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Target word count minus 10%?
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:36
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Sep 26, 2006

I received an interesting e-mail from a regular client today, attaching a recent invoice and requesting that I "correct" it. There were no mistakes in the invoice.

The client went on to explain that I had been overcharging them all this time, because, in the DE-EN language pair, I had apparently been charging them, for all those wonderful .pdfs that they keep sending me, on target word count. I was to be informed that my method of calculating the number of words was wrong, because the client had established that the correct way of counting words for the DE-EN language pair was to either charge for source words or, if that was not possible, to deduct 10% from the target word count, which should roughly equal the source word count!

Of course, at the modest word rate that I am charging them, source word count would make their translations from me extremely cheap. Besides that, I do not normally find the difference between source and target for that language pair to be 10%, but nearer to 30%!

I have responded, so it is too late to ask any advice. I stated as politely as I could, but also rather firmly, that I am a freelancer, and therefore it is inappropriate to ask me to "correct" an invoice, since I am the one who decides both my price that I offer to them and the method of charging.

I also informed them that I was entitled to charge them, on an hourly basis, for the time involved in converting and formatting the .pdf, as I had previously pointed out to them in my Terms and Conditions of Business but very rarely applied - except in real cases of a massive amount of layout, or having to re-type the entire text first.

I was in the middle of another urgent job for them at the time and, as I was concentrating really hard on putting my best into it, as I generally do, it was so demotivating to hear that all they cared about was whether I could do it more cheaply from now on. I finished the job I was working on, which was really difficult then, and issued my invoice on the usual basis. However, I plan to charge them more often now for the time spent on preparing the .pdfs. The odd thing is that they have not taken their custom elsewhere yet, even though they have been complaining about my correctly issued invoices, for one reason or another, at least once a month for most of the past year.

Anyhow, how prevalent is it to deduct 10% from the target word count for the privilege of having been given a .pdf to translate?

Astrid


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 19:36
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
bunch of pushovers... Sep 26, 2006

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote: how prevalent is it to deduct 10% from the target word count for the privilege of having been given a .pdf to translate


It's not prevalent. It's not even usual (thank God...)

I am lucky not to have this kind of customers. One possible scenario: they got squeezed by the end user and want to pass on the buck (for bad or nonexistent planning etc). I try to avoid this kind of Bermuda triangles by quoting, i.e. making my quote the other side of the PO coin - "It's not just your PO, it's my quote as well". So the stick has two ends and both can be used - not just to beat ME over the head, but the other side as well -. This also means I have to quote based on source counts, but that's fine as long as the price is OK.

Also, I can make them bite the bullet as regards specials (time spent on PDF decoding etc). If they agree - and they have otherwise they can send me POs until cows come home - then the only thing remaining is to get the job done as promised. But, that I can handle;)

Wish you less dependence on that speciifc client. It makes such a difference if they dont weigh too much in your portfolio.

Regards and I can guess how it feels

Vito


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srbtrad
Local time: 15:36
English to Portuguese
+ ...
10% off Sep 26, 2006

Hi Astrid,


My practice is to charge based on source word count. IN Brazilian Portuguese - English, there is a variation of about 10% between source and target count. However, my point is, how can I quote and charge based on something is not done yet. If anyone ever argue, I will simply say that they won't be overcharged either if the final text has more words than the original (if they insist, we might as well offer to cut words off to bring the count down, he he he!)

No client has ever questioned my charge methods. All agree that this is a reasonable basis for a reasonable quote.

Furthermore, when I still used characters instead of words, I also considered counts without spaces to avoid haggling with misers and adjusted my rates accordingly. Maybe you should adopt a similar practice to avoid future problems.

If I ever give a discount, it will be on the lump sum and never refered to word count. That would give them a bargain basis. However, I make complimentary free very short translations now and then as a means to please clients.


Otherwise, I think you handled it quite professionally. I would have done much the same in such situation.


Good luck.


L J Silva


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:36
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Source word count Sep 26, 2006

I normally charge by the source word count, with the exception of the (fortunately rare) instances in which the source document is not an electronic file: since in these cases obtaining an accurate source word count would be more of an hassle (and more imprecise) In case of paper documents, fazes, and similar, I charge by the target word count.

Charging by the source word has some definite advantages:

1) Both parties can see in advance if they are counting the same things, and if not, see where the difference lies (e.g., word counts obtained using different tools, or, worse, word counts that differ because some file is missing or some file that should not be translated has been sent on by mistake)

2) It avoids the temptation that some (rare) translators fall into to pad the word count by using more words where less would suffice, and (which is more important), prevents the customer from claiming that the translator acted in such a manner

For some language, the disadvantage of charging by the source word, instead of by target words, is that the SL word count might be sistematically lower than the TL word count, but in most cases this can be compensated by adjusting one's rate accordingly.


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 13:36
German to English
You don't need this client Sep 27, 2006

You wrote:
"The odd thing is that they have not taken their custom elsewhere yet, even though they have been complaining about my correctly issued invoices, for one reason or another, at least once a month for most of the past year."

Some clients will niggle about a charge from time to time, but to regularly complain is unconscionable. You should set the price / method of wordcount prior to starting a project.

I might suggest that you post a Blueboard entry regarding this client. They do not adhere to good payment practices.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 20:36
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Target file is the one you have put your work into Sep 27, 2006

so the target text should be the general basis for all calculations. When they send you a pdf you don't even know the amount of work yet. I accept source count method only if it is based on an standardised and agreed on analysis tool.
Your response Astrid was adequate. Always invoice a surcharge on pdf or the like.

Regards
Heinrich


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Sophia Hundt  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:36
Russian to English
+ ...
sounds like a bogus request Sep 27, 2006

I agree with you declining the request. The 10% off request seems random and unprofessional.

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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:36
German to English
+ ...
Can you afford to ditch them? Sep 27, 2006

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
Of course, at the modest word rate that I am charging them, source word count would make their translations from me extremely cheap.
...
The odd thing is that they have not taken their custom elsewhere yet, even though they have been complaining about my correctly issued invoices, for one reason or another, at least once a month for most of the past year.


They seem to be trying to take you for a ride.
Are you short of work and desperate to keep them?
Otherwise, perhaps it's time to "pull the plug" on them.
Gently, of course.
Perhaps by saying "OK, from now on I'll deduct the 10% you want. Oh, by the way, I've just put up my word rate for you by 30%. I hope you don't mind, but I have to cover my costs/keep up with my career development/bring my rates into line with the general level of fees I receive/keep an eye on the bottom line etc."
Then the ball is in their court - do they really want you, or would they prefer to look for less experienced colleagues?

A few years ago I found myself rushed off my feet with lots and lots of work for cheap agencies (cheap by German standards). The relationships were friendly, but financially it was a dead end.
I decided that it was now or never - either I would continue working for cheap agencies for the next ten years, or I had to cut off the anchor and sail for new waters. I hiked up my rates dramatically, lost a few regular customers as a result, and now I am rushed off my feet with work for better agencies and a number of direct clients. (No hard feelings with my ex-clients, but my career has moved on.)


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:36
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all your comments Sep 27, 2006

There simply seems to be a lot of pressure on prices at the present moment. I do not work at low rates, but at very average, fair rates. However, my rates are only average and fair for a target word count. In my language pair, the rates are a bit higher if source word count is applied.

No, I do not drop this client. It is a large firm, and I have a good relationship with many of the different people in it who place the orders. However, they have recently appointed a new person, from among their number, as the translation manager, and this person wants to niggle about word counts. However, I have certainly never heard of the practice of deducting 10% from the target word count to arrive at the "correct" number of words before. I am only familiar with either source or target word count, together with the appropriate rate that goes with it.

Astrid


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:36
German to English
Trying it on Sep 27, 2006

Hi Astrid,

Looks like a typical "let's try to force down her prices and see how she reacts" manoeuvre.

Target word/line count is target word/line count, period. It's perfectly possible to price by source text, but the word or line price will then generally differ from the equivalent source text-based price. We have a couple of customers we bill on a source-text basis, and it's actually pretty convenient for both sides because we all know in advance what the translation's going to cost (at least for the narrative text in the documents).

because the client had established that the correct way of counting words for the DE-EN language pair was to either charge for source words or, if that was not possible, to deduct 10% from the target word count, which should roughly equal the source word count!


Sez who? Pure fiction. Tell them that if they don't like the way you bill, they can find somebody else...


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:36
Member (2004)
English to Italian
mmm... Sep 27, 2006

very average rates for a large firm (direct client)? Why? It should be large rates for a large firm...

Giovanni


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:36
Member
English to French
Me neither Sep 27, 2006

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

... However, I have certainly never heard of the practice of deducting 10% from the target word count to arrive at the "correct" number of words before. ...
Astrid


There is no "incorrect" way to work out the invoice amount, as long as rates and units are agreed on from the onset.
This request just means that the person doesn't know what he/she talks about.
If they want a discount, they should simply say so.

Congratulations for sticking to your grounds.

Philippe


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Dear Astrid: comply!! Sep 27, 2006

... but announce that to do that you must put up your rates to +11%, if you have an agreed rate of x per 1000 source words. Otherwise just UP your rate for target words by 11% and give them a 10% discount on this.

Hope this helps


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 19:36
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
hic Rhodus, hic salta Sep 28, 2006

ian translates wrote:... announce that to do that you must put up your rates to +11%


It warms onc's heart to see how ready we all are to tell Astrid what to do.

I assume you have done it (i.e. raised your prices by 11%) on several occasions. Can you tell Astrid and the rest of us, how you formulated it? how it was taken by the client and how things proceeded form there?

I have on many occasion vowed "I'm sending then new prices first thing in the morning", but never did it. Your help in this regard will be much appreciated.

Sincerely

Vito


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:36
German to English
+ ...
With hesitation and decisiveness Sep 29, 2006

The thread seems to be straying from Astrid's original question and her specific circumstances, but such is the way of the forum.

Vito Smolej wrote:
I assume you have done it (i.e. raised your prices by 11%) on several occasions. Can you tell Astrid and the rest of us, how you formulated it? how it was taken by the client and how things proceeded form there?
I have on many occasion vowed "I'm sending then new prices first thing in the morning", but never did it. Your help in this regard will be much appreciated.


When I did my dramatic "rate hike", first of all I took quite a long time to make my mind up. I had to decide whether I really wanted to put myself out of the price range of my clients at that time.
Part of the process was gradually acquiring clients that paid higher prices (testing the ice and finding that there was life the other side of the imaginary price threshold). That was not done overnight.
When I was ready to make the move, however, I had to be decisive, to know what I wanted. My largest client at the time was a low price agency with many regional offices, and although I did not bang the door shut, I was aware that they would not give me any work at the higher price. So I had to take the risk that I could find that amount of work elsewhere.
With other agencies (which already paid slightly more) it was more of a negotiation. After discussions, I came to an agreement with one agency that was more than the old price but less than I was asking for. Another agency (owned by someone who is a national figure in the German translation world) offered to consider, and after a few days said: we would lilke to continue working with you, but at the old price without any increase. That put the ball back in my court, so I had to say my friendly farewell.

This does not seem to be relevant to Astrid's situation, and it may not apply to you either, Vito. It is just the way I handled it.

Now, I have reached rates that I can live with even in a "mature" career phase. I feel no urgent need to raise my agency rates on the whole - perhaps I will suggest a modest increment in a year or two. My direct client rates are more or less stable - I have raised a couple slightly over the last year or two, and I will probably do this from time to time for other clients, but otherwise I (sometimes) charge higher rates when I get new clients, so my average rate is creeping up very slowly. Actually, my direct clients (lawyers, architects and to a lesser extent publishers) normally don't make a fuss about increases in rates - they take it in their stride as a normal part of business life.


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