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Do you charge a minimum fee to major clients for individual jobs?
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:06
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Jun 21, 2008

I know there have been plenty of discussions previously about minimum fees. However, I can never decide whether or not to charge a minimum fee to my largest client, who places orders with me regularly.

The reason for not charging a minimum fee would be the total annual turnover that I receive from the client.

However, the reason for nevertheless charging a minimum fee would be the fact that the jobs are all for different end clients of the client, as well as the fact that it looks silly writing invoices that are too small.

I have to send a separate invoice for each individual job, because the client needs different invoices for the different end client files.

Up to now, in view of the client's total turnover I have charged a very small minimum fee for very small jobs, which are, however, not small enough to be done without charge. Nevertheless, as we all know, these small jobs create plenty of extra administrative work, etc. Also, I am sure that the client must have a minimum fee for that job for their end client.

I am wondering if I should starting charging even this client a "professional level" minimum fee.

Astrid

[Edited at 2008-06-21 20:58]


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Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 18:06
Member (2006)
Swedish to English
+ ...
My answer is no. Jun 21, 2008

For what it is worth, I no longer do minimum charges. Now that everything is computerised and I use a billing company it is no problem with extra paperwork.

What I do is charge a weekly word total and send invoices out on Fridays, not necessarily after each project. This way a minimum charge is not really relevant.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:06
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting Jun 21, 2008

Hi Paul,

It would never have occurred to me to use a billing company (although I know of the system, since most dentists around here use one). What does the billing company do for you exactly? Do you simply notify them of word counts for each customer on a Friday?

Astrid


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Constance Mannshardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:06
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I do, but Jun 21, 2008

only when my clients charges his end client, too. I don't mind writing an invoice, since my minimum fee is worth taking time writing an invoice.
Sometimes I just think that I could be "friendly" and would not charge translating a single sentence or a few words, but when I ask my client and he tells me he's going to charge his end client, I charge him.


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:06
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Loyalty etc. Jun 22, 2008

SERVICES Sector:

Every time I call my accountant, he charges me (even for a small thing such as "please fax me my tax return from 2002")

Every time I call the plumber and he comes over, he charges me (even if it's just for a very small repair).

Every time I call a laywer, he charges me (even for the phone call, if it lasts more than 10 minutes).

Every time I call any professional I work with, they charge me.

Every time I call Sears to fix the air-condition, they remind me that my free-service agreement has expired and they charge me lots of money just to send someone to my house.

Every time the end-client sends a project to your client, they pay your client good money (usually the minimum charge for agencies is from $100 to $150 -- the translator usually gets 20-30% of it -- and in general, most agencies charge the end-client from 100% to 250% more than they pay the translator, to cover expenses and very nice offices). Good for them! They are in the business of making money (they are not linguists). Also, they are necessary for the translation process and we need them alive and well. I was always on the side of good agencies (good agencies are the ones who pay you).

If you are out of your office your client will call someone else to do the small project, they will pay him. So, why shouldn't you get paid? Or maybe the phrase "Thank you Astrid, you' re a wonderful person" is good enough. Is it?

It's called "the market". It's called "doing business".

You have probably decided to participate only in one aspect of the market ("work") and to partially participate in the other aspect ("payment").

Your client gives you lots of work. Tomorrow, they will find a translator two cents cheaper and a little faster and they will drop you. There is no "loyalty" in this business.

Your posting though, as well as many other postings here, present a great opportunity for those who can actually see what's going on: Let's start an agency: End-clients who are paying lucrative sums of money to translate their documents (usually $0.35 per word for the entire process) and some of the cheapest workers in the services sector. Translators and editors are cheap, and DTP offices are in Thailand and they charge $10 per hour.
Haven't you ever wondered WHY so many agencies lately? They use to be only a few and now they' re thousands! (even if the "agency" is only two or three 25 year old people in an attic).

I have been 15 years in this business (internationally), I work with 270 agencies (more or less) and I also do project management for direct clients (that's how I know the 100-200% profit margins of agencies). And I'm telling you: this is not a business for "freebie" strategies. There's absolutely no "loyalty" and nobody remebers the favours you did for them. Nobody. The minute they find someone cheaper with acceptable quality ("he will learn from reference material and translation memories") they'll drop you and they will never tell you ("you are our favourite linguist but lately we don't have any projects for your language"). Whatever.

Do your job very well, as best as you can and then even better, but get paid. Help the good agencies in their efforts to produce a great product for their client, and get paid for it. Unless it's just a hobby.


PS.
(Exceptions are really small favors, I don't charge for them, as long as they are not over once per week -- but not the actual half an hour to one hour jobs for which everyone in the process must be paid).

PS2.
Recently, I literally saved a major agency from humiliation: they were about to send to their client (a government agency) a poster with a message that was mistranslated and contained offensive expressions. I corrected it and they were grateful, and I charged them, of course. The bad translation was done by a side-linguist they used, who did it as a "favour"... probably to get the client... they got suspicious and they sent me the translation to double check it, since serious agencies always get suspicious with very low prices or "freebies".
In the Developed Countries, professional agencies are aware that serious professionals demand serious compensation, and that the "freebies" and the "cheap freelancers" are just doing it as a hobby, until something better comes along soon. It's not a secret. We all know it.



[Edited at 2008-06-22 02:43]


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Jack Qin  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:06
English to Chinese
+ ...
Eleftherios, what you said makes sense Jun 22, 2008

Business is business. As the proverb goes, there is no free lunch in the world. Thus, we definetely shall get paid for what we have done. Because we are freelancers, we have to support our family, to pay for our pension and medical insurance, etc. NO one will do that for us, but to do it by our own.

Jack



Eleftherios Kritikakis wrote:

SERVICES Sector:

Every time I call my accountant, he charges me (even for a small thing such as "please fax me my tax return from 2002")

Every time I call the plumber and he comes over, he charges me (even if it's just for a very small repair).

Every time I call a laywer, he charges me (even for the phone call, if it lasts more than 10 minutes).

Every time I call any professional I work with, they charge me.

Every time I call Sears to fix the air-condition, they remind me that my free-service agreement has expired and they charge me lots of money just to send someone to my house.

Every time the end-client sends a project to your client, they pay your client good money (usually the minimum charge for agencies is from $100 to $150 -- the translator usually gets 20-30% of it -- and in general, most agencies charge the end-client from 100% to 250% more than they pay the translator, to cover expenses and very nice offices). Good for them! They are in the business of making money (they are not linguists). Also, they are necessary for the translation process and we need them alive and well. I was always on the side of good agencies (good agencies are the ones who pay you).

If you are out of your office your client will call someone else to do the small project, they will pay him. So, why shouldn't you get paid? Or maybe the phrase "Thank you Astrid, you' re a wonderful person" is good enough. Is it?

It's called "the market". It's called "doing business".

You have probably decided to participate only in one aspect of the market ("work") and to partially participate in the other aspect ("payment").

Your client gives you lots of work. Tomorrow, they will find a translator two cents cheaper and a little faster and they will drop you. There is no "loyalty" in this business.

Your posting though, as well as many other postings here, present a great opportunity for those who can actually see what's going on: Let's start an agency: End-clients who are paying lucrative sums of money to translate their documents (usually $0.35 per word for the entire process) and some of the cheapest workers in the services sector. Translators and editors are cheap, and DTP offices are in Thailand and they charge $10 per hour.
Haven't you ever wondered WHY so many agencies lately? They use to be only a few and now they' re thousands! (even if the "agency" is only two or three 25 year old people in an attic).

I have been 15 years in this business (internationally), I work with 270 agencies (more or less) and I also do project management for direct clients (that's how I know the 100-200% profit margins of agencies). And I'm telling you: this is not a business for "freebie" strategies. There's absolutely no "loyalty" and nobody remebers the favours you did for them. Nobody. The minute they find someone cheaper with acceptable quality ("he will learn from reference material and translation memories") they'll drop you and they will never tell you ("you are our favourite linguist but lately we don't have any projects for your language"). Whatever.

Do your job very well, as best as you can and then even better, but get paid. Help the good agencies in their efforts to produce a great product for their client, and get paid for it. Unless it's just a hobby.


PS.
(Exceptions are really small favors, I don't charge for them, as long as they are not over once per week -- but not the actual half an hour to one hour jobs for which everyone in the process must be paid).

PS2.
Recently, I literally saved a major agency from humiliation: they were about to send to their client (a government agency) a poster with a message that was mistranslated and contained offensive expressions. I corrected it and they were grateful, and I charged them, of course. The bad translation was done by a side-linguist they used, who did it as a "favour"... probably to get the client... they got suspicious and they sent me the translation to double check it, since serious agencies always get suspicious with very low prices or "freebies".
In the Developed Countries, professional agencies are aware that serious professionals demand serious compensation, and that the "freebies" and the "cheap freelancers" are just doing it as a hobby, until something better comes along soon. It's not a secret. We all know it.



[Edited at 2008-06-22 02:43]


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Catherine Brix
Local time: 18:06
Swedish to English
+ ...
YES! Jun 22, 2008

Thank you Eleftherios -

"It's called the market. It's called doing business."

From a professional perspective, these are words to live by people.


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Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 18:06
Member (2006)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Hi Astrid Jun 22, 2008

Well, with regard to your question. I do make out the invoices as usual, but instead of sending them out to customers directly, I send them to the billing company on Fridays(or more commonly I just enter the information into the internet based server - they provide all the instructions and software).

Later that day or the next day, I get 95% of the invoice. The billing company keeps 5% and then assumes all responsibility for collecting payment. You don't have to think about it again.

Of course, there is no obligation to send all of your invoices to the billing company. If you have a client you have trusted for long time and it is a very large bill making 5% a very large amount, then by all means you can bill your client directly. You can choose which invoices to send to the billing company as you wish.

With such a set up, I find that it is not necessary for me to charge minimum fees. Virtually every project I do is far larger than what would qualify for my old minimum fee anyway.

That said, I cannot fault those who do want to charge minimums for all the reasons listed in this thread. Lots of other businesses do it and it makes perfect sense generally. I only find in my own particular instance it is not necessary.

[Edited at 2008-06-22 10:05]


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:06
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the explanation about the billing company Jun 22, 2008

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the detailed explanation about how the billing company works. It seems to be something worth thinking about if they take over the risk for the 5%, along with all the trouble of sending reminders. I might look into the matter more closely. It could be worthwhile to be doing a new translation in the time that it would otherwise take to send out a batch of reminders.

Astrid


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jackiekiefer
German to English
+ ...
Which billing company do you use? Jun 22, 2008

Hi Paul

I have never heard of these billing companies before. Can you tell me which one you use? Is it a Swedish company? I wonder if there are any companies that operate internationally.

Jackie


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Jun 22, 2008

Bookkeeping and billing take the same amount of time for a short job as for a long job. Therefore, without a minimum fee, short jobs would not be very profitable on a per-hour basis. Frankly it's not worth my time to take a bunch of tiny $9 or $20 projects.

Among other benefits, the minimum fee encourages clients to batch their short jobs together rather than sending me a five 20-word documents during the course of a week, each to be invoiced separately.

[Edited at 2008-06-22 16:12]


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:06
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
For a regular client: NO Jun 22, 2008

Hi,

I have a regular client who sends me several small jobs every month and I have never charged a minimum fees because his monthly bill is quite big.

But then I have other clients who need just a few words here and there... I charge them a minimum fees (and my minimum fees is x Euros up to (x/ my normal per word charge for that language combination and type of document) Words.

I hope this is of some help.

Best regards,

Ritu


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:06
English to Arabic
+ ...
Exeptional cases Jun 22, 2008

I do usually charge my minimum fee to any client, major or not.
But there are exceptional cases, such as one I had last week: The client sent me a small 300-word job, then 5 days later sent me a 200-word job which was quite obviously for the same client (same topic, plenty of Trados repetitions). They did issue a separate work order for the second job, but when I invoiced them I decided to send a single invoice, charging them for the TOTAL word count. I felt it was only fair enough.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:06
French to English
Bundle 'em up Jun 22, 2008

I've got a major-ish direct client who earlier this year developed the habit of sending me a paragraph here and a couple of paras there. Endorsements to insurance policies, usually needed fairly sharpish, and also fairly repetitive stuff.

After pondering the issue for a day, I suggested that I simply keep a log (Excel s/sheet) of these jobs and then bill them every now and again when it becomes worthwhile - around the €200 mark or thereabouts.

Not sure if that arrangement is something you could use or adapt....?


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:06
French to English
+ ...
Taking advantage? Jun 22, 2008

Hi Astrid,

I do usually charge a minimum fee, but I had one client, an agency, that I had historically not charged a minimum fee to. As a result I often ended up with lots of small, fiddly jobs, quite interesting but time-consuming nevertheless. When I increased my rates earlier this year, I notified them that I would henceforth be charging a minimum fee to bring them in line with my other clients. Interestingly enough, they haven't sent me any of those small jobs since then and I feel I'm much more productive as a result. It's all very well doing favours to encourage loyalty, but in actual fact I fear we're being taken advantage of....

Claire


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