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90-day payment term for ongoing project which will end in mid-Spetember=payment due in December!!!
Thread poster: Débora D'Eramo

Débora D'Eramo
United States
Local time: 03:12
English to Spanish
Jul 11, 2006

Hi everybody!
I'm not sure whether I'm looking for some advice or just sharing this and ask for your opinion (though both are pritty similar, aren't they?).
I've been freelancing for a year so far, and one of the first agencies (if not the very first one) that ventured to give me a job was a local one, which has a 90-day payment term policy. As I was a newcomer, at the beginning I accepted these conditions and I must say that the agency has always paid on schedule, however awful that schedule may be.
Now I'm working in a long-term project with them, which finishes by mid-September. According to the agency's policy, this means that I'm going to be paid at least by mid-December, which I think is a terrible working condition for someone who happens to make a living out of translation.
On the other hand, I feel morally obligated to keep on accepting jobs from this agency, since they were the first ones who took a risk and offered me a job when I had very little professional experience. I know many of you will think I'm being naive, and you're probably right.
My question is: do you think this and other agencies have these long payment terms because they are paid upon those terms too? Or is it simply because they make business with our money?
What would you do if you were in my position?
I ended up asking for your advice after all.
Have a nice day.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
Two suggestions Jul 11, 2006

1.- Try to negotiate a series of partial billings so that some of it will come in sooner. Plus if the job is big, there is a greater risk of non-payment of a larger sum if you don't spread it out.

2.- Try to negotiate quicker payment overall with this agency, because to wait so long is indeed a terrible working condition for someone who happens to make a living from translation.

3.- And yes, I do think agencies have these long payment terms because they are sometimes paid on those terms too, and also because they do business with our money. I suspect that many of them are undercapitalized and barely have enough money to keep going; they could be one week from disaster.

4.- They have their policies, and they need to know you also have yours.


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Alicia Casal  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 05:12
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Within Argentina Jul 11, 2006

And with direct clients, i ALWAYS ASK FOr upfront payments!

Not because it s Argentina, but because they re direct clients.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
I would reconsider my rates Jul 11, 2006

Maybe you can get a credit at your bank?

Then you could simply add the credit interest to your rates for this agency.

But don't forget to take a significantly higher credit than the money they will owe you, because you are also taking some risk that they won't pay you at all.


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:12
English to Arabic
+ ...
Simple question: will you be eating for the next few months?ٍ Jul 11, 2006

You need the money to live, this isn't just a question of being polite to a regular client. Unless you have another day-job, you can't just decide not to earn money until December. The client should understand that, and if necessary change his arrangements with the end-client.
I'm with Henry, suggest submitting series of partial bills.


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xxxPRen  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:12
French to English
+ ...
I agree Jul 11, 2006

Nesrin wrote:

You need the money to live, this isn't just a question of being polite to a regular client. Unless you have another day-job, you can't just decide not to earn money until December. The client should understand that, and if necessary change his arrangements with the end-client.
I'm with Henry, suggest submitting series of partial bills.


and I would not jiust suggest progress payments, I would insist. Ninety days is waaaayyyyy too long. As a previous poster said, they're probably undercapitalized - what happens if their client isn't happy and delays payment even further? You probably won't get paid for several weeks of work. If an agency can't get a line of credit, they shouldn't be in business. Even as an individual freelancer, I have a line of credt. It's the cost of doing business. And don't feel guilty - you have about as much moral obligation to them as they do to you (and I suspecct it ain't much!!)

Paula


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Silvina Matheu  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 05:12
Member
English to Spanish
My tip Jul 11, 2006

Hi, Débora
Why don't you talk with them explaining exactly what you have just said? That you have realized you would not be receiving any money before mid-December and you live on this activity. If this agency is in Argentina, they know that you don't have any chance of getting any credit. They should offer you parcial monthly payments.
Good luck,

Silvina


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:12
English to German
+ ...
Access to liquidity Jul 11, 2006

Paula Rennie wrote:

If an agency can't get a line of credit, they shouldn't be in business.

Precisely.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:12
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I don't work for any of the first agencies who gave me jobs any more Jul 11, 2006

And it is true, I did feel, for a while, under some obligation to them, however it is not correct to feel that way. They wanted my services while I did not know how much I should be paid, or how long they should be allowed to take to pay me, and dropped my services very fast once I found out!

These agencies always rely upon new translators, regarding both the rate they pay and their payment deadlines. In other words, they take advantage. How long do you intend to let them take advantage of you? In any event, absolutely no translator waits half a year or more to be paid, if they work on an ongoing project. It just is not normal, and you need to tell the agency that. They already know, actually. Perhaps you could put on the pressure, and say that you will not continue with the project if they do not make an interim payment just now. It is not too late to start negotiating with them, and you need to negotiate on those kind of terms. In my opinion, you have nothing to lose. You don't need to suddenly be very rude, but you do need to suddenly be very firm with them.

Good luck!

Astrid


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Débora D'Eramo
United States
Local time: 03:12
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
thanks to you all Jul 11, 2006

Thanks for the tips.
I'll take my chances and see what happens.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:12
German to English
+ ...
Short term: pragmatism. Long term: career development Jul 12, 2006

In the short term, the agency may be willing to shorten the payment period (or at least make an advance payment) if you tell them you have liquidity problems. This may involve giving them a slight discount, but if that's the difference between butter on your bread and no bread at all, it seems worth it.

In the longer term, you could look for opportunities to move up in your fee scale and the conditions which you expect your clients to meet. If you do this, there will come a point when you start to attract better clients, so you will have to take your leave of clients that provide plenty of work at low rates or on poor terms. You could tell them "My rates have gone up by x per cent and my payment terms are now 30 days net - are you happy with this, or should I look elsewhere?"

This is a risk, of course ("Where am I going to get work from?"), so you need to get a good impression of your earning power first (and you must be sure that you are really good). But when the better jobs start to flow, you will need to consider when is the time to jump. If you put it off too long, the risk is that you will miss the best time and get stuck with low-paying clients for years and years.


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Andres & Leticia Enjuto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 05:12
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
We completely agree with Astrid... Jul 12, 2006

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

They wanted my services while I did not know how much I should be paid, or how long they should be allowed to take to pay me, and dropped my services very fast once I found out!

These agencies always rely upon new translators, regarding both the rate they pay and their payment deadlines. In other words, they take advantage.
Astrid


Completely true... they take advantage.

Our advice: instead of working for this agency under very bad conditions, invest your time in promoting yourself and specialize in your strongest subjects (with courses, ad hoc translations, finding end customers, etc.). This will be much more profitable in the mid term.

Good luck!

Andres & Leticia

[Edited at 2006-07-12 02:48]


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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:12
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
My opinion Jul 12, 2006

Even agencies with shorter payment terms would agree on partial payments for such a long project.
For example I work for a Canadian agency. They pay after 60 days but when I recently worked on a huge project, they paid 3 interim invoices.
Nobody would expect you to work on a huge project without seeing any money for 6 months.

Laura


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Quicksilver
Canada
Local time: 03:12
French to English
+ ...
Great advice! Jul 12, 2006

Henry Hinds wrote:

1.- Try to negotiate a series of partial billings so that some of it will come in sooner. Plus if the job is big, there is a greater risk of non-payment of a larger sum if you don't spread it out.

2.- Try to negotiate quicker payment overall with this agency, because to wait so long is indeed a terrible working condition for someone who happens to make a living from translation.

3.- And yes, I do think agencies have these long payment terms because they are sometimes paid on those terms too, and also because they do business with our money. I suspect that many of them are undercapitalized and barely have enough money to keep going; they could be one week from disaster.

4.- They have their policies, and they need to know you also have yours.



Great advice!


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:12
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
How big are they? Jul 13, 2006

I visited 12 agencies in New York two years ago. With the exception of 3 very large ones, which were clients anyway, I estimated that I could have bought 4 of the others with one check, on the spot (cash). That was their net worth compared to my purchasing power at the time. Three of them went out of business within the next year.
Yes, many more small agencies will pop-up in the near future. It's usually two desks, two PCs, and a lot of unpaid bills. Personally, I would not do any business with them. They are probably good people, so we could have a coffee and discuss the weather and other trivial matters, but business is a totally different game...
I came from an industry with very high earning standards (insurance/investments industry, of which I'm still a member), and I'm getting shocked every day by the low standards in the translation industry, mostly by the low earning ambitions of its members... it's probably the average age of its members... or maybe that they never thought themselves that they worth a good average pay as almost all professional fields (from plumpers to accountants, from landscapers to lawyers...).


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90-day payment term for ongoing project which will end in mid-Spetember=payment due in December!!!

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