Surprise!

Late last week, we woke up to an e-mail from a direct client who is the only person in more than a year who had not paid us for our services. The invoice was issued in February, and after several progressively more direct reminders, both via e-mail and voicemail, we were quite sure we would not be able to collect on this small sum. It was quite frustrating, especially because every time we open our Translation Office 3000 software, where we log every project and invoice, it would stare at us to remind us that we had not collected. We were getting ready to write the amount off at the end of the year (small claims court isn't worth it for such a small sum), but this payment came out of the blue. We won't speculate too much on what happened, but perhaps our invoice simply got lost in the shuffle. We are delighted to have received payment, and are off to the bank to deposit it!

What is the longest you have had to wait for payment? What steps did you have to take to get paid? We'd love to hear from our colleagues -- you can leave a comment below. 


2 comments:

Michael Schubert on August 31, 2010 at 7:37 PM said...

I'm glad your story had a happy ending!

The longest I've ever waited for payment is six weeks - three increasingly stern reminders were issued at 30, 35 and 40 days - and I refused to ever work for that (agency) client again. In ten years of freelancing, I've never been stiffed (knock on particle board!). From what I hear, those two statements make me pretty lucky among freelancers, but I think three factors play a role:

1) I never waste too much time even talking about a job with someone I don't trust or who can't provide reliable references. ("Don't flirt with someone you wouldn't kiss," is how I put it.) I either insist (politely and matter-of-factly) on advance payment or decline to work for them. I would advise even newbies who need work to do the same - for the only thing worse than no work is working for crooks!

2) I invoice promptly, and if payment is late, I issue prompt and repeated reminders until the invoice is paid - politely at first, of course, but never meekly: it is not a "favor" to be paid for services long ago rendered! If repeated reminders are needed (this has only happened once), I make it clear that I will share my experience with all the payment practice lists.

3) I do not agree to outrageous payment terms. 30 days is already pretty outrageous, but I will go that far for large companies with entrenched accounting infrastructures (or even small companies if I know/trust/like them). But no further: I think the trend toward 45 or 60 (to say nothing of 90) days is unacceptable. If such terms were unavoidable, then I would simply add 20% to my rate for the imposition. I generally negotiate terms of 10 to 20 days with my new clients. That gives them enough time to review the job and turn the accounting wheels. The people who "need" longer or try to couple it to when the end client pays are exactly the type who will stiff you!

So ... that's my input. I'll be interested to read about the policies/experiences of others!

Michael Schubert on August 31, 2010 at 7:42 PM said...

The longest I've ever waited is six weeks - three increasingly stern reminders at 30, 35 and 40 days - and I refused to work for that (agency) client again. In 10 years of freelancing, I've never been stiffed (knock on particle board!). From what I hear, those two statements make me pretty lucky among freelancers, but I think three factors play a role:

1) I never even consider work for someone I don't trust or who can't provide reliable references. ("Don't flirt with someone you wouldn't kiss!") I either insist (politely, matter-of-factly) on advance payment or decline the work. I would advise even newbies to do the same: the only thing worse than no work is working for crooks!

2) I invoice promptly, and if payment is late, I issue prompt and repeated reminders until the invoice is paid - politely at first, but never meekly: it is not a "favor" to be paid for services long ago rendered! If repeated reminders are needed (happened only once), I make it clear that I will share my experience with all the payment practice lists.

3) I do not agree to outrageous payment terms. 30 days is already pushing it, but I will go that far for large companies with entrenched accounting infrastructures (or small companies if I know/trust/like them). But no further: I think the trend toward 45 or 60 (to say nothing of 90) days is unacceptable. If such terms were unavoidable, I would simply add 20% for the imposition. I generally negotiate terms of 10 to 20 days with new clients. That gives them enough time to review the job and turn the accounting wheels. Those who "need" longer or try to couple it to when the end client pays are exactly the type who will stiff you!

So ... that's my input. I'll be interested to read about the policies/experiences of others!

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