When do you charge a flat rate?
Thread poster: Kathrin Berger

Kathrin Berger  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 10:39
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Sep 12, 2009

Hello everyone,

I am fairly new to this platform and I am very impressed by the general helpfulness of the members here and the wealth of information!

I have recently started my own translation business and so far things are progressing slowly, but since that's what I expected I am not too worried at this stage

I have recently managed to land a contract with a company providing translations on an ongoing basis. The files I receive vary in length and as I would like to get paid per translation rather than on a monthly invoicing basis I wonder if you could give me some advice on how you would handle the following:

The standard rate we agreed on for translations from English into German is EUR 0.08 but I reserved the right to charge an hourly rate for shorter text. Some of the files I get offered are only 70 words long so would barely amount to anything on the per word rate, so obviously this would be charged differently. What do you think is a reasonable "cut-off word count" below which I can charge hourly?

As I am still quite new to freelance translations I am very grateful for any suggestions you might have how to handle this....

Thanks heaps and kind regards,

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-09-12 08:30 GMT]

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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:39
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Minimum fee Sep 12, 2009

Hello Kathrin,

I guess you are talking about a minimum fee rather than a flat rate.

General consensus in previous forum threads on the same topic often appears to be that the minimum fee should equal the hourly rate which you, in principle, expect to earn.

You should know, or be able to determine, how many words you can translate, on average, in an hour. If it is, for example, 300, then your minimum fee will be for 300 words.

Hope this helps a little in determining your charges.


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irina savescu  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:39
English to Romanian
Consider a monthly invoice Sep 12, 2009

Charging a minimum fee equal to one hour's work is a great idea.
You could also consider sending them only one invoice at the end of the month. This works pretty well if:
a. the agency is trustworthy (ie. pays in time and in full)
b. the final amount is not too large
How much is too much is really up to you to decide, but writing twenty invoices, each one for 5 euros seems to be a bit time-wasting.

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Local time: 23:39
English to German
+ ...
Several things to think of Sep 12, 2009

irina savescu wrote:

... but writing twenty invoices, each one for 5 euros seems to be a bit time-wasting.

And don't forget the possible fees your or your client's bank is charging for money transfer! And that's even worse if you use PayPal or any similar account.

I've settled on monthly invoices after having tested my clients patience and willingness to pay with weekly or end-of-project invoices.

Curiously those monthly invoices are paid almost instantly whereas other (one-time) clients seem to be testing *my* patience by not paying project-based invoices.

And you could start with weekly rather than daily or project-based invoices - that's kind of a compromise as you said in your first posting that you'd rather not settle on monthly terms.

Good luck and congratulations on the job

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:39
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Half an hour Sep 12, 2009

That's more or less the time I figure it takes to handle all the tasks typically associated with little jobs like this, including the effort and expense of my bookkeeper dealing with it too. We have a few clients who will send a single sentence request and follow it up with a number of questions that often end up as an impromptu English lesson. So generally I think it's justified to charge a half hour minimum fee for such little job. Many colleagues make it an hour minimum (as Astrid suggests). I make some exceptions to this rule, but those are for clients that I consider "family" who also don't overdo it.

If you get caught up doing too much nonsense of this sort you'll find that the larger jobs won't get done or will take much longer, because you are being distracted by such gnat projects. The only way to avoid hurting your business or feeling resentful about such jobs in the long run is to ensure that you are so well compensated for them that you actually look forward to them and prefer to chew such crumbs rather than enjoy a real meal. In that respect a two hour minimum charge would be more appropriate.

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Tjasa Kuerpick  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:39
Member (2006)
Slovenian to German
+ ...
Those "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie"-jobs Sep 12, 2009

It all depends on for whom you are doing those small jobs which may vary from jobs containing 3 words up to one sentence or more.

If this is a client who orders on regular basis, and needs here some small jobs done, it would be quite unfair to charge him a minimal fee of let us say 25 Euro (some others charge even 45 EUR). If they tell you that they will have more such tiny jobs, its best to invoice them at the end of month depending on the quantity of words - either standard rate per word or if the amount is reaching a certain amount (e.g. 250 to 500 words) you could charge a minimum fee (the fee you would usually charge for an hour work).

A more serious question is, what if you get a new client, and he needs a small job done. To charge him nothing at all would not be professional, as you never know, may be he will come up with a more serious job in a month or two. Here I would charge a minimum fee and tell him if he comes back with a new order, those words of his first small order will be included in his larger order. Usually they can pretty well predict, whether they are going to need your service for your language combination or not. If he does not come up with a new order you have to tell him, that you will charge him a minimum fee.

BUT there are still some weird ones, who order small jobs and then for whatever reason never pay the minimum fee or need extremely long, as the bank fees are higher than the amount of the job. Therefore do not be too generous. It never pays off. Remember you want to live from your services as a professional. You may be sure that serious clients come back to you again and again, if you have delivered good work and on time, and that’s what is most important, because you may later appeal on their feeling of fairness (if he needs several months to pay this small fee) that you have done your job as he requested.

Second if your service will keep running good you will have to pay your bookkeeper. The more invoices with small amounts you are issuing the more will the bookkeeper charge you.

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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:39
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Besides my minimum fee Sep 12, 2009

Also in case of some typical documents when I know in advance how much work they are going to require.


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When do you charge a flat rate?

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