, get even Jun 25

The point is not to get all emotional and angry about not being paid. Any correspondence with non-payers must be cold, unemotional, and strictly to the point. No excuses for non-payment are acceptable.

Personally, I have no mercy with late payers. I pursue them to the end, no matter how small the amount may be. So far, nobody has succeeded in not paying me, although some have tried.

As soon as the payment deadline has passed, I begin with a very polite email, followed up by a less polite email, followed up by a third, and then a final email warning them that if I have not received payment in full into my bank account within (say) three working days, further action may follow without notice.

After that I cease all direct communication with them, leaving them to work out for themselves what might happen if they don't pay.

So far, they've always paid.

[Edited at 2018-06-25 10:49 GMT]


Emma Page
Thomas T. Frost
ahartje
Cetacea
Thao Tran
 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 03:49
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
It all boils down to this Jun 25

Always deliver on time, and simply expect the same treatment from clients (and let them know that they are required to be as punctual as you are).

"I will pay you when the end client pays me" is not admitted under any circumstances.


Maria Hansford
Tom in London
Joe France
Josephine Cassar
Thomas T. Frost
ahartje
Cetacea
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:49
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Standard "issue" Jun 25

Emma Page wrote:
This person I am working for claims that "even though the terms were 45 days, really we shouldn't worry until 2 months have past because this is a standard issue in the industry".


It is a standard "issue" in the sense of a common problem.

If the payment takes longer than the stated 45 days, it is sometimes because the agency understood "45 days" to mean "45 days after end of month", which means that 45 invoice days can easily become 60-75 actual days.


 

Rosalind Haigh  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:49
German to English
+ ...
Give them an inch ... Jun 25

45 days is already quite a long payment period, and your direct customer (agency or otherwise) should pay on time.

However, even the best-paying customer can occasionally have problems sticking to the payment deadline (person that pays the invoices is out of the office etc.) but in these cases they should either tell you beforehand, or respond positively when you send them a firm but polite reminder.

If the agency tells you that their payment to you depends on their customer paying them, your alarm bells should start ringing. A decent agency will have a sufficiently sound financial position so they can stick to the terms agreed with you come what may - after all, your contract is with them irrespective of their arrangements with their customers.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:49
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
A binding agreement... Jun 25

...must be adhered to under any and all circumstances.

Aside from the fact that you have actually agreed to a 90-days payment term (45 days for the end customer plus 45 days for the agency = 90 days' interest free loan), the agreement is between you and your client, and definitely not between you and your client's client. So the agency must pay you within or NLT 45 days after delivery, that is on or before the date stipulated on your invoice.

I know, no professional would ever do this, but... what if you asked your customer, how about if I delivered the work sometime during those two months you've just mentioned? Is that still considered industry standard?icon_biggrin.gif


Emma Page
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:49
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It may depend on culture to some extent Jun 25

Some countries in the south of Europe seem to accept 60 days and a bit of leeway, but I wouldn't!

Here in Scandinavia we mutter if it gets to 45 days. However, if you send out all invoices at the end of the month and expect payment 30 days later, that is more than 45 days for work done early in the month. (But for good clients who send up to ten jobs a month it is not a problem.)

If the client says 45 days up front and I do not expect them to send more than one job a month, then I invoice them as soon as I deliver the job.

In principle I send a reminder as soon as the due date has passed. I may wait until after a weekend, or not notice for a day or two, but then I send a gentle mail to ask if there has been a problem.
Some of my clients are micro-companies, and have simply been busy - they apologise and pay INSTANTLY when reminded.
New clients have occasionally 'forgotten' to register me with their accounts departments, but if they do so and pay me at once, I give them another chance, and some have become excellent regular clients.

Strictly it is no concern of yours when the end client pays. You have delivered to the agency on time, and deserve to be paid on time. You cannot and must not contact the end client, so that is the agency's problem. Very few of them have such a tight cash flow that they cannot pay you as agreed, and except for very small agencies handling large jobs, it might be a sign that they are in trouble or not well organised.

In northern Europe, I expect people to be strict about payment on time, but I get the impression that others are more lenient.


ahartje
 

Emma Page
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:49
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the confirmation... Jun 25

..that I'm not being unreasonable. I'm grateful for the perspective of folks who have been in the industry longer than I have!

re: Christine's point...this is indeed a client from Southern Europe, so that may be a cultural norm thing. I'm of course not taking it personally. Nevertheless, like I don't accept rates from low-paying countries, I won't be accepting business norms which unreasonably affect my work.


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
60 days maximum in the EU Jun 25

No more than 60 days are allowed under EU law. There is information about payment terms and late payment at http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/support/late-payment_en . 60 days are not "standard".

In practice, I prefer to issue invoices only once a month, and count the deadline from EOM. My clients pay after 30 or 45 days. When an outsourcer demands 60 days, they often end up not respecting that either, so I'm wary of outsourcers demanding more than 45 days.

This is very funny: "even though the terms were 45 days, really we shouldn't worry until 2 months". Try telling the same client that they shouldn't worry about when they receive your translation, as you can assure them they will receive it – eventually.


Iris Schmerda
Emma Page
Niina Lahokoski
 

Emma Page
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:49
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Ah, yes... Jun 25

Christine Andersen wrote:


Here in Scandinavia we mutter if it gets to 45 days. However, if you send out all invoices at the end of the month and expect payment 30 days later, that is more than 45 days for work done early in the month. (But for good clients who send up to ten jobs a month it is not a problem.)

If the client says 45 days up front and I do not expect them to send more than one job a month, then I invoice them as soon as I deliver the job.


This may be part of the problem. It was several jobs completed mid-month, and invoiced on completion together. Still,e since I didn't work for the outsourcer again that month I didn't see it as an issue, especially as they made it clear they were happy to receive an invoice on completion.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:49
French to English
Stick to the terms agreed as long as they are legal Jun 25

Any agreement with a quote for a job should provide for interest at a rate of x% from the first day of payment being overdue. If you do not state that, chances are that you cannot claim it. Whether you decide to do so or not is your business. Business is business and once you state what your terms are you should stick to them and expect your client to do the same. Agreements should clearly indicate the consequences of failing to do so. it's common sense for both parties.

When I started out in 1994, in France, I had some clients who were really bad payers. I hung onto them as I was scared of losing them. When I realised that was precisely what I needed to do, it became much easier. I certainly wasted less time with them. So apart from the odd occasion where someone might overrun by accident, I can say that after 24 years in the business, good clients to not forget.

So, when someone overruns, from day 1, you should spring into action. One reminder, a second more formal reminder, then a recorded delivery letter and a request for payment into your account with X working days, failing which you will take action for recovery. A recorded delivery letter may be required for proof. It depends how it works where you are. Check out what facilities are available to you for recovery. For small amounts, there are a number of solutions, depending where you are. Chances are you can go for something like that. Often cheap, if not completely free. Go for it. Don't wait. Don't mess around. Don't waste time being obsequious. Don't waste time emotionally. Some clients will push it simply because they feel they can.

1st reminder: words to the effect of... we note that we have not yet received payment for our invoice of €€€ due to be paid by xx/xx/xxxx. Please note that interest for late payment at the rate of X starts to run from the first day beyond the due date. .....reminders of date of invoice, amount, references etc. Copy invoice attached. Then finish off with words to the effect of "if you have already sent payment, we would appreciate proof thereof". This is why it's good to be paid by bank transfer. If they are acting in good faith and have ordered the transfer, they will be able to prove it. If they say they have sent a cheque, they will not be able to prove it.

2nd reminder: words to the effect of, in spite of our reminder of (date) for (amount, date, reference invoice, etc.), we have still not received your payment in settlement of our invoice. At this stage, I send a new version of the invoice with the interest added on. That is often sufficient to obtain payment, even if the interest is not always paid. It shows that you do in fact go ahead with what you said you would do. This is the time to add that (i) interest continues to run ata rate of X% per (whatever); (ii) failure to pay within whatever, etc.

When you take the usual formal steps any other professional does, then if someone can't pay, then you are likely to find out. If they won't pay, then you will find out too. You may decide to cut your losses and at least you will stop using nervous energy in a lost cause. If your client is having cash flow problems, ask yourself whether you want to be their banker? I hope you know the answer.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2018-06-25 14:43 GMT]


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:49
French to English
P.S. Privity of contract Jun 25

Privity of contract is a fairly basic legal term that describes the nature of legal relationships in a chain. You have privity of contract with the agent. The end client also has privity of contract with the agent. However, you have no privity of contract with the end client. In other words, there is no direct contractual link between you and the agent's client. That means that the agent has to pay you whether or not the end client pays late or indeed if he never pays at all!

Tom's heading says it all!

[Edited at 2018-06-25 14:33 GMT]


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Statutory late payment interest in the EU Jun 25

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

Any agreement with a quote for a job should provide for interest at a rate of x% from the first day of payment being overdue. if you do not state that, chances are that you cannot claim it.


Just for the good order, there are statutory late payment interest and penalty provisions in EU law, so in the EU it doesn't matter if there is any agreement about it, or if it is mentioned on the invoice or elsewhere.

I would not apply these provisions to good, regular clients in case of minor delays, though, but reserve them for special cases.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:49
French to English
@Thomas Jun 25

Yes, there are various European provisions. However, contractual provisions can go beyond those minimum statutory provisions. For example, in France, you can also legally add a flat-fee 40€ penalty for late payment, but you can only recover it if you have put it on your invoice. Also, you can also establish a rate of interest for late payment that is higher than the statutory rate, usually derisory. Anything above the statutory rate has to be provided for, otherwise you cannot apply and seek to recover it.

[Edited at 2018-06-25 18:42 GMT]


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 02:49
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
? Jun 25

Emma Page wrote:

Not long ago I did some subcontracting work, where the payment terms were clearly stated upfront. 45 days for the end client, thus 45 days for me after the end client had been invoiced.

When the end client was slow to pay, the person I worked for let me know and was reasonable about it (assured me I would be paid regardless of whether they paid, etc.).


I’m usually very strict with dates: delivery dates (I’ve never delivered a job late, but occasionally I had to negotiate a new deadline well in advance) and payment dates (either for receiving or sending payments). But in over 40 years of professional experience in translation the fingers of one hand would be more than enough to count the times an agency call me to say that they would pay late. As a matter of fact this only happened once and I must say that their honesty was rewarded by my patience.


 
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