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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Payment Arrangements

Payment Arrangements

Now that the assignment has been completed, you know you will be paid for your work, but the question is WHEN? Some agency contracts state payment will made in 30 days, for other agencies you may have to wait 45 to 60 days. It is rare to find an agency that issues payment in less than 30 days with the average being closer to 40 days.

In the event that the payment fails to appear after 45 days, a calm telephone call to the agency is in order to first find out where the problem exists and if there is any action required from you to resolve it, i.e., the invoice has been misplaced and you need to send another.

In addition, if you are working with an individual client, this does not exclude the possibility of late payment, work agreement or fee contracts notwithstanding. Both agencies and individual clients are human beings, subject to the same frailties, memory lapses and bad business practices. It is worth remembering that in many cases of corporate business transactions, bills are not settled before 90 days. However, if an agency has stated in writing that you will be paid in 15 days, you are well within your rights to expect them to keep their word and if they fail to do this, seek a remedy.

If the waiting period for payment elapses and payment is not received, there is no reason to expect the worst, it is important for you to keep your wits about you, remember you are a professional translator, not a starving artist. First investigate the method of payment delivery. If it was being sent by regular land postal service, it may simply be delayed in transit.

This is particularly true of international mail. A letter being sent from Norway to New York has to pass through a variety of countries with different postal systems and this may not be a simple pass through operation. Allow a few days beyond the due date for this as well as the fact that although a check is processed on a certain date, does not guarantee that it will be mailed immediately.

When three to four days beyond this time period has passed, it is now time to take action. As stated earlier, you can also call the agency directly and speak with the accounting department or the person responsible for freelancer payments. Or you can write a letter that politely reminds them of their past due invoice.

Enclose a copy of the original invoice and keep a copy of all of your correspondence. Allow a few days for them to receive the letter. This is usually sufficient to receive a response from the agency or individual explaining the reason for the delay and assuring you that your payment will be sent directly.

However if your letter does not receive a reply within a reasonable period of time, a call to the office becomes mandatory. Retain your composure, be polite but at the same time, request confirmation of your payment. If you receive a response that is less than enthusiastic or unconvincing, be sure to make a note of the person’s name and their department.

Unfortunately there are times when people fail to keep their word even after receiving a reminder in writing and a phone call, which requires you to write a second letter, with emphasis on the facts of the matter. Your language in the second letter needs to be direct, firm with a demand for information, followed by a fax and/or a phone call to the agency, specifically the person responsible for payments.

Enquire of this person the status of your payment and then make your position clear: if you do not receive payment within 10 days you will begin the process of reporting them to the proper authorities in business and the translator organizations, as well as the community of freelance translators in addition to beginning legal action.

In most cases, contacting the Better Business Bureau can be the most helpful in resolving situations where agencies fail to honor their payment agreements. In addition, many professional organizations respond quickly to complaints of this nature, to prevent damage to the integrity of the profession.

The reciprocal relationship that exists between agencies, professional organizations and translators creates an urgency to handle such disputes tactfully and hopefully avoid costly legal action. The US-based members of the American Translators Association have the benefits of being able to use the collection services of Dun & Bradstreet at a good rate.

There are certain practices that apply to all professions, and keeping a detailed record of your freelance translator assignments is one of the best to allow you to operate your business confidently and profitably.

This practice will give you the ability to proceed through situations of all types, even the unpleasant ones with persistence and patience, until the matter is resolved. The primary point here is that good business ethics and procedure must always be supported with application of common sense and organization.

However an agency failing to pay on schedule is not the only issue that should keep you on your toes. As translation is a business of being paid for words, the word count of your assignment is subject to cause a problem, due to the approximate 10% variance in the way different word processors perform the word count. While many agencies will accept the word count of the translator, there are some who will use their in-house word processors to arrive at the word count that they will use to issue your payment.

If you are working with an agency consistently, it is in your best interests to investigate which method they use and if they perform their own word count, which word processor they are using. Some agencies may use a word processor with the lowest word count as a means to reduce costs.

When you find yourself in this situation, discuss the issue with the agency without being accusatory or disrespectful, and you should find that the agency is willing to split the difference between the two word processors, as well as come to terms with how future word counts would be calculated. You can be polite and reasonable, but insist that the verifiable facts determine the issue.

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