Accept job, then re-negotiate?
Thread poster: Tanja Braun

Tanja Braun  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:10
English to German
+ ...
Feb 12, 2008

Hi all,

I'm sure this question has been discussed somewhere before, but I can't seem to think of the right search keywords somehow. Sorry for causing redundancy.

I have done a test translation for a job I would enjoy doing very much (translation of books). They liked my translation, and offered me to pay me for translating the first chapter, and after that they would make their final decision. The rate they offer (for both the first chapter and everything else in the future) is quite low, i.e. I could live with them, but not comfortably.
I don't want to undersell myself, nor spoil prices for everyone else, but I also want this job very much.

What I would like to do is tell them I accept this job (first chapter, and then first two or three books) for this rate, but after that, if they like my work, I would like to re-negotiate the price.
Do you think that is feasible? Or will I never hear from them again after finishing the first job? Any other suggestions/experiences?

Thanks a lot in advance for your help!

Have a nice evening


Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:10
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
sounds like a good idea Feb 12, 2008

When I started to read your post I thought that you are asking about accepting the job, translating let's say the first chapter and than if they like it - increasing your rate. I would certainly advice against it. As it would be neither fair nor professional.

However on the other hand nothing prevents you from increasing your rates for future contracts (future books). I can only speak for myself but I am sure that if I really wanted the job because I knew that it's something I am going to enjoy I wouldn't mind being paid less.

Of course I don't know how much they are paying but from what I understand you want this job and if it was the case I would take it. Money is not everything.

Kind Regards

PS: I have just noticed your question if it's possible that after this first job you will never hear from them again. It is certainly possible, but if you provide good translation it would be at least surprising.


Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:10
French to English
+ ...
In my experience.... Feb 13, 2008

... if you've accepted a job at a low rate, it's very hard to persuade them to increase it afterwards, at least until a year or so later. I accepted a specialist job in my field for a lower rate than normal for a new client because I happened to be quiet at the time. I had offered my usual rate and had been told that the margins for this job were very tight, but that my rate would be OK for future jobs. I did the job - which turned out to be even more specialised than I'd thought, and returned it on time. They took ages to pay and needed several reminders. Then, when they came back with more work - what a surprise, it was at the low rate! I'm afraid I've learned my lesson now! I would start as you mean to go on.


MariusV  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:10
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
first do the job, and then negotiate? Feb 13, 2008

A proposal for a big volume job. A translator gets interested (it is big, it is interesting, etc.). BUT for that one shall do a test translation. OK, why not - a big project might come up (or a big promise?). "Ah, nice, they said my test was very good. Seems I will get that project. Nice. Now they ask me to do the first chapter for a lower rate. What should I do? Maybe I will take it - there are many chapters remaining and the job is BIG".

Now a possible situation. Say, a book of 200 pages. Say, 10 chapters, 20 pages each. Say, 20 USD per page. How to save money on that? Find 10 translators, promise them a lot (a BIG project, BUT with some conditions). They will be hooked up. The 1st chapter will be done for free as "test translation" (10 translators, 2 pages each). Then the remaining chapters for, say, half of the agreed rate (just to "be sure we REALLY like the quality, but as we won't like the quality, we will pay only half). So, 200 pages x 20 USD/page would be 4000 USD. Or, 20 pages done for free (OK, we will edit themselves if something is wrong - will take less time than to translate it), + 180 pages for 10 USD/page = 1800 USD. 4000 - 1800 = we save 2200 USD. Everyone is happy (translators paid). Sounds good? Somehow, I have a feeling from all what you wrote that this is just a big cloud with just a few drops of rain - their "satisfaction" will disappear as soon as they will get your first chapter.

Well, maybe it is just my theory of conspiracy, but I'd prepare a short contract with some important things:

1) rates - chapter 1 for a reduced rate, other chapters - for a full rate - all that clearly on paper.
2) the client OBLIGATES to provide all chapters to you, you obligate to take all chapters from the client (mutually binding and can be cancelled only on the basis of a mutual agreement - otherwise contract goes till the end),
3) a very clear clause what is quality - if they are so quality cautious, they should be able to clearly identify what they actually need (to avoid things like "we do not like, but cannot tell exactly why")
4) strict deadline for job delivery and a clear definition of the whole job amount and due date + strict sanctions (penalties, or whatever similar) if either of the parties is late, or does not observe other conditons,
5) a separate line indicating that the client can have the property rights to the translation ONLY after a full payment settlement.
6) full details (like company names, etc.) of the client, would not hurt checking their reputation even now (if that is possible).

Send such a contract (you can use it later many times for other clients) and see their reaction. If they do not agree, tell them "Good bye".

[Edited at 2008-02-13 01:13]


Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:10
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
On feasibility Feb 13, 2008

Tanja Braun wrote:
What I would like to do is tell them I accept this job (first chapter, and then first two or three books) for this rate, but after that, if they like my work, I would like to re-negotiate the price.
Do you think that is feasible? Or will I never hear from them again after finishing the first job?

Hi Tanja,

In theory, it's feasible; but you'll soon find it's very difficult to raise one's rate with a client after you've been working with them for a while. Look: when asking for a higher rate I'm actually telling the client that their profit margin will be less - that is, I'm taking away thier money, long since planned and scheduled and counted! At least that's the way some of them see iticon_smile.gif

But as Stanislaw said, money is not everything. One good reason for accepting this job is that you like it. At the same time, try to secure liberal dealine(s) so as this job didn't interfere much with others, which may be not so enjoyable but better-paying.

Coming back to the issue of the possibility of raising rates after a certain period/job - in my experience, finding better-paying clients is easier than making old ones pay moreicon_smile.gif. Once, a PM from a European translation agency told me bluntly, "We are offering you 60% of what we quote to our client as it is, and any further increase of your fee is impossible." (I don't know if it was true or not, but a few days later I was approached by another agency with the same job at a rate almost twice as high. )

With translation of books, the rates are often not that high as in other fields. If that's the case, it's hopeless. If not - well if that the agency cares of is money first and foremost, they are not worth workiing for; otherwise you can give it a try, though, in my view, your chances for success are poor.



Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with Claire Feb 13, 2008

Start as you mean to go on.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:10
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Don't renegotiate in mid-job Feb 13, 2008

Tanja Braun wrote:
What I would like to do is tell them I accept this job (first chapter, and then first two or three books) for this rate, but after that, if they like my work, I would like to re-negotiate the price.


You can raise your rate after this particular job is done (in other words, for future books), but not for further installments of the current job. Or, if a price hasn't been agreed upon, you can raise your rate right now. But it is bad faith to try to renegotiate the rate in the middle of the job without exceptionally good reason.

What you could possibly do, is this: accept their rate, and once you've reached the third or the fourth chapter, tell them that you really enjoy this sort of work, but you didn't realise how much time it took, and that you would have to raise your rate for future jobs.

If at that stage they are dazzled by the quality of your work, they might consider keeping you on even if you charge a higher rate for future jobs. However, it may be that all they're looking for is "adequate translation", and if they can get another, weaker translator do deliver a merely adequate translation for less, they might drop you completely when you attempt to raise your rate.

Don't even think about raising your rate by more than 30%, though.


MariusV  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:10
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Agree with Samuel Feb 14, 2008

Regarding the 1st chapter done for cheaper. I think that they do not tell you directly that they still want a smaller "average rate" to what was already agreed. If you do the 1st chapter cheaper and do the remaining for the previously agreed rate, the arithmetic result ("the average total rate") for the whole word/page count is simply a smaller. As simple as that.

So, I'd count that "average rate" I get if I do the 1st chapter for cheaper and will let myself decide if I want to agree on that or not. One more thing - do not put yourself into an unfavourable position at the very beginning - after you finish the 1st chapter, it can be difficult to get that "higher rate".

For conclusion, I'd avoid any possible renegotiation during the course of the work. Best of all - to have all things very clear from the very beginning and with a conract mutually binding to give/do all the volume, i.e. all the chapters if you decide you agree in the 1st chapter done for cheaper (and, at least, the PO with all those volume counts, discounts, rates and whatever).

Good luck!


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