Billing: What We Learned

Without a doubt, payment and billing issues are not on the top of our list of favorite things. However, the reality of running a small business includes occassional complications and snafus with billing. We recently learned a simple, but important lesson and wanted to share it with our readers.

Last month, Judy did an interpretation assignment for a major insurance company. Everything went really well, and as is customary for us, Judy issued the invoice the very same day the services were rendered. Our maximum allowable payment time came and went (30 days), and then Judy followed up with the client, who is a very busy claims management professional. He was eager to help, but inquired whether we had the claim number (we did not, we never had it) or the claimants' names (Judy wrote them down during the assignment, but had recycled her interpreting notes). Hence, we had none of the information the client would need to expedite this process. It is not the first time we have done business with this client, and this info was never needed before. However, lesson learned: as soon as we accept a project from them, we will ask for the claim number and the claimants' names and put all that information both on the project quote and invoice. This will make the payment process easier on the client's accounting department and hopefully help expedite the process. Payment is still outstanding, but we hope for a quick resolution.


Tess Whitty on April 3, 2010 at 3:56 PM said...

Hello ladies,
I agree. Invoicing issues are the least favorite. I had a company that I worked for over 4 years with no payment issues. Then suddenly last year they stopped paying. Since I had several ongoing projects there were several invoices collecting. I sent reminders and after the second reminder I got an autoreply saying that the person does not work there anymore. I started calling, no answer. I hired a collection agency, but they had no further success. Now I got a letter saying that they had gone bankrupt. There are thousands of dollars that will have to be registered a loss for me. Lesson learned, do not let time slip by. Be diligent about receiving payment asap.

Farsi-Dari Translation on April 5, 2010 at 9:17 PM said...

I couldn't agree more. It's a good topic for seminars or classes about accounting, especially invoicing specific to the freelance translators and interpreters. I guess it all starts with sharing on blogs and gatherings and then gradually finding different solutions tailored for different translation agencies or freelancers according to their size and services.

patenttranslator on April 7, 2010 at 11:42 AM said...

A translation agency in France told me today that I owe them 900 US dollars because in 2007 they paid my invoice, which was in US dollars, in Euros. They refused to pay a hundred dollars for a small recent job as they kept it as a partial payment for what i "owe" them.

I told them they were crazy if they thought that I would remember something that might have happened 3 years ago. Maybe I do, maybe I don't, but is it my fault if they make an accounting error?

So I will let them keep the hundred dollars and never work for them again.

After all, how do I know that 20 years from now they won't be coming after me for ten thousand dollars due to another accounting error on their part?

To hell with them!
What would you do?

Thomas Gruber on April 8, 2010 at 6:14 AM said...

@Steve: I think you could have avoided this in the first time because I don't think that you don't have recognized that they have made an error. That would have been fair play.

But as the sum is to low to make a crossborder legal fight out of it there wont be anything to afraid of.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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