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Monthly translation stipends...what to charge?
Thread poster: Catarina Aleixo
Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:04
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
Apr 9, 2009

Hi everyone.

I've recently been asked for several quotes for a monthly stipend (a set rate) for up to a certain number of words per month. It's been a bit tough establishing how much to charge and what to pay a preferred translator for such a service.

Obviously rates should be lower overall on a per word basis due to the regular nature of the work and the payment, but how much lower?

Clients have set a monthly maximum of words, but no minimum, so, in theory we could end up translating a lot fewer words than the upper limit.

As an example, one of the requests was for EU Portuguese to UK English and EU French translations and maximum number of words set at 20,000 per month for each language pair

Any input on this would be gratefully received.


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Tina Colquhoun  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:04
Danish to English
+ ...
Why 'obviously'? Apr 9, 2009

>Obviously rates should be lower overall on a per word basis due to the regular nature of the work and the payment, but how much lower?<

Translation isn't a volume discount business.

But this has been discussed so many times in these fora...

Tina


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Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:04
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the help Tina Apr 9, 2009

...

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
Maybe change basis Apr 9, 2009

I suppose what you are talking about here is some sort of flat rate per month for an amount of translation that could get a bit hazy. That does not seem to be in anyone's interest. Rather, it would be best to just do it on a per-word basis and bill monthly for what was actually done.

I agree with Tina's comment that "translation isn't a volume discount business". The client's advantage with you is not price, it's the good, timely service you give the client on a regular basis.


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Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:04
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
The amount of translation is not at all hazy... Apr 9, 2009

Thanks for your input Henry, I really welcome some sensible debate.

The clients are very specific, and I have been very particular about establishing a maximum number of words to be translated within that calendar month-long period.

In one case that's 21,000 words (incidentally in blocks of a maximum of 1,500 per doc and 14 docs per month, anything over that - ie longer than 1500 words per doc or over 14 docs per mnth is paid for seperately).

This is not hazy at all and as the work is on an ongoing basis and both my company and our translators could certainly use the regular work on which to grow our translation business/careers we'd like to know what to sensibly charge.

I was a freelance translator for 13 years before setting up my, very small, company and understand that driving prices down does not service to translators in the long run.

We make a point of paying our translators within 30 days regardless of when our customers pay us, as we know from experience that it can mean the difference between a freelancer continuiing to freelance or taking a full time position for much less potential income in the long run.

I also know from my own experience that such monthly flat rates are a God-send to many translators (and companies for that matter) who need to pay their bills every month. Had it not been for these kinds of deals I could not have bought my home, for example, or even made a career out of translating.

So, does anyone have any suggestions of a good basis on which to start?


[Edited at 2009-04-09 15:11 GMT]


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Elin Davies  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2008)
English to Welsh
+ ...
Establishing your own minimum Apr 9, 2009

How about offering a pricing structure whereby you charge your 'usual' rate up to a certain number of words, then after that the special deal kicks in. You could still provide a monthly invoice and this way if the promised regular work doesn't turn out to be as bulky as you'd been led to believe, at least you're still being paid what you'd hope for.

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Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:04
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Potentially a good option, thanks Elin Apr 9, 2009

In these cases the client is willing to pay the flat rate regardless of not using up their 21,000 word credit so to speak. The idea is they would pay €xxx euros every month for UP TO that amount of words. A bit like a salary, only there's a limit to the amount of work they can ask you to do! Anything over an above that would be considered "overtime"!
The way I see it they are taking on the risk of not having that amount of work for us to do. If it's less they pay us the full amount anyway and if it's more they have to pay at the standard per word rate.
I guess my solution will be based on what my translators are happy to do the work for under those circumstances and then our margin on top of that. Does anyone forsee a problem with that way of going about it?

[Edited at 2009-04-09 15:32 GMT]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
Still Hazy Apr 9, 2009

I know it sounds like a sweet deal for you, you get so much whether they use all the volume they paid for or not. And if they go over the minimum, then you can charge extra. However, it is not such a good deal for them because if for any reason they do not give you the full amount in a month, they still have to pay for it.

However, look at it this way and have the client do so also. It may be they would want a lower per-word rate as a trade-off. I'm guessing that could be your concern also. It might be good just to come out and discuss the matter frankly. It would be in everyone's best interest for the pay to be pegged to the actual amount done, no more, no less. Then everyone has a square deal.

You see, if you go to a lower per-word rate, then you will have to pay the freelancers less, because whether or not they give you the full volume is a matter of chance. I just do not see the logic in doing things in that way. What is the problem in merely billing for and getting paid for work actually done? There is no need for chance. Also, no deal is a good one unless it is a good arangement for both parties.

Why put chance into the equation when it makes no sense?


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:04
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
What about scheduling? Apr 10, 2009

If they tell you they may need to use you for translating 21000 words per month, then you need to set the time aside for that, don't you? You would not take other jobs, you may refuse other jobs (that may pay more). On top of it, the actual schedule is not definite, they may dump most of the job on you at the end of the month, right? But you would not know that during the month, and you would not want to be overloaded for a short period of time, do you? I would not give them any discount, I would charge them my regular rate, which is actually a good deal for them given the "standby" position I have to be in all the time (ready anytime to do their jobs), and anything over the set limit would go for a slightly higher rate (again, due to scheduling issues).
So, it may sound like a sweet deal with the fixed monthly fee, but I have a feeling you will have these scheduling issues that will offset the potential benefits - hence, the rate should be your regular rate.

Just my 2 cents
Katalin


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
Right Again Apr 10, 2009

Katalin is also right on target.

I also have a client that sends me work on a standby basis, and it is sudden, urgent overload work, because they have in-house people to handle the normal load. Suffice to say that unless I am traveling (and I give them notice of that), I always give them very fast turnaround, and I am quite capable of doing it (I work alone but I'm not slow).

A few times I have been caught on the road and unable to respond. They understand.

I just bill them every month for what has been done.


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chica nueva
Local time: 11:04
Chinese to English
retainer Apr 10, 2009

This is a retainer/retainer fee, right?

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Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:04
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
All goods points... Apr 10, 2009

Henry - I figure that the client is likely to have at least that amount of translation to do in any given month. They've probably figured out how much they normally have to do each month and are asking for quotes for a monthly retainer/stipend/flat fee because they are hoping it will be a cheaper option for them, so actually it's probably going to work out that most months will have those 21,000 words to be translated.
Katalin - Scheduling is of course a very important point and I checked about it and was told that only rarely would over 1,500 words be needed in a single day and that turnaround time was usually 24 hours. As they were also very specific about the 1,500 words per document and maximum of 14 documents it means that we wouldn't get sgtuck doing all 21,000 in the last three days, say. We are talking about a press agency that needs press releases and news clippings translated regularly.
Iai an - yes, it's a retainer.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
Communication is the key Apr 10, 2009

I figure... They've probably... it's probably...

All these expressions mean you really do not know, right? You are just speculating. Communication is the key. My advice is to openly discuss all these matters with the client instead of keeping them in the dark. Doesn't that make sense?

If after asking for a discussion the client stonewalls you, then maybe you should decide not to deal with them. But do not be afraid to bring these matters up.

Bad communication... that's what starts wars.


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Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:04
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
The client is being very upfront, in fact... Apr 10, 2009

I have no problem with the client's proposal itself, Henry. It's very clear to me and I have discussed it with them at length in fact. What they are not willing to tell me however is how much I should charge...

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A. Patricia Pedraza  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:04
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Periodic rate review Apr 16, 2009

Maybe you can quote a slight lower rate given the guaranteed income you'll have, and charge your standard rate for the excess volume.
How much lower?? Not much or you will find yourself working a lot more for a lot less.
The guaranteed income is attractive as long as you don't devalue your work.
Set a review period where you both can evaluate if the flat rate and work volume works for both of you.
Patricia


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