Archive | October, 2013

Arbitrary change of payment terms: how to deal with it?

8 Oct

This post is about payment terms and their change in the middle – or at the end – of a project. I know a lot of translators sooner or later faced this challenge. It happened to me twice – both clients were seemingly reputable Western companies (one from Netherlands and the second one from the US). Before taking the project, I thoroughly studied their websites and had long conversations with the respective representatives of these companies. These two companies were direct clients.

The first company from Netherlands had to pay me within 10 days after the date of the invoice. On the 10th day I was contacted by my contact person in the company and was told that they would pay me within 20 days, which was apparently a material change to our payment terms initially set (this is a very “popular” issue BTW ). The onlyway to deal with it was to take a firm stand, as Mike Monteiro (Design Director and co-founder of Mule Design) put on his video “F**k you. Pay me” (full video is available at

You must take a form stand, otherwise they’ll try to take advantage of you in this case. Send a polite but firm reminder that you once agreed to a 10-day payment term. If this does not help, you are free to send a threat if you like. After all, it was your client who tried to steal your time= money. But never agree on something less comfortable when the payment is about to come due.

The other client of mine happily accepted the translation. And again, once the payment date had been reached, I was told that the company was in serious trouble. “We can’t pay you right now”, I was told. “Let’s wait a couple of weeks, and see what we can do”. Just as simple as that.

That won’t do. After two and three emails I realized that this person could not resolve the issue. No problem. The next step I took was to find emails of CEO, CFO, etc. of the company. At the end of the day I was paid 75% of the amount. The rest came within 10 days. Once again, I was firm and accepted nothing less than full payment of the amount due ASAP.

General recommendations: watch the video I mentioned above. Second. Be firm, polite, optimistic. Third. Contact management of the company if the issue can’t be resolved between you and your contact person. A lot of companies list emails and phones of managers who have much more power and authority to help you get what you earned. Just remember: you are not a bank or a financial institution. You can’t provide loans to people who didn’t ask for that right from the start.