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Retainer fees?
Thread poster: Mary McCusker

Mary McCusker  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:28
German to English
+ ...
Feb 23, 2006

I tend to have a good deal of work (financial German to English - annual report time) in the first quarter of the year. Most of this comes from one or two clients (agencies), who receive their jobs from the companies directly. I am provided with a date on which the documents can be expected. Twice this year already the document submission has been off by two days or more with no advance notice, because the end client has not held to their deadline. Since I have turned down other work in anticipation of this job, I am essentially not earning at all unless I can find some quick fill-in jobs. I am considering requesting a 'retainer fee' per day lost (EUR 300 , less than what I would otherwise earn, but at least something). One of my clients mentioned this possibility a few years back, but so far I have never found it necessary. This year is different.
Before I broach the subject with my clients, I would be curious as to what whether other freelancers charge 'retainer fees' and also what opinion agencies have about this practice. In the end, while the agencies may suffer some planning headaches, it is the freelancer who suffers the real financial loss.


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:28
Finnish to English
Dodgy move Feb 23, 2006

I think that, unfortunately, this is part of the downside to being a translator. Probably, however, if your customer has a cynical attitude towards deadlines they are going to be even more gruff about retainers.
I guess that the best thing to do is to negotiate each deadline when the work comes in and apply a first come, first serve principle.
Not easy I know....


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 05:28
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Negotiating on delivery rather than fees Feb 23, 2006

In these situations, I have a policy that the delivery date for the translation is not guaranteed until the document is received and the job is authorized. Rather than give a delivery date of Month X, Day Y, I promise delivery of X days (or Z hours) following my receipt of the document AND the client's go-ahead to do the job, whichever is later.

[Edited at 2006-02-23 17:16]


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Mary McCusker  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:28
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
not cynicism.. Feb 23, 2006

I don't think that it's cynicism on my client's part, so much. The client with whom this has happened calls me at the beginning of the period and 'reserves' my time, so I do not feel it is correct on my part to take on work that would conflict with theirs (i.e. first come-first serve). The client is normally easy to deal with, but subject to the vagaries of their clients. My thought is that if the end client is aware that they will be charged a translator retainer fee, they will pay more attention to timely document submission. These are literally billion dollar companies and they can certainly afford a retainer fee.
I know there are probably alot of opinions out there on this subject - a la the ups and downs of freelancing, but I am hoping to hear from translators and/or agencies who actually have had experience with charging or paying such fees.


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Mary McCusker  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:28
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Slightly different issue Feb 23, 2006

GoodWords wrote:

In these situations, I have a policy that the delivery date for the translation is not guaranteed until the document is received and the job is authorized. Rather than give a delivery date of Month X, Day Y, I promise delivery of X days (or Z hours) following my receipt of the document AND the client's go-ahead to do the job, whichever is later.

[Edited at 2006-02-23 17:16]



Thanks for your input. I, too, always make my delivery time contingent on the delivery time of the original document. My point has more to do, though, with time/earnings lost from projects that are announced, but then delayed.


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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 12:28
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Interpreters do it all the time - why shouldn't translators? Feb 23, 2006

I have learned from several interpreter colleagues that they charge retainers if their projects fall through. They generally charge half of what the would have been paid for that project for that day.

Yes, I do charge retainers - but only on rare occaisions. If a client says they absolutely need me on date X, then I talk to them about charging a retainer, explaining to them that if their job falls through then it can be tricky to get other work to fill the gap. I've only actually used a retainer a handful of times, and have only had to actually charge the client the retainer once.....

FWIW

Alison


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:28
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Or agency provides fill-in jobs Feb 24, 2006

I am working on a very large project, and sometimes the next 'batch' is not in when expected. The agency always offers to provide me with fill-in jobs if the files do not turn up when they should. They are able to forewarn me though (up to a week in advance!) as I do the proofreading, not the translating. So I have not had to take them up on their offer yet.

If an agency books you let's say for Tuesday-Friday, and there is no file by Tuesday morning, and they really want you to start translating the minute the document arrives, then I think a retainer fee of some sort would even be a better option than 'fill-in' jobs.

My two cents...


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Mary McCusker  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:28
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for information Feb 24, 2006

Mary McCusker wrote:

Alison Riddell-Kachur wrote:

I have learned from several interpreter colleagues that they charge retainers if their projects fall through. They generally charge half of what the would have been paid for that project for that day.

Yes, I do charge retainers - but only on rare occaisions. If a client says they absolutely need me on date X, then I talk to them about charging a retainer, explaining to them that if their job falls through then it can be tricky to get other work to fill the gap. I've only actually used a retainer a handful of times, and have only had to actually charge the client the retainer once.....

FWIW

Alison


Thanks, Alison, this is useful. As I recall, you tend to work mostly with direct clients. I'm not sure if an agency might be less flexible in this area. Still, I think I will have to go over to such a system. Clearly the hope is that a retainer fee will never have to be charged.


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Mary McCusker  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:28
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good solution, too.. Feb 24, 2006

Anjo Sterringa wrote:

I am working on a very large project, and sometimes the next 'batch' is not in when expected. The agency always offers to provide me with fill-in jobs if the files do not turn up when they should. They are able to forewarn me though (up to a week in advance!) as I do the proofreading, not the translating. So I have not had to take them up on their offer yet.

If an agency books you let's say for Tuesday-Friday, and there is no file by Tuesday morning, and they really want you to start translating the minute the document arrives, then I think a retainer fee of some sort would even be a better option than 'fill-in' jobs.

My two cents...


Yes, this is a very good solution as well. In the past this is precisely what this particular client has done, so I have not needed to worry about retainers, but this year, with someone new 'in charge', things seem to be chaotic.


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Mary McCusker  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:28
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Any agencies out there... Feb 24, 2006

wishing to weigh in?
It would be very interesting to know the thoughts of agency owners on this topic - i.e. do they accept freelancers charging retainer fees, do they request them of clients, etc.


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