Getting paid on time: a lifeline for small businesses

A recent conversation I had with a colleague inspired me to retrieve for her this very useful piece I had found some time ago in the New York Times’ Small Business section. I might as well share it here too.

Getting paid on time can be a nightmare for us freelancers. I have heard about every possible reason why a payment can be missing: a bunch of large bills was lost in the mail once, or a bill attached to an e-mail was lost with it, or the bill was mislaid, where, no-one knew and no-one knew where to look for it anyway, or the bill is somewhere in the pipeline, where? no-one knows, etc. etc. I would argue that the last proposition is probably the worst, because it discourages you to send a duplicate, since it’s there, somewhere.

In some instances, like some French government departments, bills can take up to 4 months (sometimes longer) to get finally settled, creating havoc in your accounts.

More recently though, I noticed that the situation was improving. I now have clients who have imposed themselves time limits, and all I need to do is send a gentle reminder if there is a delay. Much more comfortable than a letter of complaint.

But my attitude has changed, too. When I am inquiring about delayed payments, I am not an individual freelancer any more, I become “a business”, whatever the size of the business I’m trying to get my well-earned money from. There’s no point in pleading that my monthly standing orders -social security (mandatory), retirement plan (mandatory), income tax (super-mandatory), credit card, telephone bill, electricity bill, car insurance, etc.- depend on this little (or large) check. The employee I am talking to may express sympathy, but they don’t usually understand my problem, because their situation and the pressures upon them are different. But telling them that they are trying to kill my business usually works, because it puts us, them and me, in a different relation.

I wonder how translation schools take this onboard nowadays. How many include some training about participating in the economy? I was taught to produce the best translations, period. Not to go hunting for what is, after all, the due reward of my work.


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One Response to “Getting paid on time: a lifeline for small businesses”

  1. Ali Khan Says:

    A very nice article about a very pertinent business topic…

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