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When raising rates backfires...
Thread poster: Solen Fillatre

Solen Fillatre  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
Member (2010)
English to French
+ ...
Jan 19, 2013

One of my clients has been with me from the start, 3 years ago. He is paying a ridiculously low rate per word but the work is very easy, and I have built an extensive TM for him, so I'm actually doing OK on "hourly rate", but I wanted to do a little better than OK.

I emailed him, saying "let's discuss raising my rate to XX USD, starting February 1st", to which he replied "Let's do XX USD instead (a little less) and start on March 1".

That's actually the rate I was aiming for, so that's fine. What bothers me, is the "let's start on March 1" part. I suspect he doesn't want to raise the rate, and give himself time to find a new translator to replace me, at the original low rate.

Am I being paranoid? I don't want to lose this client. I would even be willing to keep the current low rate, but I don't want to go back on my proposal and appear "weak".

Any advice on what I should do?


Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
English to German
+ ...
Discuss Jan 19, 2013

Discuss this issue with your client on the phone. E-mail seems to too impersonal in such a case.

Good luck!
Rolf Kern

[Bearbeitet am 2013-01-19 10:47 GMT]


Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
Italian to English
Stand your ground Jan 19, 2013

SolenFillatre wrote:

He is paying a ridiculously low rate per word...
I'm actually doing OK on "hourly rate", but I wanted to do a little better than OK.

I would stand your ground, and keep in mind the reason that pushed you to ask for a raise in the first place. Alright, so the work is easy, but if you think he is not paying you enough, perhaps you would be better investing in clients who appreciate you more?

Realise that if you give in, you may lose all potential bargaining power with this client, and will be "doing OK" for the rest of your working relationship.

You are the only person who can judge what is best for you in this case. But sometimes standing your ground brings surprising results. Remember too that while he is "useful" to you, you are probably "useful" to him too... you have built up an extensive TM with him, he is more than likely satisfied with your performance (or he would not have stayed with you for three years) and he may be unwilling to start from scratch with another translator whose work he does not know.

Best of luck!!


Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

Translating is a two-way street Jan 19, 2013

The most common error among freelancers is to forget that the outsourcer is dependent on the freelancer, not only the other way around.
Many outsourcers r are also on a learning curve, i.e. the gradually learn what they get at a certain rate.
Often it pays to let him/her try a lower rate, maybe only to find that the result in the end
only creates extra cost and hassle. After that experience many realise that the higher rate
is cheaper and come abck to you (whose quality s/he already knows).

A freelancer should always keep in mind not to be/feel like/act like a supplicant.


[Edited at 2013-01-19 12:19 GMT]


iqcservices  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
Member (2008)
French to Dutch
+ ...
Why did you work 3 years for this client in the first place? Jan 19, 2013

Only the very first 2 translation jobs I did, were at very low rates, and I did them because at the time, I even didn't realise that the rates were indeed ridiculously low.
But I don't understand why you accepted to work for 3 years for such a client, no matter how much work and projects he gave you.
The rule is simple, and should never be transgressed: don't ever work for insulting rates.


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:38
Chinese to English
You're being paranoid Jan 19, 2013

I think! Obviously, I can't be sure, but from what you've told us, it sounds like you are. Has your client done anything to make you suspect that he would be less than straightforward with you? He's obviously not scared of negotiating with you and setting terms. Is there any reason why you shouldn't take his proposal at face value?

As to why, one can only speculate, but there are plenty of possible and innocent reasons. Maybe he needs time to get an OK from his boss. Maybe March 1st represents the end of one project and the beginning of another for him. Maybe the change affects the way he handles the work, and needs time to adjust other prices. Maybe he just doesn't like change much. From his perspective your email came out of the blue, after all.

Unless you've got strong reason to think otherwise, I think you should always assume that the other party is negotiating in good faith. Otherwise you'll just tie yourself in knots with all the second-guessing.


Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:38
French to English
+ ...
It might not backfire Jan 19, 2013

The 1 March proposal could simply mean that he wants to save himself a little money by paying you the current rate for an extra month - a compromise. It doesn't necessarily mean he will drop you. If he plans to do that, why wouldn't he simply say that he doesn't agree to the rate increase and will drop you with effect from 1 March unless you keep working for the current rate?

At the same time, there's nothing paranoid about what you're thinking. You're running a business, so you need to consider all possible outcomes. If I were in your position, I would just sit it out and see what happens. If you do lose the client, it will give you more time to look for others who are willing to pay "non-ridiculous" ratesicon_smile.gif


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:38
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
A small compromise? Jan 19, 2013

Just a thought - it's usual, I think, to give a month's notice of changes to agreements. What about giving your client a full month's notice of your rate change?
i.e. If you inform him of your increased rate today, 19th January 2013, you would propose charging the increased rate as from 19th February 2013.
There's actually no reason why the change has to be implemented on the 1st of a month.
I agree that you should stand your ground. After three years working at the low rate it's perfectly reasonable to ask for a rise, particularly in view of the increased cost of living - light and heat, for example.
Best of luck,


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You have gained more experience... Jan 19, 2013

In lots of professions people expect salary increases that go with more experience and more responsibility.

This is hard to justify if you are in fact doing exactly the same job as you were three years ago, but are you?

I know the feeling - I have kept on working for clients who once gave lots of work and helped me start out, until they dropped me. Most of them paid reasonably, and as the work gets familiar and your TM helps, you kan still earn an OK to good hourly rate and perhaps save time on administration.

Still, Mats is right. Clients depend on us as much as we depend on them, and the best of them know we need to set rates up now and then.

Stick to your guns!


Teresa Borges
Local time: 03:38
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Stay positive... Jan 19, 2013

... it hasn't backfired yet. It's quite normal for a customer to (try to) propose another rate and for me "let's start on the 1st March" means exactly that! If he thought your increase was unacceptable he would have said that right away, wouldn't he? Why don't you discuss with him over the phone, as Rolf Kern suggested, and... either stand your ground or compromise, if need be.


Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Accept the offer Jan 19, 2013

Accept the offer. You've succeeded in raising a ridiculously low rate to a rate you feel more comfortable with. There's nothing weak about that.

And - when all goes wrong - losing a customer who pays ridiculously low rates isn't that bad, even when it hurts a bit in the beginning.



Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not paranoid Jan 19, 2013

I don't think that you are being paranoid. I would use the extra month to look for other clients to replace him, just in case. I would naturally work on the assumption that if I put my rates up I will receive less work from that particular outsourcer. I may not feel it immediately because it depends on how quickly the outsourcer can replace me. The outsourcer might also look around and find that your rate is very reasonable. Personally, I wouldn't phone him, what the point in hassling him. Give him a little time to get use to the new higher rate.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
He wants a full calendar month, that's all Jan 19, 2013

SolenFillatre wrote:
I emailed him, saying "let's discuss raising my rate to XX USD, starting February 1st", to which he replied "Let's do XX USD instead (a little less) and start on March 1".

If the new rate were to start on 1 February, then he would not have had a full calendar month of warning. Perhaps he wants a full calendar month's warning, which means 1 March.


Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:38
English to Russian
+ ...
Whatever the client's reasons are... Jan 19, 2013

update your CV, spend more time on marketing and self-promotion on a weekly basis, and you will eventually gain new better clients. Good luck!


Ezequiel Fernandez
Local time: 04:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not necessarily Jan 19, 2013

Christine Andersen said:

"... Clients depend on us as much as we depend on them, and the best of them know we need to set rates up now and then".

Well, that's not always the case. I feel there's more power and resources on the clients' side than we can imagine. From my experience, they seem to sail through troubled waters more easily than us when it comes to finding someone else to complete their translation, specially if experience and quality is not their focus. Instead, we, as freelancers, can take a really long time until we finally get a client who can give us the same amount of orders, easy texts to translate and similar level of earnings. No matter how much marketing and promotion effors you make, it can be tough to fill the gap, and you'll certainly lose income in the interim.

Therefore, my advise if you really feel the time has come for a rates increase - don't rise them until you've already found another good replacement, just in case.


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