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Increasing your rates - how to tell your clients?
Thread poster: Soren Petersen

Soren Petersen
United States
Local time: 22:25
English to Danish
+ ...
Nov 12, 2006

Have any of you increased your rates, say from 11 to 12 euro cent per source word - and how did you inform your clients? Standard letter to them all?

Did you lose any clients due to this?


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:25
Dutch to English
+ ...
Tip Nov 12, 2006

Don't use a blanket approach.

Apply the rate to all new clients/enquiries with immediate effect and sort out the rest of your clients into groups:

1. Those you wouldn't really mind losing anyhow (reasons may include slow payers, constant fiddly projects, perhaps in formats you dislike, those known for phoning without fail at 6pm on a Friday afternoon, expecting turnarounds for Monday mornings - just examples).

2. Those you'd be sorry to lose but which aren't critical to your monthly cashflow.

3. Those that form your "inner circle" (for whom you're prepared - within reason - to go that extra mile) and who in terms of turnover represent a large chunk of your work

Introduce the rate increase to those in 1, followed by 2 and lastly to 3 (in batches) - depending on what happens.

Yes, I've done it and only temporarily lost one client, who came back later and accepted he needed to re-negotiate.

Provided your rates are within limits for your language pair, (also looking carefully at where your clients are based), you don't try it too often and your work is top-notch, I'd say this is the best approach. It limits risk and you can test the waters gradually.

Obviously the aim is to get group 3 paying the highest rates too (they form the bulk of your income) but don't risk everything wth a standard letter that can backfire.

This topic has been discussed before, if I recall correctly, so check the archives for more tips/views.

Good luck

[Edited at 2006-11-12 15:44]

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Dinny  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:25
Italian to Danish
+ ...
Give notice in due time Nov 12, 2006

Hi Søren,
Six months ago I increased my rates and I informed all of my clients by mail a couple of months ahead. Not the same standard letter to everybody, since I don't use the same rate for everybody (I wish I did, it would be less complicated, but it depends a bit on where they are). For two of my best clients I maintained the old rate - but telling them that I would do this till end of this year as a special favour to them - because they are the kind of clients that do not split up the rate in 'Trados terms', they make no deductions for documents with repetitions, although many of the manuals I do for them have really a lot of 'free rides' from the TMs.
I did loose a few clients, at least I think so because I haven't heard from them for a while, but keeping up the marketing and always contacting new agencies, which are worth it, I have gained new ones which accept my new rates.
Alltogether, it's the same amount of work and now for better pay, totally worth it!

[Edited at 2006-11-12 15:36]

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Local time: 00:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
No two jobs consume exactly the same resources. No two jobs are necessarily worth the same rate. Nov 12, 2006

The problem you are facing now, Soren, is one of those which made me decide never to publish my rates in the first place.

You might as well ask: "How does your local supermarket announce a 10% increase the price of your favourite beer?" Answer: You can't! It's suicidal!

Commercial enterprises hate tariffs, 'recommended retail prices' and the like, since they hamper the company's ability to juggle prices according basic factors such as supply and demand. There is no reason whatsoever for a translator to engage voluntarily in the act of tying his/her own hands behind his/her back by publishing 'standard rates'.

I'd suggest that you simply remove your tarrif from view and forget about it.

And be ready to offer your clients some sound commercial reasons (not excuses) when they ask you why your next quote is 10% higher than last time. If they have sound business sense, they will moan, understand, moan, pay - and maybe moan again. And they will come back for more if you are offering value for money.

And you are offering value for money, aren't you?


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Local time: 05:25
German to English
My method Nov 12, 2006

This is what I did over time: As new customers came into the picture, I had more confidence to negotiate a higher rate (which usually sticks over time).

I just accept work as a preference from the higher-paying organizations or people. If I'm not doing anything else, I take on work from the lower-paying people, but sometimes not big jobs if I can expect work in the near future from the higher-paying people.

After time, the lower-paying people just kind of fell away - they get the picture, I guess - and I was getting a lot of work from the higher-paying people.

I told one low-paying organization that I could only do work for a higher price. They were mad about it initially, but then continued to supply me with work at the higher price.

Surprisingly, I've had two organizations (very small agencies) actually TELL me that I could charge a higher rate after a while. I get most of my agency work from them now.

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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:25
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
Try to justify your decision Nov 12, 2006

For your clients, with whom you have already worked, try to find a very serious reason why you HAVE to raise your rates, if you don't already have one. You'd better avoid any personal reason. Likewise I don’t think your clients will understand you if you tell them that you had started at rates considerably lower than the market rates, and now you're raising them gradually. This is a good strategy for those who apply it, but never for those who have to feel its effects. Maybe you could suggest some additional service in return to the new rates, for example, if you do only translation, you could also suggest them editing and present the new rate as a combined rate. And, as it was already mentioned above, maybe it will be better to keep the older rates for your best clients for some time, until you obtain more good clients.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:25
English to French
+ ...
Just some ideas Nov 12, 2006

I would be firm, especially with agency clients. They have to understand that you WILL raise the rates, no matter what. If they feel any hesitation, they will feel that you don't want to lose them as clients, and they will use this argument to make you bend. In other words, if they feel that you don't want to risk your business relationship, they will simply say no to your new rates and will say good luck in your career - and will stop sending you work until you decide to keep the old rate. Often, you have to start by losing that client because you are sticking with your principles - and then they end up coming back (someone said that before me).

I also would go about the rates on a case-per-case basis. I would, for example, not ask for as high an increase from my better paying clients, since they are already closer to the standard market rate. It would be obscene to go from a penny over the standard market rate to three pennies over the standard market rate. However, if you have been working with such a good client for several years, you may still have arguments to slap a penny on the old rate - inflation, experience you've gained since you first started out with them, etc. I would ask for higher rates from clients that pay lower rates. I know, many of them will refuse because the very foundation of their business is cheap labor. But some only ask for low rates because they are opportunists - just like smart translators are opportunists. Some low paying clients actually have the means to pay better, and if they are below the standard market rates, then they should pay better. And in many cases, if you really are a good translator, they will.

We often tend to think that it's very risky to raise rates because we may lose clients. I feel like telling you that you WILL lose clients - but the acceptance of your new rates by your other clients will even this out. This means that in the long run, you may end up working less for the same money. If you then make a few new clients who accept your already raised rates, then you will end up working as much as before - but for better money. I don't think it's that risky... Of course, make sure you have many many feet to dance on and negotiate carefully with your most important clients.

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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:25
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Inflation Nov 13, 2006

Of course rates have to go up every so often. Everything else does due to inflation. My partner's salary is increased every year. I put my rates up every 2-3 years.

I agree with the comments made by Lawyer-Linguist and Viktoria Gimbe. I wouldn't offer anything extra as a justification for raising rates. It's simply not necessary. However, I wouldn't put my rates up by 1 euro cent. How about 0.005? That would probably be easier for clients to swallow.

In my experience, I have lost a few agencies over the years after increasing my rates, even ones that supplied me with a lot of regular work and paid promptly, but I was always able to replace them with others without too much difficulty.

[Edited at 2006-11-13 08:42]

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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:25
English to French
bulk email and no reason Nov 13, 2006

I raised my rates last October to all agencies but one, from a range of rates (0.084 to 0.09) to 0.1 euro/source word.
The agency to which I didn't increase my rates (0.085)accounts for 15% of my business, always gives me very large jobs, decent deadlines and I find their jobs easy enough to be able to do 3500 words a day with little effort (2500 is my standard), because I gained a lot of experience translating for the end customer of theirs.
In a 1-month advance notice (and no ongoing project until then) I just stated that my rates hadn't increased since October 2003. This is self-explanatory.
I lost a big customer in the process, that accounted for 35% of my turnover, because they wouldn't accept the increase (allegedly for admin reasons), and I didn't want to back off...
So now I have free time, I turn down less offers and I am paid more for my work. And I can afford to lose a bit on my bottom line to get a healthier lifestyle.
You always risk losing clients when increasing your rates if you stick to them, but the idea is about dropping the lower-end payers to have time to prospect and find higher-paid jobs.
Also, the reason why I publish my rates is to avoid unnecessary requests from outsourcers hoping that living in Morocco, I would accept working for 0.04 euros (or less). It saves time to everybody. Since I have made my rates public, I get no such requests.

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:25
Italian to English
+ ...
I think Lawyer-Linguist's approach is excellent Nov 13, 2006

It's essentially what I do. The only exception was my very best client (in terms of volume), whom I rang up and spoke to personally earlier this year. They agreed to a 10% increase on my rates, which I hadn't raised in 3 years.

I only lost one of my old clients after raising my rates, and that was a "group 2" client as defined by Lawyer-Linguist. One other initially said they couldn't afford the rise, but then carried on sending me work anyway (although less general stuff), and a third actually sends me more now than they used to. Although I imagine that's a coincidence.

[Edited at 2006-11-13 14:01]

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