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US agencies
Thread poster: David Young
David Young  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 08:19
Danish to English
May 14, 2011

I'm a bit of a newbie as far as US translation agencies are concerned. I've worked for two now and they've both been a pain in the butt as regards payment.
One of them had payment terms of 45 days, which from a European point of view is stretching it as far as it will go, and were then late. Their explanation was that they had to wait for their client to pay first! Astonishing - isn't that illegal in the USA?
The second one was very sneaky - they contacted me through a name that has a very good BB entry and then I found myself working for another company in the group who are in fact banned from posting jobs on proz. I didn't find this out until later. The problem here was that they want to pay by USD cheque (how quaint!) and suggested that I set up a USD bank account. When I said "No thanks", I want to be paid via PayPal, they told me they would charge me $10 for the privilege. They also bounced a cheque which I'm still trying to get sorted out.
I've decided not to work for US agencies again.
Am I just unlucky or is this par for the course?

David Young



[Edited at 2011-05-14 21:24 GMT]


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:19
Member
French to English
+ ...
Not all the same, David! May 14, 2011

I think you've been unlucky in your two bad experiences, but I would hasten to reassure you that not all US agencies are by any means the same!

I have had the good fortune to work over a period of time with several different agencies, with whom I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, excellent relations.

It's true, 45- or even 60-day payment terms are more common in the US than in Europe, but I have always made it clear when negotiating that my own terms are 30 days, and almost all agencies have agreed to comply; it is of course vital to discuss this before accepting the work! In fact, some agencies have paid remarkably promptly.

I've also had excellent relationships with my PMs, and always received genuine appreciation for my work (please see WWA comments on my profile for some examples).

Apart from one minor hiccup over a small job ($20) with one agency, I have never had any payment issues, and have always managed to negotiate payment by international wire transfer if PayPal or MoneyBookers have not been available. In all cases, of course, I make sure to negotiate the payment method in advance, and generally insist that no charges are made to my account. I have never had any problems with this with the honest agencies with whom I have had dealings.

So don't despair, and do try again — just pay extra-special attention to those BB entries!



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David Young  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 08:19
Danish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Tony May 14, 2011

Many thanks for your comments and advice. I have made a mental note to be sure to check the BB beforehand, but I did that with the second case above and then found myself working for someone else. We live and learn - hopefully
I realise that I'm going to have to be more demanding, as you advise - i.e. make MY terms and conditions clear and not just accept theirs. And make sure I have an acceptance in writing.
The other issue for me is rates - the Danish agency I do most work for pays me the equivalent of €0.10 per word - that's $0.14. I have three chances of getting that from a US agency - slim, fat and no. I'm willing to be flexible of course - but not half-price.


[Edited at 2011-05-14 21:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-05-14 21:27 GMT]


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:19
Member
French to English
+ ...
For info... May 14, 2011

The link between 2a and 2b is now noted in 2a's BB profile, though rather discreetly, it must be said.

Yes, with the unfavourable $ / € exchange rate, it has become very difficult ; still, I don't find it hard to command something pretty close to my usual rate — though it must be admitted that I've had less work from US agencies since the exchange rate plummetted...

Good luck!


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David Young  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 08:19
Danish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Discreet links May 14, 2011

Yes, I saw that.
My comment/link, if approved, will be less discreet.

David


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Nicolas Coyer  Identity Verified
Colombia
Local time: 02:19
Spanish to French
+ ...
Don't despair May 14, 2011

Hi David,

I also work mostly with US agencies, and it's also been a rather pleasant experience once I have separated the wheat from the chaff. I have had payment issues in the past, but I got my payments in the end. However, it is also true that you have to bear longer payment terms.
I have my doubts regarding the advantage of PayPal against checks. Their fees are pretty hefty from what I recall. Banks also take a nice cut on wires, whereas checks, though they take a little longer to be processed, have no fees associated with them. Some banks even have bank by mail service, where you can ask your (trustworthy/long-standing) customer to send your check to a PO Box with a note containing your name and acct# to have the check directly deposited on your account.
One additional note: Don't just rely on the BB. Linkedin also has a group about bad payers, and you can subscribe to the payment pratices db managed by Tom Wozniak for a very low yearly rate.

Best of luck,
Nicolas


[Edited at 2011-05-14 18:53 GMT]


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Francina  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:19
Member (2005)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Perspective from the U.S. May 15, 2011

Hi David,
This is very interesting to read/know. Over the past few months I have been contacted by several European agencies and, except for one, they all expect me to accept work in my specialized field (medical) for less than my U.S. rates. Needless to say that I have expanded my client base by 1!
With regards to payment practices, they vary not according to location U.S. vs. Europe, but according to agency. There are many European agencies with a 45 day payment practice, or is this only when they know the translator is located in the U.S.? In fact, after inquiring about a late payment from a German agency the reply was that the pharmaceutical industry payment terms are 90 days thereby making the 30 day payment practice almost impossible for the agency as it means paying the translator in advance!!!
Francina


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:19
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It was your fault... May 15, 2011

So you work for two bad companies in a row, and as they happen to be US companies you decide that all US companies are bad? It is completely absurd, if you ask me.

The fault is more on your side, I think, since you did not investigate the customers enough. The location of the customers is irrelevant. I have been working for a number of US agencies for over 15 years and the experience has been a positive one throughout. In fact, they taught me how to be good business partner when I started!


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David Young  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 08:19
Danish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Mea culpa May 15, 2011

Yes, Tomas, if you want to ascribe blame, I will take it all on my broad shoulders. Personally, I think life is too short for blaming.
I just described my experiences and asked if I had been unfortunate.
But you are right - I didn't investigate enough, or I preferred to believe other translators' good experiences with one of these companies instead of the warning signs.
And I have learnt from the experiences. I'm especially grateful to Tony for drawing my attention to my responsibility to set my own terms and conditions and stick with them. Accepting bad conditions only leads to resentment. Especially when those conditions are breached and cheques are bounced!


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B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:19
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Payment by US or other cheque in France May 15, 2011

Nicolas Coyer wrote:

I have my doubts regarding the advantage of PayPal against checks. Their fees are pretty hefty from what I recall. Banks also take a nice cut on wires, whereas checks, though they take a little longer to be processed, have no fees associated with them.


Some time back, I was shocked to discover that my French bank charged €14 for cashing a €45 cheque drawn on a Greek bank, even though the cheque was (obviously) in euros!



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Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
The U.S. is a big place May 15, 2011

The United States is such a huge country that it is impossible to make generalizations about the agencies located there. Some are run by large corporations, while others are run by families or single individuals. The variety is huge, and each type of agency has its positives and negatives. I have personally only worked with outstanding agencies in the U.S., but I know that there are bad ones out there, too. If I get a bad feeling during our initial correspondence, I do not pursue the work. If you are located overseas, it is definitely important to agree upon the basics regarding payment before committing to any project. Not all U.S.-based companies are properly equipped to handle overseas payments in a way that makes sense for both parties.

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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:19
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Well said May 15, 2011

Amel Abdullah wrote:

The United States is such a huge country that it is impossible to make generalizations about the agencies located there. Some are run by large corporations, while others are run by families or single individuals. The variety is huge, and each type of agency has its positives and negatives. I have personally only worked with outstanding agencies in the U.S., but I know that there are bad ones out there, too. If I get a bad feeling during our initial correspondence, I do not pursue the work. If you are located overseas, it is definitely important to agree upon the basics regarding payment before committing to any project. Not all U.S.-based companies are properly equipped to handle overseas payments in a way that makes sense for both parties.


Excellent comments here.


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:19
English to Japanese
+ ...
We are all biased and prejudiced May 16, 2011

But don't let those eat you.

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Nicolas Coyer  Identity Verified
Colombia
Local time: 02:19
Spanish to French
+ ...
wire May 22, 2011

AFAIK, wires don't cost a thing inside the euro zone. Maybe you should try that.
I am sure that even a service like Moneybookers charges less than 14€ to receive the amount and then transfer it to your bank account.

B D Finch wrote:

Nicolas Coyer wrote:

I have my doubts regarding the advantage of PayPal against checks. Their fees are pretty hefty from what I recall. Banks also take a nice cut on wires, whereas checks, though they take a little longer to be processed, have no fees associated with them.


Some time back, I was shocked to discover that my French bank charged €14 for cashing a €45 cheque drawn on a Greek bank, even though the cheque was (obviously) in euros!



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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:19
Member
French to English
+ ...
Sadly, not so... May 22, 2011

Nicolas Coyer wrote:

AFAIK, wires don't cost a thing inside the euro zone.


I'm afraid that's not always the case, Nicolas.

My bank has a nasty habit of charging me a 'repatriation fee', which is sometimes quite high compared to the actual value of the transaction. And I don't think they're alone in this.
I find the charges made by PayPal are quite competitive, and suit my needs most of the time quite well.


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