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Notice of late payment
Thread poster: Daria Hussels

Daria Hussels  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
English to German
May 21, 2016

Hello everybody,

I recently started working for a new agency and my first invoice is due in 10 days, a second one is under way. They owe me roughly 1000 USD. Today I received an email from them and I am not sure whether I should be concerned (a few of the statements in there tell me I should be, but please read for yourselves), and which steps to take next. I have never been in this situation before as my clients usually pay on time (and if not, they just disappear, but fortunately
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Hello everybody,

I recently started working for a new agency and my first invoice is due in 10 days, a second one is under way. They owe me roughly 1000 USD. Today I received an email from them and I am not sure whether I should be concerned (a few of the statements in there tell me I should be, but please read for yourselves), and which steps to take next. I have never been in this situation before as my clients usually pay on time (and if not, they just disappear, but fortunately it doesn't happen very often).

I am copying this email in here without any personal information. I am not reporting them on any forums yet because right now I could not justify to do so, and I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt. They have not been reported for any sort of negative behaviour on the ProZ Bluebord or TC HFS yet, but there aren't any positive entries either, and I can see that they have been posting jobs for a year or so.

Anyway, your thoughts would be much appreciated!

Quote:
Dear Daria Hussels,

First of all, we would like to express our thanks for your quality and timely services so far. Please be informed that we are under way to work with our client to finalize the project implementation in several weeks' time.

Regarding the payment for vendors, for the common projects we always make every attempt to remit payment within 30 days upon the delivery and receipt of invoices. Particularly for this project, due to the nature of a large project which involves many relevant parties and stakeholders of a state-owned enterprise (SOE), it is quite time-consuming to obtain the feedback, content approval, wrap up the project and payment processing is, therefore, complicated and delayed unlike a usual project.

We take this in mind and admit that it is not professional to make payment late to you as our trusted vendors in this way. However, it is not our intention though because we also depend on our client. First, clients have to confirm with us each phase of the translation. Second, upon client's confirmation, they have to transfer payment to us. We agree that what we work with client should not be a factor that affects you and that our agreement with you regarding payment is another matter. We have also worked very closely with the client and mutually agreed on a specific timeline for the approval and payment. We are writing this Notice of Late Payment to propose the extension of 30 days in respect of the payment terms for each PO. This is in line with our mutual agreement with the client, who in turns has to take immediate actions internally in accordance with their approved timeline.

Thanks for your patience and we hope you understand our position and the complexity of this project. Again, we highly appreciate your services and seek your sympathy and continued support in finalizing this project.

Many thanks,
...
Project Manager
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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:03
Member (2008)
French to English
+ ...
Can't they afford to pay? May 21, 2016

So they took on a large job without having sufficient working capital on hand to fund the job (i.e., pay their translators on time regardless of when their client pays). Doesn't sound like very good business management. It's not merely unprofessional but mismanagement.

As they themselves admit, it's not their translators' job to finance their business (by carrying their unpaid bills).

I think I would try to convince them to pay on time, so you could give them a good r
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So they took on a large job without having sufficient working capital on hand to fund the job (i.e., pay their translators on time regardless of when their client pays). Doesn't sound like very good business management. It's not merely unprofessional but mismanagement.

As they themselves admit, it's not their translators' job to finance their business (by carrying their unpaid bills).

I think I would try to convince them to pay on time, so you could give them a good rating on the BB. If they don't have any BB or TC HFS entries they might reconsider.

[Edited at 2016-05-21 02:33 GMT]
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Frank Zou  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 09:03
Member (2016)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Should be worried? May 21, 2016

Apparently, this agency is not willing to take any risks regarding the payment. He wants to secure payment from client before paying you. In other words, if the client refuses to pay him, you are very unlikely to get your payment.

It is understandable that a SOE works slow because of a lot of red tapes and stuff, but the agency wants to share with you the risks that were supposed to be taken by himself. If you still want to work with them in future, I suggest you should be firm but
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Apparently, this agency is not willing to take any risks regarding the payment. He wants to secure payment from client before paying you. In other words, if the client refuses to pay him, you are very unlikely to get your payment.

It is understandable that a SOE works slow because of a lot of red tapes and stuff, but the agency wants to share with you the risks that were supposed to be taken by himself. If you still want to work with them in future, I suggest you should be firm but cautious in requesting your payment, at least ask for a deadline and see how it goes.
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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:03
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
They should pay you May 21, 2016

Since the contract was/is between you and the agency - and not between you and their client - they are under the obligation to pay you on time. They should have know when payment to you would be/is due, and should have seen to it that the funds are available.

If they truly appreciate and value your services thus far, then it's a matter of respect to honor the contract you two (not you and their client) have agreed to.


 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:03
German to English
+ ...
Exception or habit? May 21, 2016

As they go to great lengths to explain the situation, I would do a little more research on the company before drawing a definitive conclusion to find out if this situation is habitual with them or an exception. If you haven't already, check their Blue Board page - what do the other translators say about payment? There are also numerous groups on LinkedIn, etc. just for the purpose of discussing experiences with poor payers in the translation industry. If you aren't registered there, just do a Go... See more
As they go to great lengths to explain the situation, I would do a little more research on the company before drawing a definitive conclusion to find out if this situation is habitual with them or an exception. If you haven't already, check their Blue Board page - what do the other translators say about payment? There are also numerous groups on LinkedIn, etc. just for the purpose of discussing experiences with poor payers in the translation industry. If you aren't registered there, just do a Google search on the agency (name + plus some appropriate key words) to find out if there is an online record of slow payment practices or cash flow problems on their part.

I would give them the benefit of the doubt if nothing negative turns up, BUT I wouldn't accept any more work from them until the existing invoices are paid, or only if they pay in advance for jobs (from other clients) until your invoices have been paid in full. It would not be wise to add to their existing debt to you, obviously. However, if there is even a whisper of an unreliable payment history, run, don't walk away from them, but make sure you do it with some tact to avoid a frustrating or time-consuming fight for your money. (It shouldn't be that way, of course, but human nature being what it is...)

Even though I agree that your payment should not depend on the agency's client payments, as your contract is with them and not the end client, I would grant some leeway if you are otherwise satisfied with the company and the work conditions, e.g. interesting jobs, fair rates, realistic deadlines, etc. Good agencies aren't always that easy to find, so you may not want to burn your bridges just yet.
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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
English to German
That's it May 21, 2016

John Fossey wrote:

So they took on a large job without having sufficient working capital on hand to fund the job (i.e., pay their translators on time regardless of when their client pays). Doesn't sound like very good business management. It's not merely unprofessional but mismanagement.

As they themselves admit, it's not their translators' job to finance their business (by carrying their unpaid bills).

I think I would try to convince them to pay on time, so you could give them a good rating on the BB. If they don't have any BB or TC HFS entries they might reconsider.

[Edited at 2016-05-21 02:33 GMT]


They are trying to be honest with you, but I feel that their client could be in trouble and that there is a risk of not getting paid, so I would try and push in front of the queue, before their pot is empty. Maybe by stating that you sympathise with their situation, but that late payments can quickly cause cashflow problems for small businesses like freelance translators, therefore you urge them to pay on time, otherwise your late payment fee will apply.

[Edited at 2016-05-21 07:40 GMT]


 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:03
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
delayed payment May 21, 2016

Don't accept any new work from them until they have paid. Several days before the second 30-day period is up, send them a notice and indicate that you yourself have creditors and must receive payment without fail as they have promised. If they balk, send a new invoice with a late fee.

 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Unprofessional May 21, 2016

Most of the time, you can predict future behaviour from past behaviour. This isn't, of course, always the case; there are exceptions, but we are talking about normal cases.

If a client who has been paying me on time, or even earlier than due, is late with a payment, I do not even send them a reminder. If they are too late (say, three weeks late), I send them a reminder to ask if they received my invoice. Usually, I receive the amount next day.

Now, if a client starts ju
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Most of the time, you can predict future behaviour from past behaviour. This isn't, of course, always the case; there are exceptions, but we are talking about normal cases.

If a client who has been paying me on time, or even earlier than due, is late with a payment, I do not even send them a reminder. If they are too late (say, three weeks late), I send them a reminder to ask if they received my invoice. Usually, I receive the amount next day.

Now, if a client starts justifying their actions for being late, even thought the story could actually check out, it still is unprofessional. They run a business and it implies taking risk, including financial risk. We too run a business, but we prefer not to take that risk. This is the reason we do not have employees nor do we subcontract projects (I'm talking about true freelancers here, not "micro-agencies").

They should pay you no matter if they get paid or not.

How to handle it?

1. First of all, you need to let them know what your position is with regards to payments; you expect to be paid always on time regardless.

2. Given this particular situation, and in the face of announced and imminent delay, you expect them to tell you when exactly you will be paid ("when client pays" is not an exact date).

3. Accept projects from this particular customer only on a prepaid basis.

4. Fight "to the end" if you eventually do not get paid.

Good luck and I hope this issue is sorted out with acceptable outcome for both parties.

[Edited at 2016-05-21 10:11 GMT]
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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Another approach May 21, 2016

I would actually take a different approach here.

While delayed payment is not ideal, the client appears to be trying to be open and transparent about the fact that payment will likely be delayed. Do as much research as you can, ring them up to discuss it in person even, and then if the story checks out and this appears to be an exception to their normal practice, suggest a compromise: they pay half of the invoice on time and you agree to accept the second half 30 days later on thei
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I would actually take a different approach here.

While delayed payment is not ideal, the client appears to be trying to be open and transparent about the fact that payment will likely be delayed. Do as much research as you can, ring them up to discuss it in person even, and then if the story checks out and this appears to be an exception to their normal practice, suggest a compromise: they pay half of the invoice on time and you agree to accept the second half 30 days later on their suggested delayed payment date. I would make it clear that this is an exceptional ONE TIME ONLY offer and you expect future invoices to be paid on time in full.

In terms of future jobs, I would wait until they have met one of those conditions (paid the first half, for example) before accepting any large projects from them.

You say there are some red flags that cause you some concern; certainly if the client is already anticipating late/delayed payment, that should be concerning. BUT I also see some good signs. They are warning you in advance as opposed to ignoring your invoice completely and then avoiding your calls/emails later. They state that your work has been of acceptable quality and submitted on time. They admit that their dealings with the client are separate from their obligation to pay you for your services. Those are all good things that I would not expect to see from a company that does not intend to pay at all or that makes a habit of messing people about.

If it's an exceptional circumstance and it appears that they are being honest, my first instinct would be to be flexible with them in order to minimise your risk (collecting partial payment on time is a nice compromise) and also foster a good working relationship with them at the same time.

(edited for clarity)

[Edited at 2016-05-21 10:41 GMT]
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Daria Hussels  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Asked to do more work May 21, 2016

Thanks everybody for your detailed input. It helps a lot to see all the different perspectives! Well, I have just received an email asking me to do more work on the project in question.

What also strikes me is that they always have REALLY tight deadlines and I am coming to think that they might want their vendors to get as much as possible done before their invoices are due and difficulties become apparent? Sorry, maybe I am just becoming paranoid now.

Some of you sug
... See more
Thanks everybody for your detailed input. It helps a lot to see all the different perspectives! Well, I have just received an email asking me to do more work on the project in question.

What also strikes me is that they always have REALLY tight deadlines and I am coming to think that they might want their vendors to get as much as possible done before their invoices are due and difficulties become apparent? Sorry, maybe I am just becoming paranoid now.

Some of you suggested not to accept any more work from them, and that is what I would be most comfortable with as well. Now I have to think about how to phrase this, as I don't like the thought of falling out with debitors. They are located in a country where it would be difficult for me to take legal action.
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Daria Hussels  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
No record about payment practices May 21, 2016

Woodstock wrote:

As they go to great lengths to explain the situation, I would do a little more research on the company before drawing a definitive conclusion to find out if this situation is habitual with them or an exception. If you haven't already, check their Blue Board page - what do the other translators say about payment? There are also numerous groups on LinkedIn, etc. just for the purpose of discussing experiences with poor payers in the translation industry. If you aren't registered there, just do a Google search on the agency (name + plus some appropriate key words) to find out if there is an online record of slow payment practices or cash flow problems on their part.


Thank you for this! (Un)fortunately there are no records of that kind available, even though the agency has profiles on all those networks.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:03
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Something very similar has recently happened to me ... May 21, 2016

... with a new client. Since agreeing to work for this agency, I've heard from a Proz colleague that they are late (or non) payers and very difficult to work for - always in a panic, corrupted source files, etc. My experience of the two "urgent" jobs I've done for them so far bears this out.
However, my two invoices are technically not due for payment until the end of May and the end of June respectively, so I can't say that they're late yet or make any kind of Blue Board entry.
As w
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... with a new client. Since agreeing to work for this agency, I've heard from a Proz colleague that they are late (or non) payers and very difficult to work for - always in a panic, corrupted source files, etc. My experience of the two "urgent" jobs I've done for them so far bears this out.
However, my two invoices are technically not due for payment until the end of May and the end of June respectively, so I can't say that they're late yet or make any kind of Blue Board entry.
As with you, Daria, this agency has since asked me to do further work for them on the job I completed last week. I declined, saying that I was extremely busy with work for other established clients and wouldn't be able to accept any more from them until the end of May (which is largely true, I'm happy to say).
Perhaps you could reply to your worrying client along those lines?

[Edited at 2016-05-21 11:55 GMT]
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I would be worried, personally May 21, 2016

To me, that email stinks. It isn't saying in a straightforward way that they need a little more time to get feedback on quality. It's saying that they'll find every excuse in the book not to pay (yet, maybe ever) but they'll couch every delay communication in apologies, citing exceptional circumstances etc. As they say themselves, linking our payment to their dealings with their clients is unacceptable. So why are they doing it???

You say they don't have any feedback on the BB. If t
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To me, that email stinks. It isn't saying in a straightforward way that they need a little more time to get feedback on quality. It's saying that they'll find every excuse in the book not to pay (yet, maybe ever) but they'll couch every delay communication in apologies, citing exceptional circumstances etc. As they say themselves, linking our payment to their dealings with their clients is unacceptable. So why are they doing it???

You say they don't have any feedback on the BB. If they have a record on the BB, I would submit a call for entries. If they don't, there's nothing to stop you getting one set up first. Also, check on the LinkedIn naming and shaming group and on the payment practices site.

I certainly wouldn't accept doubling the payment time, or extending it to some unknown date in the future when their client pays. You have no reason to. They're just banking on you making their life easier. And unfortunately, many freelancers, isolated and with an employee mindset rather than an entrepreneurial one, will do just that. I'd make a gesture of goodwill, perhaps, but no more. Suggest paying something less than 100% on the due date, with the balance payable with the next invoice, perhaps? Of course, that second invoice would not be negotiable.

And I certainly wouldn't take on more work from them while they aren't complying with their side of the contract. You're already owed USD 1000, and that's more than enough business risk for a freelancer. And more than enough reason to decline further work until you've seen the colour of their money. Any agency should be able to understand that. Just make sure you keep your tone business-like and don't let it get personal; then they will most likely respect you all the more for it. Cave in and you lose their respect totally.
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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Justice May 21, 2016

Daria Hussels wrote:

Thanks everybody for your detailed input. It helps a lot to see all the different perspectives! Well, I have just received an email asking me to do more work on the project in question.

What also strikes me is that they always have REALLY tight deadlines and I am coming to think that they might want their vendors to get as much as possible done before their invoices are due and difficulties become apparent? Sorry, maybe I am just becoming paranoid now.

Some of you suggested not to accept any more work from them, and that is what I would be most comfortable with as well. Now I have to think about how to phrase this, as I don't like the thought of falling out with debitors. They are located in a country where it would be difficult for me to take legal action.


When it comes to meeting obligations, if something looks wrong, it is wrong.

Ask yourself a question: why do other clients of yours pay on time? Do we have any reasonable motive to think they do not face problems? Well, those are their problems, they deal with them.They do not disturb you with those problems and rightly so. You don't disturb them either with requests such as : "please pay me 2,000 EUR in advance, I have to buy a new fridge.", do you?

I too believe in a "partnership" rather than "supplier-client" relationship. But, you only become "partners" when you've done a number of challenging projects together and have meticulously met all your obligations.

This client is new to you and all indicates that it "ain't" a good start.

As for not accepting more work, I wouldn't be the indicated person to tell you how to phrase it (English isn't my first language), but the idea is this: since they owe you x amount, you would love to, but cannot afford, taking on more projects with long payment periods.

If they do not pay and you are reluctant to take legal action, use other resources, such as:

- BB entry. First threaten, if no reaction, enter a negative feedback on BB.
- Contact a local lawyer in their country. Ask them to draft and send a letter threatening legal action.

Unfortunately, there are organizations that would not bother meeting their obligations if you do not exercise some pressure.

You mentioned 1000 EUR. This is not a small amount. I once moved and did not notify my mobile phone company about the change. They sent me their invoice to my old address, which obviously got ignored. Since I was out of country (and was not using that phone), I did not get that invoice for about three months. One day I found a letter at my new address notifying me court date (initial amount was about 160 EUR). I ended up paying about 500 EUR, as I knew that to certain extent it was my fault (even though not in bad faith) and I wouldn't win the process (would end up paying much more).

There must be some justice left in this world, right?


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
A standard ploy? May 21, 2016

Daria Hussels wrote:
Thanks for your patience and we hope you understand our position and the complexity of this project. Again, we highly appreciate your services and seek your sympathy and continued support in finalizing this project.

That is a very polished email. Are these guys native speakers of English? Even if they are native speakers, for a supposedly ad hoc email describing a supposedly unexpected problem it's very well written.

Here's my guess: this email is so polished because they have used this text many times before and gradually improved made it more persuasive over time. In fact, I would guess that they try this with every new translator they work with.

The point about the client being an SOE is ludicrous. It is hard to imagine they did not understand how SOEs work before they took the job and before they commissioned you to do the translation. It's not as if state-owned enterprises are unusual in that country, right?

I'm with Sheila. This smells fishy to me. I would reject their "offer" to pay late and stop working with them until you get paid. When you realise that you're in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. The more money they owe you, the more leverage they will have over you.

Dan


 
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