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How to charge a client who cancels a project halfway through?
Thread poster: Thomas Johansson

Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 19:15
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Mar 22, 2013

So, a client just cancelled a project after I had started it. How should I charge them?

Here is the situation:

On Thursday morning, I get an order for 7,500 words from an agency and agree with them to deliver the translation on early Monday morning (8 am, the agency's time). In our communication, they ask me to send them the file at the end of Thursday evening so that they can work on it while I rest. I assume it's something about the TM that they want to do or perhaps that they want to pass it on to the client for review or so. (It's an ITD file with a lot of TM matches of varying degrees and a total content of perhaps 45,000 words.)

At the end of Thursday, I have completed perhaps 1,000 words and send them the file. As I sit down to resume work on Friday morning, I receive an email from the agency telling me that the client has been pushing them to deliver the translation that same day, so they have finished it while I was sleeping. I guess they have used other translators.

In effect, I take this to be a case of them cancelling an already placed order. I am not bitter or anything, as it is a regular client and I understand that they were in a hurry.

In any event, what would be a standard procedure to handle the pricing here? Should I charge them for all 7,500 words or just the 1,000 words that I completed or should I charge for the 1,000 words plus add a percentage as some sort of "extra fee" for cancelling the order? After all, I have rejected other offers in order to spend my week-end on this particular project. Or perhaps I should just say, well, this is life and enjoy the free week-end.

How would you do? What would be the "standard way" of handling this in the industry?

Thomas


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:15
English to German
+ ...
It happens. Mar 22, 2013

Rarely, but it happens. The client will reimburse you for all of your finished work.
I have no idea why you would want your customer to pay you for 7500 words if you had delivered only 1000. I also don't know why you would like to penalize your regular client.

Explain?


 

Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:15
French to English
For a regular client Mar 22, 2013

I would charge for 1000 words, and enjoy the weekend

 

Laura D'Angelo (X)
United States
Local time: 17:15
English to Italian
+ ...
just charge him for the 1000 words you have translated Mar 22, 2013

It's true that you probably refused other projects to work on this particular one, but at the same time, if it's a regular client and this never happened before, you should trust the fact that if they took the project away from you, it's because their client asked them to.

Maybe he/she didn't like the way you translated the work, that's also a possibility, and instead of complaining or not paying you for those 1000 words, they just invented up an excuse not to hurt your feelings.

If you show your understanding, they will appreciate you for that, and they will probably give you another translation very soon just to make up for this time. Some people take advantage of situations, some are correct.

Reputation is everything in this profession, I suggest that you just let it go. Charge him for the 1000 words, don't say anything, and if it happens again, then maybe you can charge him for a cancellation fee. Not for the entire translation by the way!

Have a nice week end,

I hope I helped you somehow,

Laura

[Modificato alle 2013-03-22 22:04 GMT]

[Modificato alle 2013-03-22 22:06 GMT]


 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:15
Italian to English
Suggestion Mar 22, 2013

If you have a decent relationship with them, I see no harm in mentioning that you had turned down other jobs to work on this one over the weekend.

They might offer some compensation or at least bear in mind that they need to give you further work a.s.a.p.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just the 1000 words Mar 22, 2013

It would not make sense to charge for work you did not do, would it?

I would simply charge for the 1000 words done.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:15
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Job or no job, there is always an opportunity cost Mar 22, 2013

Thomas Johansson wrote:
After all, I have rejected other offers in order to spend my week-end on this particular project.


True, but then again, we probably reject other offers all the time when actually working on a project, and often those other offers can more desirable (better paid, easier, more interesting, bigger job) than what we're stuck working on at moment. It happens.

You can't charge for more than the work you actually performed. I know this can be frustrating at times, particularly when you may have invested considerable prep time in the file (word counting, OCRing and formatting the source, etc.), but don't have any translated words to show for it yet.

Or perhaps I should just say, well, this is life and enjoy the free week-end.

Absolutely!


 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:15
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It does make sense to bill for unrealized work in other sectors Mar 22, 2013

It would not make sense to charge for work you did not do, would it?


In many other businesses people charge for their time that they set aside for a customer. If the customer inconveniences the provider, he still pays.

However, in the translation world you usually just bill for the work done and eat the inconvenience and supposed other jobs turned down.

The way to provide for this eventuality is to reflect it in your rates so that it averages out over time.


 

Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 19:15
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you all Mar 23, 2013

Good points.

 

Claudia Cherici  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:15
Member (2010)
English to Italian
+ ...
with Russell Mar 23, 2013

I'm with Russell on this one. The few times it has happened to me with good clients, I mentioned to them that I had to turn down other offers in the meantime, and sure enough, I'd get another project from that same client pretty soon

 

Pierret Adrien  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:15
Chinese to French
+ ...
Be clear about it right from the beginning Mar 23, 2013

Concerning small and middle sized projects, in case of cancellation, I would only charge for the amount already translated.

For bigger projects, as I usually charge for a certain amount before starting any work, I make it clear that this amount is not refundable, since I am taking myself off the market for a while and cancellation would be a loss for me. I don't know for my other fellow translators, but I think this is reasonable enough, and I allow myself, indeed, a certain degree of flexibility (like for cancellation happening in a matter of hours or a few days that obviously wouldn't lead to a huge loss for me).

Anyway, the point is to be clear right from the beginning about your/ your client's cancellation policy, as any business deal would be.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 05:45
English to Hindi
+ ...
My experience Mar 24, 2013

This has happened with me once.

Fortunately I was working for a decent agency with whom I have long-term working relationship.

When I inquired with them whether I could charge for the work already completed, I got a prompt reply to go right ahead and add a 30 % to the invoice for the inconvenience of it all.

Maybe, you could use this as some sort of an indicator or benchmark - in addition to charging for the actual work completed, you should also charge an additional amount for the preparatory work you would have done and for the lost opportunities because of this job (you might have had to refuse other work because of your commitment to this job).

In most other business transactions too, this is standard practice, ie, levying a penalty for breaking a contract. As a simple example, try breaking a fixed deposit with a bank before its maturity date. The bank will penalize you with a hefty cancellation fee.


 

freekfluweel
Netherlands
Local time: 02:15
Dutch to German
+ ...
Enjoy your week-end! Mar 24, 2013

"After all, I have rejected other offers in order to spend my week-end on this particular project."

Well that's a bitter pill to swallow but actually none of the client's business. Client is only interested in whether you can do the job or not. Should the client be worried that you couldn't help your mother-in-law in and out of bed, that your kids had to take the bus because you were not able to fix their flat tires...don't think so!

Better to keep a good relationship with your client than to lose out a couple of bucks on this sorry-matter. If you would charge the full amount, you might be able to buy a repair-kit for your kids' bikes now, but when they hit some nails in upcoming months, would you want them to take the bus again...?

I know Sweden is the Land of (Rabatt)kuponger, but in the end, I'd rather rely on my own earned money!

In this profession sometimes "freelance" turns out to be "free glance", so be it...


 

Elena Volkova  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 03:15
English to Russian
+ ...
Cancellation charge? Mar 27, 2013

To be honest, I am a bit surprised by the unanimity of the opinions suggesting that we only should charge for what we actually did. I once collaborated with a colleague on an interpreting assignment which was cancelled just before it started and she insisted that we should charge the cancellation charge - 100% of the fee - and that that's the normal practice in the business.

In my own experience, I had a client that booked me on a 80K word project but afterwards kept pushing the deadline forward so had to re-allocate about a half of the volume because it was no longer physically possible to be done by one person. Then I only invoiced them for what I translated, no questions. But when the same happened with the next project (albeit its volume was about 90% smaller) I said that, since it's not the first time, I would invoice as per the original PO because I again had to turn down other jobs thinking that I would be busy with this one. The agency thought it was fair and accepted my invoice.

ETA: Admittedly, the above example was the only time when I had to do it. As a normal business practice, changes in volume are to be expected so I charge for what I produce.

[Edited at 2013-03-27 10:39 GMT]


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:15
Member (2004)
English to Italian
I agree with that... Mar 27, 2013

but are they still your client? icon_smile.gif

G

Elena Volkova wrote:

To be honest, I am a bit surprised by the unanimity of the opinions suggesting that we only should charge for what we actually did. I once collaborated with a colleague on an interpreting assignment which was cancelled just before it started and she insisted that we should charge the cancellation charge - 100% of the fee - and that that's the normal practice in the business.

In my own experience, I had a client that booked me on a 80K word project but afterwards kept pushing the deadline forward so had to re-allocate about a half of the volume because it was no longer physically possible to be done by one person. Then I only invoiced them for what I translated, no questions. But when the same happened with the next project (albeit its volume was about 90% smaller) I said that, since it's not the first time, I would invoice as per the original PO because I again had to turn down other jobs thinking that I would be busy with this one. The agency thought it was fair and accepted my invoice.

ETA: Admittedly, the above example was the only time when I had to do it. As a normal business practice, changes in volume are to be expected so I charge for what I produce.

[Edited at 2013-03-27 10:39 GMT]


 
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