Getting an important client back
Thread poster: Jiayin Jenny Zheng

Jiayin Jenny Zheng
United States
Local time: 10:51
Member (2014)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Feb 6

At the beginning of my career, I used to have a very reputable, large client with a stable, large volume to translate. However, from the very start I realized that I have charged them too low. Their documents are too specialized to command a general, starting rate. But the contract was signed and there weren't many other things to do, so I decided to work in a few documents. I didn't work on many of their documents because the rate is too low to command any motivation. A year went by, I found it very hard to work in their documents long-term, because the rate is simply too low to sustain a life. I asked them to raise the price into something more reasonable. They did not respond, so I called. Then they wrote back stating that my work did not command a higher rate.

I looked at this client's past feedbacks and grades on my work, they were all pretty decent and satisfactory. I simply don't know why a client would give me good grades then tell me I cannot command a higher rate. I have a few colleagues who also worked as their freelancer. Since I knowing these people personally, I highly doubt that they all commanded such a low rate as I have asked for at the beginning of my career.

In the end I have to stop working for this client. I have regretted horribly on my unwitting decision in the beginning. Sometimes thinking back I really wished that I have given them a higher rate should I know the materials they gave me were so specific. I always wondered if there is another chance at all to talk to them again and clear up all the misunderstandings, and perhaps get a better rate for my work. After all, they are a very large corporation that supplies a very stable volume. Is there a chance at all?

[Edited at 2018-02-06 06:36 GMT]


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 23:51
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Forget it Feb 6

You made a choice so live with it. You knew, or should have known, that this was a possible outcome. You don't play hardball unless you have leverage, and the way you are portraying yourself doesn't show yourself to have any.

[Edited at 2018-02-06 06:36 GMT]


 

Jiayin Jenny Zheng
United States
Local time: 10:51
Member (2014)
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Leverage? Feb 6

Lincoln Hui wrote:

You made a choice so live with it. You knew, or should have known, that this was a possible outcome. You don't play hardball unless you have leverage, and the way you are portraying yourself doesn't show yourself to have any.

[Edited at 2018-02-06 06:36 GMT]


I don't know what kind of leverage are you talking about. Could you be more specific. The client grades my work each time, and the grades are usually pretty good. But they refused to raise the rate. What other leverage could we get to prove ourselves?


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 23:51
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Take it or leave it Feb 6

When you tell a client, "I'm going to raise my rate", you are implying that they should find someone else if they aren't willing to meet it. You are announcing to a client that they are no longer in your good graces and that you are terminating them, except they have one chance to get back in your favor. It's the same deal when you're negotiating a new contract; either someone is going to give, or someone is going to walk away. If a client wrote to ask me to lower my rates and had the nerve to call me when I didn't respond, I don't imagine I would be very accommodating.

Your leverage is that you will do quite fine without that client, while they will not be so well off without you. What you are saying is that you can't afford to lose them, while they apparently can afford to lose you. You have zero leverage. There is no misunderstanding here; you are bluffing with an empty hand and the client saw right through it.

By the way, I don't know how you worded your request, but the way you are phrasing it here, I would not be surprised if you did it in a way that made them not all that willing to negotiate.

[Edited at 2018-02-06 07:06 GMT]


 

Jiayin Jenny Zheng
United States
Local time: 10:51
Member (2014)
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's been a while Feb 6

I certainly don't like professional trolls in my thread, and considering this is business hours in HK, maybe you should use your work hours more efficiently.

If you read my thread carefully, I mentioned this incident happened at "the beginning of my career"? Surely, according to you, I spent the past several years starving on the streets while working as a full-time linguist.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:51
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Clients come and go Feb 6

Without trolling or anything like that, Lincoln Hui has a point. Whenever I have succeeded in raising my rates with clients, the argument has been 'You are paying me less than my other clients do.'
That is just another way of saying 'I do not need you,' or 'I can get along fine without you'.

It is not always easy to persuade new clients to send you work, but there are plenty around. Many people on this site raise their rates by finding clients who pay better, and dropping those who pay less. It is often easier than raising your rate with a client who already has a contract.

I find the medium to small clients are the best to work with and often pay higher rates too. They build up long-term, personal relationships and appreciate the work involved in translating, so they pay for it. They are close at hand and helpful when questions arise, so you can solve them before they become problems.

Smaller agencies do not have big offices in city centres - they can operate over the Internet from less expensive areas. They spend less marketing time looking for new end clients and more on profitably working with the ones they have. The same goes for recruiting new translators - they are not constantly replacing those who were not satisfied and moved on. These agencies expand, however, so they do need new, well qualified translators.

They give their clients value for money, and work efficiently, so they can afford to pay more for quality translation. They are often more willing to negotiate.

Look for clients like that, and forget the ones who will not pay realistic rates. It is very important to present yourself as an expert and as a business partner the client will value. You may feel small as an individual, but translators are in fact the foundation that the whole business is built on! Your work is important, so hold your head up, and let them know what you have to offer.

We all make mistakes, and as a beginner it is all too easy to feel uncertain and underestimate your rates. You have to move on! Learn from the experience, but accept it and grasp new opportunities.


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:51
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
I agree with Lincoln: forget it Feb 6

The title of the thread is "Getting an important client back". I don't see any real way for you to do this, unless the client really does need you and they are just bluffing. But you described them as a "very reputable, large client with a stable, large volume to translate" so that suggests that they probably have many more translators who are producing similar work to yours, and some of them will be charging lower rates, I'm sure.

Forget this client and move on with your life. But take away an important lesson: don't start with an asking price that is too low because raising rates once you've agreed on them can often prove difficult.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:51
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You can only command from a strong position Feb 6

I'm afraid you really don't seem to have justified your request to work with them again, at a higher rate. Just asking for it makes you come across as very needy. They have no obligation to help you and probably little inclination.

The time to raise rates (always a difficult thing to do) is when you're rushed off your feet and can afford to lose the client. So, as Christine says, you raise them first for your lowest paying and/or least favourite client. If you lose them, you lose them - move on. When your favourite client is paying the lowest, you can consider increasing your rate with them. But you don't ask them; you inform them. You tell them how much you value them etc., etc., but you regrettably have to charge more in the future. It's always good if you can justify it with an extra qualification, membership of some association etc - something that says you're worth more.

I think you need to move on. I don't hear anything in what you say that shows they respect you. You need to start afresh with new clients, professional rates and a positive, self-confident attitude.


 

Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:51
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Chances are Feb 6

that the only reason they took you on at the beginning of your career was because of the low rate.

You say you only worked on a few documents, because you found them too hard.
I other words, you neither offered that client significant volumes, nor the expertise that they require.

At a low rate, you're always going to get volumes and encouragement, regardless of actual performance. I wouldn't place too much weight on the feedback you received.

Many big clients/agencies work with low rates in general, but regardless of their standard rate range, that would be two key factors for deciding how much they are willing to move within that range.
You were in a very weak bargaining position.

You learned the hard way. But that lesson has some value in itself. Stop focussing on that particular client and apply what you've learned to the initial negotiations with other clients.


 

Kristina Cosumano  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:51
Member (2015)
German to English
"The client grades my work each time, and the grades are usually pretty good." Feb 6

I'm sorry but this is a negative, although perhaps you are just being modest.

Raising one's rates only works when the agency really values you and doesn't want to lose you. That would mean excellent ratings from them; "usually pretty good" and "all pretty decent and satisfactory" sound like they may not be particularly excited about your work, that you're on their B list. Keep looking for new agencies.

Now, maybe you did great work for them and they gave you low ratings just to keep you down. The answer doesn't change, however.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:51
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Why fixate on this customer? Feb 6

It sounds like these people are not that interested in your services. They probably don't charge their own clients enough to make a profit if they pay you more. So there was no point trying to raise the rate you charge.
As others have said, the thing to do is find other better-paying customers and provide sterling service so that you become indispensable. Then when you find even better-paying customers, you can raise your rate for the lowest-paying ones, it won't matter if they don't give you work any more.


 

Jiayin Jenny Zheng
United States
Local time: 10:51
Member (2014)
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Feb 6

Thanks yall for your comments. First of all, this is a direct client and they are known for giving translators decent rates. A few of my colleagues worked for them for much higher rate than what I had asked for, which is why I was hoping that they would give me a market rate when I asked for it.

For the next few years, I did forget about this client and quickly found a few clients in replacement. Over the years, I became a better translator. I eventually moved into interpretation business, went to school, got my licenses and papers sorted....

So last night when we talked about this client, I thought, "if only I gave a market rate, if only I knew better... they would be a good long-term partner." Hence this thread.

I am better off without this client, but if I had done the right thing at the beginning, I should have been better off. The relationship would be longer and more pleasant.

Now as a professional with better skills, I keep wondering if there is any chance....

Of course, it is pretty much impossible to do so.

[Edited at 2018-02-06 14:36 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:51
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
if it's a direct client... Feb 6

If it's a direct client, it might be different. They're less likely to have a database with notes on each translator from various PMs. The person in charge of translations may well have changed, in which case you could perhaps just send in details of your profile as if you had never worked with them. Knowing about their company, you can talk up your experience in their field.
When you say "when we talked about this client" do you mean you were talking with the former colleagues you mentioned before? Maybe they could recommend you if they're contacted for something they can't handle?


 

Jiayin Jenny Zheng
United States
Local time: 10:51
Member (2014)
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
My colleague is also a freelancer Feb 6

Well, my colleague is still a freelancer, and he lived very well from it. We thought about the option of joining on board like a new person. But, the old general hiring manager is still there. I think there is a chance, however so slight, that he may recognize me.

From time to time, an agency would ask me if I want to work full-time for this client on-site. I wish I could just sign up as a new translator with them, and start everything fresh. It looks like as long as that manager is there, it might be harder than I think.


 

Elif Baykara  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 18:51
German to Turkish
+ ...
Slight chance... Feb 6

... but maybe you can meet them in person.

I don't believe that they would hold a grudge against you as an "unimportant newbie" (just an exaggeration of course icon_smile.gif ). Unless there is an unpleasant reason such as a severe argument or unkind words, they wouldn't even remember you, which in this case is a good thing.

Just look for an opportunity to come across the relevant person, for example at a meeting or trade show and try to build a fresh professional relationship.

Business is business, and a good client is also a smart one who knows that it is a good thing to have a competent translator on the team.


 


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