A Highly Scientific Method

We oftentimes talk and write about making business decisions, and about how they are not always easy -- quite the contrary. Your succcess in this industry, and in any other, depends (to a large extent) on the decisions you make. Much of this has to do with the clients you choose to do business with, and we will focus on that important aspect in this brief blog post.

Sometimes, it's all Greek. Athens, 2013.
As we all know, when you do business with someone you don't know and agree to invoice them after the project has been completed, you are essentially extending credit to them, which is a scary thing. We only work with direct clients, but if you work with agencies, you are in luck: the fabulous (small fee-based) database Payment Practices, run by our lovely colleage Ted Wozniak, lets you consult a database to see if your potential client has had a good payment history. This is an invaluable tool, but no similar tool exists for direct clients (there are a few tools, such as the Better Business Bureau, but they are usually limited to a certain geographic area). So how do you decide if your client is trustworthy? How do you decide if you should extend credit to your client? We have a few rules, but our main approach is highly scientific. Yes, it's called gut feeling. And yes, we have been wrong, but not that often.

  • Since we get a lot of referral business, we usually know a little something about companies that approach us looking for price quotes. We feel quite comfortable extending credit to established companies, especially if they are in our geographic areas (Vegas and Vienna, Austria).
  • For translations requested by private parties, we ask for payment ahead of time in full, as we would have no way of tracking down ootential non-payers. No one has ever objected to this, as it's quite common to pre-pay for some services, even some as small as drycleaning.
  • For interpreting assignments for private parties (for instance, those who retain Judy to interpret for civil matters in the courts), we usually ask for a deposit. Depending on our gut feeling, that deposit ranges from 50%-100%. If someone refuses to pay a deposit, we respect that decision, but take it as a bad sign and decline the project.
  • Of course, there are many, many gray areas, and we don't have all the answers and don't always make the right decisions. Sometimes you just have no idea if a client will pay or won't. However, we've been in business many years and have generally been quite successful with this approach.
What about you, dear colleague? Do you have any specific tips to share or general comments on this topic? We would love to hear them.


Anonymous said...

I think after you're been in business for a while your gut feeling becomes pretty fine-tuned. The established wisdom with agencies is to get a PO before doing any work, and I wholeheartedly agree with that principle. But two of my most reliable, highest-paying agencies offered no initial PO. In both cases the owners are older individuals who have been in business for decades, and they just built their business on good faith and a handshake, so to speak. My gut said they were legitimate and trustworthy, and so they turned out to be. I definitely would not recommend this as standard practice for doing business with new clients, but it pays sometimes to make an exception based on your instincts.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on March 31, 2014 at 10:39 AM said...

@Marie: Thanks for reading and for commenting. We love that example -- just what we meant. Sometimes gut feeling is a good way to go. Your blog is great, BTW -- congrats for being featured in the ATA Chronicle. So awesome! Happy Monday.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! But I have to give credit to my consultation session with you (Judy), because that's what helped me overcome my reluctance and excuses and just step out and do it. It was a major turning point for me.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on March 31, 2014 at 2:44 PM said...

@Marie: Awwwww.... thanks (blushing). Delighted to hear that the session marked a turning point; that's wonderful!

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