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How do you actually increase your rates?
Thread poster: NataliaElo

NataliaElo  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:14
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Jan 28, 2009

Dear all,

As January is approaching its end, I am writing invoices for the first month of the year and it just came to my mind that it is probably a good occasion to increase my rates. So far, when I wanted to update my rates, I usually approached someone in the agency in question who was responsible for rates and freelacers and basically just informed them that from a certain date I will charge more. Today I thought that actually it can be done even easier.

Therefore firstly I am curious, how do you do it? And secondly I'd appreciate your opinion on just issuing the first invoice of the year with increased rate.

Best regards,
Natalia


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:14
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
It is sometimes easy to raise rates, and sometimes not Jan 28, 2009

Hi Natalia,

In general - with end customers at least - you have to have earned the right to increase your rates. In other words, if you are constantly striving to perfect the quality of your translations, and obtain results, and the customers are particularly happy with your translations, you can simply tell them that your rates have gone up slightly this year. However, I find it better to notify increases a month or two in advance, rather than afterwards. It is more courteous, anyhow.

If you have not been perfecting the quality of your translations over the past year, it will not work.

With agencies (regardless of quality), you can notify them of an increase of € 0.005 per word, and most of them will say nothing, except that they will make a note of it on their files, and you will never hear from them with work again, even if they sent it to you regularly last year.

With sporadic customers, you tell them what the current price is whenever they come back, for example once a year or once every couple of years.

With customers who form a significant proportion of your income, you actually have to discuss the matter with them, otherwise you take quite a risk.

Astrid


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tinageta  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:14
English to Latvian
+ ...
just issuing the first invoice of the year with increased rate Jan 28, 2009

If you are speaking about regular/repeat clients, I have to say that even my electricity company warns in advance about price increases...

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:14
English to French
+ ...
Prospect and test rates on new clients Jan 28, 2009

A good way to go about it is to prospect and find new clients. The rate you would propose to these new clients would be your new, increased rate. Some will accept the rate, some will not. For those who do accept it - great, you just got some new, better paying clients!

This will give you an indication whether the rate you are targeting is acceptable in general. If it is, then the next step is to advise your existing clients, one at a time so you don't take too much of a risk, of your new rate. You will most likely lose a few clients because of this - but hey, you just gained a few, so you are not actually losing anything. The little loss is countered by the increase of revenue.

With new clients, it is a good idea to get a feel of them to see if, over time, they contribute to your earnings. Therefore, it may be a good idea to test new clients out before raising your rate with the existing clients. If a new client only gives you a few thousand words worth of work per year, it is not worth sacrificing existing clients for them.

This approach is useful when you don't want to take much of a risk. Of course, looking for clients regularly should be part of your regular schedule, even when you are not looking to raise your rate.

In my case, the moments when I realize that I could be charging more are almost always moments when I win a new client willing to pay the higher rate.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I give advance notice Jan 28, 2009

My hikes are usually based on targets, which I get a good idea about by the end of the third quarter. Hence, clients generally get three months to get used to it.

Christmas is a good time to give corporate gifts (the good news) and the bad news.

What I do try to avoid is the sensation that I'm doing things arbitrarily.

At any rate, Viktoria's method is a sound one, in my experience.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:14
English to German
+ ...
There are better occasions and reasons to increase your rate than January 1. Jan 28, 2009

Why?
Because January 1. is the date when for whatever reason EVERYBODY feels compelled to raise their rates. All translators at once.

Chances are that your request will be declined.

I don't work with fixed rates. I am not a copy-shop that charges per sheet with some toner on it. My rates can vary by several cents/word for the same agency. I look at the job and tell them how much I want. I may maintain rates that are two years old for the same end client of an agency because I pretty much can write all the stuff in my sleep. On the other hand, a new project for the same agency but a different end client will be significantly more expensive because I have to start from scratch and I have to do my research and homework. I also don't deal with fractions of a cent.

This way I am continuously increasing my income, if June, July or Thursday and my clients are happy with it, too.


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Mahmoud Rayyan  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 22:14
English to Arabic
I really admire your style Nicole Jan 29, 2009

""I don't work with fixed rates. I am not a copy-shop that charges per sheet with some toner on it. My rates can vary by several cents/word for the same agency. I look at the job and tell them how much I want. I may maintain rates that are two years old for the same end client of an agency because I pretty much can write all the stuff in my sleep. On the other hand, a new project for the same agency but a different end client will be significantly more expensive because I have to start from scratch and I have to do my research and homework. I also don't deal with fractions of a cent.

This way I am continuously increasing my income, if June, July or Thursday and my clients are happy with it, too. ""





Actually whenever I read any reply you post, I feel this sense of Confidence,
I just want to ask you a question.
How can I act like you this way
I mean after how many years of experience you can act like that with a lot of confidence with your clients?

I remember once I asked for a raise in the rate with a client and I was so afraid before I ask for this raise, and as a result he refused my request and I didn't try once again.


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Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:14
English to Spanish
+ ...
About self-confidence Jan 29, 2009

Mahmoud Rayyan wrote:
I remember once I asked for a raise in the rate with a client and I was so afraid before I ask for this raise, and as a result he refused my request and I didn't try once again.


Does this mean that you haven't raised your rate ever since?

Mahmoud Rayyan wrote:

Actually whenever I read any reply you post, I feel this sense of Confidence,
I just want to ask you a question.
How can I act like you this way
I mean after how many years of experience you can act like that with a lot of confidence with your clients?


Personally, I don't think it is a matter of years of experience (although it does help), it is more about the confidence you have on your own work. If you know you produce high quality translations, you deliver on time, etc., you know you are a great asset for the companies you work for, and thus you feel confident.


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Mahmoud Rayyan  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 22:14
English to Arabic
Actually Yes. Jan 29, 2009

Penelope Ausejo wrote:


Does this mean that you haven't raised your rate ever since?



As a matter of fact this is my first year as a freelance translator, I used to work as an in-house localizer and I had no experience with running my own business.

I believe that experience as you say is an important aid actually.
And by the way I am so confident on my work but lacking the experience to raise some issues is of course an important factor.

Thanks Penelope


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Bruce Gordon  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:14
Member (2008)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Going back to Natalia's question, just a small legal point Jan 29, 2009

Natalia,
What concerned me when I read your post was that you seemed to be contemplating increasing your rate when you're writing the invoices for the month, rather than when you're negotiating the job in the first place. I may of course have misunderstood the situation.
Basically, if you're invoicing now for work already done, you must have agreed a rate for those jobs when you got them, and you're contractually bound to keep to that.
You can't agree do do a job for 10 cents a word and then come in with an invoice at 12 cents - that's a breach of contract on your part.
If you're just planning to notify the agenciies of an increased rate for jobs from now on, that's fine and good luck to you, but bear in mind some of the other good advice in the previous posts. It wouldn't be much fun persisting in a rate that no-one is prepared to pay...
Bruce


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Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:14
English to Spanish
+ ...
That's why we have the forums Jan 29, 2009

That's why we have the forums and people always willing to give advice. You will get there in no time

Mahmoud Rayyan wrote:
And by the way I am so confident on my work but lacking the experience to raise some issues is of course an important factor.

Thanks Penelope


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Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:14
English to Dutch
+ ...
Don't notify, negotiate Jan 29, 2009

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

With agencies (regardless of quality), you can notify them of an increase of € 0.005 per word, and most of them will say nothing, except that they will make a note of it on their files, and you will never hear from them with work again, even if they sent it to you regularly last year.

Astrid


If you want to raise your rates with existing clients (be they agencies or direct clients), I'd suggest to go about this via negotiation rather than notification. Even if the rate proves non-negotiable, maybe you can work out that they'll meet you halfway in a different manner, e.g. by extending your deadlines or by paying your invoices faster.

As the Dutch would say, "nee heb je, ja kan je krijgen" - nothing's lost by asking. And even if the answer is a flat-out "no", you can still work for them at the original rate when they have an interesting project in your field, or when they happen to come knocking on your door at a quiet time. They'll just have a slightly lower priority in your inbox, but you won't have lost them as a client altogether.

On an aside note: if you're working for the kind of agencies where "regardless of quality" applies, I'd suggest finding others.

[Edited at 2009-01-29 10:43 GMT]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:14
Italian to English
+ ...
Advance notice Jan 29, 2009

As others have said, you should always give advance notice of any rate rise. Invoicing an unannounced increased rate for work you have already done would be extremely unethical, unprofessional and possibly even illegal.

I tend to give several months' notice of increases to my less important clients and negotiate them with my more important clients (sometimes successfully, sometimes less so).


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NataliaElo  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:14
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jan 29, 2009

Dear colleagues,

Thank you very much indeed for your contributions and please forgive me for not responding earlier. I should have given more background information. I meant agencies, for whom I've been working now for a couple of years. Rates for the new clients is a completely different matter, in this case I always ask higher rates, otherwise there is no point in my work. At the moment I don't even take new clients, full stop.

It might sound very arrogant, but I rarely negotiate rates. When I notify my clients in advance about the higher basic rate, I always write that I do understand that it might result in less work. So far it never did, probably because (I think) I am realistic about my rates.

Nicole Schnell wrote:
I don't work with fixed rates. I am not a copy-shop that charges per sheet with some toner on it. My rates can vary by several cents/word for the same agency.


Well, I have a different approach. Most of my clients are translation agencies. I have my areas of specialism and never take work outside them, does not matter how much the agency is willing to pay.


Point of advance notification is taken, thank you very much one more time.


Natalia


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:14
English to German
+ ...
An entrepreneurial point of view Jan 29, 2009

Natalia Elo wrote:

It might sound very arrogant, but I rarely negotiate rate.


You are depriving yourself of a lot of fun and - the unique opportunity to prove to your customers and clients that you are a true business partner with all the consulting and project management involved instead of a being freelancer who is working off jobs.


Most of my clients are translation agencies. I have my areas of specialism and never take work outside them, does not matter how much the agency is willing to pay.


So are mine. I specialize in marketing and advertising. For various reasons, heavyweight drill pipes for oil fields want to be advertised the same way as hairdryers.

With the exception that I have to look up and read a gazillion words for one job, whereas I can write the other one before coffee. There is no universal recipe. Thus I charge individual rates.

Good translation agencies in most cases will turn out to be perfect partners due to mutual understanding.


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