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A Dirty Little Secret About Pricing
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 23, 2013

by Walt Kania as a guest post on Lori Widmer's Words On a Page Blog:

http://www.wordsonpageblog.com/2013/05/writers-worth-dirty-little-secret-about.html

[Edited at 2013-12-23 17:03 GMT]


 

Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:26
English to German
+ ...
Thanks, Jeff. Dec 23, 2013

I'll keep that in mind.

 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 16:26
Member (2005)
English to Russian
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I stopped reading after "Bigger ass company" Dec 23, 2013

There is some truth in what she says, but the way she says doesn't strike my fancy the tiniest bit.

 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
That is unfortunate because... Dec 23, 2013

...it means you did not make it to the author's main point about how to raise your rates.

By the way, the word you are referring to is no longer considered offensive (at least in the U.S.), especially when used in the idiom "big-ass". In fact, it was used in a U.S. tv commercial last year that aired on network television:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1yir-p68xM

(and for those with open minds who find that video amusing, the same store did another using the S-word: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I03UmJbK0lA )

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

There is some truth in what she says, but the way she says doesn't strike my fancy the tiniest bit.


[Edited at 2013-12-23 19:16 GMT]


 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 16:26
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Vulgar and trite Dec 23, 2013

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
...it means you did not make it to the author's main point about how to raise your rates.


Not really. There's nothing in the article I didn't already know.

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
By the way, the word you are referring to is no longer considered offensive (at least in the U.S.), especially when used in the idiom "big-ass".


Everyone decides for themselvesicon_smile.gif What you may call down-to-earth, I call vulgar.


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 15:26
Italian to English
Anchoring rates and adding value Dec 23, 2013

The blogger has a point, which is that the first rate proposed in a transaction tends to "anchor" negotiations around that figure.

But there is another, equally important, point, which is that the service provided has to be fit for purpose. By and large translation costs are marginal in most commercial projects so if the customer is paying slightly over the odds, it doesn't really matter because the bottom line is still positive. Switching supplier would be more trouble than it's worth.

And from the translator's point of view, there is no point in demanding high rates if you can't deliver a translation that will earn the customer a decent margin.

At the end of the day, it's all about adding value.


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Solid points and no vulgarity Dec 23, 2013

I thought the "bigger ass" comments were a bit immature and unbecoming a language professional, but certainly not offensive in any way.

In my view, Kania makes some solid points. It would seem that one of the keys in making the mindset/strategy he describes actually work is having the financial freedom to refuse offers (maybe even seemingly "good offers") that one does not consider acceptable for one reason or another. If one is in desperate straits and facing the prospect of not making a rent or car payment, then of course there isn't much freedom to refuse any offer at all.

The reference Kania (and so many others) make to get-out-of-bed rates most definitely resonates with me. Some minimal jobs just don't seem worth it. The following immediately come to mind:

1.
A birth certificate requiring notarization and mailing of a hard copy.

Well, such things don't take long to translate, but there is the matter of the trips to the bank and post office. So let's say all of the time involved amounts to one hour. One might think (as I did) that $80.00 would be a fair rate. I no longer think so. The $80 makes little difference to my income (even in bad times) and these are almost invariably "one-off" jobs, so there is no question of pleasing an important client in the expectation of future work. I'd say $120.00 would be reasonable for this kind of work, and really only if I don't have much else going on when the offer comes in. In a way, I feel bad about charging what seems a lot in relation to the little work involved, but when all of the factors are weighed, this is what seems to make sense. Customers can take it or leave it.

2.
"Rush jobs" that have such a tight deadline that they don't really enable you to make enough money to justify the stress and disruption involved.

So you get an e-mail at 10:00 a.m. from a certain agency asking how many words you can take on for delivery by 12 noon that day. You think for a moment and decide "800 at $0.16/word). The PM readily agrees, but by the time you get the PO making things official, it is already close to 10:30 and you want to leave some time for review, so you effectively have just a little over an hour to do the actual work. Then you find that there are a few words you need to do some research on. So in the end, you make deadline, but at the cost of some anxiety. And you have your $126.00 for the hour of work (well, you'll have it in 45 days). Seems good, no? Sure, as long as you have nothing else going on. But if you've set aside other work to take this on, then perhaps not. Not given the stress and disruption involved. (Now if you had 5-6 hours to do as much as you could at that rate--obviously a different story.)

[Edited at 2013-12-23 20:51 GMT]


 

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
I came across this earlier today... Dec 23, 2013

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/prweb11443345.htm?utm_content=buffer2a495&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

Just something that conflicts with the doom and gloom presented by some translation agencies.


 

xxxnrichy
France
Local time: 15:26
French to Dutch
+ ...
Rush jobs and... Dec 23, 2013

3. Jobs you don't want to do. I once quoted €1,500 lump sum for a 10,000 words tourism brochure, to an agency. The problem was that I was going to take my holidays a few days later. They asked their client and then accepted "oh yes, no problem, glad you can take it". I translated it and it went straight to the printing house. (later on I was told that they had a government subsidy, the price was not a problem especially as they were cutting other middlemen such as a communications agency...).

4. And yes, always quote high prices and long deadlines for difficult jobs, because either you won't have to do them, either you will have enough time to spend on them. A win-win situation!


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 21:26
Chinese to English
Yes to Robert, not really to Giles Dec 24, 2013

Robert Forstag wrote:

...It would seem that one of the keys in making the mindset/strategy he describes actually work is having the financial freedom to refuse offers (maybe even seemingly "good offers") that one does not consider acceptable for one reason or another. If one is in desperate straits and facing the prospect of not making a rent or car payment, then of course there isn't much freedom to refuse any offer at all.

The reference Kania (and so many others) make to get-out-of-bed rates most definitely resonates with me....

Yeah, me too. The reason I survived my journey from rock-bottom rates to reasonable is because I had other work (English teaching, mostly) to help me through. That meant that every time I raised rates and lost some of the bad business I had been doing, it wasn't a cause for panic. I interpreted for a while, and that helped me to put more value on my time. If I wasn't going to make as much translating today as I could interpreting, then why do it?


Giles Watson wrote:

...the service provided has to be fit for purpose...there is no point in demanding high rates if you can't deliver a translation that will earn the customer a decent margin.

At the end of the day, it's all about adding value.

I think very few end-customers are capable of making that calculation. What you say, Giles, is certainly how things *should* work, but with the vast majority of translation jobs the marginal effect of translation quality is submerged in a mass of other factors. I know you do some marketing translations, and I assume your clients can see some of the difference that makes in how much wine they sell. But when I translate a standard for a technical project? Or an academic essay? Really, we're floundering. Neither I nor the client knows the true economic "value" of the work, and under those circumstances negotiation is 100% about psychology.

None of which is meant to negate your point, that we should always offer high quality services. That I agree with, of course. But I think the negotiation/rates element of our business can be separated out and optimised independently of the translation work itself.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
Russian to English
+ ...
Low style Dec 24, 2013

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
...it means you did not make it to the author's main point about how to raise your rates.


Not really. There's nothing in the article I didn't already know.

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
By the way, the word you are referring to is no longer considered offensive (at least in the U.S.), especially when used in the idiom "big-ass".


Everyone decides for themselvesicon_smile.gif What you may call down-to-earth, I call vulgar.


Anybody try saying big-a.. company in court or at any seminar, and see what happens. I agree it is sort of vulgar and a very low style talking -- you cannot hear anything like that too much in most formal contexts.

$120 for a notarized Birth Certificate (without an Apostille) it is a total rip-of in my opinion. People may charge prices like that, if they have nothing to translate and they want to make their money somehow. You don't really have to go to the post office to mail a Birth Certificate -- to a Notary, yes, but I don't think we should charge more than $20-$50 for that. Sometimes they are slightly hard to find, but it usually doesn't take more than half an hour to find one who wants to notarize -- some are scared to notarize, for some reason. They just keep the title and notarize for their boss.

I agree that we should not accept very low prices, or rates, especially on larger volume jobs, since we would be gradually destroying our profession by working at the rates more suitable for some maintenance workers lightly dusting desks from time to time with a feather than professionals with various degrees, often with more education than some lawyers. If you can't afford health insurance (or even the penalty for the lack of same), have no money for rent, not to mention any pension savings, no-one will help you -- they may even turn you down from a shelter, if you are a single person and have some friends, or remote relatives. I was just doing some translations for quite an educated single man who had problems being accepted to a shelter -- as a single person with two distant relatives and no children. So, keep your rates right -- in 2014. Happy Holidays.

[Edited at 2013-12-24 11:06 GMT]


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 15:26
Italian to English
Look on quality as a threshold, not a scale Dec 24, 2013

Phil Hand wrote:



At the end of the day, it's all about adding value.


I think very few end-customers are capable of making that calculation. What you say, Giles, is certainly how things *should* work, but with the vast majority of translation jobs the marginal effect of translation quality is submerged in a mass of other factors. I know you do some marketing translations, and I assume your clients can see some of the difference that makes in how much wine they sell. But when I translate a standard for a technical project? Or an academic essay? Really, we're floundering. Neither I nor the client knows the true economic "value" of the work, and under those circumstances negotiation is 100% about psychology.

None of which is meant to negate your point, that we should always offer high quality services. That I agree with, of course. But I think the negotiation/rates element of our business can be separated out and optimised independently of the translation work itself.


Hi Phil,

It goes without saying that you can't know precisely what value the customer is putting on the job - some will be only too keen to tell you, though - but most of the time you can form a good enough idea to know whether the job is worth taking on, passing on to a competent colleague or turning down altogether.

Customers tend to view translation as a commodity, to be purchased at so much per word, and to be honest, it can be genuinely difficult to assess whether it is worth their while paying more for better "quality", however defined, from a new translator. You need to find ways of demonstrating the value you add and establish your own "brand".

These days, compliance with shrinking delivery times is often a major priority. What the customer wants is a faster turnaround without sacrificing too much in the way of quality so if you can deliver a reliable product to the customer's schedule, you may have some wiggle room over rates.

But remember that it is easier to lower rates with discounts for, say, repetitions or run-of-the-mill work than it is to raise them by demanding a premium for a particularly urgent or otherwise challenging job. If you can "anchor" - and justify - a high rate, you will probably earn at least some respect from the enquirer. You will lose more jobs than you win but if you've chosen the right language combinations, sectors and potential customers to target, you stand a good chance of earning a living nonetheless.

FWIW


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
Russian to English
+ ...
It is not even about raising rates. Dec 24, 2013

Just keep your rates descent (like at least $0.10-0.20), if you don't want to end up in a shelter. If you want to work for free -- rather join the Salvation Army or some other humanitarian organization. By supporting some big corporations paying very low rates, you are just adding to the destruction of the world, and the imbalances that make some people, including children, starve.

[Edited at 2013-12-24 11:17 GMT]


 

Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:26
English to German
+ ...
@Lilian Dec 24, 2013

Of course you have to go to the post office to send a certified birth certificate, which has to bear your signature and stamp.

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
Russian to English
+ ...
I am not sure about Europe these days, Dec 24, 2013

but we have mail boxes at each street corner, almost.

 
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