Minimum fee or what can you suggest under the following situation
Thread poster: MariusV

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 02:58
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Jan 17, 2012

Hi,

I have a client (for several years, it is agency) and it used to provide quite decent workflow during "old good times". However, for the last couple of months, I only get some small and "micro" jobs from them - from several dozen of sentences down to several dozen of source words (the last one was to do 38 words urgently).

Well, was it just a couple of such mini jobs per month, I had nothing against to do such ones even for free (as their offer for 38 words per my usual source word rate does not make a big difference). But they started sending even several of such jobs per day. Some time ago, I wrote them an email and told that I am not against even doing this for free or for whatever else they offer, IF, at the same time, they send me bigger jobs. They kept promising that bigger jobs will come soon, but this situation lasts for several months already and no big or more serious jobs arrived (at least to be several hundred source words per job)...Then I asked them for some minimum fixed fee for those small jobs. They responded that their own client does not pay them any fixed fee (well, what sense then it makes to them to do those jobs?).

I do not want to lose the client (I still expect that they will really have something more substantial), but on the other hand - I already got tired of their urgent micro jobs what is a waste of time. Moreover, with such strict claims like under a situation where I was not at my PC for several hours, they sent me one of those "micro jobs" to be done urgently (in two hours), I appeared at the PC only after some 5 hours and had to read several angry emails from their PM "for being late" (but I did not even confirm that job as could not even respond to their email)...

Any suggestions or advice?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:58
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You have to get this client in line Jan 17, 2012

Hello Marius,

I do sympathise; it's a problem when good clients start taking liberties. Much easier to deal with bad clients.

But you really must do something, mustn't you? I mean, getting angry at you for not doing an urgent job on time - FOR FREE! That really isn't what business is about. You have already broached the subject and now (after that amazing incident) is the time to move the goalposts and keep them moved.

You don't say how you invoice them for the jobs they do pay for. Do they get invoiced each time? If so, I would tell them you are changing your invoicing. You will now invoice them monthly, and all jobs done during that month will be itemised on the invoice, with their respective wordcounts and totals. There will be a minimum invoice amount (perhaps equal to one hour's work?).

This is what I do for some clients, and I find it works well for both parties. Of course, it means that for a job on the 1st of the month, I invoice them on the 30th and give them 30 days to pay - i.e. up to 60 days from handing the work in. But, the advantages for me are that I get some pay for every word, I don't have too much admin, and I get to keep the clients. The disadvantage for them of course is that they have to pay for every word - but that shouldn't surprise them too much! The advantage for them is that they get their words translated for a reasonable amount of money (rather than invoking your minimum for each 10-word job). I think that they'll stay with you. I wouldn't imagine you'll be charging them a significant amount for 10 words (maybe a euro or so?) so I doubt they'll drop you.

I did have one client who only sent me a couple of tiny jobs one month and so I had to charge them 30€ for 11 words. I kept my fingers crossed until I had received their payment, then kept them crossed until I received their next job. They did miss a month, but then came back with a big job. Maybe they tried other suppliers and realised my deal wasn't so bad after all.icon_smile.gif

The "instant response, 24/7" problem is a difficult one, that's for sure, and I fail to see a real solution for it. Why can clients not understand that we are human, we work alone, and they are not our only source of income?icon_confused.gif

Good luck.

Sheila


 

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 02:58
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
yes Jan 17, 2012

Dear Sheila,

Thanks a lot for your thoughts. And you noted one important thing. It is not the problem to do those 30-50 word tasks. Not a problem to translate and send those two sentences. It is more a problem when it comes to invoicing. I usually invoice at the end of the month. 1-2 such jobs per day ends in some 30-50 of those "micro jobs" and how much time is needed to even to "keep track" of them...OK, I have an excel list of them and I update it...But it simply wastes time. And I do not believe (although it is not my business) that they do some charity for their end client (English into 36 target languages)...


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:58
English to German
+ ...
Charge a decent flat fee once a month Jan 17, 2012

Two of my agency clients got into this habit for a while - here a new line, there an additional sentence or some information changed by the end client - each "job" related to accounts that I have been attending to on a regular basis, which of course makes it hard to decline. So I started to add a flat rate for "Miscellaneous" to my invoice (e.g. "Additional lines for website XYZ"), in the range of $100 up to $250. It worked like a charm and it has been paid each time without discussion. Especially young PMs will learn quickly how to streamline and bundle their jobs instead of shooting off emails immediately every time some IT-guy discovered a single tag that requires translation.

 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:58
Member
French to English
+ ...
Micro-jobs and cost-cutting Jan 17, 2012

In my early days as a translator, an ex-client used to send me lots of individual paragraphs, sentences or even phrases and wanted them translated or proofread urgently. They paid per word for translation and per half-hour for proofreading, and invoicing was on a monthly basis. Although I was never an employee and did turn down jobs when they were really inconvenient, they had a real knack for choosing bad moments to send me these micro-jobs (that's a good word for them, Marius!) - for instance, just after I switched my computer off and took a break, or when I was just about to go out. For far longer than I probably should have done, I kept the client on, but that was because every now and then they sent me big, easy jobs that really were worth my while, but those became less and less frequent, to the point where the client became nothing more than an unwelcome distraction. Although the official payment term was "15-30 days" (in practice, 30 days) after the end of the month, they used to string it out because I had to wait for them to send me a PO before I could invoice them, and that started to take longer and longer. Then, after I submitted an invoice, they would wait for increasingly lengthy periods before acknowledging receipt, and only after that did the official payment term begin. So in practice, all of this stalling meant that the interval between doing some work for them and getting paid increased to as much as 3-4 months. Towards the end of our association, I even received requests from some of their PMs for short freebie translations, but turned them down.

The final nail in the coffin came when they emailed all their translators with a proposal to increase the payment term to "30-45 days" after invoicing (read: 45), the rationale being "so that we can ensure we keep paying you on time". I emailed them back saying I would no longer work for them. They instantly offered to waive the extension in my case, but I stood my ground as I just didn't want to deal with them any more. Then a PM asked me what had happened and promised that several large jobs were just about to come in, but I ignored this. (Incidentally, this client had a very long and unblemished tally of 5s and wonderful comments on the Blue Board, the last time I looked!)

I was lucky in that I didn't need my client, but you say you don't want to lose yours. As you say, sending monthly invoices can be a bit of a pain when there are lots of micro-jobs to keep track of. Maybe you could say that you won't accept individual jobs under a certain length (for example, 500 or 1,000 words), so you can avoid the time-wasters? Though maybe they wouldn't be amenable to that. It's something I considered doing with my ex-client, but never actually tried.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:58
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Charge them by time with a minimum Jan 17, 2012

MariusV wrote:
Then I asked them for some minimum fixed fee for those small jobs. They responded that their own client does not pay them any fixed fee.

This is none of your business. Their relationship with their end customer is quite irrelevant here, and I do not think it is fair that they mention it.

In similar situations, I charge the agency for the time spent doing each job, at the usual hourly rate, and with a minimum of 30 minutes.

Of course, I do plenty of little things like this for free during the year for the customers who send bigger jobs continuously, but I do so for MY business reasons, not for THEIR business reasons towards their customers.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
Do they still need you Jan 17, 2012

MariusV wrote:
And I do not believe (although it is not my business) that they do some charity for their end client (English into 36 target languages)...


I may be wrong, since I am very cynical about agencies, but IMHO if they claim to be doing translation into so many languages, I imagine they have built up a TM database to the extent that they no longer require your services 100%, and are happy to just send you the parts that they cannot translate with Trados or similar SW. In this case, I wouldn't expect the situation to improve any time soon, so would advise you to look elsewhere and stop relying on this client.


 

Andrea Garfield-Barkworth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:59
Member (2015)
German to English
Collective invoice Jan 17, 2012

I would say that you have now streamlined your invoicing procedures and either charge a flat-rate fee for individual projects or will be creating a collective invoice. Place all these small translations into one file which you then invoice at the end of the month. This will also give the client an indication of just how much work you are doing for free.

Regarding leaving your office - is it not possible to set up an automatic e-mail response when you are away from your PC so that a client may know that you are not there? There must be a way of doing that.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:59
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Now, why didn't I think of that! Jan 17, 2012

M00nshine wrote:
Place all these small translations into one file which you then invoice at the end of the month.


That's a very simple solution, M00nshine - far too simple to have thought of myself.icon_smile.gif It's true that I always copy the source text from one place to another (Email > Word; text in > text out) so it wouldn't take more than a second to create one Word document per month and append the source text to it each time. Then you can forget about wordcounts etc until invoicing. One click and the file opens and gives you the wordcount for your single line on the invoice. Like it!

Sheila


 

Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:59
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Online accounting subscription Jan 17, 2012

I purchased an online accounting subscription. It costs me approximately $13 per month, and I can access it anytime and anywhere. I have never again messed an invoice, or forgotten to bill a job (due to my really bad memory this happened more times than I would like to admit). I can set up an invoice at the beginning of each month, translate each document, return them and go straight from the email to my online system to add the corresponding line. Works like a charm, for individual invoices and for collective invoices as well.

The "collective invoice" suggested by M00nshine is brilliant.

Also, as Tomás suggested, inform them that you have changed your billing procedures.

Do anything and everything suggested, except FREE translations.


 

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 02:59
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
worth considering Jan 17, 2012

Luisa Ramos, CT wrote:

I purchased an online accounting subscription. It costs me approximately $13 per month, and I can access it anytime and anywhere. I have never again messed an invoice, or forgotten to bill a job (due to my really bad memory this happened more times than I would like to admit). I can set up an invoice at the beginning of each month, translate each document, return them and go straight from the email to my online system to add the corresponding line. Works like a charm, for individual invoices and for collective invoices as well.

The "collective invoice" suggested by M00nshine is brilliant.

Also, as Tomás suggested, inform them that you have changed your billing procedures.

Do anything and everything suggested, except FREE translations.



Dear Luisa,

Thanks, I think it is a very good idea. My accounting "software" has been Excel for many years. And yes, keeping things online is a good idea too (I had a terrible data loss some time ago with quite a big part of my Excel data gone - had to restore many things manually, from emails - thanks god that I still had my emails online too).


 

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 02:59
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
golden words Jan 17, 2012



... I do so for MY business reasons, not for THEIR business reasons towards their customers.


These words are worth half a million!!!


 

Joanna Kulig  Identity Verified

Local time: 01:59
English to Polish
exploitation or helping out? Feb 3, 2012

MariusV wrote:

And I do not believe that they do some charity for their end client...



This is why I found this topic!! Thank you all for good advice!

I work for a translation agency once in a while and they started sending me those one phrase to a few sentences (2-3 or so) jobs. I did some of them for free as I would spend more time filling out the invoice than doing the actual job. But, the explanation they gave me - 'we earn next to nothing for it' is not very convincing, I don't think it's fair to be paid quite little for usual (infrequent) translation AND do some free jobs on top of it. I don't mind helping out, but this is business, right?

Of course, I really wouldn't like to lose the client, but from the other hand, I really feel uncomfortable with the situation as I think it's not entirely fair and, up to some point, I simply feel being exploited. I can help out a friend, but should I do it for a huge company that makes much more money for my work than me?

(OK, one might think that translating a sentence ad hoc takes a minute, so there is no real exploitation, but last time a one phrase mini job took about 45 minutes of my attention - including the exchange of a few emails back and forth (after midnight!) - asking for context, a change of the phrase by the client (!!) and correcting it, adding up another few word phrase, a little bit of googling to make sure (I don't think they proofread such jobs, so there's even more cost-cutting involved) etc.)

I think I should charge them 4-5 times more per word, if the word count is less than 100 words (~6 sentences) AND/OR (?) a flat rate every month (a working hour worth?) and I will also send them a monthly invoice for those mini jobs. What do you think about it?


 

Wouter Vanhees  Identity Verified
Belgium
English to Flemish
+ ...
monthly invoice Feb 3, 2012

Hi there,

I also have a client with whom I have an agreement regarding monthly invoicing. The individual jobs they send me vary from 1 word (!) to 1500 words. I just collect all the jobs at the end of the month and bill them once. My regular word rate applies, no minimum fees for small jobs, no discounts for large jobs or reps. They send me jobs very regularly so it adds up to a nice amount every month. I believe it's a simple and fair system for the both of us.

Best of luck!


 

Joanna Kulig  Identity Verified

Local time: 01:59
English to Polish
'regularly' is the key word here Feb 3, 2012

Glocalise wrote:

They send me jobs very regularly (...)


That's the point, I get a few jobs of a few thousand words (altogether!) per month, paid rather low... If the jobs were more frequent (no jobs in December for example) I really wouldn't mind doing those 'micro jobs' every once in a while. I've done so much translation/interpretation for friends and friends' friends, usually for free, that I really, finally, after so many years of studies, would like to receive some decent reward in exchange now...

Thank you for your response, Glocaliseicon_wink.gif


 


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