The Couch

The Couch – Payment Matters. How late is too late to send an invoice?

The Couch is a learning place, not only for its contributors but also for our readers who engage in the ensuing discussions. What do you do when you are the victim of unusual practices?

This was too good to pass up, so here you go. Please understand that The Couch is a teaching and learning forum within TNO. Let’s be on our best behavior and teach.

stack of coins with an out of focus clock in the backgroundI really need help. Contract language is not my forte and I am not very good following up immediately with my invoices. The case in point is, a client of mine is denying payment on an invoice because I sent it in three weeks late. How is that possible??? How do they define late, I thought. Well, I decided to read the contract I had signed with them and there was some language in it about submitting invoices within 72 hours. Is that really kosher? I mean, I did the job. There were no issues with the client. Can they really do that to me and withhold payment?


What say you? Can the agency really withhold payment on the grounds that more than the agreed to 72 hours had already passed? Share your knowledge, opinion or questions.


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12 thoughts on “The Couch – Payment Matters. How late is too late to send an invoice?”

  1. Gio Lester says:

    I have never had a company enforce that. I do not believe it can be enforced. They are hiring you for a job and you have delivered, therefore they owe. Maybe that is just a tool they use to keep people on their toes and prepared to send their invoices as soon as they are done.

    In my professional life I have to travel a lot and, at times, I am late with my invoices. I try to let the client know of those instances and also try to avoid them as much as possible.

  2. Lili Selden says:

    Sorry you went through such an experience! I recently did some interpreting for my first ever business conference, and the contract contained similar language, so I think that might be standard in the industry. Even though I was hired at the last minute due to someone else backing out, I was lucky enough to have a seasoned PM who pointed out that clause to me. Without his prompting, I might have been so busy cramming for the assignment I might have overlooked that requirement. I hope you’ll be able to convince them to make an exception and pay you most or all of what you’re owed! Surely their receipt of payment from the end user isn’t contingent on whether you submitted an invoice or not—that wouldn’t be smart business on their part.

  3. Helen Eby says:

    The theory behind this is that they use your invoice as a basis for invoicing the client. Therefore, since they submit the invoices to the client within a certain timeframe, they require that you help them keep that flow moving. That kind of makes sense. I would call them and ask why this policy exists, so you can be a better partner in the future. It is always good to learn about this, and know how much to pay attention to it with future clients.

  4. Nina Borisova says:

    In my practice, some agencies make a reservation that invoices should be sent out within 24 hours after a gob completion, and, more often they allow 10 days to deliver an invoice, and some agencies make a reservation that after one month they will deny making a payment.

  5. I see both points here. It may be -and this might be suspicious, or not- that the client is resorting to an excuse to avoid fulfilling his or her part of the bargain, i.e., paying. But then again, perhaps it is a large company that has Business Operating Procedures that it enforces stringently. Is your client an agency or a direct client? It can make a difference, although it should not. I hope this does not sound like a lecture, but this might be a good opportunity for you to submit your invoices a little earlier? I understand we all have commitments and have to travel on assignment often, but three weeks late is a bit late, in my opinion. And for my part, I have heard of companies enforcing this rule. And if it is contained in the contract, they have all the right to enforce it. If you know you will be late in submitting your invoice, it is always a good practice to let the client know, but again, “late” should be within reason.

  6. As Gio said, I strongly doubt that such practice can legally be enforced.
    But I would love to hear from an attorney on this matter!

  7. We all travel. That’s what laptops and cell phones are made for. Unless, you are fortunate enough to have a secretary to handle things like invoices while you are on the road.

    The real issue is broader. Yes, you should read all contracts thoroughly and get used to making revisions and negotiating terms to your satisfaction.

    Don’t neglect payment schedules. Mine is net payable 10 days through PayPal or bank transfer. How about payment on-site for new clients? Or a retainer for lengthy international travel? Try to get out of your doctor, shrink or dentist’s office without paying before you leave. Why have a large check get lost in the mail or wait 5-7 days for it to arrive?

    Don’t forget “Nothing’s written in stone.”

    If ultimately the client doesn’t pay take them to court. It’s a good exercise.

  8. Evelyn “Sammy” Quinn, BA, CSC (ret.) says:

    You should speak with an attorney about this, but I strongly believe the agency may be well within their right to deny payment. You admit you signed a contract with that clause in it. That would seem to make that clause valid and binding.

    If “contract language is not [your] forté”, have an attorney or someone more versed in contracts read over the document and explain it to you before you sign it. As the saying goes, ‘Ignorance of the law (or what’s in your contract) is no defense’. You need to put in more effort to protect yourself against such clauses in future.

  9. AJ Elterman says:

    It is unreasonable and most probably legally unacceptable. To avoid friction and stress with the client, I would explain the reason for the delay and my trust in the client honoring my satisfactory services and ask for payment within a reasonable time, as well as assuring that I will do my best to invoice as soon as possible after the assignment in the future. This, I believe, would be conducive to resolving the issue with the minimum headache for both parties. I wish you good luck.

  10. Vicki Santamaria says:

    Apparently, most of the interpreters leaving comments here work in a very.different world than I do. As a freelance court interpreter and translator, I have very rarely been given a contract to sign.. Especially when working with attorneys, it is just a verbal contract between me and the attorney.

    That said, after 32 years in the business, I have only been denied payment twice.. The attorney who didn’t pay me, I learned later, was just a disreputable person. The value of the translation work I performed was too little for me to sue him. I had to take it as just a business loss.

    The other translation job I didn’t get paid for was a different story. I signed a contract with an out-of-state agency, which guaranteed me a specific fee. After I turned my invoice in, the agency owner told me that my work wasn’t of sufficient quality and she wasn’t going to pay me. How can a person fight that kind of claim? Again, the amount I was due wasn’t sufficient to undertake a lawsuit,

    Bottom line: as a service provider there will be people/agencies who scam you, no matter whether there is a contact or not. Sometimes you will get burned. Try to check out people/companies offering you work with other people who may have worked for them. And by all means, send in your invoice right away. With a computer, you can have invoice templates all ready to go.

    And in your case, try to see if somehow an exception can’t be made for you. But if not, the money you lost will be the price of learning an important lesson about billing.

  11. Annette Vazquez says:

    Sorry to hear about your issue. Although the contract may state invoice submission should be within 72 hours, that does not negate the fact you rendered your services at the agreed upon given time and place. They should act in good faith to make the exception of that requirement amd pay you.
    even if it is late, because things do happen regardless of modern technology.

    Pursue the matter amicably by writing a letter, return receipt requested, and in the meantime, research the remedies available to you . In the future, read contracts thoroughly, write any questions and negotiate terms that seem unreasonable to you. Best of luck!

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