Flat Fee Pricing for a large project
Thread poster: Linda Burns

Linda Burns  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:00
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jan 16, 2009

I'm considering taking on a rather large translation project, which I project will take 6-8 weeks of full-time plus overtime to complete within the client's timeframe. The client does not want to pay per word, but suggested that we come to an agreement for a flat fee. Because this project would take up all of my work time over the next several weeks, and provide substantial income, I would consider it. I want to provide a fair quote, but I worry that I will undercharge. I have charged flat fees for small projects, but never for something like this. Granted, charging this client my standard per word rate would be an enormous expense for the client. The client has given me an estimated word count and page count.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to determine a flat fee?


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:00
English to German
+ ...
I am not sure if are doing yourself a favor Jan 16, 2009

Linda Burns wrote:

I'm considering taking on a rather large translation project, which I project will take 6-8 weeks of full-time plus overtime to complete within the client's timeframe.


Plus overtime - I hope this means that this will allow for extra time, in case you get sick or similar. Or does it mean that you have to work night and day for 8 weeks?

The client does not want to pay per word, but suggested that we come to an agreement for a flat fee.


Aha, There we go. It is obvious that the deal with the flat fee serves the single purpose to save money. At your expense. You are supposed to work for less. Why would you do that?

Because this project would take up all of my work time over the next several weeks, and provide substantial income, I would consider it.


And after the project is finished? You have been off the market for two months. You are putting your business at risk.

I want to provide a fair quote, but I worry that I will undercharge. I have charged flat fees for small projects, but never for something like this.


Aha. There we go. Fair for whom? Certainly not for you. You are willing to work for less, work overtime for eight weeks straight, and you are willing to neglect your other clients.

Granted, charging this client my standard per word rate would be an enormous expense for the client.


So what? That's not your problem. How much discount is expected anyway?

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to determine a flat fee?


I can't answer this question - the last time I was offered such a project, I declined for all the reasons stated above. What an excellent decision. I would have missed all the other projects that were paid at decent rates.


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 16:00
Spanish to English
Charge per word Jan 16, 2009

Unless the client is a particular friend of yours, an NGO that you support or you are extremely short of work, it makes no sense to charge otherwise.

A few years ago I took on a major project at a ridiculously low flat fee, - I was a fool- and it took me while to get my old clients back after having spent two months turning them away.

You are of course free to donate your work and/or your money to any cause you wish, but there is no business reason for charging less.


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Isabelle Berquin  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:00
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
Be careful not to sell yourself short Jan 16, 2009

One way to approach it would be to estimate how many hours this project will take you, including proofreading (best done if you can get a sample of the text and figure out how much repetition there is), then apply your hourly rate.

Another method is to start from your expected yearly gross income for translation if working full-time. 6-8 weeks would be about 1/6 to 1/8 of your total yearly income, so the amount you charge should reflect that.

You can extend a volume discout if you want, but keep in mind that you will not be available for any other projects for that time so it has to be worth your while.

Good luck!


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Flat Fee Pricing Jan 16, 2009

Why not simply determine or estimate the number of words, add 5% and then multiply by the per-word rate you are comfortable with = your flat rate? Your language pairs generally shrink a little anyway. Now if you were doing German to English, I would add 10-12%.


[Edited at 2009-01-16 04:50 GMT]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
You have to count units somewhere ... Jan 16, 2009

Linda Burns wrote:

I'm considering taking on a rather large translation project, which I project will take 6-8 weeks of full-time plus overtime to complete within the client's timeframe. The client does not want to pay per word, but suggested that we come to an agreement for a flat fee. Because this project would take up all of my work time over the next several weeks, and provide substantial income, I would consider it. I want to provide a fair quote, but I worry that I will undercharge. I have charged flat fees for small projects, but never for something like this. Granted, charging this client my standard per word rate would be an enormous expense for the client. The client has given me an estimated word count and page count.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to determine a flat fee?


I don't understand the idea of a flat fee. You have to count units somewhere to be able to calculate any kind of fee. It might be hours or it might be characters, words, lines or pages.

Nicole has given you all the factors that should be taken into account. If someone wanted me to do a big job in a short period of time I'd charge them MORE not less, as there are many disadvantages, mainly the possibility of losing clients, losing well paid work, and the stress.

A new computer would be a large expense for me - but if I had to buy it, I would, becuase that's a necessary expense for me (and I wouldn't try to browbeat the vendor into giving it to me for next to nothing ... price isn't everything. What about quality?).

There's no need to feel sympathetic about your client's "big expense": what do you really know about their big or small expenses? Are they an agency? If so they just want to enhance their margin or compete on price with another agency. Are they a business? If so, they're translating this job becuase it's a rational (necessary) business decision, so they won't be doing it in anticipation of a loss.

Finally if you can't get a definitive word count, do a price for the estimate and be sure to include a sentence in your quote about giving a definitive estimate once you actually have the full word count.



[Edited at 2009-01-16 05:37 GMT]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 00:00
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Do you use CAT? Jan 16, 2009

If you do you might expect some time-savings at later stages. So if the project looks now as a total of X words, you actually might get away with 0.8X words actual translation effort.
At least I would not charge less than the total wordcount times my normal rate.
Is there some quality control stage, where you get feedback during the project? Corrections could cause a lot of additional work.
Regards
Heinrich


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nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:00
English to French
+ ...
flat fee = yes, but carefully calculated Jan 16, 2009

With direct clients who are not aware of the translation market and practices, I generally offer a flat fee.

BUT I do the quote using my usual techniques like word/ line counts, extra formatting, proofreading with a mixture of word count and hours of work.
And I apply my rate for this type of text.

In my quote I say something like :

x pages from pdf files (page = the original formatting).
y tables / diagrams
proofreading by an second person
.... (building an index, a glossary , ...)
delivery in MS Word (or Excel or whatever is required)

TOTAL = zzz €

Personnally I think there is no need to argue about word counts (including numbers ? titles ? untranslatales ?) with somebody out of the translation market. But I can speek number of pages, of tables, all things the client can see and understand.

This is the same approach I used as an IT consultant (years ago) when I had to quote for big IT projects : analyse all the small tasks and make the total.

I am not interrested to know if it is a small or big expense for the client.

OF COURSE you need to see ALL the files to make your estimate.
Be prepare to spend a few hours to do the quote, but for a 6-8 weeks project


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Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Include everything Jan 16, 2009

Make sure when you prepare your "flat fee" to include everything. I wouldn't trust him anyway... what's the point of a flat fee?

Ask the client for all the documents to be translated, Does it require DTP? Ask him in writing what he expects you to do, other than translating the document.

To calculate your flat fee
- word count x your rate + %increase for format + %increase if there are non-editable tables, etc. + %increase for "surprises" that could come along with large projects...

Good luck!


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 17:00
German to English
See the document before quoting anything Jan 16, 2009

It's not unreasonable for a client to want a good estimate of the cost of a project ahead of time. He/she doesn't want to get into some open-ended target word count + formatting costs.

Depending on the word count, formatting required and your ability to use a CAT tool, you should be able to calculate some sort of hourly rate. You indicated that you would be working on this full-time plus overtime. Let's assume for purposes of illustration that you normally work 40 hours/week, anything above that would be "overtime." Also assume that you normally charge $40/hour. That extra 10 hours should be charged an "overtime" rate to compensate you for the inconvenience of working overtime every week for 2 months, i.e., $60/hour (this is also to compensate for lost business that you otherwise might have squeezed in). Thus your weekly rate would be $2200 (40 hours @ $40, 10 hours @ $60).

You'll need to do a word count of the source document in order to come up with a reasonable time budget. Let's say that you can translate 2500 words/day without special formatting. If you're working from a hard copy, (including non-extractable PDF files), anything beyond normal indentation, paragraphs, etc. will slow you down, so conceivably some days you might translate only 2000 words/day if there are columns, tables, graphics, etc. You're the judge of how much you can accomplish, but experience has shown that it's virtually impossible to maintain burst speed for extended periods while ensuring quality.

Part of your time estimate (in terms of deadlines, not billing) should also include unanticipated down-time. For example, this morning the cold water pipe in my kitchen froze (I live in the American Midwest and it's freakishly cold right now). I lost 2 hours remedying the problem to prevent the pipe from bursting and to ensure (knock wood! that it won't happen again). In the same vein, discuss subcontracting options with the client. Due to unforeseen circumstances, you may need to get help meeting the deadline. You owe it to the client to mention that subject up front, since a lot of things can happen over the course of 2 months. You can always make up a day or two, but you may lose enough time and become overwhelmed. Arrangements with the subcontractor, of course, will be your responsibility. That includes checking the translator's work, as well as paying that person.

Although it's possible to offer a word rate discount, assuming you can productively use a CAT tool (in theory could could conceivably increase productivity substantially if you have repetitive texts), you really can't discount your time. There are opportunity costs related to the use of your time, therefore a discount doesn't apply.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Now I'm confused Jan 16, 2009

I see that you have posted this project as a connect job?


[Edited at 2009-01-16 20:25 GMT]


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Linda Burns  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:00
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I said it was huge Jan 16, 2009

I did submit a bid to the potential client today. Although I won't know the outcome until Monday or Tuesday, it is clear that I will need to collaborate with others due to the enormity of the project.

I appreciate all of the advice given on my original post. I took into consideration the amount of life and sleep I would give up to work on this project, and finally submitted what I think was a very fair bid.


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Adi Al-Ka'bi
Local time: 01:00
Arabic to English
+ ...
Some additional advice Jan 17, 2009

I'm just copying the following from a link on one of my replies to a previous similar question.

"With large jobs, the following condition is a must:
I leave it free to the client to split the job up into as many portions as he/she wants. I suggest that the smallest portion should be at least $300. Each portion MUST be paid in advance before I commence with the job.
For example for a $1400 job, the job could be split up into ($300+300+300+300+200) or ($300+500+500+100) or ($500+500+400) and many other combinations. The last payment depends on how much the balance for the final portion is. It doesn't matter if the last portion is less than $300, but all others should be higher than $300 to save transfer costs for the client. The $300 figure allows you to get enough work done in one day without fatiguing yourself. It allows you a rest until you get paid. You are getting paid as you go, which is an encouraging aspect. Etc.
If you can't work out the word count until finished. Once the first payments for the first portions are paid fluently, you'll know if you should provide confidence over the last payment to be paid after you submit it. If you feel confident, submit it. If not wait until paid. When you go through with this method for first time, you'll know what to do at the last step."

That's from a long replying link on the forum on
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/66268-are_my_rates_too_high_-page3.html?

and another on
http://www.proz.com/forum/getting_established/66076-it_could_happen_to_you_dont_be_taken_advantage_of.html


You can change the portions of payments to represent portions of word count. Say like requesting payment for batches of 5000 words before proceeding to the next batch (or 10,000 words or some roughly assessed round figure for a weekly sum of words such as each 15,000 words).

In short, it's not advisable to go for a huge job (especially one that's going to disrupt your regular clientele work). What I now do with any new client is tell them that I can guarantee to provide them with 1000 words daily or 7000 words weekly, though I may at times provide more. This allows me to deal with regular clients (or new ones) should any crop up without losing them. The best of regular clients will seek another translator if you put them off once. Don't ever risk losing one of your regular clients or even a prospective new one (or more than one) because you are entangled with one client.

In your case I'd split the payments to 10 or 15 portions. If I found the client paying regularly after submitting a few portions, I would consider putting two or three portions together in batches somewhere after 3 or 4 portions, then go back to requesting payment for each portion agreed on in the last 3 to 5 portions. This would also provide you with some rest in between (while waiting for the due payments) as well as time to attend to any regular or alternative client request.

[Edited at 2009-01-17 00:24 GMT]


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