How do you decide how much to charge extra?
Thread poster: Anna Augustin

Anna Augustin
Germany
Local time: 00:25
Member (May 2018)
English to German
+ ...
Dec 4

Hello everyone,

up until this point today, I have never really had to deliver a project faster than I (more or less comfortably) could.

About an hour ago, I was approached by an agency who need a translation of 4,000 words (3,900 No Match) by tomorrow morning (in ~17 hours).

I offered to push my other projects and work overtime. However, I asked for a higher rate in return.

They even seemed offended by my ask, but it wasn't even ridiculously high or anything. In my opinion, it easily could've been more if I look at what other colleagues charge. And rightfully so I must add.

In order to not get into this situation again, I thought I should set some ground rules for future express translations. Up until now, most of my clients were direct clients and usually gave me enough time, so I never had to stress about this.

How do you decide how much to charge extra? Do you have a list of different kinds of express translations? Or do you decide more or less on the fly?


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:25
Member
English to French
The price of trouble Dec 4

It's a very personal decision, and it very much depends on how busy you usually are.
If you prefer to work at night in order to have your days free, or your social life allows to work WEs or nights, or you like it, or you're a vampire, you may want to get an edge and offer no extra charge for tasks scheduled at those times.
If you want to keep some semblance of a "normal" job, you offer whatever you see fit to (1) deter any agency to offer you such work, (2) offset the trouble of doing things you don't want to at those times.

I offer a surcharge of 50% whenever I am specifically asked to work late, weekends or anything that bothers me. Offering a high price is also a way to say thanks, but no thanks, and if you insist, I will cave in, but it will cost. Sometimes with urgent stuff, people just prefer to pay whatever and trust the outcome than to rush looking for a cheaper victim.

Needless to say, apart from sports PRs I used to translate each weekend some years ago, such jobs are not commonplace.

4000 words at 4pm for delivery before noon tomorrow?
I'd charge around 30% more, since about half of it may be doable (TBC) during standard hours. Or I wouldn't take it on.

But that's just because I work enough each day and I don't need extra work. If I struggled, you bet I'd work WEs and nights at my standard rates. And offer discounts for volumes.

Philippe


Anna Augustin
B D Finch
Sandra& Kenneth
Gareth Callagy
Matheus Chaud
Ester Vidal
IrinaN
 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 07:25
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
No single answer Dec 4

The considerations are not much different from whether I accept a project at all, or whether I am willing to make some leeway in my terms.

I will say this: it's more important that the client is willing to pay *some* extra, rather than how much extra they are willing to pay. It's important to work with people who are acting in good faith, and this is one of the ways to show it. They are well within their rights to politely decline if it doesn't work with their budget, but to look offended at the request is a warning sign.

And as with all negotiations, you can afford to bargain if and only if you can afford to let the opportunity pass by. Some people can't afford to give up the $400 in hand for a chance at the $600 in the bush, while others cannot care less.

[Edited at 2018-12-04 16:49 GMT]


Anna Augustin
Yunping Yang
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:25
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Rush jobs for unknown clients = trouble ahead! Dec 4

Anna Augustin wrote:
About an hour ago, I was approached by an agency who need a translation of 4,000 words (3,900 No Match) by tomorrow morning (in ~17 hours).

I offered to push my other projects and work overtime. However, I asked for a higher rate in return.

They even seemed offended by my ask

It was probably the type of broker - one link in a long chain of agencies - that only ever has rush projects because no self-respecting translator would ever work for them twice, so they have to go through the whole recruitment process every time. They aren't interested in paying for quality. They want a good job done ridiculously fast, and they want to pay peanuts. Of course, I could be wrong about this particular agency, but it is a common scenario. Have you checked them out thoroughly - Blue Board, etc? In all likelihood, they were banking on you not having the time to do the due diligence checks on them. Also, they wouldn't have either the time or the inclination to get your work proofread, even though there would arguably be more need if you've been rushed and working when you're tired. What are the chances that they'll come up with some vague "quality concerns"? Quite high, I'd say. Then you'd have a job getting your full rate from them, let alone the extra that it was actually worth. Your reputation could end up suffering.

How do you decide how much to charge extra? Do you have a list of different kinds of express translations? Or do you decide more or less on the fly?

For the above reasons, I never accept rush jobs from new clients. My regulars do often have them for me though, as I work a lot with event publicity and some press releases are really urgent. I don't have any hard-and-fast rules, but I do reserve the right to charge extra for various reasons. If I have to reschedule other jobs, work without taking my normal breaks, start late or finish early, rush a meal, work at the weekend, etc., then I'll normally impose a surcharge of a minimum of 25% and more often 50%. However, if they happen to catch me at a quiet time and in a good mood, I'll do it for the normal price. Sometimes the client will suggest a surcharge, so that puts them in my good books for the next time icon_smile.gif. At other times, these jobs get to be a habit and I start to wonder just how "rush" they really are. I don't charge extra for working public holidays as Spain has far too many of them and my clients aren't in Spain, anyway. And I never charge for working when I'm on holiday as I absolutely refuse to have any contact with my clients during those periods icon_smile.gif.


Teresa Borges
Kevin Fulton
B D Finch
Anna Augustin
Philippe Etienne
Sandra& Kenneth
Matheus Chaud
 

Anna Augustin
Germany
Local time: 00:25
Member (May 2018)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your input Dec 4

I offer a surcharge of 50% whenever I am specifically asked to work late, weekends or anything that bothers me.

In my book, that's very reasonable and I like your way of saying "thanks, but no thanks!"icon_biggrin.gif Very creative and polite.

4000 words at 4pm for delivery before noon tomorrow?
I'd charge around 30% more, since about half of it may be doable (TBC) during standard hours. Or I wouldn't take it on.

Yes, I asked for roughly 30% more, so I guess my ask wasn't outrageous at all. Thanks.

And as with all negotiations, you can afford to bargain if and only if you can afford to let the opportunity pass by. Some people can't afford to give up the $400 in hand for a chance at the $600 in the bush, while others cannot care less

You're absolutely right and I definitely could've used that money before Christmas, but sometimes you have to wait for a better chance. And I think I did the right thing of not putting up with them.

Have you checked them out thoroughly - Blue Board, etc? In all likelihood, they were banking on you not having the time to do the due diligence checks on them.

They have been a member since 2011 or 2012 and have no blue board entries whatsoever. The same goes for TranslatorsCafe. I found it odd, so I would have asked them to pay half upfront anyway. I do that most of the time when a client seems pushy or odd. Interestingly enough, most of the clients who are pushy or odd are agencies. I have never had an issue with a direct client.

but I do reserve the right to charge extra for various reasons.

I think I like this "vagueness" or rather "openness" of this phrasing. Clients know that, depending on the circumstances, they might be charged extra if they require something special.

____

Sheila was pretty much spot on. They pushed me even more a bit later on. They posted here on ProZ three times for this exact job and it seems no one applied, so they reached out to me again and asked for my "best rate" again (I hate this euphemism).
When I said that the rate I offered was already the best rate and if they wanted me to go down, I would need more time, they said "Can you please send us a sample so that we can be sure that you're a good fit?" and attached a short test translation.
I said that I don't have time for unpaid work, to which they replied "I just need this for the client, we can agree on your rates then."

So I stopped what I did, translated the sample and guess what? They reacted with "That is good work. Thanks. However, your rate is too high. We can offer 0.06 EUR per word."

ARGH! I hate it when I fall into these traps.

However, thanks very much for your input. I think I will be a bit more persistent next time (re: "Thanks, but no thanks.") and not get pulled into a string of emails that was already too long anyway.
Live and learn, I guessicon_smile.gif


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:25
Member
English to French
A common stunt Dec 5

Anna Augustin wrote:
...So I stopped what I did, translated the sample and guess what? They reacted with "That is good work. Thanks. However, your rate is too high. We can offer 0.06 EUR per word."

ARGH! I hate it when I fall into these traps...

This gives a pretty good picture of their operations. As Sheila rightly pointed out, it is good practice to NEVER accept urgent work from unknown clients. Of course, I might break the rule after full payment in advance (which never happens): the risk is on their side, not mine.

I find there is a lot of abuse when it comes to free tests. The agency doesn't commit to anything, from compensation conditions to firm work orders. They just consider they're entitled to a free test because we've nothing on our hands, have been waiting for them all day long and our time costs nothing.

As much as I understand that the agency end-clients may ask for a test to ensure the agency have the right resources available, the "free test" requirement seems to become part of the standard way of enlisting translators to a bottomless list of "resources" that's going to catch dust for eons to come. Information is pow(d)er.

After my share of frustrating experiences with free tests, I have got more and more reluctant to comply. Agencies that are serious, ie looking for a translator for a specific project and not browsing public directories to keep trainees busy, thoroughly pre-screen translators upstream. So I'd anticipate only a handful of tests are actually required for a language pair. Anyway, they often agree on my charging my standard rate for a test. To set the stage from the onset, I specify the amount charged from the moment the word "test" is used, whether or not next to "free". Or they test you on a real-life translation with an ample deadline to cater for disaster-fixing if they were lied to on actual skills.

That said, I have gained a tiny percentage of desirable agency clients as a result of "free tests". The whole agency attitude and history must be taken into account, and the "free test" thing is only a (harming) part of the whole picture. "Instinct", "first impressions", "gut feeling" are always valuable inputs.

Philippe


Anna Augustin
Gareth Callagy
Sheila Wilson
 

Anna Augustin
Germany
Local time: 00:25
Member (May 2018)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
BB Score Dec 5

Philippe Etienne wrote:
This gives a pretty good picture of their operations.


Yes, you are right. I am thinking about giving them a blue board score for that, however, I don't know if it's appropriate as it may seem frustrated or bitter.
I have seen blue board scores about companies' hiring practices, though. And it might help others.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 00:25
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I do rush jobs for known clients, and sometimes charge 1½ times my normal rate Dec 5

I have been lucky once or twice, and picked up a good client by stepping in when their regular translator was ill or suddenly not available.
The worst scammer I have ever worked for also trapped me with a story about a translator letting him down… So you never know.

To answer your question, I consider how much it actually costs me.

One of my favourite clients called recently, at about 5 pm, with 350 words for 9 am the next morning. He knows I tend to work late in the day if I am working at all. I did the job at no extra charge.

Otherwise, I consider things like whether I will have to sit up all night, and then sleep it off the next day. It may be no big problem, or it may trigger a migraine attack. Either way, I lose part or all of a day's work later. (That's how much it 'bothers' me.) So I charge for several hours extra, reckoning the migraine is my problem, but the loss of 'normal' working hours is something I can charge the client for.

One of my regular clients used to offer me one and a half to twice the normal rate for a rushed job, again, knowing my owlish habits! That is in line with general practice for overtime pay in many Danish companies - one and a half times normal pay for a smallish number of hours, then double, or one and a half times normal pay for weekdays outside normal hours and Saturdays, double for Sundays, or some scheme like that.

You probably can't get quite such generous terms from most clients, but you can always ask!

I probably turn down jobs that would disrupt my private life, but if I did rearrange or cancel planned activities, I would count the hours and inconvenience at the same rate as work.


 

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 01:25
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
just calm down Dec 9

I do not think that an agency with such volumes versus deadlines was a serious one. Because serious people have some time planning. I am not even speaking about their approach to some extra charge. Good that you did not start working for them.

 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 17:25
German to English
+ ...
There's a pattern Dec 11

A responsible, decent translation agency will not accept translation work from a client unless they have first secured a translator, and arranged a workable time frame. If a genuine rush situation comes along, they will accept it only if it is feasible, and give it to a proven translator, not try to farm it out to absolute strangers. So if you get a request like this, it is likely that you're being contacted by someone who is offering translations that are "cheaper and faster" than anywhere else, and hope to find a patsy who will do it at bargain basement prices, within an unreasonable time frame. Of course they won't like a surcharge where it is due.

Do not doubt your reasonable decision to charge extra for extra demands, and don't let yourself be browbeaten or guilted into thinking you did anything wrong.

Emergencies from companies who are strangers often are red flags.


Christine Andersen
Sheila Wilson
 


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