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How do I explain how I feel to my client?
Thread poster: Kay Denney

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:16
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Nov 11, 2017

So I have a new client in a field I love translating in. I've done a couple of jobs for them and they said they were delighted with my work. They didn't negotiate my rate or anything.
I did a little bit extra for them, proofreading bits that had already been done by another translator. They didn't ask me to, but I felt it was needed and it didn't take me too long, for a much more professional result, with a text that read smoothly.

Now they've asked me to do another job. They said they had a budget of 250 euros max. When I worked it out, it actually came to 256 euros. I was willing to discount the extra, I'm not one to quibble over a few euros and they were saying they wanted to always give me first refusal for all their texts.

Then it turned out that they were expecting me to do another text as well for that price, which I would normally have billed about 70 euros. The woman seemed to imply in her email that since their texts were usually smaller than what I have to do right now, the next few projects would probably make up for this if she continued to pay flat rates of 250 euros each time. She also seemed to think that telling me I would be their official translator from now on would flatter me to the point that I'd overlook the 70 euros.

At this point, I fell sick (last Wednesday) and I haven't felt up to calling to discuss this problem. The work needs to be handed in next Wednesday, I'll need to start on the translation on Monday to be able to do it justice.

The way I see it, is that I have no way of knowing whether I'm the only translator they use, and I don't see how it's such an honour to potentially get cheated out of 70 euros any time I earn 250.
At the same time, I would really really like to work with these people because it's interesting (I know I have problems saying no in this kind of situation).

I'm still not very well and can't think straight enough to be able to think this through and see how to negotiate this. I'm also fretting that because I've let time slip by, they'll be annoyed at having to find a solution quickly even though there was plenty of time.

Basically I want to remain diplomatic and friendly without letting them walk all over me, and I'm having trouble framing this. Any suggestions welcome! Thank you very much in advance!


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Forget the flattery Nov 11, 2017

Flattery is all very well, but you can't pay your rent or mortgage with it.

Forget about it, and act like any professional should: demand they accept your usual price. That's not an unreasonable or unfriendly suggestion.

Some people know how to manipulate others to get lower prices/better conditions, and some people fall for it.

You have to be able to say no sometimes in this business.


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 15:16
Member
English to Italian
Details Nov 11, 2017

Texte Style wrote:

Then it turned out that they were expecting me to do another text as well for that price, which I would normally have billed about 70 euros. The woman seemed to imply in her email that since their texts were usually smaller than what I have to do right now, the next few projects would probably make up for this if she continued to pay flat rates of 250 euros each time.


IMO, (very) much depends on your previous negotiations and the agreement you had reached before starting to work with them... For instance, did you negotiate a per word or a flat rate (up to X source words)? Weekly/monthly workloads? Etc.

At any rate, it seems pretty weird you should discover they expect you to do additional work at the same price like that, out of the blue...

[Edited at 2017-11-11 13:12 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Sleep on it? Nov 11, 2017

Texte Style wrote:
They said they had a budget of 250 euros max. When I worked it out, it actually came to 256 euros. I was willing to discount the extra, I'm not one to quibble over a few euros and they were saying they wanted to always give me first refusal for all their texts.

Then it turned out that they were expecting me to do another text as well for that price, which I would normally have billed about 70 euros. The woman seemed to imply in her email that since their texts were usually smaller than what I have to do right now, the next few projects would probably make up for this if she continued to pay flat rates of 250 euros each time.

So, If I've understood correctly, this is to be a regular job, which they say you'd normally charge an average of EUR 250 to do - sometimes a bit more and sometimes a bit less. Hmm... it's unfortunate in that case that they've started with a "bit more" one. But if they're being honest about the average length, and you're happy with that total for the average length, it would seem as though it might be a reasonable request. I have the same arrangement for one client - a glossy magazine publisher. His articles are of similar but not identical lengths and I've agreed to a "forfait". So far the average is coming out about right and I'm now seeing slight savings due to being familiar with the texts. But I'd already worked for my client for a couple of years - for you, it's not so easy to rely on her honesty.

I'm still not very well and can't think straight enough to be able to think this through and see how to negotiate this. I'm also fretting that because I've let time slip by, they'll be annoyed at having to find a solution quickly even though there was plenty of time.

Sorry to hear you're so under the weather. I fully understand what you mean about not wanting to refuse a job so late. I always feel that a job should be refused immediately or not at all - but of course sickness can sometimes mean having to refuse late.

Of course, flattery doesn't alter the picture at all. Has it put you off her? How do you feel about all the vibes you've been getting from her? Does she seem to have been straight with you? What was her reaction to you going a bit beyond what you were asked to do? I think your nose is your best judge - but maybe it isn't working too well at the moment icon_frown.gif. Anyway, being the weekend, you can afford to wait 24 hours, can't you? Why not dose yourself up with your preferred remedy, keep warm, get a lot of sleep, and then think about it again tomorrow? Hopefully you'll be feeling better by then.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:16
Member (2008)
Italian to English
so? Nov 11, 2017

Texte Style wrote:

So


I don't know why you began your post with "so". Was it the logical continuation of something you had written earlier but that you deleted?

Evidently you're having more trouble than it's worth with this client. Just tell them what your rate is. If they say they can't pay it, tell them that's too bad, and don't accept the job.

If they really like your work as much as you think they do, they'll be back. If not, don't worry about it.

[Edited at 2017-11-11 13:41 GMT]


 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 16:16
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Use tactics Nov 11, 2017

I've gone out of my way to please certain customers before. Some turned out to be worth it, some didn't. Where the extra mile was not worth it, it served as a good litmus test.

In this situation I would remain tactful and say something like, "I appreciate being your go-to translator for this line of projects. I would be glad to do a small update or small job free of charge, but 70 EUR is several hours of work and I will be charging for it."

[Edited at 2017-11-11 14:25 GMT]


 

MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:16
French to English
+ ...
You could say yes this one time... Nov 11, 2017

...and then make sure it doesn't happen again by clearly laying out the terms and agreeing on a system with her. Plus, it's sort of too late to say no.

It sounds like you really want to keep this client, and it sounds like she wants to give you regular work, so be up front with her. "I'll do it this time because I already said I would, but in the future...."

Good luck.


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 07:16
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with MK Nov 11, 2017

That is good advice MK. After this job is finished (it's too late to pull out now) let them know that you would (very much) like to keep working with them but that you would like to be paid for each job what it's actually worth, no more no less. Be prepared to negotiate but don't simply give in. In terms of money, the end result may well turn out to be about the same as what they propose but you are a freelancer and you take things one job at a time. That way you are also not too closely tied in with them if the relationship should go awry. In Dutch we say, "butter with your fish", which means exactly that: you do the job and you get paid for it right away).




[Edited at 2017-11-11 16:30 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:16
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
thank you everyone! Nov 11, 2017

Mirko, nothing was negotiated for any long-term relationship. They had previously accepted a couple of files billed at my normal rate, that's all. Then for this one, she just said that she had a budget of up to 250 euros. At that point I hadn't seen the file and assumed it would be as short as the previous one, in which case 250 would have been generous, even with the second file bundled in (I think I had billed about 170 euros, at my best rate).

Sheila, yes, I do usually try to sleep on problems. This one has been going round in circles in my brain to the point of keeping me awake for several hours last night, hence my decision to ask other translators for their opinion. However I've just woken from a nap to find all these answers so it seems that a Proz post + sleep was the best solutionicon_smile.gif
It's not clear exactly how much work I would be getting. This second set of files is coming just three weeks after the first batch though so it could be quite regular, not necessarily as regular as with your client. I suppose the logical thing would be to ask her what kind of amount and pace to expect. If it could balance out like your client's work, I would be delighted. Maybe I could suggest lumping the €70 file in with the third set of files if it's as short as the first.
I was pretty sure that if you answered, it would prove very helpful, thank you!
And yes, I'm dosing myself up plenty and cancelled my weekend plans to be sure of getting plenty of rest!

Thomas, yes you're quite right, flattery won't pay my bills nor will I earn any respect just giving in to it. That was niggling me, and seeing your reaction clarifies the niggle.

Tom, "So" is a neat, modern linguistic device to show that this question has been going round in circles in my mind and I have now resolved to talk about it.

MK yes I do really want to work with these people or I'd have just said these are my rates, like it or lump it. I don't have any qualms with agencies, this is a direct client and I'm actively looking for direct clients at the moment. So I want to look like I'm willing to cooperate, but without them walking all over me.

Hopefully by Monday I'll be feeling better enough to call them up to discuss the matter properly and work towards a solution we'll all be happy with.


 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Good advice indeed Nov 11, 2017

MK2010 wrote:

...and then make sure it doesn't happen again by clearly laying out the terms and agreeing on a system with her. Plus, it's sort of too late to say no.

It sounds like you really want to keep this client, and it sounds like she wants to give you regular work, so be up front with her. "I'll do it this time because I already said I would, but in the future...."

Good luck.


In this way, you don't preclude any possibilities, but make clear your terms and hopefully find a good compromise for both of you.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
+1 Nov 11, 2017

So MK hit the nail on the head

So Tom it's the 21st century innit

And now it's time for X Factor

OMG


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:16
French to English
Be clear from the start Nov 11, 2017

When things are clear from the start, they tend to remain clear. As this particular situation is not clear, someone somewhere might lose out over time. So get this cleared up as soon as you can. I think you simply need to explain that your rate/word is X and stick to that. EUR 250 for an actual value of EUR 256 is not worth bothering about, of course, but if it starts turning out that you are doing a lot more than what you actually accounted for, that's not good for you. Furthermore, doing less would not be good either, as sooner or later, the client is going to want things to be squared up. It sounds as though you client is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

If you work to a monthly amount, you are working to a sort of "retainer fee". It amounts to payment upfront for work to come. What if that work never comes? (You have to pay them back)? What happens if you are not available when they need you? The client is basically hoping you will be available for their translation needs, that paying you a monthly retainer gives them "translation credit". If the client has paid in advance, that is a "credit balance" you simply deduct from a future invoice. I've done that on a couple of occasions where there has been an overpayment, for example.

Another point, in some jurisdictions, in France, if you are receiving regular payment of a fixed amount from one particular client, the URSSAF which collects social security contributions, might consider that you are to all intents and purposes an employee. If that happens, then the client will have to pay arrears of employer's contributions and possibly a fine. The clients risks taking on the chin, not you. You are either "independent" or an "employee". What they are suggesting is neither one nor the other.
You might like to suggest invoicing on a "forfait" basis as Sheila suggests, to within certain limits, for example : X euros for each article of between 1,000 and 1,500 words. I have worked this way with a number of clients when working every day on press releases for a sporting event that might last a few weeks or months.

A final note, it is really pleasant to work with clients that you appreciate. However, you do need to keep affect and business separate. You are already feeling awkward about this so it needs to be sorted out.

[Edited at 2017-11-11 20:30 GMT]


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
One client Nov 11, 2017

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:


Another point, in some jurisdictions, in France, if you are receiving regular payment of a fixed amount from one particular client, the URSSAF which collects social security contributions, might consider that you are to all intents and purposes an employee. If that happens, then the client will have to pay arrears of employer's contributions and possibly a fine. The clients risks taking on the chin, not you. There may be ways round it, but I do not know of any in France. You are either "independent" or an "employee". What they are suggesting is neither one nor the other.


Where did you hear that?

If you work exclusively for one client, and particular under conditions that make it look like employment, then indeed what you say is the case, as it could also be in the UK and the US.

But if you have many different clients, work at home or at your own office, and simply bill a fixed amount to some of them for similar ongoing services, whenever did you hear that the URSSAF would consider that employment? So if a webmaster charges a flat monthly fee for ongoing website maintenance to their clients, then that business should be an employee of all its clients? And if my ISP charges me the same monthly amount for Internet access, then they are my employee?

I think you're over-interpreting the employment test.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:16
French to English
Explanation Nov 11, 2017

Thomas T. Frost wrote:

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:


Another point, in some jurisdictions, in France, if you are receiving regular payment of a fixed amount from one particular client, the URSSAF which collects social security contributions, might consider that you are to all intents and purposes an employee. If that happens, then the client will have to pay arrears of employer's contributions and possibly a fine. The clients risks taking on the chin, not you. There may be ways round it, but I do not know of any in France. You are either "independent" or an "employee". What they are suggesting is neither one nor the other.


Where did you hear that?

If you work exclusively for one client, and particular under conditions that make it look like employment, then indeed what you say is the case, as it could also be in the UK and the US.

But if you have many different clients, work at home or at your own office, and simply bill a fixed amount to some of them for similar ongoing services, whenever did you hear that the URSSAF would consider that employment? So if a webmaster charges a flat monthly fee for ongoing website maintenance to their clients, then that business should be an employee of all its clients? And if my ISP charges me the same monthly amount for Internet access, then they are my employee?

I think you're over-interpreting the employment test.


Sure, I was over-exagerating my propos. Of course you can agree to work on a regular basis for a set amount for a client. I was amending my post and when I returned your post showed. If you only have one client and you work for a fixed amount, it can get sticky if it goes on over time. It is not unusual for freelancers to be paid on a retainer basis. If you have other clients, then of course it's fine. https://www.service-public.fr/professionnels-entreprises/vosdroits/F1691


[Edited at 2017-11-11 20:45 GMT]


 

Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 15:16
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
It won't get any better Nov 11, 2017

One thing is for sure: if you say "yes" once, they expect you to always say "yes". And if you eventually say "no", they will make it sound like YOU are being unprofessional because you changed the terms.

On top of that, wait until payment time comes: if they got away with a discounted price, who's stopping them from paying late? Or applying whatever conditions suit them?


 
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