Freelance Translators: How to Deal with Non-Paying Clients - Part 1

May 2nd, 2016

Anyone running their own business will confirm that non-paying translation clients are a pain in the neck.

Freelance Translators: How to Deal with Non-Paying Clients - Part 1 | One Hour Translation

Anyone running their own business will confirm that non-paying translation clients are a pain in the neck. The most difficult clients to deal with are non-paying clients who, for all intents and purposes, may as well be dead because they never respond to emails, letters or phone calls.

So what course of action should a freelance translator take when they have a client who owes them money and is completely non-cooperative? Here are our thoughts on the matter –

You Need a Signed Agreement Prior to Commencing Any Translation

The best way to avoid the situation occurring in the first place is to bullet-proof your financial arrangement from the very beginning. If you’re working for a translation agency, then you need to check their history regarding their payment practices. If you’re working for direct clients, every client should receive a detailed translation quotation which has been forwarded to them for their signature, prior to commencing their work. It’s the first step towards protecting yourself against a non-paying client. Another suggestion if you’re not working for an established business is to ask your client for full payment in advance. This might apply if you’re translating official documents for individual people.

Choose Your Battles

Unfortunately, if your non-paying client is an individual, there’s not a lot you can do about it. Certainly, legally, you could take them to the Small Claims Court, but if they don’t show up it’s highly unlikely that the judge would issue a bench warrant for an individual who owes you (say) $50.

For the purpose of this post, we’ll assume that it’s already too late and you’re in the position now where you need to decide on a course of action. The first thing is to assess the amount of money owing. Of course, it’s annoying and frustrating for anyone to have worked for free; however, sometimes in life you need to choose your battles and investing a lot of time and money into attempting to retrieve a small amount of money is simply not worth your time, or the stress involved. Some things that happen to us in our daily lives should simply be chalked up to experience and, in a situation such as this, it’s better to place that particular client on your never again list instead of devoting hours of your time trying to collect the debt.

Collecting a Larger Debt

On the other hand, if the amount of money we’re talking about is not a small amount in your opinion, then there are other steps you can take.

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