6 Tips to Secure Pay for Translation Services
Language Translation Providers and International Clients
As discussed in the most recent blog, “Translators, Unite!” non-payment for language translation service, interpretation or other language service provision, is probably the most difficult, hated part of being a freelance translator. It may not even happen often, but the fact that it ever happens at all is less than acceptable. No one should ever, ever have to provide time and professional work and not be paid for it. But when your client lives on the other side of the world, and you have no immediate penal actions that can be applied against them, what is a translator to do? The blog discussed the power of blacklisting, and how that can, at the very least, prevent the client or agency from duping future translators, or continuing activity as a fraudulent professional translation company.
However, there are other measures that can be taken to secure your wages for freelance document translation or any other language service. These are proactive strategies and tips that are very good guidelines to adhere to, to save translators from the headache of countless emails to that non-paying client. Before a translator gets to that point, there are better efforts that can be taken to ensure the non-payment never happens.
How to Be Sure Your Translation Services Are Always Paid For
1. Always provide high quality, professional translations.
The first way to secure consistent payment is very simple: Always provide superb language services. Your clients will intrinsically value your work more, and be much more inclined to retain you as a translator. Do not take on a translation job that is above your qualifications or capabilities, and then expect to be paid well for sub-par work. Even though it is a basic rule in the professional translation industry that translators should not translate from their mother tongue into a foreign target language - it happens all the time. A native Japanese translator should not regularly provide Japanese to English translation, and a native English speaker should not accept translation work from English to Japanese.When a client receives a translation from Hindi to English by a native Hindi translator, for example, and it is full of grammatical errors, awkward diction or poor sentence structure – it is very apparent that the translator was not qualified to translate into English, and this can incite a client to be reluctant to pay. The obvious and logical way to avoid non-payment based upon a client's claim that the translation is shoddy – is to always provide exemplary work.
2. RESEARCH your client.
If it is a new direct client, or you have never heard of the particular translation agency that has contacted you, this is especially important. By research, I don't mean typing the name into Google and judging by the search results. Check translator blacklists and complaint forums – these can be invaluable, especially if/when you are contacted by a company or individual infamous for non-payment of services or fraudulent dealings. Remember, just because the given client name may not match any of those on a blacklist, does not mean they are trustworthy. You many need to dig a bit deeper – check tax records, the Better Business Bureau, Google Places, etc. The extra effort to research any unknown or new clients will be worth it, especially if you discover signs of fraud.
3. Use reputable translation databases, other translators, references, websites, and forums to obtain clients.
Even if you prefer working with direct clients, using the ProZ.com Blueboard or a similar website (Trally.com, etc) can get you into contact with individual clients or agencies. For instance, one of the reasons Tomedes is a trustworthy, leading translation company, is both affirmed and partially established by the ProZ.com Blueboard translators' ratings of us. A translation agency or direct client who treat their translators well, pay them in a timely manner and are professional and pleasant - give themselves an industry advantage.
4. Be vigilant about email addresses and lack of contact info.
If they are writing from a yahoo or a hotmail address and claim to represent a business – this should set off a mental alarm. Business owners should have a company domain email, so if this happens, ask why they are writing from a yahoo address. Additionally, if a client does not, at any time, provide a phone number or any other contact info, and will correspond only via email or IM, this is a definite red flag.
5. If the customer is within the same country, have a PO (purchase order) with proper legal wording sent and signed by the client.
You can use Word or PDF document, as a legal binding contract, but even writing it in the body of an email can be enough, since the origin of the email from the client can be traced back to a location (IP address, etc). This is enough to use as legal evidence of contracted working terms. However, this works best when it is not across international lines. However, using any kind of legal contract for professional translations, even with international clients, can often be enough to ensure timely and proper payment.
6. When in doubt, request partial payment up front.
You are the service provider; you set the terms. If the client has a problem with partial payment up front, that is often a good warning sign. Just because you are a freelancer providing language translation to people with more money (usually) does not mean they get to make all the rules or set all the terms. Make a polite request for partial payment, and then arrangements for the final payment at the time of delivery of the document translation.
Of course, working as a freelancer in professional translation services is not always plagued by daily emails to non-paying clients and worrying about whether any given client is honest – these are simply suggested preemptive strategies, which will hopefully help provide a total avoidance of client non-payment.