Negotiating a new rate with an established Japanese client
Thread poster: Kyrael

United States
Local time: 19:41
Japanese to English
Dec 20, 2017

This client was the first to offer me J->E translation work when I was beginning my translation career a year and a half ago. As I was just starting out, I accepted a low per-character rate from them. However, since then, I've been able to pick up other repeat clients who offer me much more reasonable rates, so I'm finding it harder and harder to carve out the time to work on this client's work for their low rate when other higher-paying clients need work as well.

I'd love to continue doing work for this client, as I enjoy the content of the projects they send me and they have consistently provided me with work for over a year, but I am reaching a point where I either need to negotiate a higher rate with them or stop doing their work altogether.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to phrase my request for a higher rate? I communicate with them exclusively in Japanese, but I am concerned about the cultural elements of asking for a raise and of phrasing my request poorly. Any suggestions or insight would be hugely appreciated!


conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:41
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Totally reasonable Dec 20, 2017

It is very true that if you have a client who is paying you much less than other clients, and you have plenty of work at better rates, that client's work is going to become your last priority. It's pretty much inevitable.

It is also true that any time you raise a rate, you have to accept in advance that the client may stop giving you work. They might not, but especially if the rate is significantly higher than before, it is more likely. So before you do that, make sure you accept this risk in advance. It's also possible they will make a counter-offer for a compromise that is less than what you're asking but better than before.

But if you have plenty of work at higher rates, and are OK with losing this client if necessary, then go for it.

Nobody should be working for really bad rates anyway. Solidarity.

[Edited at 2017-12-20 01:45 GMT]


Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:41
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Do it civilly and calmly and you'll be fine Dec 20, 2017

Kyrael wrote:
I am reaching a point where I either need to negotiate a higher rate with them or stop doing their work altogether.

This is business. It happens. No special wording is required. There is no particular cultural issue. The agency is no doubt aware that it is paying you at rates below those paid by some other agencies, or maybe most agencies. It may be that its entire business model relies on people like yourselves not doing anything to resolve the situation and continuing to work with them.

The key is simply to be polite. Lots of "zannen-nagara", references to responsibilities to other clients, and so on. (Personally, I write in English to my clients, and they write back in Japanese.)

Whenever you have two competing projects, and one is at a rate that is just far too low, politely point out to the problem client that the rate is X% below the rate for the competing project, and therefore you will accept the competing project instead.

If you simply don't want any jobs, politely but firmly decline all projects while commenting that you find the rate too low. They may try and put pressure on you through the loyalty angle, by emphasizing that they have worked with you for a long time etc. If you persist they will eventually stop asking (by far the most likely outcome) or offer a slightly higher rate.

In my experience, Japanese agencies are pretty inflexible when it comes to accepting even small price hikes. And I suspect that the mismatch between you and them is quite large.



Jaeun Park  Identity Verified
South Korea
Local time: 09:41
Member (2017)
English to Japanese
+ ...
It's natural. Dec 30, 2017

It's natural that you want higher rates.

So I suggest that you calculate the amount of revenue and time first between your agencies.

If the high rate agencies offer you enough work, you can try negotiation with a low rate agency.
You should say straight that you already receive high rates with other agencies, and you can propose higher rates or stop business with them.

However, if the low rate agency is still an important client for you, you should seek out more desired agencies in my opinion.

No matter what the results may be, Kyrael, Hope all is well with you.


Allyson Larimer  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:41
Member (2018)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Send a blanket notice Jan 3, 2018

I am not an agent, but one of the freelancers I work with sent a notice at the beginning of the year stating that she would be raising her rates for the first time in X number of years due to cost of living increases. The way she did this notice made it seem like she wasn't just raising her rates for me, but for everyone she worked with. I don't know if agencies will accept this, but I found it more palatable.


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