Different rates for different clients?
Thread poster: Manuel Rodriguez

Manuel Rodriguez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 06:37
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Aug 30, 2011

Hello all,

The subject of rates has been treated ad nauseam, I know, but still I could use a bit of advice in this area.

I am a translator with 7 years' experience and, until very recently, I had been charging 5 cents (USD) for my services, which is low according to the rate statistics in Proz and other sites. I picked this rate back when I was just starting out, and got a few clients as a result of being cheap. Lately, however, the job offers have become few and far between, which prompted me to reconsider my marketing strategies. I started reading a lot about the business here and there, and the one advice that seems to stand out above all others is: don't devalue your work!

So I did a bit of research and found that the commonest rate for my language pair in my country was 8-9 cents per source word (really?!). So after much consideration I decided to settle for 8 cents, and have started sending out résumés with this new figure. Today, however, I got a reply from an agency saying that my rates were "rather high", and should consider lowering them to 4 cents! This agency has good reviews, is listed as offering great rates, and even made it to the hall of fame.

What am I missing? Do translators usually have separate rates for agencies and direct clients, reserving higher prices for the latter? Are there agencies willing to pay what I am asking?

Thank you in advance for all your help!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Of course! Aug 30, 2011

Manuel Rodriguez wrote:


Do translators usually have separate rates for agencies and direct clients, reserving higher prices for the latter?



Think of a manufacturer that would offer the same prices to private clients and dealers (that in our case would be agencies). I guess he would go bankrupt within a month...

In my opinion, this is a business rule number one: never use same prices for direct customers and agencies.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Paula Oriani  Identity Verified

English to French
+ ...
Different rates? Absolutely Aug 30, 2011

Hi Manuel,

Usually you will charge a lower rate it you work through an Agency. I believe that the rates in ProZ's table are average rates for agencies, thus you must charge higher rates if you work for the end customer.

Some agancies will always try to squeeze you. It is up to you to say no ...(cool smiley)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
How about increasing in stages? Aug 30, 2011

Hello Manuel,

I have no idea about rates in your country but $0.05 certainly sounds on the low side.

Manuel Rodriguez wrote:
I got a reply from an agency saying that my rates were "rather high", and should consider lowering them to 4 cents! This agency has good reviews, is listed as offering great rates, and even made it to the hall of fame.
.

Now you know how they managed to get so big and successful. They offer a good deal to their clients, perhaps 25% lower than smaller, specialist agencies, and they pay their translators 50% less. This only works because so many translators are willing (or desperate enough) to accept ridiculously low rates.

Do translators usually have separate rates for agencies and direct clients, reserving higher prices for the latter?


Most definitely. The agency is supposed to take an active part in the translation process. They should be checking the text before we see it to make sure it's legible etc, then they should liaise with the client regarding terminology and other queries. Finally, they should perform any DTP work not taken on by the translator and the vital final "2nd pair of eyes" proofreading - to catch those "form" instead of "from" typos that are so difficult to spot.

Those are just some of their responsibilities. Of course, some agencies seem to think they are just matchmakers passing bits of paper between translator and client, but the better ones do add value to our work. If there is no agency involved, then we have to do these jobs or employ someone else to do them. Obviously, that gets passed on to the client.

Are there agencies willing to pay what I am asking?


All I can say is that I charge exactly the rate that is considered "normal" by ProZ.com for my pair and country of residence, and I find enough takers to fill my hours. I also have contact from time to time from agencies who want 50% reductions, want it yesterday, want reductions for anything that looks remotely like a match, want to pay at 90 days (if their client has paid them), etc - they can fill someone else's time.

Still, you're trying to almost double your tariff, and that's quite some leap. It may be worth adopting a strategy of staged increases: e.g. an immediate absolute minimum of 6 cents for all new agencies (trying for 7 but being ready to negotiate); when you have a reasonable amount of work at 6c, increase your absolute minimum for new clients to 7 cents. When you have some work at 7 cents then you will have to decide whether to drop 5c clients, continue to offer them lower rates or persuade them to accept an increase.

By staging the increases in this way you don't risk losing all your current business - just the lowest payers. Of course, it's up to you to decide when to stop - some translators in niche markets never do!

Sheila


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:37
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Agencies do some of the work for you Aug 30, 2011

Good agencies negotiate with clients, provide DTP services and find another translator when you are sick or on holiday. When you work for direct clients, you have to do a lot of these things yourself.

So it is quite natural that your rates vary, depending on the types of client you work for.

You might also charge different rates for different types of jobs, although agencies sometimes reckon that if you do many different jobs for them, the rate evens out. Others charge the end clients different rates, and negotiate varying rates according to the difficulty of the job.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:37
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Are you marketing to companies outside Mexico? Aug 30, 2011

I just got two offers for S>E work today. One for .15 a word (an agency) and one for .18 a word (a direct client), so it is possible.

As I keep saying, .08 a word was the rate 18 years ago!


[Edited at 2011-08-30 23:16 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:37
English to German
+ ...
How about: Different rates for different jobs. Aug 31, 2011

I always have different rates for the same agency, depending on the subject matter, difficulty or the amount of research involved.

In regard to the price difference between agencies and direct clients: Never, ever assume that you automatically "make more money" with direct clients. This is naive. The kind of work is simply different and you have to work twice as much - you need to hire a proofreader, coordinate the entire communication, take care of the entire project management - plus you take on total responsibility in terms of quality because your work will go directly to the printing press, plus, you take the financial risk, i.e., being obliged to pay your proofreader, even if your direct client might stiff you.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Manuel Rodriguez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 06:37
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Very good points all Aug 31, 2011

Thank you all for the helpful comments!

If the Proz table shows the average rate for agencies, then what I'm asking shouldn't be unreasonable. My impression from this morning's e-mail was that my rate of 8 cents should be reserved for direct clients, but after reading your comments and doing a little digging on the web, I find that this is not true. But now I'm wondering why agencies, or rather the people who run them, do this, i.e. haggle one to death. Is it ignorance, lack of confidence or just plain greed? Maybe I'm still too green, but I just don't see why anyone would want to make more (or less) than what is reasonable.

Sheila: I did consider increasing my rate in stages. In fact, I had set it to 7 cents about two weeks ago. My decision to go one more step was the thought of having priced myself so cheaply for so long and wanting to be a part of the community of self-respected translators. In any case, I have a minimum rate (see my profile) and am willing to accommodate to the new client's needs. Of course, if my new marketing strategy fails, then I will re-consider going in stages, as you suggest.

Jeff: Wow, that's a big eye-opener! I would never have thought that agencies were willing to go that far. I can just imagine the poor end-client having to pay .30 cents per source word for a translation. Then again, the project must be a very difficult one if the agency priced it that way.

I wouldn't start charging .15, because that is too big a leap for me. But, who knows, maybe one day I will get there, in stages.

Again, thanks everyone!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:37
English to German
+ ...
The poor direct client Aug 31, 2011

Manuel Rodriguez wrote: Wow, that's a big eye-opener! I would never have thought that agencies were willing to go that far. I can just imagine the poor end-client having to pay .30 cents per source word for a translation. Then again, the project must be a very difficult one if the agency priced it that way.


I once wrote a corporate design manual for a world market leader. Wrote and developed the 200 pages. My employer (an advertising agency) charged about USD 150,000.00 from this client including the printing of the only 110 books. I worked alone. Why on earth should the translation cost a few hundred only?


Edited for typo.

[Edited at 2011-08-31 02:26 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 21:37
Chinese to English
It's not just Mexico Aug 31, 2011

I just had to share this with you, Manuel and others. The biggest and best translation firm in the city where I live (a not inconsiderable city, through which vast quantities of international trade flow) has just put up a general call for Chinese>English translators. Their reference rate? 0.013-0.016USD per word.
I tell you, there is a market out there for almost literally any price point you care to name. It's just whether you've got the brass neck to demand high rates, and the rap to convince clients that you're worth it.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Veronica Coquard
France
Local time: 15:37
French to English
Supply-and-demand Aug 31, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:

It may be worth adopting a strategy of staged increases: e.g. an immediate absolute minimum of 6 cents for all new agencies (trying for 7 but being ready to negotiate); when you have a reasonable amount of work at 6c, increase your absolute minimum for new clients to 7 cents. When you have some work at 7 cents then you will have to decide whether to drop 5c clients, continue to offer them lower rates or persuade them to accept an increase.

Sheila


A very good point, Sheila. It's always about supply-and-demand, even on an individual level. I have managed to raise my rates incrementally by very honestly telling my regular agencies, "I am in the middle of a big piece, and I can accept this work, but it will cost you a little extra." (Not to be confused with weekend or night rates.) After all, because of the work I've already agreed to elsewhere, I'll be doing long hours to get their work done, and without exaggeration, those are times when I'm so busy I'd rather have time to relax than have more work piled on. In my experience, agencies have no problem with paying a little more.

But here's the thing: I'll keep my rates at that level in the future for that agency. I have done this on several occasions with different agencies, and none of them has ever tried to negotiate me down afterwards. I'm guessing they had a bit of leeway in the first place, or perhaps since the relationship is well-established, they trust the quality of my work enough to go a few cents higher.

On the other hand, if it's a dry period and I really need the work, new clients are in luck: my services are a bit more affordable then. In times like that, it has also occurred to me that I could contact those regular agencies and offer them a "discount" (my former rates, of course) to "wake them up" - although I have never tried this. I prefer canvassing new clients at various prices (always at the most I believe they are willing to pay - just a natural inclination in the business world) and sending little reminders of my availability to my regular contacts.

Then there is my select little group of agencies who were difficult to get in with but who offer great prices without my having to negotiate with them. I'm glad to go out of my way for them, the work is enjoyable - often prestigious -, and I always get quality feedback on it. I wish I had work like that every day, but I don't, so sometimes I have to work for the second-best agencies. However, the lower limits of my fees are clear in my mind, even for the worst times.

In the end, it's you who must decide where your lowest level is, and put your clients in order of priority from on the best you can get to the lowest you're willing to go. I don't live in Mexico and I don't know how difficult it is to find work in your situation. My advice, though, would be to base your judgements on the real world - what works for you and what you can live with - and not on what colleagues brag about or what agencies try to pressure you into believing. You don't want to degrade yourself, but you don't want to be a self-respecting homeless person either!

All the best!


[Edited at 2011-08-31 08:54 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:37
French to English
+ ...
Increased price AND marketing strategy Aug 31, 2011

What's certainly true is that if your only bargaining chip is price and you're aiming simply at the sector of the market looking for the lowest price whatever the quality, then there'll always be somebody who'll do it for cheaper than you (and Google Translate is free...).

As a strategy, I'd say you need to start thinking about what strong points (e.g. in terms of your main areas of experience) you have to offer to a market that is willing to pay more for them, and accompany your price increase with a strategy for marketing those strong points to their respective niche audience, not marketing your price.

I would suggest that part of that means trying to find e.g. potential US-based clients who themselves have found niche high-margin markets within the Spanish-speaking world and who are themselves focussed on the quality of their marketing message, partly through the quality of their Spanish translation, for which they are willing to pay a higher price.

Think about Apple's strategy versus the PC world. Visit your local Office Depot and you'll find shelves full of evidence of the constant battle over who can sell a just-about-acceptable-but-mediocre-quality-and-unexciting laptop for the cheapest price. Pop into Palacio and see evidence of how Apple are successfully selling machines in Mexico for over 30,000 pesos. Apple have done this by focussing on how to market to a niche audience willing to pay more.

[Edited at 2011-08-31 16:55 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:37
French to English
+ ...
Re your actual question... Aug 31, 2011

Sorry, I forgot to say, re the question of different rates: whether you actually charge different rates for different clients is I think a matter of seeing what works for you and your clients.

How many words you can actually translate per day clearly depends on the text in question. So you essentially have two strategies: (a) establish a "blanket" or constant "average" rate and "take the rough with the smooth", knowing that some jobs will be more worthwhile than others in terms of investment of time, or (b) differentiate prices, trying to make the profitability of each job be more directly reflected in the price you charge.

For agencies, strategy (a) is easier, because they "know where they are" when deciding in the first place whether to assign a job to you, or whether they'll first have to jump through the hoop of getting a price from each different translator they're considering; (b) will seem a bit fairer for some clients, especially direct clients, who may not want to pay a slightly elevated rate for a simple non-technical text just so that you can offer a lower rate on a technical text to another client and balance out your profitability.

As I work mainly with direct clients, I opt for (b), and even for the few agencies I work for, I never establish a blanket price. The agencies I do work for are precisely those that are happy to ask my price for each job they want to assign to me. This policy may well have excluded me from one or two other agencies, but as I tend to get enough interest from direct clients, I've decided not to worry about this for now. You'll need to see what works for your particular situation.

[Edited at 2011-08-31 17:53 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Manuel Rodriguez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 06:37
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Excelent tip Aug 31, 2011

Neil Coffey wrote:

How many words you can actually translate per day clearly depends on the text in question. So you essentially have two strategies: (a) establish a "blanket" or constant "average" rate and "take the rough with the smooth", knowing that some jobs will be more worthwhile than others in terms of investment of time, or (b) differentiate prices, trying to make the profitability of each job be more directly reflected in the price you charge.


As I haven't been getting enough work lately, I'm opting for strategy (a) because I'm sending a bunch of résumés out there and most agencies want the rate included in the cover letter. However, once my situation stabilizes, I may remove such information and just offer my services and follow strategy (b). Excelent tip!


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Different rates for different clients?

Advanced search







PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for ProZ.com users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through ProZ.com. Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search