Poll: Do you place a limit on how much any one client can owe you at a time?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 13:57
Aug 3, 2009

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you place a limit on how much any one client can owe you at a time?".

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marie-christine périé  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
English to French
+ ...
No, but I would Aug 3, 2009

definetely consider it for some clients if the sum was nearing a certain amount (not the same for all clients)

[Edited at 2009-08-03 09:08 GMT]


Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
English to French
Yes Aug 3, 2009

Outstanding invoices for any one client shouldn't exceed one month's worth of gross income.

In other words, if my monthly gross income were around 10,000 euros (it's not), I would not exceed this amount in accrued outstanding invoices for any one customer.
This comes from the following reasoning: if I were working full time for one customer only, I would require to be paid at least once a month by that customer, because a lot of expenses are to be paid once a month.

I suppose this is common sense.



John Cutler  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes - but only first timers Aug 3, 2009

I usually place a limit on first time clients of a few hundred Euros. It always amazes me when a client (agency or otherwise) contacts me for the first time and offers me a job worth thousands of Euros. Personally, I believe it takes some time in the business world to build trust (in both directions), so I’m always a little wary when someone I’ve never dealt with is willing to risk a job worth thousands on someone completely unknown. It’s just my opinion, but it seems unprofessional (or at best risky business behavior) to me.

As for the rest of my established clients, I don’t generally place any sort of limit because I’ve been working with them for years and they’re all good payers.


Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
considering it, but probably not ... Aug 3, 2009

John Cutler wrote:

As for the rest of my established clients, I don’t generally place any sort of limit because I’ve been working with them for years and they’re all good payers.

In my "haven't had enough coffee" haze this morning, I answered "considering putting a limit" but having read John's post, I have to say that it would feel as if I were breaking a bond of trust.

I've really only had this problem with one client, a long-time source of good jobs. The company ran into some financial difficulties and at the same time, the exchange went against them since they pay me in dollars. I ended up with an outstanding bill of about 15% of my gross monthly income, which they took 6 months to pay off.

They've now started sending work again, and I've been considering setting a limit, but I realize that I really don't want to do that. My plan now is to invoice more frequently so that if problems arise, the situation won't be quite as serious as it was last fall.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Aug 3, 2009

I don't as a general rule -- all my regular clients are trusted payers -- but new customers don't get into the working queue so fast until I've verified their payment practices in action... just a way of cutting losses.

Some new clients pay up front. For others, I have to wait, but it pays to know whether they meet 15 or 30 days or ask for longer terms than that.

(Curiously, this also affects the priority they can claimicon_wink.gif)


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not as any general rule, but... Aug 3, 2009

If I see that a client is giving me a fair amount of work and paying me, but not at the same rate, and the debt continues to increase, then at some point I will start putting on the pressure. When it comes to that, then they are exploiting me for a free loan.

I did have a case like that where the amount owed at one point amounted to over US$ 8,500.00. I put on so much pressure that eventually I was actually able to get the balance owed down to zero. I then stated that if I was to do any more work for that client, we would have to come to a new agreement.

This work was also done at rates a bit below what I like, plus other concessions such as not charging for travel time. I was willing to give some concessions because the work was generally interesting and I enjoyed it, and I also enjoyed the travel to a certain extent, although at other times it could cost me money because I would have earned more staying home.

My request for a new agreement was denied, and so were my services. I also became aware of other colleagues who had money pending from this client for excessive periods. I do miss the work because I liked it, but I have plenty of other work and I do not miss having increasing amounts owed to me.

No Aug 3, 2009

Because my clients are all honest and honorable people, except a couple.
They were new, and I was too trusting to ask advance payment.

Luckily, these were not very big amount, and my service was rendered only once (for obvious reason).
Therefore I didn't have to worry about placing a limit.

[Edited at 2009-08-03 21:11 GMT]


Mark Nathan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...
Yes Aug 3, 2009

Particularly new customers, and even older ones, once it gets to a sizeable amount, say 3000 euros.
At that point I, unless I have a very long history with them, I usually hold off accepting anymore work until they have paid up.


Deborah Edwards  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:57
Japanese to English
Not at this stage Aug 4, 2009

Thank you everyone for your candid comments! It has been really interesting reading what other translators have to say in regards to this topic, which is particularly pertinent to me at this point in time. I have been working as a freelance translator for a little over 2 years now and am still building up a solid client base. Over the last year, I have found myself in situations where I have blindly trusted clients and have had reason to fear that I might not be paid (although at this stage I have always been paid in the end, albeit often very late and after considerable nail-biting and pressuring the client) I have also taken on jobs for several thousand US dollars from clients I had never heard of before. I knew that it was risky, but as I wasn't doing any other work at the time I was prepared to take the risk. I expect that in the future I will become more circumspect about how I deal with new clients in terms of payment.


Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:57
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes Aug 4, 2009

During the month. My limit for any single client during a month is EUR 3,000. I have exceptions to that for my 'inner circle' clients that have an impeccable payment track record. However, if they ever fall behind, even slightly, the limit will kick in. That's business.

Once due date passes on an invoice for anyone, no more work is accepted until the invoice is paid up.

Luckily most of my clients pay within the 30-day period and the others pay strictly on 30 days, but in cases where there are slight delays, these normally don't exceed one or two working days.

[Edited at 2009-08-04 07:52 GMT]


Wil Hardman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not a specific limit... Aug 4, 2009

These things vary from client to client, I hate the idea of having a fixed limit that cannot be surpassed no matter what. Other factors need to be considered:

-If a client pays like clockwork on the same day every month without fail then I really have no limit.

-If I have a regular client who is a bit of an irratic payer (I have few), but always pays in the end then I start putting pressure on when the figure approaches 3000 EUR. Although I have never actually refused work in this situation.

- With an unknown client I really don't like to be owed more than a few hundred euros and I normally refuse more work until the first payment has been made. Although there are exceptions (I think it is quite easy to suss out a client by how they deal with you, their knowledge of translation, communication, etc.).


Rebecca Garber  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:57
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
no limit as yet. Aug 4, 2009

Most of my clients are long term, so I don't worry about how much they owe in a given month.
I also invoice them differently, depending on their preferences (by project, by week, by month).
So, if I were to establish limits, it would be very client dependent.

I do have one client who took months to pay the first small jobs.
I don't let them run up much of a balance at all.

Perhaps this means I already have informal limits?


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