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My client doesn't want to give me a raise
Thread poster: Emilie Naudin
Emilie Naudin  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:37
English to French
Jun 23, 2015

Hello fellow translators,

Here is my problem: one of my clients, who I've been with for 2 years, says they can't give me a raise despite my "reliability and quality". But I find that hard to believe because I have a feeling my present rates are very, very low: 0.07€ per word and 18€ per hour for English to French. Those are the rates I gave them 3 years ago when I first applied to the job and they haven't changed since.

What do you think of those rates? They ARE very low, aren't they? I can't imagine any of the other translators working with that company are getting so little...

Thanks in advance for your opinions on this


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:37
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
How I approach my clients for a 'raise' Jun 23, 2015

Other than the obvious inflation argument, I tell my clients I'm swamped with work (which is true) and a slight increase in rates will help them compete for my time. I make them understand that without a 'raise,' I may or may not be reliably available for their projects as before. When the client does value our cooperation, this usually works.

What do I think of your rates? I don't know if 0.07 EUR per word is extremely low for English to French; that also depends on whether you are a specialist or a generalist. However, I would expect to be earning much more than 18 EUR at 0.07 EUR per word.

[Edited at 2015-06-23 11:54 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-06-23 11:55 GMT]


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:37
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Clients don't "give you a raise" ... Jun 23, 2015

... you tell them that you are putting your rates up.

Sounds like you need to widen your client base so that you can do this confidently without worrying that one or two customers might fall by the wayside. Time to do some marketing!

(And I'm not in your pair but, yes, your rates are very low).

[Edited at 2015-06-23 11:52 GMT]


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:37
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Call their bluff Jun 23, 2015

I always find it strange when freelancers talk about clients "giving them raises" or talk about "applying for a job" as if the client were an employer. YOU are the one who sets your own rates. If the client doesn't want to accept that, move on to greener pastures and better clients.

In your particular case, Emilie, if your relationship with the client has been very good up to this point, then perhaps they will stay with you even if you raise your rates. Pricing is always a negotiation, and the first rule of thumb in negotiation is not to show all your cards. So the client may claim that they can't afford it or that they won't accept it (even though this isn't necessarily true). Ultimately they can't force you to keep your rates the same and it might be worth calling their bluff.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Absolutely agree with Rachel Jun 23, 2015

You're thinking like an employee, Emilie, going cap in hand to the boss. That's not the way to earn respect in a B2B situation. They might be the bigger partner in the relationship but you're a business too.

Your rates are low, but we know for a fact here that there are loads of 'translators' who are more than willing to work for that. I've put that in quotes because apart from a few naive beginners, most aren't really career translation professionals - they're just trying to earn a bit of money.


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Emilie Naudin  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:37
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Wow, that was fast! Jun 23, 2015

Thanks a lot for such fast replies!
You're giving me back my confidence, because I actually started believing that my rates weren't that low!!
The thing is, I don't really need to keep this client, but I really enjoy what I do with them so I didn't want to risk pushing too hard.
But now that I'm sure my rates are ridiculous, I'll not hesitate.

Thanks again for your help, everyone


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:37
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Community rates Jun 23, 2015

The average 'standard' rate reported by members of ProZ.com working from English to French is $0.12/word, which comes to about 0.11 EUR/word. Naturally, there are two limitations to this statistic:

1) It doesn't mean translators actually get paid this rate on average. It's just what they've reported as their standard rate. The average 'minimum' reported rate, by the way, stands at $0.09/word.

2) This average includes all experience levels and all subject areas, including well-paid ones like medical, technical and legal, as well as paid-less-than-average ones like literary and many others.

Keeping in mind point 2, if you don't have lots of experience (I wasn't able to tell from your profile) and your subject areas are not among the best-paid (which according to your profile *is* the case), your rate is not *extremely low* for the service you appear to provide. Which of course doesn't mean you cannot raise your rates. I'm sure you can, with the right marketing approach.

To know what an extremely low rate is, consider that in Russian-speaking countries and some others, there are tens of thousands of translators working from English for 0.01 EUR/word, which is only 10% to 15% of a 'good' rate for their language pairs.

[Edited at 2015-06-23 12:25 GMT]


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Emilie Naudin  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:37
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Well-paid areas Jun 23, 2015

That's a very good point you're raising, Mikhail, and one I must admit I've never given any thought.
This particular client is in the gaming industry; I translate on-line games content for them.
Is it in the paid-less-than-average areas?

As for experience, I started my business 8 years ago, but I only started working in the gaming industry 4.5 years ago.


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Gad Kohenov  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 05:37
English to Hebrew
+ ...
They always will try... Jun 23, 2015

They say: "you gave us 0.10Euro per source word as your price", My answer: "That was good at that time, now prices are higher". They will say: "In 2008 you gave us x as your price per source word". Answer: "Now it is 2015". I just "fire" such agencies. I am not their employee. The worse are those who give you a price together with the assignment. You have to give them a price offer, not vice versa!. Especially translations into French which must cost more than translations from French. It takes me much more time to translate into French, with all the anachronistic accents etc. French translators charge less for French>English than for English>French translations. Incroyable mais vrai!
You will get the same pay in 20 years time if you don't stand for your rights! Unfortunately translators are divided and not united. We let companies do "divide and rule" and other ridiculous tactics instead of having at least a decent minimum price for every language pair. What do I call ridiculous tactics? introducing CAT tools and paying you only once the full amount for a word that occurs more than once. Is someone mentions a CAT tool to me, he is "fired" sur le champ. No arguments no nothing! If you follow the French saying
"charbonnier est maître chez lui" and stick to your guns you have a chance of surviving in this modern jungle. If not you better look for another occupation. I am a freelancer for 30 years and I will not let any of these "geniuses" get any of my hard earned experience for a pittance. When they say "give us your better price". I say: "no such thing. There is MY price. Take it or beat it". We had enough with these bottom feeders. If only we all asked 0.1$us per source word as a price we don't go below for any excuse, after a very short time only amaterus will work and make damage. But nobody is ready to do it even at the cost of earning nothing for a couple of weeks. And like this the prices will get lower and lower. In short: "United we stand, divided we fall".

G.K.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:37
Member (2014)
English to German
The reality seems confusing Jun 23, 2015

There is a job advertised in my pair and others with a rate of $0.04 to 0.05 and I find it shocking how many 'qualified translators' from this 'professional site' applied. Not so many in my language pair, but still.

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:37
German to English
doesn't matter if rates are low or high Jun 23, 2015

The difference between freelancing and being employed is that it is perfectly normal for clients to drop you or use you only as a plan B, because they have found someone else better or cheaper than you. By the same token it is perfectly normal for us to tell a client that we are raising our fees or will only occasionally be able to work with them at the old rate, because we have found other clients who are better or pay more.

So it does not really matter if your fees are high, average, or low. If you consistently have more than enough work, then you should start improving your client base by telling the worst-paying or otherwise least desirable clients that you will be raising your rates (or changing whatever other aspect of your collaboration) on Date XYZ and then they are free to decide whether to take it or leave it or take it, but shop around on the side, or leave it, but keep you in mind if they don't find a good replacement ...


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:37
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Another consideration Jun 23, 2015

Another consideration that surprisingly no one has mentioned before is whether a translator's quality is actually commensurate with their rate.

Demand/market fluctuations notwithstanding, with good marketing a translator will keep getting more work at their current rate for as long as their bang-for-buck ratio is good. With enough work coming in, they can raise their rate while dropping the least lucrative and/or least pleasant customers. At some point of course they will hit their ceiling rate and just stay there, more or less comfortably.

My point is that a particular translator's ceiling rate is influenced not only by the average market rate, but in large part by the quality of their services.

Are you providing excellent quality for the fees you charge? Or good quality? Or so-so quality? We don't really know.

[Edited at 2015-06-23 13:45 GMT]


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Emilie Naudin  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:37
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Quality Jun 23, 2015

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

Are you providing excellent quality for the fees you charge? Or good quality? Or so-so quality? We don't really know.


Well, I like to think I provide excellent quality. There's no (point in) doing this job if you can't do it properly. And my work has been praised by all my clients, including this one. This one's actually been the most laudatory, I think (as well as the most exigent).


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Georgia Morgan  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:37
Member (2011)
Portuguese to English
not that low Jun 23, 2015

I don't think rates have risen much in Europe in the last few years, I charge 0.06 Euros per source word and have done since 2011. Before you ask, I got three Distinctions in the IOL Diploma in Translation but have only been working as a translator since 2008......

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 11:37
Chinese to English
Game translation rates are often a bit low... Jun 24, 2015

Emilie Naudin wrote:

That's a very good point you're raising, Mikhail, and one I must admit I've never given any thought.
This particular client is in the gaming industry; I translate on-line games content for them.
Is it in the paid-less-than-average areas?

As for experience, I started my business 8 years ago, but I only started working in the gaming industry 4.5 years ago.

...in my pair, at least. But really, there's only one way to go about this negotiation: you have to be tough, and you have to be willing to lose the client. Go and tell them that your rates are going up, but that you would very much like to continue working with them. They might not go for it, but they might go and get a cheaper translator, find that the work simply isn't up to your standards, and then come back to you. Have confidence!


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