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What am I doing wrong
Thread poster: Korana Lasić

Korana Lasić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 13:08
English to Serbian
+ ...
Feb 16

New to this fascinating world of freelancing and I find if a wonderful job if I will manage to deal with some practices I find completely odd. It's probably just me and my lack of experience as a freelancer but, some mind-boggling instances aside, I am greatly enjoying learning the ropes. What I'm not enjoying is that it seems quite easy for some people to engage in some shady practices, with all business being conducted online, and all. I'm talking about a reputable agency not scammers.
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New to this fascinating world of freelancing and I find if a wonderful job if I will manage to deal with some practices I find completely odd. It's probably just me and my lack of experience as a freelancer but, some mind-boggling instances aside, I am greatly enjoying learning the ropes. What I'm not enjoying is that it seems quite easy for some people to engage in some shady practices, with all business being conducted online, and all. I'm talking about a reputable agency not scammers.

I've had a vendor for an established agency confuse me with a young, inexperienced person (my photo plus being very new to the freelancing part of our profession) by straight-up lying to my face how the quality of my translation didn't meet their standards. The test was a very simple translation, I can train a monkey to do, and I was contacting them after their potential jobs ad. There was no job and it was all very odd that she got back to me and how she got back to me, unless she was trying to manipulate an inexperienced person to lower their rates. I told her what I thought of her tactics and will not work for such an unscrupulous person unless she pays 15% more of what I charge and that was it as far as she and her agency are in question.

However, I did get two projects in the very short time I've set out on this new career adventure and, of course, was very happy to have had such a good start. My very first job was presented to me as what seemed a very intricate work - a legal document, and my language pair is spoken in places whose legal systems rest on two very different legal traditions, that involved loads of bio-science, and the deadline was short, so I quoted more than my upper rates. Initially, they didn't get back to me and I figured my offer was perhaps a bit too steep for them, but I also knew that any people in my language pair that can actually do work like this, and do it well, will have charged at least as much as I have, or probably more. They then did get back to me and I was absolutely right it was very intricate work and to meet the deadline I had t work very long hours, which being a newbie I didn't mind.

I then got sent a file in the evening around 7 PM and was asked if I can deliver in the morning by 10 AM. This was a document that required at least two days of working normal hours. I have this obsessive streak when it comes to work and love, I do really love a challenge and if you ask me to do something most people couldn't or wouldn't do, I might accept just to challenge and test myself. =)

So I work all night to deliver this document at 9 AM the next morning, even though I am working on another project at this point and could do without having stayed all night working and messing up my circadian rhythm like that.

Through all this (we are talking about 5 days altogether) there was no purchase order and I was working on their Memsource cloud, I did check if they were a well established and reputable agency and that was it. To be honest, I was very pleasantly surprised I was already getting work and serious work. This amounted to a 20k-word document and I was getting paid my very top rate so I was quite happy with how my new career started.

So, delivery was on 11th in the morning. After which there was no talk of invoicing or payment till the 13th in the afternoon when I've sent an email asking literally " When would be a good time to discuss payment, given that I've finished the work?" She responded by thanking me very much for my work and by saying she will get back to me asap, and that was three days ago and I haven't heard from her again.

What am I doing wrong?

Should I just send an invoice to her at this point?

Is this common for the project managers to act this way?

Should I have insisted on the purchasing order?

To be perfectly honest, up until a few weeks ago I worked for an organisation where financial stuff like that was handled by other people my job was translation, among many other things, and I simply forgot about the existence of things like purchasing orders.

I did not mind the short deadline. I did not mind even some requests that affected my ability to do my best work, and I've figured out ways to make up for it and still do my best. I didn't mind the insanely short deadline for the last file, I like a challenge, but this, this I find mind-bogglingly unprofessional.

I cannot change other people, the project manager or the agency, but I can do better myself next time, so please all seasoned freelances out there, tell me what I am doing wrong here?

Finally, did I just get scammed, since if I will be perfectly honest my PM seemed either a bit inexperienced at her job, or.....

@proz. com staff, I hope I'm not breaking the forum rules, as that's never my intention, especially since I am very happy with proz.com and plan to become a paid member soon.

Lastly, am I overreacting? I do have a bit of an army background and it's crossed my mind that I might just be expecting more punctuality than it's normal in the freelancing translation business? (The other translator working on the project kept asking for and getting extensions, something that seemed very odd to me, to be honest.)

[Edited at 2020-02-16 13:40 GMT]
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:08
Member (2008)
Italian to English
BAD Feb 16

Korana Lasić wrote:

Through all this ... there was no purchase order


What am I doing wrong?


That's it- right there.

Unless you have a PO or some other legally valid written confirmation (which could be just an email), you should never accept a job from someone you don't know.

[Edited at 2020-02-16 14:04 GMT]


Thomas T. Frost
Kevin Fulton
Maaike van Vlijmen
Dan Lucas
Teresa Borges
Claire Bourneton-Gerlach
Philip Lees
 

Korana Lasić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 13:08
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I do have proof they purchased a job from me... Feb 16

Hey Tom, thank you for the reply. Yup, if they don't pay me this will be one expensive lesson. lol

I do have at least two emails as proof she and the agency assigned a project to me, the number of the project and the changes they made to the initial job.

Are those emails, you are talking about?

I do have plenty of proof who and when and for which price bought my services. They just seem not to be in any hurry to be officially billed for it, whilst I think
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Hey Tom, thank you for the reply. Yup, if they don't pay me this will be one expensive lesson. lol

I do have at least two emails as proof she and the agency assigned a project to me, the number of the project and the changes they made to the initial job.

Are those emails, you are talking about?

I do have plenty of proof who and when and for which price bought my services. They just seem not to be in any hurry to be officially billed for it, whilst I think it's only fair of them to tell me exactly when they will pay me, and pay me asap as a matter of fact, given that I've been very good to them regarding deadlines.

I've had a nice workout and thought about it all, and If I'm to be honest I doubt they won't pay eventually, but they might be one of those agencies that drags the payments out, as I've, as part of my freelancing education, read online reviews about another agency and apparently some agencies are legit and have interesting projects but it took people 3-4 moths of reminding them to pay, to get paid.

Edit: Alright, now I've even managed to find some sort of purchase order among our correspondence, and it looks as if it's written in Arabic... Nowhere does it state all the work I've done or the prices we agreed on, and the amount of money it states they owe is about less than half of what they actually owe me.

Maybe Kevin was right after all. Maybe it's been extremely naive of me to expect that an agency is actually looking for a quality translator to count on long term, and not for a one-off robbing of a translator that will never work with them again.



[Edited at 2020-02-16 17:35 GMT]
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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:08
German to English
Don't take a job without first establishing the terms Feb 16

New translators are eager to get experience and start earning an income, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation – and scams. NEVER undertake a job without determining in advance the deadline and payment terms in writing. Normally this is in the form of a purchase order, but in many jurisdictions a written statement (e-mail) of the conditions by the potential client is an equivalent document.

Many translators have learned the hard way not to take a rush job as a first assignm
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New translators are eager to get experience and start earning an income, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation – and scams. NEVER undertake a job without determining in advance the deadline and payment terms in writing. Normally this is in the form of a purchase order, but in many jurisdictions a written statement (e-mail) of the conditions by the potential client is an equivalent document.

Many translators have learned the hard way not to take a rush job as a first assignment from a new client. They've found themselves consigned to rush job Hell, under constant deadline pressure.

I can't say whether you've been scammed, but it certainly seems that someone has taken advantage of your naiveté and cluelessness. I hope this has been a learning experience for you.
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Thomas T. Frost
Dan Lucas
Maaike van Vlijmen
 

Korana Lasić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 13:08
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Kevin Feb 16

Well, I strongly disagree that I'm naive, and especially with you calling me clueless.

I am inexperienced as a freelancer and looking for constructive advice from mature people. If all you have is repeating what Tom had already said, and your own baseless opinions I don't care for, please refrain from "helping me" in the future.


Tom in London
Fatine777
Andy Watkinson
finnword1
Silvija Gavrilovic
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:08
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My 2 cents' worth Feb 16

Korana Lasić wrote:
I do have at least two emails as proof she and the agency assigned a project to me, the number of the project and the changes they made to the initial job.

That's fine. You were contracted to provide the work.

I've sent an email asking literally " When would be a good time to discuss payment, given that I've finished the work?" She responded by thanking me very much for my work and by saying she will get back to me asap

And that's proof that they've received your work and are happy with it. All sounds fine so far.

that was three days ago and I haven't heard from her again. They just seem not to be in any hurry to be officially billed for it, whilst I think it's only fair of them to tell me exactly when they will pay me, and pay me asap as a matter of fact, given that I've been very good to them regarding deadlines.

But it's your job to tell them when you expect to get paid and by what method, or at least their proposal needs to be agreed to by you. You agreed to the deadline, so don't expect any favours from them over and above payment by the agreed date. If you can't find any reference to payment period in your correspondence or in the T&C on their website (which you may have implicitly agreed to somewhere along the line) I suggest setting it at 30 days.

Should I just send an invoice to her at this point?

Well, I certainly would.

It does sound to me as though things are going in the way you should expect, UNLESS you weren't actually dealing with the company you thought you were dealing with. Identity theft is unfortunately rife at the moment. If you don't receive payment by the due date, I'd be inclined to find an alternative contact route. If they have a ProZ.com profile, contact them through that. The email address it will be sent to is the one they provided to the site. Maybe they'll get a shock when they hear from you. But hopefully not.


Tina Vonhof
Maaike van Vlijmen
Silvija Gavrilovic
 

Korana Lasić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 13:08
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Shiela Feb 16

Thank you Shiela for the very clear instructions, you're a star.

To be perfectly honest, I'm a bit perplexed by the way they conduct business. That still doesn't mean they're an imposter, I simply don't know enough about how freelancing business is conducted to be able to tell.

I've managed to find a purchasing order that looks like no purchasing order I've ever seen in a bad way...And it's for less than half of what they owe me.

I have just billed them wh
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Thank you Shiela for the very clear instructions, you're a star.

To be perfectly honest, I'm a bit perplexed by the way they conduct business. That still doesn't mean they're an imposter, I simply don't know enough about how freelancing business is conducted to be able to tell.

I've managed to find a purchasing order that looks like no purchasing order I've ever seen in a bad way...And it's for less than half of what they owe me.

I have just billed them what they actually owed me and set it at 30 days, so there's nothing to do but wait and see.

In any case, this is a valuable lesson. It was perhaps naive of me to expect that an agency is invested in keeping a quality translator long term, not robbing someone once and losing them forever.
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Helen Shiner  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:08
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
@Korana Feb 16

Assuming you agreed the rate you would be paid prior to starting work, then the next stage is to invoice the company. Make sure you state the job number (and maybe the name of the doc and even the name of the person you dealt with) on the invoice. State clearly that your terms are strictly 30 days from receipt of invoice and ideally that clients should pay bank transfer costs. You will need to check the VAT regulations for your country and state also whether your invoice is subject to VAT or not... See more
Assuming you agreed the rate you would be paid prior to starting work, then the next stage is to invoice the company. Make sure you state the job number (and maybe the name of the doc and even the name of the person you dealt with) on the invoice. State clearly that your terms are strictly 30 days from receipt of invoice and ideally that clients should pay bank transfer costs. You will need to check the VAT regulations for your country and state also whether your invoice is subject to VAT or not - I would suggest you check your government website for the correct formulation.

Then send the invoice and ask for confirmation of receipt. If they want it done another way or you've not included something they want to see, you can then always resubmit to them. Many clients do not provide a PO, though most agencies do, in my experience. But don't let them make you delay submitting your invoice because they are too lazy or chaotic to send a PO out to you as soon as they issue the job to you.

Good luck. I hope you receive payment without further ado.


[Edited at 2020-02-16 17:50 GMT]
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Tina Vonhof
Viviane Marx
 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:08
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Simple answer Feb 16

Korana Lasić wrote:

So, delivery was on 11th in the morning. After which there was no talk of invoicing or payment till the 13th in the afternoon when I've sent an email asking literally " When would be a good time to discuss payment, given that I've finished the work?"


The time to discuss payment is before accepting the job. You can invoice as soon as the job is delivered.


Dan Lucas
ahartje
Maaike van Vlijmen
Korana Lasić
 

Korana Lasić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 13:08
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Helen Feb 16

Thank you darling, you are another star here.

Chaotic is exactly the word I'd use for how this agency has gone about this project.

I really have too little experience as a freelancer to be able to tell how usual or unusual is the way they do business for a translation agency. I did assume that (since they are well established) I should concern myself with doing the work rather than worrying if they will pay, but we, of course, have written trace of all important things
... See more
Thank you darling, you are another star here.

Chaotic is exactly the word I'd use for how this agency has gone about this project.

I really have too little experience as a freelancer to be able to tell how usual or unusual is the way they do business for a translation agency. I did assume that (since they are well established) I should concern myself with doing the work rather than worrying if they will pay, but we, of course, have written trace of all important things regarding the translation I completed for them, including the rate we agreed on.

I did send an invoice and made it to 30 days. (Tonight)

I just assumed that before I send the invoice, since there were things left unclear, we should discuss....

By things left unclear, I mean, the TM was set up in a flawed way so I couldn't submit completed translations because segments not yet filled by TM were locked...etc

Not to give away too much of what is really between the project manager and myself, I'd prefer if she found the time for us to agree on what I shall put on the invoice, but since she seems to be unwilling, I just went according to the record I kept and billed them tonight.

Thank you all for your kind help.

Cheers everyone.

[Edited at 2020-02-16 19:44 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-02-16 22:44 GMT]
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Helen Shiner
 

Korana Lasić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 13:08
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@ Michele Feb 16

Thank you.

I do realise now that I should have invoiced them on the 11th. I just assumed we would iron out some not entirely clear details before I officially bill them, but it seems I was wrong to expect as much. By unclear I do not mean the cost of my work. Just maybe the exact number of words, as there were problems with the software which I documented in the emails I informed them of the problems in, and they fixed the issues for the last file I worked on.

I was t
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Thank you.

I do realise now that I should have invoiced them on the 11th. I just assumed we would iron out some not entirely clear details before I officially bill them, but it seems I was wrong to expect as much. By unclear I do not mean the cost of my work. Just maybe the exact number of words, as there were problems with the software which I documented in the emails I informed them of the problems in, and they fixed the issues for the last file I worked on.

I was trying to be generous and friendly. Now I see that was a mistake, at least when this agency or perhaps person was in question.

Cheers.



[Edited at 2020-02-16 19:10 GMT]
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Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
Weekend Feb 16

Maybe they were simply off for the weekend and will respond to you on Monday.

Korana Lasić
 

Korana Lasić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 13:08
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Amel Feb 17

The thing is, if I am told on a Thursday morning that someone will get back to me asap, I expect a word by the end of working hours on Friday.

Same thing happened throughout the project. If the PM was notified of an urgent problem on Friday morning I would not get any response by the end of working hours that day, despite her knowing that I am on a very short deadline and will be working throughout the weekend. Which then resulted in me having to translate some segments she felt I w
... See more
The thing is, if I am told on a Thursday morning that someone will get back to me asap, I expect a word by the end of working hours on Friday.

Same thing happened throughout the project. If the PM was notified of an urgent problem on Friday morning I would not get any response by the end of working hours that day, despite her knowing that I am on a very short deadline and will be working throughout the weekend. Which then resulted in me having to translate some segments she felt I was to not translate because the program I was working on was telling me they were required in order to complete the file. To make sure I would meet the deadline I had to do some things she then, 3 working days later, would inform me I wasn't required to do - after someone would "magically" mark the files as completed. Then again admitting I did have to translate the segments in question by fixing the bug for the last file I worked on, one I was sent additionally.

I'm not used to people "magically doing stuff" without demonstrating that they understand what the problem was and after we specifically agreed that what they have done "using magic" was really up to me to do when I've completed the work I was given.

I'm also not used to people requiring me to do a very urgent service for them then acting as if they have all the time in the world and giving endless extensions to the other person working on the project, and not responding to information about a problem that popped up and needs to be dealt with right away if I am to meet my deadline.

What I meant when I asked the PM when can we discuss the payment was, before I bill her we should perhaps talk about the couple thousand words I had to translate because there was something up with the way the program was set up in the first three files. I didn't want her to have an X amount of funds allocated to pay me and to perhaps have to pay extra out of her pay...etc

In all honesty though, whatever I did extra was because of the way software they'd set up told me I had to do, and/or because she failed to get back to me on time (on a very much working day), so I am neither legally nor morally obliged to discuss anything with the PM anymore.

I was just trying to be both professional as well as generous, but I am fine with having to be just professional.

Thank you all for responding and your good advice.
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:08
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
@Korana Feb 17

Korana Lasić wrote:
I've had a vendor for an established agency confuse me with a young, inexperienced person by straight-up lying to my face how the quality of my translation didn't meet their standards. ... I was contacting them after their potential jobs ad. There was no job and it was all very odd that she got back to me and how she got back to me, unless she was trying to manipulate an inexperienced person to lower their rates.


Advertising a non-existent job (also called a "potential job") to find potential collaborators is not a tactic that is used only on inexperienced translators. It is a very common practice in this industry.

It is rare, in my opinion, for an agency's PM (project mananger) to say "your quality doesn't meet our standards" if what they really mean to say is "your rates are too high for us". Typically, an agency that wants you to lower your rates will simply as you to lower your rates, and won't go on about "your quality" and "their standards". If the PM does say something about the quality of your work, it is likely that they mean what they say, i.e. the way that you translate is not the way that they want it.

After [delivery] there was no talk of invoicing or payment till the 13th in the afternoon when I've sent an email asking literally "When would be a good time to discuss payment, given that I've finished the work?" She responded by thanking me very much for my work and by saying she will get back to me...


If you want to know specific things about e.g. where to send the invoice or what information you should put on the invoice, you should ask for those pieces of information specifically and not just by vaguely referring to "discuss payment". However, different agencies have different payment procedures, and it may be that their process involves getting your translation checked and reviewed before they will accept your invoice or send you a purchase order number. The best thing to do is to write a polite e-mail, asking for this information.

With many agencies, it is not unusual to be able to invoice only 2-3 weeks after you did the job, and to receive the payment only 2-3 months after the invoice was submitted. How soon did you expect to be paid? If you want payment sooner than that, you need to discuss this beforehand and make sure the agency agrees to your payment terms beforehand, otherwise the agency will assume that you will accept their usual procedures (even if they didn't tell you what those procedures are).

On purchase orders:

Should I have insisted on the purchasing order?


No, I think if it's clear that they want you to do the job, then you don't need a formal purchase order. In this case, for example, they created an account for you on their system and they had assigned the job to you in their system, so that is as much "confirmation" as you need.

Through all this ... there was no purchase order and I was working on their Memsource cloud...


Yes, I think it's safe to say that if a client creates a project for you in an online tool that you can access using your own (or given) login details, then confirmation is implied.

I've managed to find some sort of purchase order among our correspondence, and it looks as if it's written in Arabic... Nowhere does it state all the work I've done or the prices we agreed on, and the amount of money it states they owe is about less than half of what they actually owe me.


From your description, I doubt if that is the purchase order.

Say, are you familiar with fuzzy match discounts? Some agencies mistakenly assume that all freelance translators are.

On when to invoice:

Should I just send an invoice to her at this point?


Yes, if you believe that the job is done, and you know what the word count and/or final amount is, and you have all the information that you need to put on the invoice, then send them an invoice. It may prompt them into coming back to you with additional demands or requirements, but at least then you'd know what needs to be done.

I do realise now that I should have invoiced them on the 11th. I just assumed we would iron out some not entirely clear details before I officially bill them. ... I was trying to be generous and friendly. Now I see that was a mistake.


No, I don't think you made a mistake. Like I said, if you believe the job is done, you can invoice for it. Remember, strictly speaking an invoice can be sent at any time after the confirmation -- you don't need to wait until the job is completely finished and all queries have been resolved. That said, I find that most agencies prefer that you send the invoice only when the job is more or less completed (i.e. unresolved matters were resolved, etc.). Some agencies will insist that you invoice them only after they formally send a purchase order. It is different with each agency.

On what the agency takes care of:

Up until a few weeks ago I worked for an organisation where financial stuff like that was handled by other people -- my job was translation.


The agency will still be taking care of a lot of things for you (different agencies do different amounts of work for you), but each agency will have a certain procedure that they want you to follow. Sending an invoice is usually part of that procedure. If they want you to mention a specific purchase order number on the invoice, it would normally be mentioned in one of the mails. Or, it may be that you need to log in to their system to generate the purchase order.

Is this common for the project managers to act this way?


No, it is not common, but it is not unusual either. Most agencies unfortunately consider communicating with you after the job was done to be less urgent than before the job is done. So you may need to follow up more insistently. Most of my agency clients respond to such payment-related queries either within the same day or within a week.

I did not mind [various things], but this, this I find mind-bogglingly unprofessional.


I see nothing extremely unprofessional about the PM's behaviour at this point. While it is true that they may have forgotten about your e-mail, the easiest thing to do to resolve it is simply to follow up with a polite e-mail reminding them that you are waiting for a reply.



[Edited at 2020-02-17 13:39 GMT]


DZiW
 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:08
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I totally agree with Michele Feb 17

Michele Fauble wrote:

Korana Lasić wrote:

So, delivery was on 11th in the morning. After which there was no talk of invoicing or payment till the 13th in the afternoon when I've sent an email asking literally " When would be a good time to discuss payment, given that I've finished the work?"


The time to discuss payment is before accepting the job. You can invoice as soon as the job is delivered.



There is no need to "discuss payment" after a job has been delivered. You can simply submit your invoice and if there is any issue with your invoice, they will get back to you.

[Edited at 2020-02-17 12:58 GMT]


Korana Lasić
Viviane Marx
 
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