The elusive PO [#1]

For a few weeks now I have been putting off dealing with a PO I received because I just know I won’t be able to match it to a set of projects for the same client I have in my database. How typical! So typical in fact I’m almost ashamed of having been had for the umpteenth time! And yet it happens, more often than we’d like to think.

Sometimes clients put off sending POs to translators/LSPs because they simply have other, more pressing things to do. And if you’re not 100% on it, you end up delivering the job without a PO to show for it. Sometimes, even when you kindly ask your client to send you the PO at his/her earliest convenience, they don’t do it promptly, then a few more days go by and — again — if you’re not on top of things, you may just end up forgetting yourself, because you have other, more pressing things to do. And when, weeks later, you go back to that item, you discover you have forgotten all the specifics about the job, the PO, your request for it etc. and you have to trace your steps and go back to the beginning. In the worst case scenario, you sometimes have to chase a PO for weeks, spending precious time doing something that should have been automated to begin with.

There was a time when Purchase Orders were sent out together with the job assignment they referred to. Mostly this is still the case, but in my experience, when there is no clear PO system at the clients’ end, or when there is no clear distinction between the PM and the person in charge of issuing POs, things can very easily get lost in the cracks. And when that happens, patience, accuracy and quiet obstinacy on your part are usually the only remedy.

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  1. Have you ever tried sending an invoice without a PO number? As a freelance translator, I once threatened to do this, and I received a PO within a week. The PO number is for the convenience of the client, so if they don’t provide it, it’s their problem (assuming you kept a record of the volume and price details).

    Postponing invoices this way could cost me hundreds of euros in lost interest every year.

    1. Well Edwin, I guess this would be my very last resort. And most of the time the issue is not that the client is trying to avoid sending the PO, but just that they are too busy to issue one right there and then. But I’ll keep your tip in mind just in case, for the most stubborn cases…

  2. Your advice is worth considering, though I tend not to be so confrontational with clients if I can find another way. I will definitely keep it in mind though, you never know. Thanks 🙂

  3. Asking for a P.O. is anything but confrontational behaviour. On the contrary, providing the translator with a purchase order upon the commencement of a job reflects the general business culture of the company you work with as well as the competence and good business manners of the project manager. In my opinion, it is an indicator of how the customer values you as a translator and a person. I have learned that one gets what one attracts: if you abide by your rules, others will, too.

  4. The rule you advocate is what I try to put into practice on a daily basis, and it is a very simple rule really: treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

    On the job this translates as trying to teach by example and showing (rather than telling) that working in an organized and systematic way is a great help and not a hindrance (or a way to slow you down). In my experience however, with respect to clients, though they appreciate that you work in a certain way and sometime take the time to actually notice, no major or minor change has ever been produced in them as a result of presenting a different (more efficient?) way of working.

    With respect to the freelancers that work for us, on the other hand, quite the opposite is true and the “teaching by example” concept works more effectively, sometimes even exceptionally well.

    But perhaps this is another topic altogether and the issue of POs has been turned into something else…

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