Archive | August, 2014

Non-payers: when clients vanish into thin air

12 Aug

Have you ever faced non-payment? Not a delay of several days, but a real nightmare, when your client vanishes into thin air?


Well, I have. Several times during 10 years in the industry. Sooner or later this happens to almost any translator: you can`t reach your client, whether a translation agency or a direct customer. Emails are left unanswered, SMS messages do not help you, phone calls don`t help either. That`s why I would like to share several examples of my actions I took to get paid.


1. The most simple method to make your PM instantly contact you in this case is to somehow find e-mail of her immediate superior. In most translation agencies this will be the general manager of the company. Once you find it on their web-site, you can send a short and polite message about the situation. I used this technique twice, saying something like “it may be that you (as the general manager) are simply not aware of the fact that your PM does not want to answer emails of translators”. This usually helps, since general managers are usually much more interested in protecting the image of their companies. In the first case it was clear that the PM was called on the carpet by her boss, because I received her reply on the same day. In the second case the president of the company openly told me they had cash problems. I asked if they could pay 70% right now, with 30% to be paid when an opportunity arrives (not a very good solution, but that`s how people negotiate. The Blue Boars score of the company was perfect). The problem was solved. It`s better to get something than to get nothing.


Well, if we take the first case, one may ask: don`t you understand that this PM will never contact you for new projects? My answer is: do you want this type of clients? I don`t. They have already showed their attitude. In the second case I was polite and sincere. We reached a mutually acceptable agreement with the head of the company. I was lucky to get my payment. The rest has been transferred in a month or two (I don`t remember actually).


2. A somewhat more serious issue I faced was when I made a translation for another translator in another country. I was contacted by her with a rush assignment to be done within the next few hours (translator who had had to deliver the project vanished). Ok, no problem. All in all, the client was generous. She also accepted the translation and promised to pay within a week. Needless to say, I never heard anything from her since then. Nothing helped: although I had her phone number, her email address, my SMS messages and emails were left unanswered. What made the issue worse was that she had no Blueboard account at proz.


What I did was to find her LinkedIn profile and browse her contacts there. Quite accidentally I came across the profile of her husband there (well, at least he had the same surname). Having written a very polite e-mail about my concern that something bad could have happened to her, I finally received both his and her apologies (with a phony excuse for this delay) and 25% compensation for this inconvenience. BTW, I still don`t think I will have the courage to work for her later on.


3. Another (similar) unpleasant thing happened to me with one Italian agency. They also were very reluctant to both pay and talk to me about the situation (although I had been working for them for 2 years). I had to first post negative entries on Blueboard. Then I had to contact one of my friends in Italy to ask him to make a call to this company. This pressure helped me get the money. Needless to say, I stopped taking assignments from this agency.


What is the moral of the post? If, after careful consideration and checking, you still come across a client who turns out to be a non-payer (well, this sometimes happens; 2-3 times during my 10-year career, for instance ), don`t be driven to despair. Use a pen and a sheet of paper to brainstorm any ideas about the ways of getting your payment. Do you have friends there? Ask them to make a serious call. Do you have e-mails of managers? Use them. Do you have access to the Internet (I believe you have?) Use it to find as much contact details as possible. Don`t be too concerned about possible consequences for your relationships – they have already shown you that they don`t take you seriously. Don`t be afraid to let this client go.