Who pays my invoice?

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 17:57 Erika Baker


There are two kinds of responses to payment reminders translators often hear from their customer.

The client hasn’t paid yet

Especially where larger sums are involved, clients often don’t settle invoices by their due date because they are still waiting for payment for the whole project from their end client.

That often happens when a small translating agency coordinates the translation of a complex text into several languages. Individual translators send their invoice together with their translation. The agency still has to arrange proofreading by qualified translators and wait for the translations into all languages to be completed before delivering the whole project back to the end customer.

Even if the end customer pays the agency on time, invoices from individual translators may be due well before the agency has received payment.

Translators sending an invoice reminder are then frequently told that the end client has not yet paid and that the translator’s invoice will be settled as soon as the money is received.

As small agencies working on a large project can experience cash flow problems, this seems sensible.

The invoice has been forwarded to the end client for payment

This is a practice frequently employed by lawyers who handle a specific case for a client and who then buy in any additional services required, such as surveys and translations.
The law firm does not pay directly for those services but forwards the invoices to the end client who is then responsible for paying them.

If the end client does not pay on time, the law firm will simply ask the translator to wait or assure them that “we’re chasing it”.

This makes sense for the law firm that often does not have the funds to advance all this money on behalf of the client, and that also limits is own exposure if the client does not pay on time.

The legal situation

It’s one thing for freelance translators to understand the constraints our clients are working under. It’s another to believe that this leaves us completely helpless and at the mercy of client who pay extremely late.
Translators also have mortgages and children at school, and outstanding invoices can cause serious problems.

If our clients expect us to have enough financial reserves to cope with this, then we in turn can expect our clients to have their own reserves and to pay on time.

As it happens, the law is on our side.

A translator’s contract is with the client who contacted them, negotiated the terms and conditions of the translation, and who gave them the go-head for the job.

This client’s contract with their customer is not part of the contract with the translator.

Sometimes, simply pointing that out firmly is sufficient for an overdue invoice to be paid.

When it isn’t, it is helpful to include the information in any subsequent formal reminder process.

I generally use this wording:

“Please accept this as a first formal invoice reminder.
I would also like to stress again that my contract is not with your client but with you.
Your client is under no contractual obligation to pay me.
This formal reminder is for your company.

I would be grateful if you could settle the invoice in the next 48 hours.
Please note that I will make a court claim for any outstanding amounts after 3 formal reminders and if no acceptable solution has been found.”

Needless to say, if it gets to the stage where a formal reminder process is necessary, I’m happy to continue to work with the client in the future, but only for payment in advance!