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How to charge for translations of just one sentence
Thread poster: Sabine Thaler

Sabine Thaler  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:15
French to German
+ ...
Sep 11, 2005

One of my clients started to send me single sentences by email or, as in one case, even three words to translate. This happens almost about once a day now. My minimum order charge is 25 euros, but I feel this is too much. Shall I charge him by the hour, which would make it for example half an hour? I have not invoiced him so far for these translations.
I would appreciate your recommendations.

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Natalie  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:15
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

Hi Sabine Sep 11, 2005

If this is a good client of yours who supplies you with large amounts of jobs besides these short phrases, why don't just do a favor for him/her?

Another solution (if these short phrases are sent to you too often) would be accumulation of several (10? 15? ...?) short translations and charging your minimum price. In this case you should inform the client on your decision otherwise he/she will be unpleasantly surprised when you send an invoice.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:15
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Keep your customer happy Sep 11, 2005

In a situation like this, I think the most important thing is not the cost to you of doing this work, but the benefits of keeping your customer happy. From your customer's point of view, it must be very nice to be able to send off a few words or sentence from time to time and get a quick free answer. So you are building up a useful fund of goodwill, at little cost to yourself. Think of it as a marketing cost.

Of course there comes a point where being nice turns into exploitation. In your situation, you could gently turn the tap off by suggesting that you are too busy to return a quick translation today, but you could do it tomorrow, or the day after. All you could suggest a monthly retainer fee to cover a certain volume of work. Or you could tell them you will translate up to 30 words a day at no charge, provided there is other paid work as well.

Almost anything is better than charging an inflexible minimum fee or fiddling around with tiny payments.

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Local time: 23:15
English to German
+ ...
if it is good customer Sep 11, 2005

Hi! atleast initially you should do it for free, but keep mentioning that you charge a min of €,USD, whatever under so and somany words per given instance. The client will catch up. Otherwise they will come back with 3 sentences ofr 5 sentences etc, which actually creates more work, change your TM (if necessary) load some piece of software, check terms if necesary, power, internetline all that adds up. Stepping out and going to a Café would cost around €25,- on a sunday afternoon! Best regards and keep all good things going Brandis

[Edited at 2005-09-11 09:38]

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Ziad Marzouka  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
my 2 cents Sep 11, 2005

Hi Sabine,

I have a client similar to yours, that keeps sending me very small jobs on a frequent basis. The good thing is that before I mention the price, he tells me that he has allocated a certain price for the project, and this price often varies between 5-10 USD. In my opinion any price in this range is really good for one-sentence projects.
I just wanted to share my 2 cents, hope this helps.


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Spencer Allman
Local time: 22:15
Finnish to English
+ ...
Bill monthly on a word count Sep 11, 2005

That is what I do with projects or in situations like this

best Spencer

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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:15
German to English
+ ...
I agree with Spencer Sep 11, 2005

This is a nice compromise between doing it pro bono and charging a min. fee each time. This way you get at least some compensation, since these frequent "one-liners" represent an interruption in your workflow and take longer to translate than if they were part of a larger text.


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Local time: 22:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
The minimum charge exists for a reason! Sep 11, 2005

Hi Sabine,

You need to be very careful with this because your time is a valuable resource and these constant small jobs can be a source of constant interruption and reduce your productivity (and therefore your earnings at the end of the month).

You haven't said whether this client of yours is also supplying you with medium/large jobs at present. If this is the case, or if you think there's a possibility of this happening in the future, then one or two small favours would not be a bad investment to retain your client's goodwill.

However, this can be counter-productive for you. If you are always available to the client to translate these bits and pieces, then the client may, consciously or subconsciously, pigeon-hole you as the translator they call on for their bits and pieces, and then when a really decent job comes up, they may give it to someone else!

I would suggest that you don't give away freebies on a regular basis. If you want to set a lower minimum charge for one-sentence jobs, that's fine, or if you want to do two of these for your normal minimum charge, that's fine too, but let the client realise that your time counts and is not a free resource.

I bet they don't go to their lawyers every day for a few words of free legal advice!

Hope this helps.

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Russian to German
+ ...
It depends on who the client is Sep 11, 2005

Hello Sabine,

From my experience, it depends very much on who the client is.

I have some very regular clients who keep on sending me large jobs. As far as these clients are concerned, I don't mind if they send me some single words or one-sentence-projects FROM TIME TO TIME.

On the other hand, I have a client who EXCLUSIVELY sends me such small jobs, but also quite regularly, but payment for these jobs is just great (the client once suggested this) as they are always urgent - and the client sends PO numbers which every small job, so I can send them a collective invoice once in a month.

However, as I read from your posting, your client now seems to send you these small jobs on a nearly daily basis, and here's where you should decide how important this client is.
It might be a good idea to politely suggest that you send a collective invoice for these small jobs once in a while in case this is not one of your best (= most regular) clients, otherwise it might be possible that they soon take advantage of your kindness.

My two cents.
Take care,


[Edited at 2005-09-11 14:50]

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De la Vera Cruz
Local time: 18:15
English to Spanish
It depends.... Sep 11, 2005

on who your client is. I have only one client who sends me short sentences, but she is such a good client (who even pays upfront, by the way) that I have absolutely no problem in translating such sentences for free, because both of her way of payment and because I know that she is a regular client. Good luck!

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Charge per month Sep 12, 2005

Sabine Thaler wrote:
One of my clients started to send me single sentences by email or, as in one case, even three words to translate. This happens almost about once a day now. My minimum order charge is 25 euros, but I feel this is too much.

In your case, I'd say, let the client know that you charge X per word that you'd send them a bill at the end of the month for that month's sentences (unless it is below the minimum, in which case you charge the minimum).

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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:15
Member (2004)
English to Italian
my view... Sep 12, 2005

I always apply my minimum charge, unless the client specifies a budget and then it's up to me to take it or leave it.


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