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How many freebies can you give to a regular client?
Thread poster: Ines Burrell

Ines Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:27
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Aug 10, 2009

I translate regularly (every week) for a rather big translation agency however sometimes they give translation jobs to somebody else and want me to proofread these translations. First three times they asked me to do it for free and I told them I will not do it for free any more mostly because the quality was just appalling, there is no other word for it (and I am not a cash machine, I need to earn my money somehow myself). If they ever ask me to check, if letters in this or that document are displayed correctly or to translate a word or a small phrase, I always do it for free, no problem there. But these proofreading freebies really got my temper up. Now they have started to offer the same proofreading jobs for a very nominal fee - once a 2 hour job for 2 pounds (I got my two hourly fees in the end), then another job (about an hour) for 3 pounds, etc. This newest one that has sent me ranting, is 5 pages @ £5/1000 words - half a penny for a word. Of course, I explained that 5 pounds would cover only about 10 minutes of my time and if they want me to disregard most of the mistakes I can, of course, take it (without being responsible for the end result) but it just makes me incredibly angry every time I get these requests. I have no problem with normal translation jobs, they pay ok. And I would probably complain less, if the texts I had to proofread were any good. But they are really atrocious (no idea where they pick their translators from) and I have told them this every single time.
How many and what kind of freebies do you offer your regular clients, how much is acceptable and when and how do you tell them that enough is enough?

Ines


[Edited at 2009-08-10 21:44 GMT]


 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 16:27
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Stop following their strategy if it goes against your interests! Aug 10, 2009

Hi Ines,

By accepting and delivering these jobs for your client, you effectively justify their strategy.

Their goal is simple: to hire extra-cheap, low-quality translators and get you to bring the final quality up to your usual standard. As long as this setup is cheaper, on the whole, than sending the entire translation your way, they will stick to it.

Your choice here is simple as well: charge a much, much higher editing rate than you do now, up to your FULL translation fee (and possibly even higher!) for editing anything less than an excellent translation.

I wish you luck!

Cheers,
Mikhail

[Edited at 2009-08-10 18:36 GMT]


 

KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:27
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
You asked for it Aug 10, 2009

This is what happens when you allow your services to be taken for granted. Go look up "BOHICA" on Wikipedia if you don't know the term. If you want respect for your professional services, offer them in a professional way at professional rates. Anyone who can't accept that is simply not worth doing business with. If I want abuse I'll hire a good domina; I don't need it in a client / service provider relationship.

 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:27
German to Serbian
+ ...
; ) Aug 10, 2009

Kevin Lossner wrote:

If I want abuse I'll hire a good domina.


Who'd tell Kevin, who would tell...icon_lol.gif

Yes, sometimes I picture these agencies and their PMs with a leather whip.

Burrell wrote:

And I would probably complain less, if the texts I had to proofread were any good. But they are really atrocious (no idea where they pick their translators from)


They get their translation from:

a) $ 0,01 semi-qualified amateur translators
b) machine translators

They designed and conceived a system in their lovely heads in which the proofreader will fix and polish a disastrous translation turning it into a master-piece at disgraceful rates.

[Edited at 2009-08-10 19:46 GMT]


 

Charlie Bavington (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:27
French to English
Time is money Aug 10, 2009

Burrell wrote:

First three times they asked me to do it for free

That was a mistake, but it's too late now.

Simply point out that you aim to earn £x per hour (ideally, perhaps, £x should equate to your hourly earnings for translations for this agency), and that you are not prepared to lose jobs that pay that amount while working for rates below the minimum wage (not that the minimum wage applies to the self-employed, but it is a benchmark they should be able to understand).
Either that, or say you are too busy working on something else (which can be combined with the argument above) and simply reject the work - but then they might keep on asking.
I'm assuming that you would like to keep the translation work they offer, but want to stop this revision crap they offer, so I suppose you don't want to ditch them completely. Putting it in purely economic terms keeps personalities out of it.

How many and what kind of freebies do you offer your regular clients, how much is acceptable and when and how do you tell them that enough is enough?

I've done the odd 30 mins here and there - usually jobs where the admin would be more effort than the job. I have a client who sends me a lot of these "quick paragraphs" from time to time (insurance policy endorsements) and we reached an arrangement where I log the jobs and invoice them every 6 months. But that is not quite the same thing.


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:27
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Yes and no Aug 10, 2009

Burrell wrote:

How many and what kind of freebies do you offer your regular clients, how much is acceptable and when and how do you tell them that enough is enough?



I give freebies when the translation is taking less than time I would spend on entering the job into my system, invoicing etc. Of course, this also could be abused, but nobody has tried it yet...

Also, I make a point to ask something in return - references, WWAs, appraisal of my offer - it works wonders when they feel they owe me something.

How to tell them? "No" usually works quite well...


 

Ines Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:27
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I cannot really afford to loose this client Aug 10, 2009

And translating an odd word or small simple sentence for free is really not a problem. What I find difficult and insulting is that I have explained my point several times in no uncertain terms and yet I get the same story over again. I do not like to be 'not available' for this client too much but there is no way I am going to do this kind of work for free. Yet they come back with the same rubbish!!! I know I should not have taked those first three free jobs but in all honesty, they did not take me more than 20 minutes all together. But these new ones.... it is very difficult to stay polite - that, I suppose, is my problem. I have a very rational but at the same time sometimes explosive personality. Not good for business, I know.

 

Charlie Bavington (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:27
French to English
Difficult position Aug 10, 2009

Well, ideally, as Kevin would perhaps point out, it is better not to have any one client that you cannot afford to lose. But again, that does not help much in the immediate short term. Could be a long-term lesson to learn. And you won't catch me preaching what I don't personally practice at this precise moment, either, so I need to take heed tooicon_smile.gif

Burrell wrote:

But these new ones.... it is very difficult to stay polite - that, I suppose, is my problem. I have a very rational but at the same time sometimes explosive personality. Not good for business, I know.


Next time they send you one of these things, don't simply accept it or decline, but say you'll take a look.
After taking a look, quote them a price you are happy with, and justify it: y hours @ £x per hour = £z, or y words at x per 1,000 words - whatever it may be (where x in this second case is perhaps a third of your usual translation rate for them - this fraction usually works for me, anyway). And wait for them to accept or decline or negotiate.
I can't imagine there are huge numbers of Latvian translators, so you should be a position of relative strength.


[Edited at 2009-08-10 20:03 GMT]


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:27
German to Serbian
+ ...
No need for explosion Aug 10, 2009

You can send your message across in a business and polite, yet convincing manner:

" I am sorry to report that the poor quality of translation requires much more work than your rate can pay for. Would you be willing to restructure the payment ( add your hourly rate here)"

See, very simple.


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:27
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
FREEBIES TO CLIENTS WHY???? Aug 10, 2009

I dont get freebies from my butcher, my green grocer, the electricity company, my car salesman, my dentist, my lawyer, etc, etc, etc

Why would you ever offer your services for free? (unless it was an altruistic job, say for a NPO)

That was a big mistake, accepting freebies basically says my time is not worth anything, my job can be taken for granted, I offer a service that doesn't have to be paid for.

But life is full of mistakes, you live and learn, just tell them you no longer offer freebies, if you lose them as a client they weren't really worth having anyway.

That's my opinion anyway.


 

Brian Young  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:27
Danish to English
Alex is right on! Aug 10, 2009

Never work for free. If an agency asks you to do something for free then they are not worth dealing with. Drop them. Some of my best agencies occasionally ask me to check something, and they always offer to pay first. If it is a little thing, a few lines, then for a good client it's often not worth the fuss of writing an invoice. If it happens often I run a tab. But being asked to work for free is an insult, anf if you have pride in yourself and your work then don't give it away to anyone.
Brian


 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:27
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Establish a minimum rate, and stick to it Aug 10, 2009

Establish a minimum rate, and stick to it (you may make an exceptions for things that are really just a couple of words or maybe even a sentence or so).

Then you can, very professionally, tell your customer: "I'll gladly proofreading this translation for you. My minimum rate is £ X, and I'll apply it to the job if it takes less than Y minutes / if it is less than X words. Otherwise, my regular hourly/per word rate applies".


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:27
German to Serbian
+ ...
Yes, I second that Aug 10, 2009

Alex has got a point. If they drop you like an old pair of socks after they had used you long enough and forget you existed when you finally say " no more free work" then you are definitely better off without them.

 

Anne-Marie Grant (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:27
French to English
+ ...
This agency will not employ qualified, mother-tongue translators Aug 10, 2009

at decent rates if it can find enough people like you to fix the shoddy work of its bargain basement employees for free. How do you know you're the only one they're using in this way?

 

KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:27
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Quite so. Aug 10, 2009

Charlie Bavington wrote:
Well, ideally, as Kevin would perhaps point out, it is better not to have any one client that you cannot afford to lose.


I do work at making all my clients 'disposable' and my services as well. Things happen which we cannot control: the perfect research director contracts lung cancer and is replaced by a corrupt idiot, a #1 client develops serious heart trouble, a translator gets hit by a bus. It's always smart to have a Plan B and to help clients develop alternatives should you yourself become disabled. I call this my 'no hostages' approach, and it has served me well for a bit over two decades now in a number of businesses. It relieves some of the pressure one might otherwise feel in a business relationship when it's clear to all parties that they are working together because they want to, not because they must. I work with my clients because I like them and/or they offer me interesting projects (usually a logical "and" there). This was a goal from the earliest days of my activity as a translator, and a selection criteria constantly applied to prospective clients. I really think that for the *long run* it's the only way to go.

Of course if I'm not going to make the mortgage payment this month I might take on something icky (as long as doing so wouldn't be unethical) just to pay the bills. But it's a worthy goal to work actively toward not being in that position in the first place. Good planning can get you there.

Riccardo's suggestion of a minimum rate is very sensible and common practice. Forget the past - you screwed up doing the freebies, but move forward and just light-heartedly offer to do it for $80/hr or a minimum of $40 for smaller jobs or whatever works for you. Your average gross take for translation work is a good guideline for setting that hourly rate as someone pointed out, but if you hate editing as much as I do, slap on an extra 50% for good measure. If you're having a bad day, make it 100%.


 
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