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I’ll try ask the car mechanic or plumber “I only need 5 minutes work done” next time...
Thread poster: DJHartmann

DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Mar 22

I'm wanting to explore the question, why is it okay to ask often highly educated expert translation professionals to work on a job for $10 (or less) but no one disputes their car mechanic or plumber charging (at least) $50 minimums.

My minimum isn't $50, around half that, but I do still always get requests to drop "for this occasion". Sometimes, of course, I can be reasonable when for example, "there are only 27 new words and 14 fuzzies" but I still wonder, would the plumber or mechanic (or any tradesman) take $10 for 5 mins work?

That "5" minutes for us still has to include all the time spent emailing/negotiating, working, invoicing and any necessary revisions. This is how I calculated my minimum at around 30 mins work.

Would your mechanic or plumber take $10?



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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:33
English to French
+ ...
Yup Mar 22

Then again, plumbers or electricians make much more money than translators, at the cost of travelling around and getting to work in dark, damp and uncomfortable spaces.

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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:33
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Location and facilities Mar 22

DJHartmann wrote:
but no one disputes their car mechanic or plumber charging (at least) $50 minimums.

In both cases a significant amount of money needs to be spent on tools and facilities. Even a mobile plumber needs a large van and an awful lot of hardware. My local independent mechanic has a spacious building filled with expensive equipment (and he does not charge me a minimum.)

In contrast, the average freelance translator has a PC and an Internet connection, both of which are items that nearly everybody already owns. Maybe they buy some commercial software.

The other thing is that, for these jobs, location matters. A plumber has to spend time actually getting to your location. The one I use lives more than 10 miles away. Driving at sensible speeds that's a 45-minute round trip, so a significant cost in time and of course in fuel. Most freelancers never have to move from their desks. That's a very different proposition.

Dan


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:33
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Would your mechanic or plumber take $10? Maybe. Would I? No. Mar 22

DJHartmann wrote:
I'm wanting to explore the question, why is it okay to ask often highly educated expert translation professionals to work on a job for $10 (or less) but no one disputes their car mechanic or plumber charging (at least) $50 minimums.

If a good percentage of them started accepting a tiny fee, customers would start to expect it. They seem better at resisting. But then, if your car or tap is broken you only want somebody that you can physically meet up with, quickly. Our clients can choose from thousands of translators around the world for every job.

would the plumber or mechanic (or any tradesman) take $10 for 5 mins work?

We recently had a disconcerting noise under the bonnet. The mechanic - new to us but recommended by a friend - spent five minutes diagnosing it and fixing it, and charged us EUR 5 to cover the cost of a jubilee clip.

That "5" minutes for us still has to include all the time spent emailing/negotiating, working, invoicing and any necessary revisions.

That's why, although my mechanic accepted EUR 5, I wouldn't. He's able to handle a few cash transactions that don't require any admin (maybe not legally, but it's done); I can't, as I don't have any local clients to hand me cash. If I'm to collect any money at all from clients around the world then it has to be invoiced and accounted for. So for me it's either a freebie (rare but possible) or my minimum invoice fee of EUR 30. I do very occasionally lower it, but only if it suits me.

Clients can ask and ask. All you have to do is say no.


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:33
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Depends, like many other things, on the relationship Mar 22

I have a minimum fee that I generally stick to, but if a good client occasionally asks for a freebie, I will usually comply if I know it really will only be 5-15 minutes of work.

Case in point, yesterday a very good client asked me to do a tiny job for free. This client sends me 3000+ euros of work every month, we have a great partnership and I would be a fool to insist on my minimum fee.

If, say, a taxi company regularly uses the same mechanic and sends him good, steady work every month, then I would think they would have no problem asking the mechanic to do a tiny job for them for free.

Also, as long as it's not a habit where you lose out in the long run or the client is taking advantage of the situation and exploiting you, I think it's a good idea to throw in a few extras and freebies from time to time because you want to be seen as a service provider who goes the extra mile. Ultimately that should mean that these clients send a lot more paid work your way. If it doesn't work out like that, then they are users and perhaps do not deserve your good nature -- but then I would imagine that they would not be "good" clients anyway, and so the above would not apply.

So in a nutshell, if the relationship is good then I would consider this sort of (OCCASIONAL) thing to be the cost of doing business.

Edit to add: On another note, I don't know where people get the idea that we are the only profession that gets asked for discounts or freebies or that has to deal with hagglers. I suspect this practice happens in literally any profession where customers talk directly to the seller, especially if they know the seller is a decision-maker and is in a position to negotiate. My partner just haggled with his accountant the other day and got a discount. These things happen.

[Edited at 2017-03-22 16:06 GMT]


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Álvaro Espantaleón  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:33
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No, plumbers don't Mar 22

accept less than 30 euros (in Spain). And that is only when they come in, find out that nothing is actually broken and leave right away (then, they may just charge you 30 euros if, of course, you don't start annoying them with silly requests, like invoices).

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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 15:33
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
I want a car mechanic who only works on Toyotas and absolutely no other cars Mar 22

Hmm. I wonder why we put up with this.

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Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:33
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Affects freelancers/self-employed in all industries Mar 22

DJHartmann wrote:

I'm wanting to explore the question, why is it okay to ask often highly educated expert translation professionals to work on a job for $10 (or less) but no one disputes their car mechanic or plumber charging (at least) $50 minimums.

My minimum isn't $50, around half that, but I do still always get requests to drop "for this occasion". Sometimes, of course, I can be reasonable when for example, "there are only 27 new words and 14 fuzzies" but I still wonder, would the plumber or mechanic (or any tradesman) take $10 for 5 mins work?

That "5" minutes for us still has to include all the time spent emailing/negotiating, working, invoicing and any necessary revisions. This is how I calculated my minimum at around 30 mins work.

Would your mechanic or plumber take $10?



I disagree with quite a few of the points you are raising in your post.

1. "Why is it ok to ask often highly educated expert translation professionals to work on a job for $10 (or less)?" - Well, it isn't.
2. "no one disputes their car mechanic or plumber charging (at least) $50 minimums" - I am sure car mechanics or plumbers would argue that they have exactly the same problem and that people do ask for (or even demand) freebies.
3. "Would your mechanic or plumber take $10?" – Maybe. If thinks it was a particularly small job, he'd probably do it for free.

My main point, though, is that we are not alone in this. Just look at the so-called gig economy and websites such as fiverr (where freelancers offer to do small jobs for a fiver). It affects every industry.

I think you also have to consider the different types of clients. End-clients or private individuals tend to haggle less but agencies see us as "vendors" and very often pressurise us into accepting their own conditions and (sometimes) into working for peanuts. That's the case for translators but it is just as much the case for plumbers, delivery drivers, lawyers, farmers, mechanics, photographers – you name it. It's a big difference whether a small food producer sells his products on the market or to a large supermarket chain; whether a car mechanic does a job for an individual or as part of an umbrella agreement with a large company; whether a lawyer works directly for an individual or via some sort of online platform; and whether a translator translates for a company (which needs our translation) or an agency (which sells on our translation).

I don't like being asked to work for nothing or next to nothing, but at the same time I am more than happy to do the odd freebie for a regular client. And I do get freebies in situations where I am the client: Over the years, my car mechanic, for example, has done a few jobs for me without charging. Only a few weeks ago I had a minor, but unexpectedly fiddly problem with the car and it took him at least half an hour to fix it – he didn't charge anything. A while ago I called out a locksmith (whose services I had used before) because something in the lock mechanism of my patio door had broken. He came and dismantled the lock to assess the problem. He couldn't fix it (old lock with no spare parts available) but just made it usable again. In the end he probably spent half an hour on the job (including travel) but refused to charge anything because he hadn't fixed the problem.

[Edited at 2017-03-22 15:58 GMT]


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:33
German to English
Worth the trouble to invoice? Mar 22

Most of my customers are long-term clients, and I don't mind giving them "freebies" on occasion. My criterion in general is whether doing a short translation/edit will take more or less time than preparing an invoice as well as the handling time on the customer's end. That is, am I occasionally willing to give 15-20 minutes of my time gratis to an established customer? Of course!

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Christophe Delaunay  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 08:33
Member (2011)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Sheila said it all Mar 22

"Our clients can choose from thousands of translators around the world for every job."

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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
My education wasn't free Mar 22

Dan Lucas wrote:

In both cases a significant amount of money needs to be spent on tools and facilities. Even a mobile plumber needs a large van and an awful lot of hardware. My local independent mechanic has a spacious building filled with expensive equipment (and he does not charge me a minimum.)



While their tools cost money, so did my Bachelor's and Master's degrees, so does our industry memberships, software and so on.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:33
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Neither was theirs Mar 22

DJHartmann wrote:
While their tools cost money, so did my Bachelor's and Master's degrees, so does our industry memberships, software and so on.

So did their vocational training and their apprenticeships and so does their ongoing CPD, and their memberships and subscriptions! And their overheads - vehicles, fuel etc.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 09:33
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
How much do we lose on small jobs? Mar 22

When working on a large project I know each hour spent means a certain amount of income. If we turn instead on one of these mini-jobs we should charge so much as we would make on the big job.
In fact for regular customers I often do not charge at all so I don't lose time writing invoices. I trust their next big job will make up for it.
But only last week I got rid of a customer who most of the time sent small jobs every few months which each time required to use SDL Studio and would pay only 10 Euro. I raised my minimal charge to 25 and hopefully will not see more of it.


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
It's not about tools or freebies Mar 22

I think that most non-translators just are not aware of the added value (benefits):
“Say what?! Almost everyone is computer literate, how come $50 for a short slightly retouched Google-Translate?”

Translation is more about very p2p-relations, yet there always some who are ignorant or merely neglect and abuse mutually beneficial relations–because translators either tolerate such an attitude or don’t promote a better understanding properly.

On the other hand, I try to help my people and customer even without direct financial advantage, and I often get freebies just 'for beer' and 'thank-you' too, yet mostly in (prospective) long-term relations.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:33
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Well Mar 22

Quick answer...because time is money.

For $ 10.00 my plumber would leave his office, go to the garage and get into his car. Then he would want some more money to start the car and come over.

But translators are apparently not plumbers.... because they don't have to leave their office to do their job?

P. S. I hope nobody misses the sarcasm here.


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