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Why too much work is not good for me (& fear of rate increase)
Thread poster: Anne Lee

Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:03
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Jan 17, 2006

For the last six months or so, I have been so overwhelmed with work that I have not taken time to do my accounts, catch up with filing or springcleaned my office. If I had time to stop and think I would increase my rates and actually benefit from being in demand. Every day, I've got to turn work away despite working every hour I can. I do have a problem with saying 'no' to regular customers and I am reluctant to increase my rates in case the work suddenly dries up, but I realise that what I'm doing does not make much business sense, either. I've become a workaholic and keep telling myself that in a few weeks time, I will have enough money saved to take some days off, but that never seems to happen either...


Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
looks like an "intervention" is in order... Jan 17, 2006

1. Increase your rates
2. Take some time off

Do it nowicon_biggrin.gif

This might not address the deeper motives why you've become a workaholic (by your own definition), but they are 2 specific measures you have control over. True, this might impact your workflow adversely, but if you are turning down work every day, and have not a minute to yourself, there is reason to believe things would even out. You might also raise your rates selectively, leaving them untouched for your favorite clients/projects.

Lest I forget, congratulations on having built up such a profitable client base. Nothing wrong with rewarding yourself for all your efforts. Even workaholics deserve some time officon_smile.gif

Best luck with your decisions,



Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:03
plan, plan, plan Jan 17, 2006

It's so easy to leave things to the last minute... if you were working in-house, there would be someone to do the accounts, someone to do the secretarial filing etc, someone to manage the project, someone to translate it ... and so on... Except you're all of these things.

I set aside either Friday afternoon (I am brain-dead on Friday evenings anyway, so filing while watching TV is just the thing for meicon_smile.gif )or Saturday morning to do my non-translation work. If you do these things as you go along, it really really helps. However I have TO3000 which has really made a difference to my admin work. All I have to do is generate some accounting reports and give it to my accountant at the end of the year. We all have had to pull the occasional late night, but this should not be a normal way of life. It sounds like you need to keep an eye on time management?

If you're feeling bad about increasing your rates, what I suggest is this. The next time you get new customers, give them your new rate. Don't be apologetic about it or say "well, i've increased my rates, sorry". They don't need to know you've just increased your rates.

If you find the new customers are OK with this higher rate and it has not adversely affected your business, then great. See how it goes with the new customers for a few months at this rate. In the meantime, sound out a couple of your old customers about increased prices, see if they could absorb the higher rate or not before you send them a mail with your new rates.

Good luckicon_smile.gif


Omar Osman
Local time: 10:03
English to Somali
+ ...
Find a reliable colleague to help you with the translation Jan 18, 2006

I never turn down work; Never increase your rates. Actually there is so much competition in the market that many agencies are already starting to reduce my rates to pre 2001 level.
I now do 60% of all English to Somali translations over 60,000 words per month. In addition to that I also do big projects (Keep in mind that Somali is a tiny share of the market). I have found 3 guys that I respect and that provide the same quality translation that I do. They do the job, I do a quick proofreading, I make only 15% profit but it is worth it.
If you refuse work the customers could go somewhere else, and they could find:
1) A better translator than you
2) A cheaper offer
3) Someone that will always accept work, thus saving the agency the trouble to look for another translator.
The good thing about subcontracting is that you can revert back to do all the work yourself in the case the demand goes down.
You can deduct the cost of the sub-contracting as long as the other translators invoice you for the amount.
The client doesn't have to know (even if some contract that you signed forbid you to subcontract) and the responsibility of any problems is always yours.
You will soon became like an agency "specialised in one language" but without the overheads.
I have done this for the last 5 years without any problem, giving me the chance to increase my workload, take holidays, organise myself and it also guarantees a good steady income.


Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
maybe I misunderstand you... Jan 18, 2006

Omar Osman wrote:
The client doesn't have to know (even if some contract that you signed forbid you to subcontract) and the responsibility of any problems is always yours.

I must admit I feel uneasy about this statement. I always inform my clients when the translation will be handled by a collaborator, making sure they understand I will personally conduct the final review/proofreading and handle all communications regarding the project. As an independent language provider (not an agency), I would feel dishonest not revealing this information beforehand. I also wouldn't dream of signing a contract that forbids me to subcontract, if my intentions were just those. I wonder what other colleagues' experiences are in that respect...



Elías Sauza  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:03
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Work and take a leave Jan 18, 2006

My opinion about it is:

1. Take as much work as you can handle.
2. Never reject any jobs (except those under your rates).
3. Find a colleague who can help you.
4. Make an enquiry with your clients about increasing your rates in the future.
5. Charge higher rates to any new clients.
6. Plan a leave at least once a year.

After nearly two years as a freelancer this is what I've been doing and plan to do.

[Edited at 2006-01-18 02:41]


Olga Dubeshka  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:03
Russian to English
+ ...
all work Jan 18, 2006

Seems like you remember those "hungry" days, don`t we allicon_wink.gif

But judging by the stress level you have too much on your plate - or too little hours in a day.
I am against passing subcontractors` translations as yours . But if the burden is too heavy you might want to think of getting a "teammate" and form a mutually beneficial relationship. Who knows, maybe an agency is in the future ?

Good luck, and don`t work too hard !!


Dr. Stephan Pietzko  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:03
Member (2002)
English to German
You definitely need a Business Plan that works for you Jan 18, 2006


when you "have been so overwhelmed with work" for the "last six months" then there must be "enough money saved to take some days off" or you should definitely increase your rates because they are too low, anyway.

If you, for some reason, are not that comfortable with Elias strategy, you'd maybe consider what I do:

1. Take as much work as you can handle within 60% of your weekly(daily/monthly) work hour target.

2. Reject all jobs from regular clients that would violate #1 except the rate they offer is at least 30% above your personal average. Ask for rush/dirt job/weekend/night/whatever surcharges and make your clients familiar with the idea that quality work has its price.

3. Don't outsource! It gives you extra headaches, leaves you with even more bookkeeping to do, and if you hate proofing as I do, well,... A reliable partner on his/her own AND clients that know about your occasional "job sharing" sure helps keeping your best clients happy.

4. Make an enquiry with your least paying (interesting/respectful/whatever) client you'd consider dumping, anyway, if you had to about increasing your rates at least 30% effective date X (as soon as you feel is reasonable, however, you MUST set a date). See what'll happen. If you're still in violation of #1 start over with #4 again.

5. Now there's lots of time to get organized. Even more important, there's also time to market your quality services to clients that care (and pay!).

6. Charge at least 30% higher rates than your personal average to any new client. New clients are, of course, allowed to violate #1. Once a reliable business relationship is built you can start over with #4 again.

7. Plan a leave at least TWICE a year and tell all your clients 3 months ahead.

So far, it worked out for me. It helped me build a small but fine client base, which keeps me constantly busy and scheduled for 2 months ahead at around the 60% level, except for my two yearly holidays of two to four weeks each, of course. Last year and the two years before my rate (not per word rate, but hourly rate/income because only that counts) increased about 15% each year and I still seem to have some room left for further increase. When I started with this business plan I'd never had believed such success.

Wish you the best with your business plan.


[Edited at 2006-01-18 07:38]

[Edited at 2006-01-18 08:01]


Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:03
Member (2004)
German to English
I remember those days ... Jan 18, 2006

Hi Anne,
When I started I was desperate for work to pay the bills, then I got to the overloaded stage. Now it's much more reasonable. Each new customer I took I told them "this is the rate and my payment terms are 30 days". If they don't accept it I don't work for them. This way you increase the rate and only get better paying agencies. Once you start to get a good reputation you can leave some of the bad or slow payers behind. If your regulars value you and your work it may be possible over time to increase your rates for them too, especially if you tell them "I'm sorry but I can no longer take your regular work at this rate because other people are offering me more work at the new rate". But take it slowly for good regulars.

Your health and wellbeing demand that you work less - after all that's why we started, right? To enjoy the freedoms offered by freelancing and not to become modern-day slaves to email! I'm writing this from Brazil - I am here for 5 weeks doing a little work and having a holiday too. My regulars know I am here and my productivity is down for these weeks. I am being a bit choosy about what I take - after all there's a whole country to discover. They understand and I know that when I get back home I will be back to normal again. So reward yourself a little for building up your business and remember there is more to life than sitting in front of a computer!



Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:03
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
Why not raise your rates on April 6? Jan 18, 2006

I agree with others' comments about raising rates, charging extra for urgent jobs and taking a break. As you are based in the UK, why not inform your clients now that you will be raising your rates as from April 6. That should be enough notice time and as it's the start of the financial year, they should understand and accept this as being perfectly normal.

Good luck!


xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:03
German to English
+ ...
Increase your rates. Jan 18, 2006

Increase your rates.

Perhaps not now. But sooner or later, you MUST. Some of your costs may have fallen during the time that you've been in business; telecommunications services and CAT tool software are two relevant areas in which prices have fallen quite substantially over the last five or ten years. But inflation is the norm. If you don't raise your prices from time to time, your income in real terms is not remaining steady, but falling. Eventually, you will realize by just how much it has fallen, but by then, it will be too late to make up all the lost ground in a single rate rise.

It's inevitable that if you begin raising your rates, you will lose some work. If you never lose work, in fact, it's a sure sign that your rates are too low. Don't expect to keep the same customers for life (any more than an employee nowadays should expect to keep the same job for life). Work on adding new customer accounts so that you can afford to lose existing customers occasionally. What is important is that overall, the new customers are at least as lucrative as your existing ones.

Gaining and losing customers is the closest freelance translators come to promotion. Most of us begin by working for agencies at the bottom end of the market who are only willing to pay low rates and are in other ways less than ideal. Gradually, we (hopefully) build up expertise and improve our quality of service such that we are attractive to more discerning customers who are prepared to pay higher rates - possibly even three or four times as much - and who are not only interested in the price. There is also likely to be a gradual shift from agency to direct clients, though there are some very good agencies out there. Customers can mature, too. It is by no means inevitable that at some point, they will seek a cheaper supplier; over time, they may come to value your service more and be prepared to pay more for it in real terms, i.e. over and above rises in line with inflation.

Two tips for rate rises: don't increase prices to all your customers at once. This is probably obvious. Less obvious: try structured pricing. For example, charge a different rate to the same customer for Dutch to English than for English to Dutch. Charge more for legal than for social science texts, or vice-versa. Offer small volume discounts; introduce surcharges for dealing with source texts on paper or in PDF format. (These are just examples.) One advantage of structured pricing is that you can raise rates selectively to the same customer in order to test the response. For instance, if you begin charging 10% more to a customer for Dutch to English than for vice-versa, and your customer stops sending you Dutch to English work, you can assume that the new rate is too expensive. Crucially, though, you've found this out without actually losing the customer.

There's no guarantee, of course, that your customer won't find a different supplier for Dutch to English whom he will then also prefer for English to Dutch. But then nothing's guaranteed in this business - not even that if you continue as you are doing, you can expect to die either penniless or young. I'd put my money on it, though.



xxxNicolette Ri
Local time: 10:03
French to Dutch
+ ...
Higher rates don't help against workalcoholism Jan 18, 2006

The only remedy is reducing your output. Don't take new clients for a while, concentrate you on your best clients, deliver quality (before you'll be having quality problems), set a limit for the number of working hours per day, don't answer to messages after 6 p.m. (if necessary, take a second telephone line) and plan a holiday two or three weeks before. This means that you should take a risk => change your own mentality => become a real service provider (all service providers take some holidays). If this works, you can eventually change your rates, but later on. If you do it now, clients will accept them and you'll really feel obliged to do all those translations, even at night or when you're on holidays, and it will even worse.

Besides, Marc is right, don't change your rates at the same time for all your clients and charge more for legal than for easy commercial texts. After each project, take a while to look if it was reasonable. And don't be afraid to tell your client that you don't have time.

[Edited at 2006-01-18 10:47]


Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:03
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
previous post: 6 stages in a freelance translator's career Jan 18, 2006

Hi Anne

Check out this previous post:
where various stages of a freelancers career are described... you'll find you're not alone!


[Edited at 2006-01-18 10:34]


Hester Eymers  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:03
Member (2005)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Jealous Jan 18, 2006

My God, am I jealous. After ten years of writing and editing I found out I am quite good at translations as well. I quit my part time job as a bookseller and started enjoying my free lance life.

However, the last months I have been getting so little work that I had to go to an employment agency and accept low paying, uninteresting work just to be able to pay the rent.

So please, take a break so you can enjoy your success!


Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:03
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Thanks for all the tips Jan 18, 2006

Thanks, everyone. It is good to see confirmed in black and white what I subconsciously know needs to be done. By the way, my rates are not particularly low at the moment and I have spent a few years building up a customer base before I got to this stage. But yes, I do get a buzz from being in demand and from challenging translations, so there is a psychological aspect to it! I have recently started to go to the gym 3 times a week and I'm considering a holiday.

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