Overseas charging with price differences between countries
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 16:52
English to Polish
+ ...
Apr 29, 2013

Hi, good souls. I've got a question concerning overseas charging where there are price differences (general or translation-specific) in the respective countries where the translator and the agency or direct client operate. I'd like to hear from people working in a different countries. For example, suppose you're in a developing country, English is one of your languages, and you have a request for quotation from the US or UK, where the prices are normally several times what you charge somebody who enters your physical office (or simply a local person). What's considered the best practice in your country--charging all clients equally no matter where they are from, or charging according to the rates charged by translators working in the same pair in the agency's or client's home country?

On the other hand, if you're a UK or US based agency or "sophisticated customer" with your own translation department, barring an obvious desire to pay the least possible, is it considered good practice to pay translators from countries where rates are lower the same as you pay translators in your own country or the same translators charge where that translator lives, in the same language pair? Or split the difference perhaps? Apart from best practices, I'm also interested in practical reality if there's a radical difference.

The reason I'm asking is because of the variety of sentiments involved in this type of situations and there's no simple answer. The subject has become more important to me ever since going online in a more worldwide kind of way, or at least building a website and a handful of profiles that make it obvious I'm open to inquiries from overseas clients. And so, I'm trying to gauge opinions here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Bonus question for those in the various English-speaking countries: Off the top of your head, what would be the acceptable difference in rates, without either dumping practices or overcharging, for translation done by a translator who is a legal scholar in addition to being a qualified professional translator? (In my case that'd be a sworn translator with Master's degree in law, a law Ph.D. in the works, one-year study in American law, and a post-Master's study in legal translation that'd be a Master's-after-Master's in a country where such degrees are awarded. Since I don't actually have a law firm, billing it as normal legal services on an hourly basis is not an available option unless dealing with law firms.) Also, is there a radical difference between individual languages (especially my own Polish and other European languages) based on demand or other economic factors (e.g. price levels in the home country of a language) rather than difficulty or are the rates streamlined to exclude such factors?


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My position Apr 29, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
Suppose you're in a developing country, English is one of your languages, and you have a request for quotation from the US or UK, where the prices are normally several times what you charge somebody who enters your physical office (or simply a local person). What's considered the best practice in your country -- charging all clients equally no matter where they are from, or charging according to the rates charged by translators working in the same pair in the agency's or client's home country?


When I lived in a developing country, I used to charge according to the cost of living in my home country, until I was told by an agency that my rate is way, way too low, and that agencies from developed countries won't take me seriously if I charge that low. So I started charging according to the cost of living in the agency's country. That has worked for me so far.

Now that I live in a developed country, I maintain the same principle -- I charge according to the market rates in the agency's country (which is often the same as charging according to the cost of living in the agency's country). Typically this means that I quote my high rate, and if the client tells me that he wants to pay half of that or even a third of that, then I know that the client is in a country where translations don't pay very well, and then I adjust my rate, if I want the work.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
And my (opposite direction) position Apr 29, 2013

I wouldn't call Spain a developing countryicon_smile.gif but rates here are definitely lower than they were in France, and the cost of living is definitely lower, too.

When I lived in France I charged what I needed to, and my clients in various parts of the world were happy to pay my rates. Now that I'm living in Spain, but working for exactly the same clients (I only lost one in the move), has the quality of my service dropped one iota? No, of course not! So why should I charge those clients any less?
OTOH, I can now afford to shave a little off my standard rate where necessary to land work that I really want to do - I can be more competitive if I want/need to be.

I do have that stereotypic British sense of fair play, and in some ways it doesn't seem entirely fair, a case of "Heads, I win; tails, you lose".icon_redface.gif But that's world economics for you. And my pre-Spain clients can feel comfortable in the knowledge that I have no intention of raising my rates for some considerable time.icon_smile.gif

I would suggest that the way for you to go, Łukasz, might be to set your rates a little below what your clients in the UK/US would be prepared to pay a local translator (to give yourself a competitive advantage overall), then arrange to give discounts to clients elsewhere. Those could be up-front, as in "we're both Poles, I can help you out here" or you could just quote a lower rate, as long as you aren't publishing actual per-word rates anywhere.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:52
Member (2008)
French to English
Never surprise the customer Apr 29, 2013

This is an old and time-tested marketing saying and it applies here. Customers expect to pay a certain price. Obviously that's going to be significantly different depending on where the customer (not you) is located. Prices in Quebec where I live are significantly higher than in the United States and even more so than in Europe. So I have different price structures depending on where the customer is located. Of course I also have a floor price, below which I won't drop, which means that I don't get any business from India, for example.

 

Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Germany
Local time: 16:52
Member (2012)
Japanese to English
+ ...
If English is one of your pairs... Apr 29, 2013

... is a loaded questionicon_smile.gif

I don't charge locals for translation because none of them need services in my language pairs. Well, that's not strictly true - the languages I translate from are just rare here, and I don't have any knowledge of the local languages. Thus, I quote a standard rate for given parameters, no matter where the client comes from (e.g. more for handwritten texts, less for soft-copies). This is probably considered a developing country for all intents and purposes, although it really depends on which side of the railway tracks you live *cough*cough* Frankly, I like my bank balance to swell like a decent tidal wave every month, irrespective of my spending habits or cost of living (which from my research is on par with that of developed countries) so my location and how much I charge are independent of one another (and trending upward).

I don't expect suppliers to take my location into account at all - if they want quality services, then they should be prepared to pay for them.icon_smile.gif


 

Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Germany
Local time: 16:52
Member (2012)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Agreed Apr 29, 2013

John Fossey wrote:

Customers expect to pay a certain price. Obviously that's going to be significantly different depending on where the customer (not you) is located.


I find this to be a highly accurate statement.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:22
English to Hindi
+ ...
I quote my usual rates for all clients Apr 30, 2013

I come from a "developing" country, India, but live in an extremely costly corner of it, Mumbai. I quote my usual price to all clients and like Samuel, if the client wants to negotiate, I relent a bit, but never going more than 10 or 20% of my rate.

Samuel makes a lot of sense when he says we should quote according to the standard of living in the job offerer's country, but so far I have been more rigid in my quoting strategy and have quoted my standard rates for all. Maybe I should act on Samuel's advice in future. But as of now, I have my hands full with enough work and I have no real incentive to scout for work at lower rates.

[2013-04-30 01:45 GMT पर संपादन हुआ]


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
I understand your concern Łukasz Apr 30, 2013

My personal take on it though is that I charge the same rate to all clients, regardless of where they are located because it is my standard of living that counts and it's up to me where I go and live. If I were to live in a more undeveloped country, I would want the inherent disadvantages of that to be paid off by increasing my earning power, or at least increasing how far my earnings stretch, but I see where I live as my choice and not something I expect my clients to profit from.

Of course this means that I don't generally get business from India or China. It's not that I'd refuse business from these countries, I just generally find that the rate expectations coming from there are different to mine. However, I'm not willing to lower my rates for a Chinese client say, because I'm not offering lower quality because they're from China and I'm not moving to China to work for them and thereby lowering my cost of living, so I'd rather take higher paid work coming from other clients than drop my rate to get the client from a less-costly country.


I would only discount my rate according to some advantage to me, not according to the country in which my client lived. Say a client wanted me to drop my rate by 20%, I might see if I could stretch the deadline, let them do the proofreading, not do any formatting or arrange quicker than usual payment terms. If not, I wouldn't offer the discount, preferring to refuse the job. I certainly wouldn't give a discount because someone lived in another country. That offers no advantage to me.

Remember that anything you do at a lower rate than usual is taking your time away which could be spent earning more, marketing, or enjoying yourself.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
That's business! Apr 30, 2013

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:

My personal take on it though is that I charge the same rate to all clients, regardless of where they are located because it is my standard of living that counts and it's up to me where I go and live. If I were to live in a more undeveloped country, I would want the inherent disadvantages of that to be paid off by increasing my earning power, or at least increasing how far my earnings stretch, but I see where I live as my choice and not something I expect my clients to profit from.

Of course this means that I don't generally get business from India or China. It's not that I'd refuse business from these countries, I just generally find that the rate expectations coming from there are different to mine. However, I'm not willing to lower my rates for a Chinese client say, because I'm not offering lower quality because they're from China and I'm not moving to China to work for them and thereby lowering my cost of living, so I'd rather take higher paid work coming from other clients than drop my rate to get the client from a less-costly country.


I would only discount my rate according to some advantage to me, not according to the country in which my client lived. Say a client wanted me to drop my rate by 20%, I might see if I could stretch the deadline, let them do the proofreading, not do any formatting or arrange quicker than usual payment terms. If not, I wouldn't offer the discount, preferring to refuse the job. I certainly wouldn't give a discount because someone lived in another country. That offers no advantage to me.

Remember that anything you do at a lower rate than usual is taking your time away which could be spent earning more, marketing, or enjoying yourself.

The words of a true small business owner.icon_smile.gif We should forget this idea of doing favours for the whole world (though I'm happy to include pro bono work in my service offer). We're professional translators - that means we're in it to earn profit. If we aren't spending our time maximising our earnings, we have to seriously wonder whether we're mishandling our careers.


 

EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:52
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Exactly Apr 30, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I would suggest that the way for you to go, Łukasz, might be to set your rates a little below what your clients in the UK/US would be prepared to pay a local translator (to give yourself a competitive advantage overall), then arrange to give discounts to clients elsewhere. Those could be up-front, as in "we're both Poles, I can help you out here" or you could just quote a lower rate, as long as you aren't publishing actual per-word rates anywhere.


1) You want the job and you can ask for a lower price than somebody living in France (to take an extreme example), but the client is prepared to pay more than your usual price - the trick is just to estimate how much.
2) You will bear extra costs to receive the payment, and you will probably receive it later. This must be taken into account, too.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 16:52
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you May 1, 2013

I'd like to thank everybody for your kind answers. I did not expect all the kindness and understanding, it was quite refreshing. The perspectives were helpful.

So far, I am tempted to use the Proz rate statistics tool and charge what I find there to be the average rate for the pairs and then actually show the rates. At worst, I just won't get any jobs at those rates, which isn't much different from the current state of things. At best, I'll get to sit back comfortably and know that all my careful double-checking and research and diligence and creativity I put in the work are sufficiently rewarded. Charging somewhere around the statistical average is probably somewhat fair in the circumstances. I'd rather be losing cheap jobs for being too expensive than expensive jobs for being too cheap.

As for clients who can't afford the rates, even before starting this thread I already had a piece written for people who really need some particular translation but can't afford the normal fee. I don't care what they "require" but I care what they can afford.

@Sheila: Thank you. I have a similar sense of fair play to yours, it seems, which makes the situation feel somewhat bad no matter which way I go. I think it might be somewhat fair to charge a bit below the average rate in the client's market to reflect the difference in costs of living, as well as some additional PM or editor time resulting from my lower familiarity with the client's market, which probably affects the equivalence of the service and the pay in a client's eyes. I've already managed to spot some differences, actually, mostly in terms of after-sales, client input and client satisfaction as opposed to a more abstract good service. Since I'd be earning more than a local translator in terms of spending power, I could probably include a small discount as a compensation for my slightly exotic terms of service.

@Sarai: Yup, I suppose English pairs are the trickiest ever from this point of view. It was ever so slightly amusing to read how you believed it was not your clients' business where you lived and how much living cost there.icon_wink.gif

@Marie-Helene: I've just read your post one more time before replying and I've realised that: "I certainly wouldn't give a discount because someone lived in another country," works in both directions, i.e. not only to quoting prices for Chinese clients, as in your example, but also to charging a UK or US client several times less than what that client would need to pay locally for English to Polish and especially Polish to English translation. That too, in a way, is giving a discount because someone lives in another country. Perhaps more so in light of Poland's generally low rates for translation compared to other countries with similar costs of living, which means that basically all translation rates in Poland are discount rates. I'm not really enthusiastic about extending the same discount to agencies operating in friendlier markets.

Also, your last sentence is so painfully true. These days, everybody wants lower and lower prices and better and better quality, while costs of living continue to rise in the opposite proportion, which means translators are ultimately getting to fund it.

@Eva: I'd try to make any banking, postage and other fees payable by the client without affecting the rate charged. But where those need to be paid by me, I believe it's the same as when you operate in the local market: the benefits of not charging your client for every letter sent or page printed are higher than the savings made otherwise. I also try to reduce the maths required to determine the dues in order to reduce the perceived commoditisation of translation. I no longer do, but I used to keep fractions away from the invoice for this purpose (under the premise that anything you can buy for a price that has a decimal point in it is a product).

Long payment deadlines are a problem with agencies or clients from some specific markets. I've seen as long as 90 days abroad, while it rarely goes beyond 30 in Poland (unless it's the end of the month following the month of delivery or invoice, in which case it can sometimes be quite a lot of days).

@Samuel: Yes, that's what I'd do. I'd probably not accept large quantities of work from lower paying markets on a stable basis, but I'd normally be inclined to give discounts to people from less developed countries. I suppose charging more from clients based in more developed countries would allow me more room for such discounts for clients from less developed countries.

@John: You're right, and I suppose a client might be pleasantly surprised to find it a little cheaper than usual but firmly within the realm of plausability, while a rate that wouldn't stand a chance of covering the bills in the client's own country could remain discouraging even after the client realised where the differences came from.

I've also been able to confirm that Poland's higher-paying segments of the translation market are actually less problematic (in terms mostly of ignorant but fussy reviewers) than the lower paying segments. They expect more quality but they are able to appreciate it and, more importantly, they know it when they see it. It's only difficult to get business from there, but once you have it, you're golden. You get paid twice as much without needing put up with any of the usual.

@Balasubramaniam: Thank you for your perspective. It looks like our experience has been similar so far. I think we might both listen to Samuel (and to the ladies). Congratulations on your full hands of work, by the way.icon_smile.gif


 


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Overseas charging with price differences between countries

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