Jost Zetzsche Tool Kit

Friday, March 17, 2006

My 2 cents about dealing with the clients - 4

I spoke thus in the first part of this series dealing with client relations: "Be clear about the rates. Many translators lose out on this aspect. It may be true that the job is easy for you and you love this work. But there is no need for you to tell this to the client. If you do so, he will start behaving as if he is doing you a favor.

You have a skill to market, that is to say translation. The client does not have it. Period. Even if he were to have it, he just cannot afford the time taken to do the translation himself. That's why you are there. This is the true position. Now all that remains to be done is the pricing of your services. Some clients may try this ploy: "This is a job after your heart and it is actually an art. Trying to haggle is just cheapening this art, don't you think so?" Allow no one to pull the wool over your eyes. The client is solely interested in reducing his costs. To such clients I gently say, "Sir, you are a sensitive soul and it does credit to you, I am content to be an admirer of mammon". Beyond this no client had proceeded, as in truth he is a keener merchant than I am!

Let's come to another ploy by the client. A 10-page paper may contain some sentences repeated more than once. This happens mainly in patents, wherein the same idea may be repeated with different numerical values. Especially in the patent claims section, there will be full paras repeated from the earlier descriptions. When the client is aware of this, he will expect you to charge less for repetitions and at times even forgo payment for the same, for the simple reason, that the work is made easy for us. I never allow myself to fall for this line of reasoning and will reject their reasoning outright. Well, the repetitions are not my concern. I did not bring them about. What I have is a paper and if the client wants it translated, he better pay me the full amount. My price is based on the rate per word. There are softwares available for counting words in various types of files. I always use this mode of charging. This too is susceptible to many changes depending on circumstances but they are beyond the scope of this posting. In short, the client's reasoning on this account is not acceptable.

But do remember to be polite while mouthing all these things and keep smiling, while being firm at the same time. Even if the client were not to agree to these things, always make sure that you keep the door open for a later entry to the client's office. Who knows what the future will bring?

It is also important to shape your prices to suit the client's needs. For example, there was this client, who had a 100 page document containing around 30,000 words and just 3 days' time before he had to understand it and take action. If one were to translate it in toto, at least 20 days were required. He just did not have that much time. So he asked me whether I could go through the document and give him a true picture of its contents. This called for reading out the document and then giving the client an oral presentation of its contents. I went to his office for 2 days in succession and gave out oral summaries of various chapters to a team of 4 different domain people. For this I cannot charge in terms of words. I resorted to hourly rate plus taxi charges to and fro plus coffee, tea, lunch etc as applicable from time to time. Under this regime my minimum billing will be for 2 hours per assignment. I did the work to the client's satisfaction. As this was a first time for me, I gave one disclaimer at the outset, namely, the time period required for the work depended on the client's capacity to absorb things quickly. And this is beyond my control.

Some of you may frown on my mentioning tea, coffee, lunch etc. My friend had to face a lot of embarrassment just because he didn't talk these things out beforehand. He was taken to Trichy, where he had to stay in the same hotel as the client but had to pay his own bills. He ended up with a net loss of Rs.200 (that was in 1981).

How does one calculate the hourly rate? I have the following formula for this. I know how many words I can turn out per hour. This multiplied by my word rate will give my hourly rate. That's all.

Rest in coming installments.


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