Retainer Fee, Does it work for your interest?
Thread poster: Nehad Hussein

Nehad Hussein  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:35
English to Arabic
Jun 5, 2014

Hello Everyone,

I have a new client who keep sending small jobs of less than 200 words on a regular basis. so far I used to quote my minimum charge rate, but they came to me today with a proposal to pay a retainer fee. they explained it as that they will add all small jobs and send one invoice at the end of each month. I work mainly on marketing text which mean complexity varies based on the context and the time limit as well. So how can this work for the translator benefit? Should I ask for a fixed rate per job. please share your experience as I am so much dedicated to my work but I am new to the world of freelancing and want to know what exactly I am agreeing to.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
What do you mean by a retainer fee? Jun 5, 2014

If they're just adding up the wordcounts, that's not a retainer fee, it's a way of paying you less money. But I'm not sure if I've understood you correctly.

If they are indeed proposing that if you translate 55 words, you get paid for 55 words, that is not going to be worth your while financially and you should not agree to it.

[Edited at 2014-06-05 10:52 GMT]


 

KateKaminski
Local time: 02:35
German to English
A retainer fee would work differently Jun 5, 2014

They are not offering a retainer fee, which would work differently. One solution:

They pay you a monthly flat rate for these small jobs. Perhaps you could agree to translate up to 1000 words per month of these small jobs, calculated at your standard rate. However, if you only translate 500 words in a certain month, the agency would still owe you the same flat rate for 1000 words (a retainer fee).

You are guaranteeing to translate small jobs up to a total of 1000 words max. for £xxx a month, which benefits both you and the agency. They know how much they will have to pay and likely to save money, they can send all the small jobs to you, invoicing is simpler.

Larger jobs - over your standard minimum rate - would be settled separately.


 

Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:35
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Stick to minimum charges Jun 5, 2014

I would stick to the minimum charges - it sounds like they're just trying to get away with paying you less. I have a client that I do a lot of small proofreading jobs for and charge a minimum fee for each, as otherwise the jobs wouldn't be worth doing with the time I have to spend on admin that isn't strictly chargeable. They asked if a change could be made to charging by time but sending more work. There was no advantage for anyone but the client in this case, as they save money but the proofreader doesn't save any time.

If they pay you a proper retainer fee, meaning that you get money even if they don't send you much work, that could be worth it. Otherwise, I'd say no, the minimum charges per job will continue to apply.


 

Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:35
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Find out exactly what they mean Jun 5, 2014

I get a retainer fee from 1 client and it's a similar situation. Most texts are only 100 - 300 words, sometimes maybe 2000, but that's rare. Indeed, we just count the actual word count, but then I get GBP 150/month on top. In the end, I would only apply a minimum fee per assignment, not per file, so the client might equally wait until he has enough texts to send through to me and avoid the minimum fees that way. It kind of levels itself out. Some months I have only had a file or two and still get the flat fee. At other times several files arrive each day for weeks on end. I do find it a lot more straightforward to work this way, but you need to look at your specific situation and find an arrangement that works for both you and the client.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I do lots of small jobs Jun 5, 2014

Some of my regular clients want a mix of short and longer marketing texts translated or edited.

I streamline the admin process as much as possible and invoice monthly. I have an invoice minimum equal to one hour's work but normally they go well over that. For individual jobs my minimum is very low - sometimes only 5€.

I find that once we're both into the routine I only spend seconds on the admin for each job. And the invoice is just a cut and paste job.

But it does take some trust on both sides - formal POs etc wouldn't work.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:35
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
define retainer fee! Jun 5, 2014

I have a similar system to Sheila, BUT only for one very loyal client, whose texts are always very similar. I can practically do them in my sleep.

Dianaft's £150 on top is a good idea for clients needing the same system but requiring slightly more complexity. It also factors in the fact that you do always need to keep a bit of space free for when the file drops into your inbox, unless the client is willing to wait a while, which they usually aren't, precisely because they are such little bits, they imagine you can dash it off in between whatever. That £150 on top is the actual retainer fee.


 

Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:35
Member (2009)
French to English
Retainer / Minimum Jun 5, 2014

I think this actually could work out for you if you set this retainer at an appropriate rate. I agree that this is basically the equivalent of a minimum fee. I set minimums to factor in the minimum amount of admin work involved in a project as well as the time it takes to set up the project itself and switch gears from whatever I had been working on for this small scrap of work.

How much time and mental effort would it save you to send out one fairly standard invoice each month? Set a price and tell your client that this includes up to 1000 words or whatever amount is appropriate and a rate for any additional words. You can reduce all of your accounting for this customer to a post-it note which you toss if the number of words does not exceed their minimum allowance.

Now, it might be that the fee you would need to charge to compensate for all of the small disruptions would be more than they would like to pay, but you would at least have a basis for a conversation. At best, you have a dependable income flow, your client has a fixed expense, and both of you have less paperwork. At worst, you stay with the same system.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:35
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Proper definition of a retainer Jun 5, 2014

Jenn Mercer wrote:

I think this actually could work out for you if you set this retainer at an appropriate rate. I agree that this is basically the equivalent of a minimum fee.


A retainer is not exactly the same thing as a minimum fee. A retainer agreement involves payment in advance, to be offset against actual work performed. It is generally used when a client wishes guarantee your availability in case they have work for you, but is unsure if they will have work or how much work. By contrast, a minimum fee is only paid if there is any work at all, and you are not necessarily obliged to accept said work.


[Edited at 2014-06-05 16:45 GMT]


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:35
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Small jobs Jun 6, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Some of my regular clients want a mix of short and longer marketing texts translated or edited.

I streamline the admin process as much as possible and invoice monthly. I have an invoice minimum equal to one hour's work but normally they go well over that. For individual jobs my minimum is very low - sometimes only 5€.

I find that once we're both into the routine I only spend seconds on the admin for each job. And the invoice is just a cut and paste job.

But it does take some trust on both sides - formal POs etc wouldn't work.


I do the same as you do, Sheila. It saves both parties a lot of admin time when we both process only one invoice for all the projects - large, medium or small - completed for the client during the month. Adding each project to the monthly invoice takes a couple of minutes instead of completely filling in the invoice, convert it into PDF and then send it on to the client. Invoicing for each project could, in some instances, easily accumulated a couple of hours spend on invoicing per/each months.


 


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