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Friday, October 29, 2004

Late Payments and Non-Payments

The translation industry is probably the only one where thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise is custom-made and delivered often on the basis of a phone call or e-mail from an unknown client, without credit check or down payment. Individual translators, working hard to make ends meet, often finance large corporations by unwillingly extending interest-free credit for months. Is late payment or non-payment for translation work a serious problem? And what can or should translators and their organizations do about it?


Blogger A said...

Dear Gabe.
I visited th blog just yesterday. It's a facinating initiative.
However, I was suprised that no one has happened to add some comment to the last message. I guess it's about the nature of the message which deals with the very core of the personal life of the translators. We insiders, you know, don't botherf ourselves to talk about our personal life. We may spend hours on discussing a parralel equivalent for a word in anothr language, but don't like to focus on the living-making or like to escape such embarrasing things.
Ali Hajmohammadi

1:32 PM  
Blogger CTrans said...

Payment problems are not just the fault of the client, but also of the translator, who was not careful enough to verify the payment history of the client and/or to ask for payment upfront.

There are some good rules/tips on how to avoid such sticky situations.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Chester Claff said...


Your question is poignant and pertinent to all of us.
One of my larger new clients in 2004 was perennially overdue in payments for months, job after job. I was constantly sending statements and reminders. He finally paid in full.
After a year of this, the next time he phoned with work for me, I told him I could not tolerate his payment policy. He said he would improve his Accounts Payable policy, and I told him that's fine, phone me when you've done that, but until then I would not create any more Accounts Payable for him. He hasn't phoned since, and I feel the loss of income.
However, perhaps he will improve his payment policies and I will have saved some other translators the nuisance of sending repeated statements of account. Admittedly, it has cost me a substantial amount of income, but principle is principle. If we all firmly stood our ground, translation buyers might eventually understand that freelancers count on prompt payments to meet their own cash flow problems. Independent contractors deserve the same considerations as employees!

2:14 PM  
Blogger Matt Ellsworth said...

I'm happy I found TJB and TJ. Several of the issues under discussion are useful to me and my readers at TranslationMaven.
Just as the posting says, I completed a job for a translation firm without any prior arrangement for payment except the price. After the work was done, I submitted an invoice and was then informed that payment would be made "at the end of the next full month", which then was over a month away. Even after that time, I had to email repeatedly, coming near to threats, before payment was finally made.

I have supposed since that the agency had put itself into a cash hole or was strugging with its own collection issues.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Hipyan said...

Since my going international in late 2005, I've never found a non-payment case. Thanks God for this luck. Unfortunately, ate payments frequently happen. Nevertheless, the lateness is tolerable. It just in the range of days or weeks rather than months. Visiting potential client's website and checking their payment record will provide the translator with adequate insight into their trustworthiness.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certain publishers are renowned for late/ non-payments. In such cases, what is involved is not payments that have slipped through the cracks but organized schemes to defraud translators of their labor and money in order to line the pockets of the publisher.

This has only happened once in my experience but, after some research, I learned that non-payment was systematic with the publisher (Arfise Paris / Sirrocco London / Parkstone Press New York).

For those interested, I've started a blog to document the matter at:

6:05 PM  
Blogger Bimbus said...

Hi, for payment matters you might like to check out my new website:
It is a website to help starting or experienced translators decide if they should work for a new client. The website has the following useful links:
- a submit form where to post comments concerning the payment practices of clients they have worked for
- a freely accessible and strictly moderated online database where they can view these comments posted by other translators
- legal tips on getting paid for translation work
- suggestions of what one might charge for their translation service, based on what others are charging and other factors
- extensive translation tips
- translation resources

Karel Kosman

2:24 AM  
Blogger translationtrudy2011 said...

I just keep my fingers crossed for payment whenever I work for a new client. Fortunately,as of now no payment scenario never occurred with me but late payment is a common syndrome.

7:34 AM  
Blogger victoria said...

I am a free lance translator. On the average i earn about Ringgi Malaysia 500 per month average. I receive documents (mostly legal, Court Applications, and Affidavits) by email from regular clients (lawyers). I take about 1 hour to translate from English to Malay. I send the finished work by email, and the fee (i charge 0.07sen per word of target language)is credited into my bank account. The bank sends me a sms saying so much has been banked in. So far I have had no problems with this.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

first of all, let me thank you for your input as I have found it very helpful. Out of curiosity, what languages do you translate to and from? the reason I am asking, is because I am fluent in Spanish and English, and although I have yet to become a member of the translatorbase, i receive up to 8 notifications each day about translation jobs in Spanish/ English.
I am really on the fence about paying for the full membership because if it is not in fact a legitimate investment, then I simply cannot afford to part with the almost $200. However, if it is going to generate work for me then I want to do it as soon as possible. I have been wavering on this decision for quite some time now and I appreciate any and all feedback

7:50 AM  

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