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Agency gives the client a discount - and sets your rate down
Thread poster: Christine Andersen

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:33
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Oct 11, 2012

One of the agencies I work for is large, and like so many others, always trying to attract new clients. They pay OK for a British agency but other clients pay more.

Now and then they send me a nice mail, asking me please to try and make a good impression on their new client.

This week the text was larger than usual for a first job for a new client, but on Wednesday I had time - just about - before the deadline on Friday for the text in the PDF. Then the PM promised to send a .ttx so I could use Studio and start a TM.

Meanwhile another good agency sent a smallish rushed job, which of course I did, instead of starting on terminology from the PDF for the other job.

Finally the .ttx arrived on Thursday morning, with two and a half days' work to be delivered "if possible" on Friday by 2 pm.

But then came the bombshell, after I had confirmed the job with the deadline extended to ASAP:

BTW, we've given the client a 20% discount, as it's the first job for them, so we're setting your rate down for this job...

So now I was doing a rushed job over the weekend, with a request to make a specially good impression, at a reduced rate!
Like a sucker, I protested about rates in general and then settled down to work. I regretted it - I have had an unusal number of offers of better paid jobs today, so with all the interruptions I am behind schedule and furious. It's going to be a busy weekend.

But next time I intend to say no, that is the contract breaker.
Why should the agency give a discount on my behalf, without asking me?

I'm probably not the only person to be lured into giving a discount like that, but I feel exploited. icon_evil.gif
_______________

Another agency is sponsoring a non-profit organisation, and asked me in advance if I would give a small discount on jobs for that organisation.
Now THAT is very different. It really is a cause I am happy to support, so I said yes. But I was given the chance to say no, BEFORE I agreed to any work. Other jobs for that agency are paid for in full.

So watch out for agencies giving discounts which they promptly deduct from your rates. They are simply being generous at the translator's expense, not their own.


 

Sandra B.
Portugal
Local time: 14:33
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
This industry is going crazy... Oct 11, 2012

There is not respect at all for our work and for the translator...

I got this today:

"I made touch typing tutor and translated it to Portuguese with Google Translate.
But translation quality is not perfect and now I'm looking for
volunteer who can help me.
Can you please check if these translations are correct?
(link to a website)

There are all User Interface translations in one list:
(another link to a website page to be checked)
If possible, please check Hints section also.

Thank you for your time and help!"

They wanted me to revise a google "translation", which I said I DO NOT DO, and wanted me to do it for free!!! (and I told them I DO NOT work for free).

[Edited at 2012-10-11 20:02 GMT]


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:33
Member (2004)
English to Polish
It is hard... Oct 11, 2012

I know it is hard to be steadfast, especially if one fears losing a big client... Still, you were in a much better position for negotiations than they were - what if you simply refused to take on the assignment? I do not think they would find another translator who could do it in such a short time and still "impress" the end client...

There was one time an agency informed me they were lowering my rates - I have replied that, as it seems now we are in position to change the terms unilaterally, I am taking the liberty to raise them back up again... The relations went icy cold for several months, but then they got over it.


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:33
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Ridiculous Oct 11, 2012

Christine Andersen wrote:

BTW, we've given the client a 20% discount, as it's the first job for them, so we're setting your rate down for this job...


If the agency decides to give a discount to a new client as their marketing method, that is their business. They should make those decisions based on the cushioning they have in terms of profit margins. Agencies usually work with a much higher markup than 20%, and such discounts should come out of that, NOT your rate.
It is absolutely unacceptable, especially that they did not discuss it with you.

I don't understand why you accepted it - I certainly wouldn't have, or at least would have added a minimum 20% rush charge. Now that they successfully pulled this over you, what would prevent them to do it to you (or others) again?

Katalin

[Edited at 2012-10-11 20:58 GMT]


 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:33
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Unacceptable Oct 11, 2012

Christine Andersen wrote:

But then came the bombshell, after I had confirmed the job with the deadline extended to ASAP:

BTW, we've given the client a 20% discount, as it's the first job for them, so we're setting your rate down for this job...


Well, I don't think I can say anything new to you.

There is nothing wrong with them giving a discount to the client. It's their business: they set their rate any way they wish. But not yours.

Of course, it is not easy to react to such an email. In my opinion, the best thing to do is take deep breath, and resist the temptation to reply immediately.

Then formulate the reply carefully so that it is relatively void of emotions.

Version 1:
My previous confirmation was for my normal price. Unfortunately, negotiating the rate for an accepted job is not in line with accepted business practices. Please confirm whether you want me to proceed or you wish to cancel the order. In that case only an X% cancellation fee applies.


Version 2 (only for exceptionally good clients)
I'm sorry, you know very well that my rate is XXX and not YY. I understand that the quality of this critical importance for this assignment, that is why you sent it to me rather than a colleague who charges a budget price. In light of our long-term cooperation, I will make this assignment jump the queue and not apply a rush surcharge - and provide the quality you are used to. And for that, I will charge the rate you are used to. Please note that I can keep the already tight schedule only if this is confirmed within 30 minutes.


They are also under time pressure, so trying to find someone else - and convince him/her of the lower prioce - would be quite risky. If you don't have an answer within 30 minutes, you may wish to call over the phone - but only if you are sure you will be able to stand firm.

If it's too late now, the 20% is gone - but you should make sure it does not happen again. When you deliver the file, make sure to mention that you helped them out because they were up the creek - however you expoect them not to put this mutually beneficial long-term business relationship at risk by trying to apply any such price pressure in the future: they are free to turn to budget translators, which can indeed be a solution for assignments where quality is not as critical as for this one.

Best,
Attila


 

Tina Colquhoun  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:33
Member (2005)
Danish to English
+ ...
Agree with Jabberwock Oct 11, 2012

Hi Christine

I agree with Jabberwork. You were in a very good bargaining position there. And how do you even know that they gave the client a 20% discount? Loads of agencies tried this on under the guise of 'recession'. Oh, things are soooo tough and we've had to lower our rates so oh dear oops and bla bla you're just going to have to lower your rates by 80% and basically pay us for the privilege... NO!

Der kommer altid en sporvogn til (as they say in Denmark)!

Best
Tina


 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:33
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Giving a client a 20% discount because it's the first job? Oct 11, 2012

Dear Christine,

Giving a client a 20% discount because it's the first job doesn't make business sense. Old foxes like us should be pragmatists. Do the math on New Year's morning. Last year I said farewell to a big British agency and a pesky French agency because I could do better elsewhere, not because they had hurt my pride or broken their promisses. They had been doing that for ages.

Cheers,
Gerard


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 15:33
Italian to English
Is it the agency or the PM? Oct 11, 2012

Is it the agency or the PM that is asking for the discount?

If this is as you say a large operation, then they didn't get to be that way by stiffing their suppliers. However, a keen new PM might think s/he was being smart with a bit of sharp practice.

Go over the monkey's head and see what the organ grinder has to say.

Best of luck!


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:33
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, everyone for your support. Oct 11, 2012

The trouble is, of course, that I like the PMs and they do a good job.

I suspect though, that in this particular agency they are kept away from the accounts department. They negotiate deadlines and word counts, and send files, all very friendly and efficient, but have nothing to do with invoices.

Normally, first jobs are only a page or two, but I get paid at the normal rate.

I will send a mail to the accounts department ... and in future I promise to stand firm!


 

xxxchristela
Industry going crazy Oct 11, 2012

One of the reasons why I got retired whas that prices were going down of course. But I had one good client for which I could keep the same rates. He worked with several translators who had about the same. You know what he did? He sent the work first to his 'preferred translator' (whatever that was), and if this one did not react within a fixed time (say, some minutes, or 1 hr), he sent it to the 'following translator'. Translators were competing on reaction time! It happened that I reacted within 10 minutes but the work had already been grabbed by someone else, with a smartphone probably. Are we really jumping on each opportunity? As hungry wolves? Crazy.

 

Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 13:33
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
I get your point, but... Oct 12, 2012

Christine Andersen wrote:
I'm probably not the only person to be lured into giving a discount like that, but I feel exploited. icon_evil.gif

Not to blame the victim or anything, but you were free to either insist on your stated rates or walk away, even at that point. We've all agreed to something and regretted it later, but surely you must admit the agency only took advantage of you with your full consent?


 

Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:33
English to Russian
+ ...
they will do it again and again Oct 12, 2012

unless you stop feeling only and start protesting and refusing...

An agency is just a business unit to reach its goals with the resources it has at its disposal (project managers and translators).
The PM has tried to reach a set goal by sending you a message.
He or she was fully aware of the possibility that you could refuse. You did not.
The goal of the agency was reached.

You have reached your goal either -- to stay in the state of being nice and not disappointing the person you work with ...

But everything has its price.

The question is -- are we ready to pay it?

[Edited at 2012-10-12 05:52 GMT]


 

JaneD  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 15:33
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Emergency mentor/support scheme Oct 12, 2012

It strikes me that what we need in these kind of cases is an emergency hotline number that a pressurised translator can ring to immediately get the kind of answers that have been given in this thread!

Of course under the pressure of the moment it's quite possible to give in to these kind of tactics, and I can easily imagine doing it myself.

But if you could ring a fellow translator and describe what was happening, perhaps you would get the support required to stay firm in your resolution not to do the job on the agency's terms...


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some partly related issues Oct 12, 2012

Christine Andersen wrote:
This week the text was larger than usual for a first job for a new client, but on Wednesday I had time - just about - before the deadline on Friday for the text in the PDF. Then the PM promised to send a .ttx so I could use Studio and start a TM. ... Finally the .ttx arrived on Thursday morning, with two and a half days' work to be delivered "if possible" on Friday by 2 pm.


What I gather from this is that the agency didn't realise that your statement that you would be able to fit the job in meant that you would really need to spend all your time on the job. I think clients often think about deadlines as points in time and not as lengths of time. The client didn't realise that you meant that it would take you a full two days' work, so he was in no rush to send you the promised TTX file.

He also had no idea that this was a rush job (well, it wasn't, initially, but *you* made it one (in a sense, by not starting on it immediately)).

But then came the bombshell, after I had confirmed the job with the deadline extended to ASAP: BTW, we've given the client a 20% discount, as it's the first job for them, so we're setting your rate down for this job...


I would probably have done exactly what you did: complain but do the work anyway. Why do we do that? Is it because we still feel free before the go-ahead, but after the go-ahead we feel a commitment to succeed at the job despite any unforeseen events? Or is it because we are timid?


 

564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:33
Danish to English
+ ...
When to agree on discounts Oct 12, 2012

Next time, put your foot down and stick to your guns, Christine.

Your workload does not change just because the agency uses a specific marketing strategy to butter up a new client, and the agency knows this. It is THEIR marketing budget that should be affected, not yours. You decide how YOU want to spend any available marketing money.

If any discounts are to be given, obviously, you have to agree on this beforehand, and the agency has no right to simply state AFTER you accept a job that they are lowering YOUR fee. They have no right to lower your fee at all, in fact.

It would correspond to you saying that you would lower your delivery by 20 %, i.e. only doing 80 % of the work, but still charging 100 % of the agreed fee. icon_smile.gif

I think we each have to decide in advance, and at a time where we are not rushed off our feet, what our business strategies are to be. For instance, personally, I have decided to work with fixed rates regardless of the type of work or the type of client. I work with just one level of fuzzy match discount, and I would only consider discounts based on substantial amounts of work. On the other hand, I may throw in 'bonuses' such as proofreading source texts for free... but only if I feel like it.

We have all got to stop thinking that agencies are our bosses. They are not!!


 
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