A few days ago, a potential client contacted me with a job proposal. We met on Skype and talked for a while. We agreed on the rates, the method of payment… everything seemed perfect. Until I told them that, like many translators, I normally ask for an advance before starting on a new project. Their reply was that, although they understood my position, the company’s policy wouldn’t allow that. I would had to wait up to 30 days after the completion of the project before being paid.

Despite everything else being alright, I was forced to turn the client down.

There are several reasons for which I, and most other translators, ask for an advance. The first one is merely financial: a translation takes time, usually a lot of it. In the case of the job offer I’m talking about, the documents I was supposed to work on totaled about 80,000 words in length; that would translate into 20 days of work spent exclusively on the client’s project, during which I would be unable to accept other jobs. Then I was supposed to wait 30 more days before I saw any money. You can see why this isn’t much feasible.

An advance is also the guarantee, or at least a promise, that the client will pay for the job in full. The translator is most often the weakest part in the deal, especially when they are working for people from the other side of the planet. Paying an advance shows commitment on the client’s side, and if they end up trying to cheat the translator, finding excuses to not pay or to pay late… well, at least the freelancer got something for their work.

I talked a lot about advances from the client’s point of view, but I thought it would be useful to explain what an advance means for us translators. We do not ask for advances because we are greedy or desperate for money: they are a way to protect ourselves from non-payers and to make sure we have a little money in our pockets in case we have an emergency. The client, in turn, can spread the payment over two or more installments, alleviating the burden on their finances. As usual, this is a kind of deal that, when done right, benefits both parties.

Do you have any questions about the work of independent translators? Perhaps are you looking for one to translate your book into Italian? 🙂 Contact me and tell me everything.