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Charging for very small jobs
Thread poster: Katia Perry

Katia Perry  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:03
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Feb 17, 2009

I have a good client, that sends me good jobs regularly, but sometimes it (it´s an agency!) sends me very small jobs to verify. When this happens I feel very unconfortable in charging for the job. On the other hand, I´m not sure if it will be considered as an unprofessional behaviour doing it for free.
What do you usually do? Do you charge for everything?


Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:03
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
What do you mean by "verify" exactly? Feb 17, 2009

How much work does it involve?


KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:03
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Use your own judgement Feb 17, 2009

I charge for "everything" in that I have an established, well-known minimum charge that applies any time I say it does. But whether I apply it to a particular case is a matter of personal judgment and whether I consider the transaction to be "balanced" in the relationship with the client. If a PM calls me up for some proofreading advice, and last week his help with a nasty Trados project literally saved me hours of grief, I won't dream of charging him for the assistance unless he really insists and even then I might not. If another client regularly pesters me with urgent one-sentence translations when I am under pressure from other projects, I will painstakingly charge each sentence at a healthy minimum rate to encourage organization and consolidation of effort.


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Perfectly OK Feb 17, 2009

This is an unregulated market, so each one of us does as he/she pleases and considers better for his/her business. So it's perfectly fine if you do bits and pieces for free if it helps your relationship with the customers.

BTW: We do several freebies a week for our regular customers.


Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:03
English to French
+ ...
Proportions Feb 17, 2009

If it is a good client and the small translations are really small (one sentence or such), I don't charge. The client is my venerated king and I am always there to please him.

Then as Kevin says, use your own judgement. If it is frequent, you might contemplate a small fee for, say, three months of that kind of availability.

Then of course the client has to continue bringing you large jobs...


Liv Fridtjofsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:03
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Charging for very small jobs Feb 17, 2009

Even minor jobs means I have to finish what I am doing, close all documents, TM, create new folders etc.

I think it is fair to ask a minimum of 15 € for a minor job. It all depends on the relationship to the client.

I do freebies for regular clients, but when a client asks me to do a minor job for 0.78 € I always reply that my minimum is 15 €.


Philip Watterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:03
French to English
+ ...
Keeping good customer relations Feb 17, 2009

Hi Katia,

I understand your dilemma.

Sometimes I charge a minimum fee for very small jobs.

However, I also think that giving a client a 'freebie' every now and again can be a nice way of maintaining a good relationship. They feel happy, it took you - what? - ten minutes... but if it improves your image and reputation with them, a 'gift' of 10 free minutes of your time is well worth. It could be the difference that makes them think of you first, rather than the thousands of other providers out there.

The longer I work in this business, the more I realie the importance of the human relationships we have with our agencies and their staff, project managers etc;

Phil W


Judy Jenner
United States
Local time: 04:03
English to German
+ ...
Stick to minimum charge (with exceptions) Feb 17, 2009

This is a good question. As we work exclusively with direct clients, we don' have a bunch of different PMs asking us to translate one line. We do, however, have many regular clients for which we do pretty much all their translation. We have occassionally thrown in some freebies (a few lines here or there), but pretty much we charge by the word. Our minimum fee is $50. However, with regular clients, we won't hit them with the minimum fee if they only want a few lines in ongoing projects and just charge that by the word in those cases.

It's always a fine line, but in a nutshell: as a frequent buyer of other services, I certainly don't expect the service provider to work for free. However, I do appreciate if a service provider is really accomodating. We try to do the same thing and think of ourselves as customers. In our experience, clients have very much expected a minimum charge and it was never a surprise to anyone.

My advice is to, generally, charge for your services at regular rates and give occassional (very small) freebies to your best repeat customers. And you should certainly not feel bad for charging -- after all, you are doing work and it should be paid.icon_smile.gif


Local time: 06:03
Spanish to English
Judgment and good relations Feb 17, 2009

The first time I had to translate a condolence message for a direct client, I felt uncomfortable about the idea of making money on another's misery. This led to an informal policy of not charging for the translation of such messages for direct clients, and was extended to numerous short letters to the Mayo Clinic regarding hopitalization of treatment for the stepson of a client. All work appears on the invoice, but with the notatio "N/C" or N/F" as appropriate.
I also had an occasion to do a small "fix up" for a good outsourcer, for a new client of hers (the original translation was from another agency, and quite poorly done). It was the Friday before Mother's Day, so I told her not to bother with a PO, it was her Mother's Day gift. The outsourcer repeated this treatment with the end client, and now both the outsourcer and I have more work.
Giving the rare or occasional freebie is a very economic marketing tool, and putting it on the bill, albeit without a charge, reinforces that value was actually given.


Krys Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:03
Member (2003)
Polish to English
+ ...
sometimes I pass on a RAK (random act of kindness) Feb 17, 2009

I've had RAKs from various places, such as lost screws replaced in glasses, fallen-off keys put back into my laptop keyboard, extra goods placed into a bag of purchases and been told with a smile that there is no charge involved. I've even had a lawyer waive costs for travel! In most cases except the last, the sum involved was trivial and I fully expected to pay. Being the recipient of such a gesture gives me a warm fuzzy feel and restores some of my faith in human nature. So I often do likewise in my business and don't charge for something that takes me a few minutes. I've also waived my minimum fee for a very good client agency, from which I get a lot of work and by which I'm treated as a human being, and just charge for actual time/words required. I do believe in passing on good karma!


James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:03
Russian to English
+ ...
I usually charge a minimum, but . . . Feb 17, 2009

I figure if the outsourcer is going to charge, so should I. But I also practice the "random acts of kindness" principle. For example, I once had a translation request from a direct client who was corresponding with someone in Bulgaria on a regular basis and was interested in learning some Bulgarian. The project was a short e-mail in inconsistently Romanized Bulgarian. I did the translation, coupling each English sentence with the Bulgarian original. Didn't charge a penny.


Mike (de Oliveira) Brady  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2008)
Portuguese to English
You could put it on account Feb 17, 2009

I have several clients who sometimes send email communications to translate, and occasional bigger jobs.

Unless it is very short, I charge, but don't necessarily invoice them. I tell them the amount, usually based on a pre-agreed word rate, and say I'll add it their account for future payment when the sum is larger. It cuts down on the workload of processing payments on both sides, and transfer costs, if those apply. I don't have a minimum job rate though.

There's a possibility that my clients with infrequent translation needs (ie not agencies) remember to come back to me because they have an open account.


Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bill with 100% discount Feb 17, 2009

While I very much agree with the principle of RAK and SAK (Selective) where appropriate, my sec always points out that the client probably doesn't even notice/appreciate these. So on a couple of occasions when we have thought it politic not to charge, but felt we were being put upon, we have sent out a bill with normal pricing for the service (usually a minimum charge in our case), with a 100% discount applied.


Zoe Adams Green  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't always charge Feb 17, 2009

If it's a very small job for a good customer, I don't always charge them. This is because it seems unfair to charge my minimum rate for, say, three words when the customer in question sends me large projects on a regular basis and because in some cases it can cost more for my secretary to invoice the job than the value of the job itself, so I do it as a freebie.

For new or infrequent customers, I always apply the minimum charge, no matter how small the job.


Maartje Giebels  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:03
English to Dutch
+ ...
I almost always charge Feb 17, 2009

I have a couple of regular costumers (agencies) that send me big and small projects. I invoice them every 14 days or every month and then I just total up all the words. I don't charge a minimum fee though, so I figure it's quite reasonable.
Of course, if they ask me to translate a loose sentence which was forgotten somewhere, or something like that, I don't charge them.


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