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Agencies and minimum charges
Thread poster: Spencer Allman

Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:28
Finnish to English
Aug 1, 2013

I expect I am not the only one to get an email from a certain agency informing us that no minimum charges will be accepted in respect, at least, of some of their clients.

Of course, they can say what they like, but they then proclaim that this is a growing trend in the industry. First I heard about it.

In any case, I am not going to get out of bed and apply my hard earned knowledge and skills for anything less than my minimum charge (that is why it exists), unless it is for a special customer, and then for a good reason.

This message is particularly targeted at new(ish) translators who may be susceptible to this kind of unilateral rule-making.

Spencer


 

Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
Ok, then I insitigate a minimum assignment volume... Aug 1, 2013

... so don't send me any assignment less than 500 wordsicon_razz.gif

 

564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:28
Danish to English
+ ...
Alternative approach Aug 1, 2013

Why not just tell them that you have a policy of not accepting small-sized jobs (i.e. jobs that pay less than your minimum fee)?


I see that Theo beat me to it...icon_biggrin.gif

[Edited at 2013-08-01 14:11 GMT]


 

Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:28
Finnish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Minimum volume Aug 1, 2013

Minimum volume doesn't work really because you sometimes need to do small jobs for regular customers. Furthermore, turning down work on that basis - especially in this climate - could lead to financial problems.

There are lots of good agencies out there - the problem is, in my opinion, there are just far too many agencies. That is why the competition is so fierce. Nevertheless, they need us as much as we need them, so I don't think we don't have to give in to unrealistic conditions.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Neither am I Aug 1, 2013

Spencer Allman wrote:
I am not going to get out of bed and apply my hard earned knowledge and skills for anything less than my minimum charge (that is why it exists), unless it is for a special customer, and then for a good reason.

Thanks for adding this to the growing list of practices which a few of the larger agencies are trying to force onto us at the moment. I don't know which agency you are dealing with here, but I don't suppose the name would come as much of a surprise to me.

My valued agency partners accept a minimum per invoice equating to one hour of my work, although I do sometimes waive this minimum if I see a good business case for it. Of course, most of my regular clients are invoiced monthly, and for them my invoicing procedures are sufficiently streamlined for me to include quite small entries on that invoice. I just have to remind myself that it takes longer to record a two-word job than it takes to translate those two words!

With the convoluted job and invoicing interfaces some of these not-so-valued agencies use, you could well find yourself spending 10 minutes on translation (for 10 peanuts, or even a negative sum if there are charges to receive said peanuts) and 30 minutes on unpaid administration. What sort of a business proposition is that? They must think we're mugs!icon_mad.gif


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 11:28
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Couple of comments Aug 1, 2013

Minimum volume doesn't work really because you sometimes need to do small jobs for regular customers.

For a regular good client under certain circumstances one might consider dropping his or her minimum charge from time to time and just add the amount to the next invoice; as long as those are special cases and not the norm.
And if this becomes the norm, one doesn't need to accept anything that one is not comfortable with or thinks works to his or her disadvantage.
Furthermore, turning down work on that basis - especially in this climate - could lead to financial problems.

The notion of something is better than nothing is wrong. It might appear to have some benefit, but it is only a short term one, if at all, and it causes a much more significant long term damage. Therefore I don't see how countering this ridiculous 'no minimum charge' term by setting a minimum volume term is any more of an issue than not taking projects that are not less than one's minimum charge. That is, if one is even considering working (on bigger project) with such unscrupulous entities

There are lots of good agencies out there - the problem is, in my opinion, there are just far too many agencies. That is why the competition is so fierce.

There are good agencies, and bad agencies. However, in today's market there are so many entities, now calling themselves LSPs, that are not even agencies in the traditional sense of the word, but mere resellers/brokers of translation services that doesn't add any value and usually compete directly with the translators for work from bigger agencies (usually the MLVs, but not only). They are in it just for the money, they don't know the profession and don't respect it. For them our work is a mere medium to leech of and make money from.

True professionals (translators and agencies) know their work, respect their work, and act ethically. We, as translators, know our work and should dismiss any unprofessional alleged business partners. This is why true professionals should really start separating themselves from the 'marketplace', for their own benefit and the benefit of the profession. All those abusive practices are enabled only because there are people who accept them.

[Edited at 2013-08-01 15:53 GMT]


 

Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:28
German to English
Minimum charge Aug 1, 2013

I make a modest minimum charge of Eur 18.00 which covers admin time. I do make exceptions for very regular clients, but that is generally FOC for a few words, as it is not worth invoicing tiny amounts - I'd rather have the goodwill! I do not work for agencies who will not accept my minimum charge, period.

Steve K.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:28
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Me too Aug 1, 2013

At one time I used to add an administration charge for anything under 100 words (I had a client who sent a LOT of jobs that size...)

But that was several years ago, and they started sending jobs of around 105 - 110 words!

So I went over to a minimum charge of around half an hour's work, which I add on to really peanuts jobs without specifying the size.

This leaves me free to do jobs FOC too, where the goodwill is worth far more than the time spent invoicing.

The answer to some clients is sorry, I am to busy to be interrupted right now!
And it is none of their business what I am busy doing!


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:28
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Either one works Aug 2, 2013

Either charging a minimum few for small jobs or accepting only a minimum project size works (or should work?) well for both the translator and the angency. After all, one can choose to accept an assignment or reject it (without actually having to give any reason for the rejection, but one usually does, e. g. no free capacities),

The exception are those long-standing, good clients who don't "abuse" this special service by sending dozens of "tiny" translation requests. On second thought, sending those tiny bits contradicts the word "good" in regards to the client's standing.icon_wink.gif

I agree with Shai that these, IMHO, unethical terms can only be forced onto us when we accept them. Although making a living (surval instinct) is important, the long-term results of accepting tiny jobs at no charge or for a few pennies will have a much greater impact on this "making a living" in the future should agencies succeed in enforcing this policy.


 

Anna Spanoudaki-Thurm  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:28
Member (2009)
German to Greek
+ ...
Flexibility Aug 2, 2013

My way to deal with small jobs is:

a) For new or "irregular" (end-)clients I charge my minimum fee. This is equivalent to half my hourly rate.
b) Regular clients that normally send larger jobs get the occasional mini-translation for free or added to the next invoice with the regular word rate.
c) With regular clients that send only or frequently mini-jobs I arrange a monthly minimum.
This minimises the time wasted and keeps everybody happy.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:28
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
A good post Aug 2, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Spencer Allman wrote:
I am not going to get out of bed and apply my hard earned knowledge and skills for anything less than my minimum charge (that is why it exists), unless it is for a special customer, and then for a good reason.

Thanks for adding this to the growing list of practices which a few of the larger agencies are trying to force onto us at the moment. I don't know which agency you are dealing with here, but I don't suppose the name would come as much of a surprise to me.

My valued agency partners accept a minimum per invoice equating to one hour of my work, although I do sometimes waive this minimum if I see a good business case for it. Of course, most of my regular clients are invoiced monthly, and for them my invoicing procedures are sufficiently streamlined for me to include quite small entries on that invoice. I just have to remind myself that it takes longer to record a two-word job than it takes to translate those two words!

With the convoluted job and invoicing interfaces some of these not-so-valued agencies use, you could well find yourself spending 10 minutes on translation (for 10 peanuts, or even a negative sum if there are charges to receive said peanuts) and 30 minutes on unpaid administration. What sort of a business proposition is that? They must think we're mugs!icon_mad.gif


that made me smile


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:28
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
One other consideration is context. Aug 2, 2013

I have a client who regularly sends little bits, we add it all up at the end of the month. They pay a good rate per word, the context is always the same (interesting to me), they are lovely people who work hard to produce good-quality texts and they have accepted a systematic 24hr turnaround (even though I often do same-day delivery when it suits ME and to foster goodwill, in what I see as a fitting gesture to people who are a pleasure to work with).

Another guy similarly has series of well-written, interesting short articles, but he complains like mad about the rate (same as for the others) and the deadline (ditto), he's really unpleasant, and each article is on a completely different subject, like news-in-brief columns, each requiring a fair amount of research. So it takes that much longer and I am far less flexible. I refuse to bow to any of his brow-beating, so he regularly goes elsewhere. I think the lack of continuity probably impacts quality, even if the subjects are different. I sometimes feel that the lack of goodwill can impact quality too, on some unconscious level (because of course at a conscious level I give the work my best shot despite the guy's AH attitude).


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:28
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Sorry Aug 2, 2013

I forgot to specify that I bill each set of articles separately for the second, unpleasant guy, I refuse to add it all up at the end of the month, because each job is a stand-alone job, and because he's unpleasant, and because he goes elsewhere to show me that others will do what I refuse. But then he comes back after a while...

 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:28
English to Polish
+ ...
... Aug 2, 2013

Spencer Allman wrote:

I expect I am not the only one to get an email from a certain agency informing us that no minimum charges will be accepted in respect, at least, of some of their clients.

Of course, they can say what they like, but they then proclaim that this is a growing trend in the industry. First I heard about it.

In any case, I am not going to get out of bed and apply my hard earned knowledge and skills for anything less than my minimum charge (that is why it exists), unless it is for a special customer, and then for a good reason.

This message is particularly targeted at new(ish) translators who may be susceptible to this kind of unilateral rule-making.

Spencer


Spencer, the growing trend in this 'industry' is to drive the rates into the ground, beginning from any surcharges and similar charges. The minimum charge is one of them.

On a different note, from the perspective of being one of those translators who don't have a minimum charge, I need to remark that, in general, when an agency doesn't want to pay you minimum charges, you need to make sure that the agency itself is not charging minimum charges.

Agencies sometimes claim discounts and waivers of fees that they don't transfer to their clients, even though it may be implied that they do. They also sometimes charge their clients additionally because of some circumstances applicable to the translator – but without forwarding a penny out of that to the translator.

The above is not business. The above poor business ethics. (Save in such circumstances as when the translator's base rate is otherwise not affordable to the agency, but even then not in regard to all fees or discounts claimed and their various justifications.)


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I came here to post that! Aug 2, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
On a different note, from the perspective of being one of those translators who don't have a minimum charge, I need to remark that, in general, when an agency doesn't want to pay you minimum charges, you need to make sure that the agency itself is not charging minimum charges.

Agencies sometimes claim discounts and waivers of fees that they don't transfer to their clients, even though it may be implied that they do. They also sometimes charge their clients additionally because of some circumstances applicable to the translator – but without forwarding a penny out of that to the translator.

The above is not business. The above poor business ethics.

Thanks for saving me the effort, Łukaszicon_wink.gif. Does this particular agency charge a client USD 5.00 for a few words? I'm sure it doesn't! I bet its minimum is nearer USD 50.00.

[Edited at 2013-08-02 12:40 GMT]


 
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