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Minimum Charges
Thread poster: Soluna

Soluna
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
English to German
May 15

I would be interested how many of you use a minimum charge. I have been using the same minimum charge since I began doing work for a large British translation agency back in 1993. Over the last few years I have been getting more and more pressure to ditch the minimum charge, including threats that I would not receive much work from them otherwise. I held fast because as a professional translator even a very small job can involve a lot of research. I am sure you will agree that sometimes they are more difficult to translate than a larger job because of the lack of context. The famous "It's only one sentence" (and no reference material or website!) isn't something that makes me jump with joy! Also I was forced to reduce my per 1000 word rate a few times over the years and I am now charging about the same as 10 or 15 years ago. This is the main agency I work for and I do depend on them to keep my head over water.
Recently I had another pressure message which I declined. I now notice a reduction in jobs sent to me. I am just wondering .....

Have any of you experienced this?


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
A dangerous sentence if ever I saw one May 16

"This is the main agency I work for and I do depend on them to keep my head over water."

That is an existential threat to your business and should be addressed ASAP. Time to diversify your client base!

To answer your question, I do have a minimum fee and rarely do any of my clients (agencies and direct clients) argue with it. In fact, "argue" is not a term I would use in my case; occasionally I get a request to waive or reduce the minimum fee and when I do get this type of request it is usually reasonable in the given situation.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Ouch May 16

Angela Rimmer wrote:
That is an existential threat to your business and should be addressed ASAP. Time to diversify your client base!

Angela is completely right. They have you over a barrel and you need to find other clients, otherwise things will get progressively worse. As matters stand, you literally can't afford to say no - a terrible situation to be in, in any business relationship.

Dan


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Soluna
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
I know! :) May 16

Thanks for your comments, Angela and Dan. I am aware that I need to diversify. I have been working with this particular agency since 1993 and they have generally been good to me and the PMs are very friendly and understanding. I actually got quite a bit of work in from them today so my paranoia has eased! I also work with a couple of other agencies and am planning to expand my involvement with them.
Good to hear that your clients and agencies are not quibbling with your minimum rate. I have not given in to pressure so far and am not planning to. I just wondered whether minimum rates are still being used by other translators and whether they face any pressures to ditch/reduce them.

[Edited at 2018-05-16 12:49 GMT]


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Up to you May 16

I have a minimum fee (one hour), which is a bit excessive sometimes, but tough.

I would never lower my prices either, but only you know your circumstances well enough to make that kind of decision.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 12:33
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Never did it May 16

If I translate 8 words, I charge 8 words.

If the amount at the end of the month is negligible, I tell the client that I will include it in some future invoice and we both happily forget it.

I actually remember being surprised when hearing about minimum charges at the beginning of my career: if I buy 1 apple the grocer will charge 1 apple, right?


[Edited at 2018-05-16 21:20 GMT]


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Oleksandr Vasyliev  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 13:33
Member (2017)
English to Russian
+ ...
Too small amount of payment May 17

Daniel Frisano wrote:
…if I buy 1 apple the grocer will charge 1 apple, right?


[Edited at 2018-05-16 21:20 GMT]

Yes, but would they sell you one apple? Or one strawberry? Or just one teaspoon of sugar? They would have to go through the same motions as with bigger purchase but get ridiculous amount of money for this.


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
The purpose of a minimum fee May 17

Daniel Frisano wrote:

If I translate 8 words, I charge 8 words.

If the amount at the end of the month is negligible, I tell the client that I will include it in some future invoice and we both happily forget it.

I actually remember being surprised when hearing about minimum charges at the beginning of my career: if I buy 1 apple the grocer will charge 1 apple, right?


[Edited at 2018-05-16 21:20 GMT]


If I translate 8 words, sometimes I give them to the client for free. The minimum fee is there, though, to discourage clients from sending 10 words here, 100 words there, over and over, because then the time spent on admin and research for tiny jobs means that I would make a LOSS on the work I was doing. And let's be real here: usually the really tiny jobs are the ones that involve WAY more admin and back-and-forth faff.

And I think we all know the whole "It's just 8 words" shtick. Those 8 words end up costing you way more time and energy because of lack of context and the fact that usually those types of jobs end up being company slogans or product campaign headlines and the client wants them to be PERFECT so they come back again and again with questions, additional context that they should have provided at the start of the tiny job, and requests to revise the work. At least then with a minimum fee I have a buffer of additional time I can give these types of jobs without automatically making a loss.

In my mind, the minimum fee does a few useful things: covers admin costs, provides a buffer for additional time and research if needed, discourages clients from sending a bunch of time-wasting little bits of text and likewise encourages clients to combine smaller jobs so the admin costs take up less of the overall expenses for the project.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I mention it but I don't enforce it May 17

Soluna wrote:
I would be interested how many of you use a minimum charge.


I always mention my minimum fee when quoting for clients, but some clients don't want to pay the minimum fee, and as long as it was agreed to before I started the work, I don't insist on it.

Most agency clients do accept minimum fees. Some of them want to pay half-a-minimum if the job is very, very small, and that's okay by me. I have agencies that regularly send very small jobs (often as part of a larger project), and for them I don't charge the minimum fee if that is what they prefer.

Unlike you, I don't charge the minimum fee to offset research. After all, a large job may require just as much research per paragraph, so the argument about "potential for research" doesn't seem right to me.

I charge a minimum fee to make up for the time taken doing the administration involved, and because short jobs take slighly longer per word than medium-length jobs.


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
"Short jobs take slightly longer per word" May 17

Samuel Murray wrote:

Unlike you, I don't charge the minimum fee to offset research. After all, a large job may require just as much research per paragraph, so the argument about "potential for research" doesn't seem right to me.

I charge a minimum fee to make up for the time taken doing the administration involved, and because short jobs take slighly longer per word than medium-length jobs.


Exactly, they take slightly longer per word (this is what I mean by research). It's less about the fact that you have to do research (which you would do for any job), and more about the likelihood that a small job has little or no context and so by default, the amount of time you have to spend per word increases. That plus admin means it is easy to make a loss on a small job if literally anything in the process takes longer than it should.


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 18:33
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Minimum fees May 17

Clients who accept minimum fees get priority in the pecking order during busy periods. I don't remember turning down any client who offers a small job at a reasonable minimum fee, even when I'm heavily loaded.
That said, there are cases where the minimum fee is impractical and compromises can be made if the working relationship is good.


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Soluna
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Too right May 17

Angela Rimmer wrote:

Exactly, they take slightly longer per word (this is what I mean by research). It's less about the fact that you have to do research (which you would do for any job), and more about the likelihood that a small job has little or no context and so by default, the amount of time you have to spend per word increases. That plus admin means it is easy to make a loss on a small job if literally anything in the process takes longer than it should.


That's just my point, Angela! Sometimes very small jobs are very quick to do and if it's only a few words i often do it for free. But it's the lack of context which can make some of those jobs so much more time-consuming. And lack of context always means more research, extra query emails for clarification etc. A clear minimum fee covers me for that.


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Soluna
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Exceptions May 17

Lincoln Hui wrote:


That said, there are cases where the minimum fee is impractical and compromises can be made if the working relationship is good.


Yes, I do that too in such cases. It often pays to be flexible to keep a good working relationship. I still have a minimum charge as standard.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 12:33
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Exactly May 17

Angela Rimmer wrote:

If I translate 8 words, sometimes I give them to the client for free.



That's what I meant by "we both happily forget it".

I might add that it happens perhaps once a year or less that I receive assignments that are below a hypothetical minimum charge, thus the issue is hardly relevant. I can't envision regularly receiving micro-jobs... is this a thing?


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Soluna
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:33
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Indeed May 17

Daniel Frisano wrote:
I can't envision regularly receiving micro-jobs... is this a thing?


It is a thing when you work for agencies. Sometimes more sometimes less.


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