On translation forums and blogs, translators often express concerns about whether they should accept an offer from a new client, because they aren’t sure whether the client will pay them. Indeed, the indirect manner of contact (usually via Internet) common in our industry makes it easier to “forget” about paying your translator, because you haven’t even met them. To make things worse, due to the nature of this profession, the parties are often located in different countries, which makes it practically impossible to use any legal avenues for retrieving your hard-earned cash. This post outlines our point of view on these fears and experience with non-paying clients.
The most basic recommendation is that a translator or translation agency should carefully consider any request from a new client by using common sense and performing due diligence, instead of rushing to accept the project. You can reduce your risk by examining the payment practices sites such as Proz.com’s Blue Board, researching this client on the Internet, requesting a contract and/or purchase order, etc. If anything seems too unhealthy to you, you can simply ignore the request. The risk is higher with larger jobs, so the best practice is to chunk them and receive payment for smaller portions of the job.
Looking at this matter from a business side, however, it’s all about risk-taking. Basically, if you want to secure new business, you must be prepared to take a risk. If you first priority is avoiding any risk, then you should probably turn down any “suspicious” offers and thus eliminate the undesirable risk altogether. Especially if you are a perfectionist, losing money might be just too frustrating for you. But if your first priority is securing new business at any cost, you perceive each new request as a business opportunity and are likely to take the risk. You know that even if you lose a few bucks, this loss is ultimately just a fraction of potential profits. The risk-to-reward ratio is strongly in your favor, and you can confidently follow the cliche: the greatest risk in life is not taking one.
Now, let’s look at how we followed these principles over the years. In fact, we didn’t receive payment for just two jobs:
- The first one amounted to €20, and I guess the client just didn’t bother to pay due to the small amount. And we didn’t find it reasonable to pursue the client for the same reason.
- The second loss was more substantial, over €500 for an English to Russian translation of an equipment catalog. The client simply kept ignoring our invoice. As we didn’t have any legal means to recover this amount, we also preferred not to chase the client and simply learn from this negative experience.
Although these two cases were admittedly frustrating, the percentage of losses relative to what we earned from taking the risk with other new clients makes the overall risk negligible. That is why it is our policy to trust any potential new clients and reduce the risk through a reasonable amount of due diligence.
Become our client today if your goal is to buy excellent English to Russian translations.