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Poll: If a client was dissatisfied with your work, would you still charge the price agreed in advance?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 18:16
Feb 24, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "If a client was dissatisfied with your work, would you still charge the price agreed in advance?".

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
It depends Feb 24, 2015

My initial reaction is that it would depend on whether the client's reaction were justified or not. I'm usually quite confident that the translations I deliver are good quality and I normally expect my clients to be satisfied. However, there is no accounting for taste and some people are just picky by nature. I don't usually mind going over something again to make the odd modification if that is what will keep the customer satisfied.

On pricing, I'm usually quite flexible too. For example, I give one client an unsolicited reduction of almost 30% last week simply because I had taken ages to finish the job (there was no set deadline but I had been putting it off in favour of the usual "urgent" requests from clients). The client was happy, my two collaborators on the project had already been paid, and I still made enough for my efforts.

PS: Just last week, a text that had been written in English by Spanish speakers and which I subsequently revised before sending it off for publication in a journal was returned to the authors. The journal's reviewers found fault with the level of English and asked for it to be checked again. This time round, I found 3 instances of “the” which could be removed and one place where it could be inserted. Apart from that, there was one sentence which hadn't been very well written in the first place, so I redrafted it. All in all, going over all this took me an hour or two, but I don't intend to charge the client for it, as it is a very rare occurrence and I don't recall this ever happening previously.

[Edited at 2015-02-24 18:19 GMT]


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:16
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Yes Feb 24, 2015

If the client merely didn't 'like' the way I wrote or because of some other 'client preference' which are basically subjective issues that have nothing to do with the quality of my work or effort that I put into the delivered translation.

Now, I might answer 'No' if I had made lots of glaring mistakes or the fault lied with me in other ways such as omissions. I might offer a freebie or something else in lieu to make up for their 'loss' which also is a very difficult to quantify concept, anyway.
However, I just cannot recollect when or even if I have ever done this or been asked to make a price reduction by a client.


Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:16
English to Japanese
+ ...
Yes Feb 24, 2015

Like Julian wrote above, if the translation had many errors, spelling mistakes, etc. that's a different case, but I would definitely charge the price agreed in advance.

You don't go to an eatery or a restaurant and tell the chef or the waiter that the food was not to my taste so I would like a discount or would not pay for this lousy food. You just pay what you owe them, and never go back again. It's as simple as that.


Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:16
Turkish to English
+ ...
It depends Feb 24, 2015

So far, no client has ever expressed dissatisfaction with my work, so this is a purely hypothetical question for me. If the work amounts to defective performance, then the client is entitled to a discount.


LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:16
Russian to English
+ ...
Absolutely. Professional translators with years of experience can tell the quality of their work. Feb 24, 2015

The main reasons why some clients may not be satisfied are that they cannot tell the quality because they do not speak the languages, or do not know the target language well, and judge by seeing some slight problems with formatting, for example, they rely on editors who want to rewrite everything their own way to feel that they are doing something, or some agenda, like trying to cheat translators or lower their rates.


Teresa Borges
Local time: 02:16
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Feb 24, 2015

Touch wood, it hasn’t happened yet! I always check and double-check each translation and a good percentage of my work is reviewed by another translator…


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:16
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes - we made a deal Feb 24, 2015

First, I will turn down any request that I am not certain about being fully competent to handle properly, either because of the subject matter specialty required or due to an impossible deadline. If I know, I'll refer the prospect to someone who can reliably do what they want/need.

Last, I'll deliver at least what the client requested, on the time agreed or earlier. If the client finds anything that fails to match what they requested and I agreed to deliver, I'll fix it immediately, no matter what, and at no charge.

If they want anything additional to our agreement, we'll negotiate.

The best joke I hear on this matter was from a known rogue client, for whom I never worked again, in spite of their insistence. After I had delivered the job on time, and to the end-client's full satisfaction, payment was already a month overdue. Albeit late, this client frantically insisted in getting a discount. When he ran out of excuses, one of his allegations to justify paying me less was "You don't have Trados!", something I never said I had to anyone, dead or alive, because I really don't.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:16
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Probably Feb 24, 2015

I do my best to deliver according to their instructions.

If there is a problem, I am happy to discuss it. I propose an alternative or explain why I do not think the translation should be altered, and usually the client ends up satisfied.

I have once given up on a small job - the client was not satisfied, but I was! They sent a very rude mail, and I was furious.
However, there is a limit to the time and energy I was going to spend arguing over about an hour's work.
If the client tried to get someone else to do it, the results would show I was right. I never heard from them again.


Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 20:16
German to English
+ ...
I don't agree with the wording of the question Feb 24, 2015

If there is a *problem" with my translation which the client has identified, then there are steps to take. The first step is to rectify the problem.** The first step is preventive - I try to have my clients read a final draft which is in fact the final version unless there are questions about it. Also, to set sufficient time so nothing is rushed, and we can go through such things. A situation that is so severe that it would merit reducing price ends up being rare, if happening at all.

I am aware that it is the tactic of some clients, esp. some agencies, to claim dissatisfaction for the sole purpose of paying less. I wonder if this may have prompted the poll question.\

** It happened maybe 20 years ago that on a driving license, a "9" turned into an "8", and neither I nor the end client noticed when looking at the electronic copy. Client arrived at the MTO, where the official told her that she didn't look like she was 140 years old! I DROVE to the client to hand deliver the corrected translation.


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:16
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Feb 24, 2015

For all the reasons mentioned.

Not all translators perform equally well, and we all perform differently. The same is true of lawyers and doctors. If their fees aren't negotiable, I don't see why ours should be. In any profession, the client is expected to pay the agreed compensation. You can ask for changes or find someone else to fix what you don't like, but the original agreement still has to be honored as long as the work was actually performed.

BTW, I think this is actually a new question, and a good one!

[Edited at 2015-02-24 10:30 GMT]


Giovanna Alessandra Meloni  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:16
Member (2012)
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
It depends Feb 24, 2015

I agree with Neilmac.

neilmac wrote:

My initial reaction is that it would depend on whether the client's reaction were justified or not. I'm usually quite confident that the translations I deliver are good quality and I normally expect my clients to be satisfied. However, there is no accounting for taste and some people are just picky by nature. I don't usually mind going over something again to make the odd modification if that is what will keep the customer satisfied.


Alberto Montpellier  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...

Something "similar" happened to me recently Feb 24, 2015

I had a very tight deadline for a medium-sized job (for a pretty nice rate), and at the last minute my CAT tool had a transient ischemic attackicon_frown.gif and didn't convert the target to MS Word, so I had to export the TM to .tmx and use a different CAT tool, which resulted in over 16 hours of delay due to incompatibility issues and the fact that I obviously had to double-check everything again.
I offered the client a 20% discount for the inconvenience before he even started to make a fuss, so I was spared a series of complains and he was semi-content.
This is the only time I've had to offer a discount for client dissatisfaction.
To another client I offered an overall discount on words for some bibliography references included in the original word count and which didn't require translation, but that's just fair play.

[Edited at 2015-02-24 14:31 GMT]


Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:16
French to English
Was the work fit for the intended purpose? Feb 24, 2015

Looking at this from the client's perspective with an anecdote, many years ago I had to outsource the translation of a company registration document, the translation had to be a sworn translation, which was then to be submitted for an apostille along with some other documents, after which the entire lot of documents had to be submitted to a foreign authority for a time-sensitive taxation matter.

The actual document to be translated was extremely short, it was just a French K-bis. The sworn translator quoted around 80€ I think, paid in advance, and this translator was selected mainly for their location which was nearby, making it easier to send/pick-up the document.

The translator made a glaring mistake, the company incorporation date was wrong, the translator was probably using a template and just forgot to change the date. This was actually a very serious mistake in light of the specific context, thank god I noticed it or it could have caused taxation mayhem for the client...

I was expecting the translator to redo the job and perhaps even offer a token discount... although I didn't ask for one, it's what I would have done!! Once the error was brought to her attention, she kindly offered to redo the job for only 40€ extra instead of her usual rate!!! At that point I got angry, and she did eventually resubmit the corrected document at no extra charge. I didn't pursue the matter further because she had fixed her mistake, and the document was fit for the intended purpose in the end.

So in summary - if you made a mistake and fixed it, charge your full rate, or maybe give a token discount.


Umang Dholabhai  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:46
English to Gujarati
+ ...
Depends Feb 25, 2015

There are over heated proofreaders who take upon themselves to rather review the work and add their own precious bits. This may potentially influence the client. However, most of my regular clients maintain their faith in my work. They are graceful enough to let me have the last word. So I have never been asked for a discount.

I remember one instance when the client had some doubts looking at the multitude of track changes in the file. I justified my work with appropriate references and in the same breath offered a discount in case they are still unsatisfied, they took my word.

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