Tips and Tricks for
Getting Paid as a Translator

If a freelancer translator's hardest task was translating, the translation profession would be a cinch. Translating is nothing compared to some of the other aspects of the business that freelancers have to deal with. One of the hardest things is getting paid.

Why does getting paid from someone have to be so hard? You would think that everyone would live up to the contract (whether spoken or written) that was decided up front and get you the payment they owe you. But if you've been translating for any amount of time, you know that this isn't always the case.

And not getting the payment at all is just one of the reasons why the whole thing can be a pain sometimes. Another reason is that even if you do eventually get paid, it sometimes takes a lot longer than it should and it's up to you as the translator to keep calling or emailing and getting on the client's case about paying you. Clients have a tendency to forget sometimes that yes, they still have to pay the translator even if the translation was done two, six, twelve, or however many months ago.

In addition, when you don't get paid right away, there's always that lingering thought in the back of your mind that maybe, just maybe, your client will try to stiff you and not pay you. I've had that feeling before of not getting paid as a translator and it's not a very pleasant one. Luckily the amount that was owed to me wasn't very much in the scheme of things, but waiting on someone to see if they pay you is a nervous and anxious feeling that you don't want to have inflicted on you just because the client pays you late (or not at all).

And last, but not least by any means, is that as a freelancer, we need to eat. And when we don't get paid, we can't eat. And if you rely on those payments to get by, it's important to know that they will be coming to you in a timely manner.

Tips on Getting Paid as a Translator

So what can you do to get paid? Well, I've had my own experience with clients that for whatever reason take their time to get me my payment(s). I've been lucky in that I've never had a client who has initially tried to rip me off, but it can still be frustrating, especially when you're doing all you can to offer affordable Spanish translation services.

One thing that I try to remember with when dealing with clients about getting paid as a translator is that the delay is often something that they haven't realized has happened. More than once, I've had to let a client know that I was still waiting for payment and the client has been apologetic, and simply forgot.

Other times, the delay has been caused by a lack of communication between the client and the accounting office of the company that they are working for. Sometimes communication gets lost or misunderstood between the two sides and it takes a while for these messes to get sorted out.

Luckily, I've never had to sue a client or take any similar drastic action. Usually I find that trying to be understand to what might be going on with the client has helped me get the payments I'm owed.

There are a couple of things that you can do, though, that help clients get your payments to you on time. First of all, we all know that contracts can be a good thing. Do I use contracts on every translation I do? No, I don't, but for jobs that have the potential of involving lots of money, I'd recommend one.

Without a contract, it's too easy for either side to renege on what was promised over a handshake or email. Things come up, priorities get shuffled; whatever happens, though, translators need to be protected in the work that they do and the time they spend so that at the end of the day they don't get stiffed and left with a whole lot of work for no payment.

Just because you think this client promises you that it won't happen, or you think that it can't happen to you doesn't mean it won't. Translators get taken advantage of all the time; I've had first-hand experience. So take that mindset into every potential translation client situation you have so that you're mentally prepared.

Another thing translators can do for getting paid as a translator on time is to set up reminders for clients that they have to pay the translation bill. One way that I do that is by having some of my clients pay me through Paypal. This is convenient for me and is an easy way for clients to pay me since they don't even need a Paypal account to make a payment.

Paypal is a great way for people to send you a payment. Paypal does take a small percentage of the total but still, if you're getting paid when you otherwise wouldn't be, you can't complain much. Plus, Paypal payments are processed pretty quickly, especially when compared to other payment systems like wire transfers, for example.

Collecting monies owed will always give freelancers headaches, but choosing a payment system that works for you will go a long way to helping you get what you deserve.

User-Submitted Ways for Getting Paid as a Translator

1. I have a friend who sends me documents on behalf of her clients. Upon my request, she does not give them the translated doc until she receives a money order or cashier's check from her client. Then she mails it to me. Of course, we have known each other for years and I trust her. Otherwise, I would charge an initial 50% downpayment for the service. The rest would be due after delivery. If it's a local delivery, it would be COD.

2. When I translate a document I have a contract made up. When it's for someone I personally know I really don't make one unless they want it. Then I exchange the document for payment. No exceptions! I work my butt off and if someone expects a translated document at a certain time I expect payment at the time of receiving the document.

3. The secret is in dealing with good and reputable companies or clients that you might reach by taking the risk of dealing with them yourself, or by your peers' recommendation.

4. One of the ways to make sure clients pay you is to send them an encrypted pdf document. When they pay, give them the password. 

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