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Have you ever charged less than agreed upon?
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 18:14
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Jul 22, 2009

I don't mean situations, where the client asked for a discount or when there were quality issues.

Have you ever charged less than originally agreed according to your own free decision?

You could have made a mistake when counting the words, the customer agreed to your rate but when the job was done you noticed the mistake and decided to lower the rate.
Or the customer thought it was a rush job and offered to pay extra, but then you noticed you need far less hours to complete the job.
Or afterwards you started to think that your original rate was not fair to the client.

If you have never had such a situation, can you think of a situation when you would lower the original rate agreed upon?

If in doubt: it is only 17 degrees Celsius outside, so its not the heat that put this question into my head.

Regards
Heinrich


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:14
English to German
+ ...
Lower efforts compared to initial estimate Jul 22, 2009

Good morning, Heinrich,
Indeed I have, on several occasions where the job turned out to take much less time than anticipated. Taking something off the invoice can be a good investment in a business relationship - make sure your client is aware of the reduction.

Of course, the relationship must be an established one, and/or one where I see significant future potential.

Best,
Ralf


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avsie  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:14
English to French
+ ...
Once, I recall Jul 22, 2009

The client sent me PDF files for translation. I quickly OCR'ed them and used that word count to make the quote, which the client accepted.

When I started the translation, I noticed I had made a couple of mistakes when OCR'ing the files, resulting in a higher word count than it should. The difference was maybe just 20 words or so, but since it was a brand new client (and it's all about investing in the relationship, as Ralf mentionned) who could potentially send me interesting work in the future, I invoiced them for the actual word count and mentionned the word count difference in the e-mail. The client appreciated the honesty and yes, they sent me more work after that

My quotes all bear a disclaimer in regards to the conditions at the time of quoting, which might differ from the actual conditions of the work at hand. This time it was in favour of the client, but there are other times where it worked in my favour, for example a nightmare proofreading job which turns into a re-translation...


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:14
Member
English to French
Of course Jul 22, 2009

When I quote an anticipated working time that is much higher than the actual working time I spend on the job.
I am not in here to get rich, but to be paid fairly for my time. Both ways.

This business is very much about trust, at the end of the day. Like my colleagues above, I believe that this kind of gesture is a business investment, scarce enough to be remembered.

46°C in Casablanca on the day before yesterday. Hottest day since I have been living here. Today the forecast is a mere 32°C.

Keep cool,
Philippe


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Nigel Greenwood  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:14
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, I did and will do again Jul 22, 2009

I had a very interesting project from my Mexican client, it was four lease contracts with the same conditions but for different properties and parties. So the changes were very few. I quoted for the full word count, taken as a straight Word count, (i.e. no discount for repetitions) the client accepted the quote and I got started, when I realised the 'error', which was very much in my favour, I contacted the client and we came to a reduction and theye were very happy, as you can image.

Nigel.


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:14
German to English
My quotes are not usually for a fixed price Jul 22, 2009

... unless the client specifically wants a fixed price. I list the number of lines there should be in the translation, or the number of hours of proofreading required, and how much each unit costs. I estimate the number of units generously, and the actual sum is usually the same as in the quote, or slightly less.

With agencies I work with frequently, I don't send a quote: we just agree by e-mail or they suggest a price per unit and I agree. In that case, if it turns out to be a lot less time then I let them know. Last week I told an agency that some proofreading would take three hours - but when I actually started I realised that the client had copy-pasted in some parts which I myself had actually translated the year before, so it took just one hour after all.

Apart from suffering from congenital honesty, the way I see it, if you do take unfair advantage of situations or let your integrity slip, it always comes back to haunt you one day! Many British MPs will agree with me on that one at the moment.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:14
German to English
"Fudge factor" in quotes to direct customers Jul 22, 2009

When quoting to direct customers I usually build in a small margin to account for potential extra effort, tables to be recreated, difficult graphics, etc. I also quote an hour's labor for every graphic that requires translation on the image. In many cases the total labor time is less than quoted. As a result, I frequently charge less than the estimate. Makes me look good and makes the customer happy.

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French Foodie  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:14
French to English
+ ...
Rush rate turned out not to be Jul 22, 2009

I once received a request for an urgent press release on a Friday for a return Monday. I agreed, but charged my weekend rush rate, to which the client agreed. But when I received the text and the PO, I noticed the delivery time was for Monday afternoon and that the text was very similar to work I had already done for them. Not repeats, but definitely made the job doable within a day. So because I was able to complete it on the Monday, I sent the translated file back with a note saying that I would be charging my regular rate. You can imagine how pleased the client was - a win-win situation, because they continue to send me work and have even upped the frequency, and I continue to charge either my regular or rush rates depending on the situation.

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Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Belize
Member
Dutch to German
+ ...
My way of making estimates Jul 22, 2009

I mostly tell my customer:
This would be the end price according to a my count. If the definite word count turns out to be higher, then it is my own stupid fault. If it is lower, I am honest enough to reduce the price.

Most of my clients appreciate this.


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Tomasz Poplawski  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
English to Polish
+ ...
High ground Jul 22, 2009

If you do not give a discount once you notice the job was less than expected, you are in a rather poor position to demand extra if the next job turns out to be more that meets the eye.
Which is another way of saying: if the client is unwilling to add extra money for jobs that were obviously misquoted, hiding behind "we already quoted our client," I don't think you have a moral obligation to offer a discount next time

[Edited at 2009-07-22 17:14 GMT]


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
German to English
+ ...
Two situations Jul 22, 2009

I have charged less in two situations.

1. When I quote hourly, I specify a "maximum" charge, usually with a little padding built in for unforeseen formatting or other problems. If my actual time spent on the job is less, I charge less. The flip side is that I have to be very careful, because if my time spent is more, I still only charge the maximum. That happened to me just this week, but the overage was only 15 minutes - I will adjust my estimates on these jobs in the future. Usually, the buffer is enough, and I can charge the exact amount or less.

2. On a couple of occasions, the background information provided has basically been a template for the new job - sometimes a client doesn't notice that last year's wording is very similar to this year's or that a text was based on another text. In that case I give a discount of 25% or charge by the hour for making the changes. This one happened to me just last week.

[Edited at 2009-07-22 15:42 GMT]


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Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:14
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
I charge less... Jul 22, 2009

if I realy work less than expected, e.g. due to revealed 100%-matches making 30% of the job.

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Stacy Smith
United States
Local time: 11:14
Japanese to English
+ ...
What to do when exceeding estimate? Jul 28, 2009

Thank you for all the insightful information.

On the flip side of things, what if the work you do ends up costing more than the estimate you had initially provided?

This particular situation involves a translation for an acquaintance who asked for a discount to begin with. In light of the recession/wanting the job I complied, but upon finishing the job the discounted rate comes closer to the original non-discounted rate I had quoted (and said I would charge less than).

I realize this is my mistake in underestimating word count, but at the same time I don't want to lose money on the deal if possible. Is there any generally accepted rule for how much it is considered ok to go over your initial estimate (i.e. 10%)? I anticipate working in the future with this client so don't want to ruffle any feathers, just be fair about the situation.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, thank you!


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
German to English
+ ...
Usually I absorb the difference Jul 28, 2009

Well, if my estimate is inaccurate and I end up working more, I still charge the quoted amount. That is because I clearly state my estimates to be a "maximum charge." I learned very quickly what I needed to do to produce accurate quotes! As I mentioned above, that happened to me recently, but fortunately I only ended up having an overage of 0.25 hr. or so.

If you issue an estimate, but stipulate that the invoice will be issued for the *actual* amount, whether that is +/- the estimate, then you would be within your rights to charge more if more work is required.

In your case, you may want to just tell the client you underestimated the word count and that the invoice will therefore be for X. They may understand, or they may want you to stick with your original estimate (which you should then do in view of the possibility for future work from the client).


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:14
German to English
Estimating is a skill and an art Jul 28, 2009

There are a number of factors to be taken into account when providing an estimate for a job. It's as much an art as it is a science, since many aspects of estimation are based upon experience and are not readily quantifiable. These factors include (in no particular order of importance):

1. Time budget for the job. The translator should have a good idea of his/her average daily output. You're usually safe overestimating the time required for a job. Although I'm quite capable of translating 3500+ words/day in a subject that's familiar, I would never think of taking a 3500 word job with an overnight deadline. I promise 2500 words/day, and apart from illness or catastrophes (natural or otherwise), I can hold to this.

1a. Formatting issues also add to the time required for a job. Although I use CAT tools and generally receive Office documents, tables, etc. frequently have to be massaged to provide an appearance that closely resembles the original document. This can easily add an hour or two to a job; more if the file had to be recreated from a PDF.

2. Research. Not infrequently a translator is called upon to work on documents describing cutting-edge technologies. Although the translator may have a high level of experience in the general area, the material in the text might require acquisition of new knowledge. This takes time. Ideally the translator should build time required for this knowledge acquisition into the billing, and in any case, the time factor should be built into the time estimate (promised deadline) for the job.

3. Graphics. Some customers are happy with bilingual legends (table) below a figure. Others want the graphics to resemble the original. If the client is happy with a source/target table, I don't charge extra. If the client wants serious graphics work, this is included in the estimate. I estimate 1 hour per graphic, whether it has two words or a hundred. I can handle most call-outs myself, but if need be, I call in a graphic artist. If the total hours for graphic work comes in less than my estimate, I reduce my final charge accordingly. A document with numerous figures will take longer than a document with none. The time estimate for the deadline must include the effort to translate material in graphics.

4. Word count. Make sure that your word counting utility also counts words in text boxes. In longer texts this can amount to several hundred words or more. This impacts both the estimate for the charge per word as well as the time estimate for the job.

I've been very fortunate over the years and have had perhaps a handful of jobs that exceeded my estimate. It would never occur to me to charge above my estimate, as I regard this as a trust issue between the translator and client. I have, however, asked for deadline extensions on a few occasions, mainly due to factors beyond my control.

The most important factor, and this is no secret, is for the translator to be honest with him/herself regarding personal abilities. Translators who take on jobs beyond their competence do a disservice to themselves as well as the profession.


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