Poll: Do you ask for a down payment before starting a big project (book, manual, etc)?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 21:03
SITE STAFF
Oct 31, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you ask for a down payment before starting a big project (book, manual, etc)?".

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
No Oct 31, 2015

In general, I trust my clients will pay for my services etc., so I don't usually think down payments or other assurances will be be necessary.

 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 05:03
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Hardly ever! Oct 31, 2015

Meaning once or twice in over 30 years... Anyway, I only get large projects from clients I have been working with for years but if I do not know the client I will not hesitate to ask for a down payment.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
If it's going to take a long time Oct 31, 2015

I need to see money regularly. Nothing to do with trust, just simple economics: a professional works to put food on the table, and you can't live on air for months and then enjoy the feast. So, even though I'm lucky enough not to have to live so precariously, I still want to be paid regularly. Sometimes I'll ask for staged payments but most times an advance is my preferred option.

 

David Young (X)  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:03
Danish to English
Yes, always... Oct 31, 2015

...if it's going to take me 2 or 3 months. Like Sheila, it has nothing to do with trust, purely cash flow. I'm working on a project at the moment which started at the beginning of October and will take to the end of the year (i.e. just before Chistmas). It's for a private client who has happily agreed to pay 25% up front and 25% midway. In return, I send regular extracts to show that the work is progressing and to allow for comments.
I'm not sure how this would work through an agency but I don't see why the same model should not be applied - it's up to the agency to explain the economic reason to their client.

David


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:03
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
No, but in stages Oct 31, 2015

I don't ask for anything up front but I arrange to be paid for each chapter of a novel, or for so many thousands of words per batch, I don't leave it all to the end.

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:03
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The most frequent cases Oct 31, 2015

If the client is an individual, I tell them that we must share the risk, as some people have the bad habit of changing their mind while the translation is under way. So if the project involves more than something like USD 150, I ask for 50% up-front. Some comply immediately, others vanish into thin air at once. (If it's under $150, I'll take the risk.)


If it's a long project, e.g. a book, I chop it into roughly same-sized "blocks", and schedule partial deliveries and the corresponding payments. The first block is always half the size of the others, so I can have some rea$$urance before diving too deep into it.


In video work, I often have to outsource to colleagues/external vendors. I offer clients the possibility of dealing directly with them, but so far every client wants a turn-key job from me. Two cases here:

a) Subtitling - I only translate between EN-PT, however I can time-spot subtitles involving ES, IT, and FR (languages that I speak, but don't translate professionally). If I added a markup to the colleagues I hire, the final price would make my client (usually a translation agency) non-competitive. I offer these (carefully selected) colleagues exactly the same rates I charge for EN-PT, pay them COD, and that's what I charge the client for their work embedded in mine.

b) Dubbing - I only translate; if required, I'll outsource the dubbing work to a few professional dubbing studios I've been working with for over a a quarter century, and again, I don't add anything on top of what they charge me.

I explain to my clients that, if their end-client suddenly cancels the job under way, I might take the blow on my own work, however I will NOT disburse my money to pay outsourced vendors, to keep them available and willing when I need them again. So in either of these two cases, I ask for a compatible up-front advance, and pay all COD.

I make it clear to my clients that I am not adding any markup for their competitiveness' sake, so I have no means to build a safety fund to cover this risk.

Of course, I don't have any objection to put them in direct contact with my vendors, but so far all chose to have me running the entire show, and being fully accountable for the outcome. I make sure they never regret it.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:03
French to English
Yes, always Oct 31, 2015

For that type of work, which I don't have that often, but which I have had. Obviously, this is all agreed beforehand, signed, dated and so on. Generally, it goes as follows :
- one third up front
- second third when the job is sent
- third third one month after completion.

Otherwise, I've also had:
- one third upfront
- monthly payments in exchange for monthly submissions of agreed volumes
- balance remaining within one month of completion.

Sometimes these projects can really draw out. Delays are not unheard of. A minimal negotiation on the rate, or a round (up/down) figure is worth it if you get the money coming in regularly.

Same thing goes for interpreting. I always get one third in upon signature for the project.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A follow-up question, if I may Oct 31, 2015

If you provide staged deliveries in exchange for staged payments, do you just provide them as evidence, or are they the finished article?

I worry about consistency. When I work on a long text, translating or editing, I always like to be able to go back and tweak for consistency, and I generally put long texts through PerfectIt to check for consistency. So I've always avoided part-deliveries.


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 22:03
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
With Nikki and Sheila Oct 31, 2015

I like to arrange for staged payments but always on the condition that I can keep making changes as I go along and do a final overview when the whole document is finished. Often you have to get further into a project and really understand the material to be able decide on the best translation for some words or phrases.

If the client appears to be a private person whom I don't know, I ask a lot of questions, possibly a reference, and I ask for a payment up front as one of the stages.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:03
French to English
Submitting work in stages Oct 31, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:

If you provide staged deliveries in exchange for staged payments, do you just provide them as evidence, or are they the finished article?

I worry about consistency. When I work on a long text, translating or editing, I always like to be able to go back and tweak for consistency, and I generally put long texts through PerfectIt to check for consistency. So I've always avoided part-deliveries.


This was requested by the client, a publishing house. I raised the same point you have pointed out here. It was an encyclopedia with various parts or sections, each with individual chapters, then short texts on various subjects. It actually worked quite well. I submitted section by section so it was possible to managed consistency within a section. Other longer jobs which it was possible to chop up, were anthologies of articles assembled into a book. Each article is on a different subject, with differnt author(s), different points of view on related themes. In the case of one long text with one author, or the same authors throughout, then staged submission without the possibility to review would obviously not be a good idea.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:03
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Staged payments Oct 31, 2015

I only take on one or two big projects a year - I prefer smaller ones. Usually, I arrange for the deadline to allow me to take on some other work alongside the big job. If they would mean being out of circulation for regular clients for more than a couple of weeks, I don't take big jobs on.

I don't ask for payment up front, but I do usually ask for staged payments. I did once stop translating a book when the client admitted she could not pay - a grant had not materialised. She paid promptly for the chapters I had done, and could use them, luckily, so we parted amicably! But I was glad I had asked for payment in instalments.

When I deliver instalments, they are generally going to be reviewed and edited by the client/author or others, and I reserve the right to tweak things myself as well if issues crop up later, or there are going to be problems with consistency. Reviewers often send useful feedback, which I can apply as I continue translating.

Someone, possibly more than one person, does a final check when the translation is complete - I check my contribution all through, including any alterations we may have made in earlier chapters along the way.


 

Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:03
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sometimes, Nov 1, 2015

If I don't know the client, and the first job is a large one, I do ask for a downpayment. I have learned in commerce that when a person has bad intentions, they will refuse to pay a downpayment, and vice-versa.

 


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