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Negotiation Skills: How Far Should You Push It
Thread poster: Nehad Hussein
Nehad Hussein  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:42
English to Arabic
Oct 1, 2014

Hello Everyone,

A recent client of mine, an agency, has contacted me today for a revision job of over 2000 words. Although, It is usually a good paying client, They offered a low rate as of £45. The text is marketing, which falls within my area of specialization and full with repetitions, however it comes with detailed instruction as of characters limit per line and ST to check as well. At first instance, I felt this is wrong and I cant do it for this rate. After a bit of pushing, the absolute maximum They offered was £70, which again does not cover my minimum rate. They argued that it is although it looks like creative text, it is not really is and full with repetition. It did not go anywhere after that, and I had I to reject.

Now I have few questions to ask:

1) Although I feel relieved that I have done injustice to my business, There is an inner voice says 'but you could have done it'. So when it is right to say yes to a low offer?

2) What can you say to PMs some times when they say to you that they are not going to charge their clients for one job, or they will charge them a lower rate and therefore they cant pay your trans-creation rate.

3) How should WE handle negotiation. I know it is a broad topic, but some basic tips will be helpful as well.

Note: This agency has many world wide branches and their client is a luxury brand. So they are no way near the saying, 'Sorry, we cant afford it'.


Sorry for this long post, but I just started running my business few months ago and this situation is just there all the time and sometimes it make me feel frustrated and wonder if I do the right thing when I say no.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Just say no, it doesn't match your rates Oct 1, 2014

Everywhere else in society, if I can't afford to or don't want to pay the price listed, there will be no sale. There are some sectors where one can negotiate a bit, of course, but it sometimes comes with the risk of the service provider doing a quick and sloppy job.

The way I see it, I first study the market and the market rates, then I set my standard rates and a margin for lower minimum rates in cases when it is justified, and then I apply them. I don't question my rates every time someone tries to pay less. So if the payment on offer is below my (unpublished) minimum rate, it is no. End of story. Nobody else in society cuts their rates down to just a shadow of what they should be, so why should translators?

1) Yes, you could have done it, and the local plumber could also have renovated your bathroom for €10 but for good reasons declined. There is no injustice in this.

2) "What can you say to PMs some times when they say to you that they are not going to charge their clients for one job, or they will charge them a lower rate and therefore they cant pay your trans-creation rate?" You were not involved in that negotiation between the agent and their client, so you are not bound by it. If the agent promises something cheap to their client, it is up to them to assure they can get it for that price. It's not your problem. Your concern is your rates and how they match the agent's offer or not.

3) How to handle negotiation is a vast subject. When you negotiate, it is to achieve a compromise that is satisfactory for both parties and provides advantages to both parties. One advantage could be regular activity of very similar kind where the repetition reduces the workload per unit. In that case, some reduction could be justified. But if it's one-sided, just so that agents can squeeze the rates yet again, there is not much point negotiating in the first place. Some agents will continue trying to negotiate rates until you have to pay for the privilege of working for them.


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Nehad Hussein  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:42
English to Arabic
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Thomas Oct 1, 2014

Really helpful and funny as well.

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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:42
Member (2014)
English to German
As a newbie I find this reassuring ... Oct 1, 2014

... if just all translators thought like this.

Over the past year I have tried to gain some experience and worked for pretty low rates, but it never seems to be low enough - its bottomless.

When I recently offered very little to translate 20 articles (web content, nothing demanding), the client came back to me saying that what I asked for translation is more than it cost to have the articles written and whether I would be prepared to write him 20 articles in German in order to justify the higher cost!!! Needless to say, I refused.

Now I feel ready and confident to charge professional rates, however, I also have gained a regular client, a very well known brand, who I would like to keep, but I am not sure how to approach this. I need to more than double my rate! They surely can afford it.


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Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
It's also a cultural thing Oct 1, 2014

Negotiation in many cultures is a way of life. I only had once a very long negotiation with a Far East country client. I had never done it for so long but it was fun, and at the end I got the rate I wanted. It was not worth it, due to the long exchange of e-mails but it was a good training. The most important thing to keep in mind is "know your value, or the value of your services". When you are aware of that, you'll also know how to conduct a successful negotiation. "Client is king" but you decide who'll be your client

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:42
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A few possibly useful guidelines Oct 1, 2014

1. If you are a real pro, you'll know that your price is right: it's not what you'd like to earn, but instead it was calculated after a thorough survey of what the market offers in terms of services equivalent to yours. In other words, it is comparatively good value, a good cost/benefit ratio from the client's standpoint.

2. If you yield to granting discounts just because the client asked for them, this is dishonest! Your first offer will be exposed as an attempt to rip them off. After you do it once, they'll have reason to never trust your first cost estimates again, and will try to negotiate hard every time, because they'll know they can and will get a discount.

3. On the other hand, if they cancel any part of the order, e.g. no need to review beyond spell-checking, since your translation will be rewritten by our subject matter gurus, or never mind formatting, this will undergo DTP, a corresponding discount will be justified.

4. Also, if the turnaround time is longer - so instead of doing it in your prime time you can tackle it in the otherwise idle time between one project and another - you can ease off a bit on the price.

5. If payment terms/methods cause an impact on your net receivables, you may offer them options to save on that. For instance, here in Brazil receiving via PayPal costs me 10%; if instead they offered, say, a bank transfer in local currency by their subsidiary here, they should be entitled to these 10% as a discount.

The bottom line is that your net price per work unit actually ordered and timely delivered should not change on their request. Everything else may be negotiated.


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Michal Fabian  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:42
Member (2012)
Dutch to Slovak
+ ...
How do you define 'rate'? Oct 1, 2014

1) the monetary value of your work and your time
2) a random number you throw at the client to see if you might get lucky today

If the answer 1, there is no reason to cave in and de-value your work.


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Texte Style
Local time: 18:42
French to English
luxury brands Oct 1, 2014

Nehad Hussein wrote:

Note: This agency has many world wide branches and their client is a luxury brand. So they are no way near the saying, 'Sorry, we cant afford it'.


I work a lot with luxury brands and if there's ONE thing they have in common it's total tight-fistedness. The rich don't get rich by giving it away after all.

I love the type of work they send me but I have learned to be tough with the tight-fisted. Of course they can afford me, they just don't want to have to fork out what I charge.

When it's an organic farmer or a "cosmetics firm" which is actually a couple who have set up a lab in their bathroom but with a strong focus on sustainable development and organic ingredients, then I'm prepared to slash my rate on the understanding that once their business has grown enough to rival those who tell us we're worth it, they'll pay me handsomely.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You're doing well, IMHO Oct 1, 2014

Nehad Hussein wrote:
sometimes it make me feel frustrated and wonder if I do the right thing when I say no.

It's always good to try to say "yes" to regular clients who pay on time and don't cause endless problems, but there have to be limits. You're doing your job, not a favour.

I only have one piece of advice to add to that of others.
They offered a low rate as of £45.
After a bit of pushing, the absolute maximum They offered was £70
I had I to reject.

You have the roles a bit askew here. The way it should go is:
1 - they offer you work
2 - you quote your price for the work
3 - you and your client can negotiate if there's room for negotiation (José's mentioned a few possibilities)
4 - the client accepts, or refuses, the price quoted in 2; or the two parties in 3 agree, or fail to agree, on a new price.

Your client has no place making an offer. In practice, many agencies talk this way, but all you should accept is for the client to inform you of their budget. So, aim to discourage this "offer" practice in all your dealings with them. Little hints all the time do help, e.g. instead of saying "I can't accept that offer", say "I can't offer you a price within your budget".


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Nehad Hussein  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:42
English to Arabic
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks all for the practical advice Oct 1, 2014

You are right. I should make more research on the acceptable price in my market. I have actually asked about the average price of my language pair in the UK and got all sort of answers, but the striking part is how much agencies are negotiating hard even when offered lower rates.

I know that the Arab linguists who exists in the UK are not many, but instead this becomes my advantage, the fierce competition I am facing with other linguists based in my target language countries who are willing to accept one 1/4 of UK rates raises my doubts.

Anyway, I am thankful to all your advice and definitely will keep them in mind before I make my next quote.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Average ratres on Proz Oct 1, 2014

You can look up average rates offered on Proz on http://search.proz.com/employers/rates , then decide how you want to position yourself relative to that for your language combinations.

In your Proz profile, you can enter standard rates and minimum rates. You can decide whether or not to publish it. I don't publish my minimum rates because if I did, everybody would expect to pay the minimum rates. It is still useful to have decided in advance what the minimum I will accept is in what is a tough market.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:42
English to German
+ ...
On budget Oct 1, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Your client has no place making an offer. In practice, many agencies talk this way, but all you should accept is for the client to inform you of their budget. So, aim to discourage this "offer" practice in all your dealings with them. Little hints all the time do help, e.g. instead of saying "I can't accept that offer", say "I can't offer you a price within your budget".


Just wanted to add that I personally don't ask that question about THEIR budget anymore. But maybe you just meant "to let them tell you about their budget without having asked them for it." It does happen that at some point during the negotiation process, the prospective client might mention it.

In any case, here are a few more thoughts.
In my opinion, if someone has already decided on a budget, it's going to be hard to quote a professional rate or negotiate an adequate price. If you approach a client and simply ask them what their budget is, you're already lost most of your negotiating power. If you quote a price and at the same time ask if this fits their budget or what their budget is, then you give them an opportunity to tell you a number that is lower if not significantly lower than what you quoted - some will just use their "budget restraint" to try to drive your price down.

Now if you quote a price and they then come back and say that their budget is only so much, you can try to explain to them why you are charging what you're charging, explain to them a bit about professional rates, how prices are calculated and that you are quoting a price adequate for the work and that they will surely be helped greatly by someone who knows what they are doing, not just with regard to translating but with regard to running a successful business. If they are open to that kind of persuasion or really care about their business or the objectives they attach to the language service/product, this might get you the fair price you need.

What I find most important when it comes to quoting is a thorough "human" analysis of the text(s) and editing work that is required BEFORE you quote. When you know the scope of the project exactly, you can be much more confident about asking the "right" price and you will see yourself why the price you quote is adequate.

HTH

[Edited at 2014-10-01 14:07 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:42
Member (2008)
French to English
Just say No Oct 1, 2014

One of the most important things about negotiation is to know when to walk away. This is a decision you have to make, preferably not in the middle of negotiation. If the negotiation reaches that point, walk away.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:42
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Excellent points! Oct 1, 2014

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Just wanted to add that I personally don't ask that question about THEIR budget anymore. But maybe you just meant "to let them tell you about their budget without having asked them for it." It does happen that at some point during the negotiation process, the prospective client might mention it.


Thinking it over, I never asked any prospect about their budget. I think it's none of my business! As a matter of fact, I don't give a chance for them to tell me their budget.

In compliance to my ethics code, I have done my due diligence in defining my prices as a really fair deal for both sides: clients actually get what they pay for, as far as I can tell.

So, if a client said they could pay more than what I charge, I would be denying my fairness by accepting that.

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
In my opinion, if someone has already decided on a budget, it's going to be hard to quote a professional rate or negotiate an adequate price. If you approach a client and simply ask them what their budget is, you're already lost most of your negotiating power. If you quote a price and at the same time ask if this fits their budget or what their budget is, then you give them an opportunity to tell you a number that is lower if not significantly lower than what you quoted - some will just use their "budget restraint" to try to drive your price down.


This is precious.

I give them MY price, and I know what I can deliver. If their budget is less than that, they'll immediately know that they can't afford MY services; they'll have to either hire someone else or revise their figures. It's their call.

I don't expect the client to have a budget. I expect them to expect me to have some 'price list' or whatever, whereby I can tell them how much what they want/need is gonna cost, so they can develop a budget.

AFAIK all other budgets are built this way.

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
Now if you quote a price and they then come back and say that their budget is only so much, you can try to explain to them why you are charging what you're charging, explain to them a bit about professional rates, how prices are calculated and that you are quoting a price adequate for the work and that they will surely be helped greatly by someone who knows what they are doing, not just with regard to translating but with regard to running a successful business. If they are open to that kind of persuasion or really care about their business or the objectives they attach to the language service/product, this might get you the fair price you need.


And this one is the cherry on the top.

If they don't know what they are buying, they are entitled to think it's too expensive.

We do it all the time. For instance, at a restaurant: "Hey, this Special Steak is quite expensive. What comes with it?"

If their business relies on sound management, they will be curious about how loud is the bang they'll be getting for their buck... and not how cheaply they can strike a chord.


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Jacques DP  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 18:42
Member (2003)
English to French
A simple thing for me Oct 1, 2014

This has become very simple as far as I'm concerned. I make a certain amount per hour on average and I am happy with it. Therefore, for any job that is offered me, I am willing to do it if I make this hourly yield, not otherwise. This determines my offer (based on an estimate of the time it will take me), after which if client gives up that's fine by me, no regrets whatsoever, since I would not like to work below that price.

In other words there is almost no room anymore for negotiation in my activity.


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Negotiation Skills: How Far Should You Push It

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