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Travel expenses: to charge or not to charge?
Thread poster: Alexandra Goldburt

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 03:09
English to Russian
+ ...
May 21, 2009

[Esteemed moderator: I put this under "money matters", but if you feel the question is more appropriate for "interpreting" forum, feel free to move it].

I would like to ask my experience colleagues: when do you think it is appropriate to charge travel expenses?

Twice I bid on the interpreting jobs which were at some considerable distance from my home (about 150 miles in one case, over 200 miles in another). Both jobs were one day long. I figured that I'll drive there the day before and stay in a hotel, as there is no way I can drive that long in the morning and still have a fresh head to interpret. So I quoted my regular full day fee plus mileage plus an estimated price of my stay in a hotel. I did not expect the hotel to be a luxury one, just a clean place to spend the night.

Well, I did not get a job in both cases, and I know that my request for a hotel stay reimbursement was an issue. So I wonder: maybe I was unreasonable? What are your thoughts on this?


 

Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:09
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Charge May 21, 2009

Except in cases where the distance is 10 miles or less, I always charge for mileage according to the IRS tables. If I were hired to do it at a place which requires an overnight stay, of course, I would ask for room and board expenses. I am sure interpreters in your language pair do not abound thus it is more frequent for someone like you to be hired to go to a remote location, and due to that very fact the client should expect to cover those expenses.

 

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 03:09
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Overnight stay - when can I reasonably say it is required? May 21, 2009

Luisa Ramos wrote:

Except in cases where the distance is 10 miles or less, I always charge for mileage according to the IRS tables. If I were hired to do it at a place which requires an overnight stay, of course, I would ask for room and board expenses. I am sure interpreters in your language pair do not abound thus it is more frequent for someone like you to be hired to go to a remote location, and due to that very fact the client should expect to cover those expenses.


Thank you, Luisa. What you say sounds very reasonable.

Maybe I need to clarify the question. When you say: "If I were hired to do it at a place which requires an overnight stay, of course, I would ask for room and board expenses" - I'd like to ask, after what distance from home I think you need an overnight stay? Would it be over 100 miles, over 150 miles, something else? This is really a point on which I'm not sure.


 

Emma Hradecka  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 12:09
English to Czech
+ ...
One more question May 21, 2009

Hello,
could I add one more question? I'm a newbie to working freelance as an interpreter and I would like to ask you what exactly you mean by "mileage". I'll give an example: I live in the Czech Republic, I am invited to do interpreting at a conference in the Slovak Republic (for example). I expect the client to pay the travel expenses (train/bus/plane ticket) but do I want them to give me something more (mileage?) to compensate for the time spent travelling?
Thanks a lot for your clarification.
Emma


 

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 03:09
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Answer to Emma May 21, 2009

Emma Hradecka wrote:

Hello,
could I add one more question? I'm a newbie to working freelance as an interpreter and I would like to ask you what exactly you mean by "mileage". I'll give an example: I live in the Czech Republic, I am invited to do interpreting at a conference in the Slovak Republic (for example). I expect the client to pay the travel expenses (train/bus/plane ticket) but do I want them to give me something more (mileage?) to compensate for the time spent travelling?
Thanks a lot for your clarification.
Emma


Dear Emma,

It is my understanding that "mileage" applies when you use your own car to travel. In USA, it is currently reimbursed at the rate of 58.5 cents per mile driven. It is meant to offset your expense associated with driving, i.e., the gasoline and wear and tear to your car.

If you travel by train, bus or airplane and your client pays for the ticket, then I don't think you can charge mileage.

I hope it helps.


 

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
What I do May 21, 2009

What I would do in a case like this (never done it, as I am a translator rather than an interpreter) is say that local public transport would be free, taxi (or car) travel and all long-distance travel would be charged (including hotel if applicable). On my price list, I have a fixed charge for accompanying executives (or similar work) per day and an extra per additional hour. This would be added to the above extras in the case of an out-of-town assignment.

 

Alp Berker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:09
Turkish to English
+ ...
I try do it in one day - I bite the bullet on the hotel May 21, 2009

When I get 150 to 200 Mile assignment where I need to drive, I generally leave early and return the next day. I don't put in for a hotal stay. This makes for a long day, but I look at as lucrative for one days worth of work. This of course is for one days worth of work.
I generally charge for milege (roundtrip) and the hourly rate more than makes up for any exhausion. I Always try to be competitve for these types of jobs, since they don't always occur.


 

Mikhail Popov
Singapore
Local time: 18:09
English to Russian
+ ...
Usually charge May 22, 2009

Quite often I have the same situation - work is located in another city (220 km away from my living). Usually I drive there on my own car in the morning, then having rest in the hotel for 1 hour, then start work. And I charge for my petrol, company is paying for the hotel + my usual fee for interpreting.

If company wants to avoid hotel, I can take a taxi to the place of work, sleep in the car in the morning, then start to work in destination point immediately. I never had experience in driving on my own car in the morning, working in place and coming back on my own car in the evening. It will kill meicon_smile.gif

But once I had an experience driving from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m., ariving to work, working till 8 p.m., then hotel and sleep. Only once. Then Company Director said a special thank to me and provided another day in the hotel without work - hotel was located on the lakesideicon_smile.gif


 

Cezar GRINEA  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 13:09
Japanese to Romanian
+ ...
Put it in your contract. May 22, 2009

[quote]Alexandra Goldburt wrote:

... "mileage" applies when you use your own car to travel. In USA, it is currently reimbursed at the rate of 58.5 cents per mile driven. It is meant to offset your expense associated with driving, i.e., the gasoline"......

HHHMMM..... OK, so, if you use a hybrid, you can actually get some extra cash... buy some donuts or something..... - Just kidding


I think the problem is dealt with differently, depending on the country.
Personally, I have a clause in my contract, stating that either the client is to arrange for transportation, accommodation and meals, or I am to include all these expenses in the invoice. In most cases the client is a settled business and should have what they call a 'protocol budget'. Let him do the math, the payments, track invoices, receipts and taxes.

I use public transportation, gives me time to have one more look at the material the client has sent me beforehand (yeah…. wishful thinking). If I have to drive there, I fill the tank twice, on leaving my hometown and upon arrival, keep the receipts, and have him pay / reimburse the second one multiplied by 2.

I ask for hotel overstay for the eve of the assignment, only if the place is farther then 2h ride (a 3h ride means the roundtrip is 6h = an interpreter’s day of work). Usually, they treat you as someone they do business with, so even if you don’t end up in 5* hotels, the conditions are fairly decent. If I have to, I prefer to stay at the hotel prior to the job, so once I finish I can head home.

Meals – most of the time, breakfast is included at the hotel. If I have to take dinner too, and we agreed the client is paying, I try to go to the hotel’s restaurant, as well, and charge it on the room, so they can send the entire bill to the client. For a business dinner, where I actually join the two parties and facilitate communication between them, I will charge the usual fee or as overtime.

Present your conditions to your clients upfront, and they will understand they talk to someone who's been through situations like these many times and has a lot of experience as an interpreter. Chances to get the job will increase even at higher rates.
Good luck.


 

Venkatesh Sundaram  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 15:39
German to English
Agree May 22, 2009

Luisa Ramos wrote:

Except in cases where the distance is 10 miles or less, I always charge for mileage according to the IRS tables. If I were hired to do it at a place which requires an overnight stay, of course, I would ask for room and board expenses. I am sure interpreters in your language pair do not abound thus it is more frequent for someone like you to be hired to go to a remote location, and due to that very fact the client should expect to cover those expenses.


I agree. When the distance exceeds a certain limit, interpreters ought to charge a reasonable amount to cover their transportation expenses.


 

conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:09
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Charge for it May 22, 2009

Your interpreting hourly fee is for your expertise and language services. If you have to incur costs to get to a location, that is outside the realm of your hourly fee, and yes you should be reimbursed. In fact, the client should pay it in advance if at all possible.

I used to do interpreting at remote locations where I had to fly there and stay for several days, and I always made sure that the client understood in advance and agreed (in writing) that the client would pay for the following:

IF FLYING:
-Roundtrip airfare (I made sure they paid for the airfare in advance)
-The cost of parking my car at the airport parking lot for the number of days I would have to park it while I was gone
-Mileage per IRS tax table (this year=$0.55/mile) to drive to and from the airport from my house (it was more than 20 miles from my house to the airport)
-The cost of a rental car for the number of days I would be there (either they had to get me a rental car or have someone drive me around) I made sure they paid for the rental car in advance.

IF DRIVING MORE THAN 20 MILES ROUND TRIP INSTEAD OF FLYING:
-Gas mileage per IRS tax table for the number of miles driven round trip
-Any parking costs (cost of parking in parking garages, etc.)
-Any hotel costs at a reasonably-priced hotel (If possible I would get them to pay for the hotel in advance.)

Me personally, if I had to drive more than an hour and a half to get there, I would get a hotel. Because as you said, your brain is not going to be fresh if you don't.

Also, if the distance is more than 100 miles and your client doesn't want to pay for a hotel, you should explain that your client should want you to be as fresh as possible for the interpreting so that you can do the best job possible. If the client can't understand this, they are probably not professional (and don't know anything about interpreting) and you might not want to work with them.

Good luck!



[Edited at 2009-05-22 15:10 GMT]


 

conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:09
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Mileage rate May 22, 2009

58.5 cents was for the last half of 2008. For 2009 it's 0.55 I believe.

[quote]Cezar GRINEA wrote:
Alexandra Goldburt wrote:
... "mileage" applies when you use your own car to travel. In USA, it is currently reimbursed at the rate of 58.5 cents per mile driven.


 

conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:09
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
The client should pay for all the 'extra' stuff beyond the work you are doing May 22, 2009

I also had an incident when a client wanted me to travel into Mexico to interpret. To work in Mexico, even for a few hours, you have to have a temporary work visa. Apparently they are not that hard to get, but it does cost some money. The agency balked at arranging or paying for the visa, so I ended up never doing it, because it would have been illegal to do so.

So... yeah anything that is beyond your actual work you are doing that costs money, the client should be paying for it.


 

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 06:09
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Thank you, Cezar May 22, 2009

I was geting ready to post a reply, but fortunately I saw yours first! Thanks for saving me all that typing. My views are identical to yours on every point.

Best,
Nancy


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The client is buying the whole service May 22, 2009

Okay, if they don't want to cover travel expenses, let them find someone able to do it across the street from the venue. Otherwise the interpreting service includes getting the interpreter there and back, as well as keeping them rested and fed.

To illustrate, I only do sworn interpreting locally, however there was a time when I presented seminars all over Brazil. One frequent venue was within toddler-walking distance from where I lived. Others required flying. Anyway, I simply had to be there before 8 AM. So I always flew in the day before.

This took place long before cell phones came to be. However being fully aware of my responsibility, I always took "luxury" (more expensive) radio-equipped cabs to the airport. One day we had intense rain, and a good part of the town was flooded. My cabbie called his colleagues on the radio and learned the only one way to the airport that remained above water. On the same day the owner of that training company had another seminar, in another town, his flight departing from the same airport. To save on expenses, he took a plain cab. Trapped by the floods, he missed his flight, couldn't reschedule it for before late on the next day, so he rode 400 km on that same cab (an old VW beetle) all night to get to his destination, to present his seminar on the next day.

If I'm hired as an interpreting escort & driver, I require a rented car from the client. They can choose whatever car they like, I'll drive it safely. If it breaks down, it's one call to the rental company to have another car sent immediately, and get that one towed away. No time wasted for foreign visitors, usually having a tight agenda.

This is to illustrate that they are hiring a service at a specific location, at a specific time. If anyone next door can provide it, they are lucky. Otherwise it's part of their job to get someone there who can do it, keep that person able to do it, and get him/her safely back to their point of origin.

Of course, I won't go gourmet-partying at their expense, but I'll have to keep myself adequately fed while I'm needed there.

[Edited at 2009-05-23 11:07 GMT]


 
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