Jost Zetzsche Tool Kit

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My 2 cents about dealing with the clients - 5

Do not for God's sake accept at face value whatever the client says. Some clients are in the habit of saying that they have thousands of jobs in the pipeline and expect to get some reduced rates from you. This too will, more often than not, be just a bluff. Most probably the job in hand will just be a one-time job. No further work can be expected in the near future. Their stake is in lowering the price. I will tell you here how I deal with just such ploys.

I do not know about the professionals in other fields. But we translators have one problem. Most of us are shy about telling in clear concise terms our prices and conditions. And quite a few of us are easily brow-beaten to accept low rates. Compared to other professions, translators are not that frequently appointed as full-time employees. Further, any time retrenchments take place, the translator is among the first to be shown the door. This causes nervousness in the mind of the translator, especially a novice. All these things factor into getting him accept a low rate. He wants to be sure of earning his bread in a regular manner.

By nature he is usually an introvert and does not mingle with others as frequently as the professionals in some other fields. This is one of the reasons, why he became a translator in the first place. He prefers reading to moving with people. And his reading helps him to hone his language skills and the rest is almost foretold. So, the translator has to overcome this inhibition and be bold in negotiating. Then only he can avoid a lot of future heart burns and make a success of his profession. For this he has to be ready to deal with the tall promises and bluffs some of the clients indulge in.

Always take these promises with a pinch of salt- some of the promises even requiring two pinches! A client could say that he has got thousands of pages for translating and he can provide you with non-stop work. Hence you are expected to be reasonable and accept a lower rate. The rule of thumb is, it is all just hot air. Even if they have only one job in hand, they will talk so. Their aim is to reduce the rate to the bone. We cannot fault them for it. I have got a formula worked out for dealing with this type of promises.

First I will express my happiness in knowing about the potentially big translation assignment. But then thousands of pages get translate into fulltime job. However that has got more hidden costs that are involved in employing fulltime staff, as any good industrial engineer will tell you nor am I keen on a fulltime job. Thus I will arrive at my proposal. I will say for example, I charge Rs.700 per hour. I will agree to come for an hourly rate of Rs.500, provided he enters into a service contract with me for at least one year promising 3 days of eight hours each per week. This works out to 56 days a year and 13 days a month. Within one month, the client can choose his 13 days in any manner he wants. I will suggest Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The client will be taken unawares and mumble that perhaps he has not that much work. Then I will sweetly suggest two days a week at Rs. 550 per hour. No dice. Rs. 600 per hour for once a week over the next year? Not a chance. Then my smile will broaden and I will politely decline any reduction in my rates. Then the negotiation will proceed on another plane.

One client asked me in all sincerity, when there are umpteen translators ready to do the work at a lower rate, why he should pay me a higher rate. For that my reply is instantaneous. As I have got clients paying me the rate demanded by me, I see no reason to accept a lower rate.

My policy is never to accept a rate which you cannot afford. I will go further. Once you accept a lower rate with one client, it is very difficult to increase the rate with that client later on. My stand is clear. A client should come back because I am a very capable translator and not because I charge less. And I am firm in maintaining this.

More in the coming installments.

Dondu N. Raghavan


delphine said...

எல்லா இடத்திலும் இந்த பிரச்சினைகள் உண்டு. சார்

dondu(#4800161) said...

For say plumbers, there are associations. You cannot tell a dentist, that since you have 32 teeth to be attended to, he should give you discount. Nor can you talk like that with a lawyer.

But the translator belongs to a profession, where this sort of talk is quite common.

"I have got 10,000 words and I want the translation three days from now. Since this is bulk work, how much percentage discount can you give me?" asked one officer in a client's company last month.

This is what I call adding insult to injury. I just smiled at him and told him that for this work I require 5 days' time and with hectic activity, I can make it in 4 days but this will require a premium of 50% above the normal rate.

When the outraged officer told me that it was not possible, I politely wished him good day and rose up to go. Whereupon his superior officer intervened and told me that there can be a compromise and whether I was ready to accept the work at the normal rate and do the work within the time stipulated by me. I said yes and all were happy.


narasi said... is a false post. I have tried to post a comment and its yet to publish.

Check out here for more details

dondu(#4800161) said...

This is what I commented in the concerned Idlyvadai blog at
By the way, I feel that he too might have got a forward just as you had and I do not think he copied from you.

For your information, I too got this one from one of my friends and I just neglected it as being too childish.

Now for my comments:

Please see these blog posts.

Dondu N.Raghavan

July 16, 2006 8:06 AM

tbr.joseph said...

A client should come back because I am a very capable translator and not because I charge less. //

Yes this is the correct attitude if one is to maintain one's position in a field, whatever it is.

The clients would also respect only such a stand.

dondu(#4800161) said...

Thanks for your comments, Joseph. The trouble is, many clients are of the opinion, translation is just a little above typing, but in a different language, as the idea is not ours in the first place. And as I already mentioned, tranlators are timid by nature.

That is why many clients are unpleasantly amazed on seeing a loud translator like this Dondu N.Raghavan, who calls a spade a spade.

Dondu N.Raghavan

narasi said...


Thanks for stopping by, I am not saying that he has copied from me. But he has got a forward and says that he has done in his school days, which can't be acceptable.

dondu(#4800161) said...

What you say is quite correct, Narasi.
He could have mentioned as you had done in your blog.

By the way, if you are from Chennai, how about calling me at 22312948?

Dondu N.Raghavan

Anonymous said...


I'm a young translator (German>French) and this problem arises over and over again. Especially when you start out and need clients, it's really hard to say "no".
But you need to think about tomorrow...
Last week, a publisher wanted to pay me 600€ for 125 pages (gardening book). This is about one month work. Since I had no work, it's been very hard for me to tell him: " I would love to work for you, but your price is 1/5 of the minimum price." But I did.
Of course he replied he would pass on the job to somebody, because my standards were "way too high".
I was a bit depressed, but at the same time I felt good. This was the right thing to do.
Some fellow translators told me I made the right choice, they even called me strong and brave... Yeah well...
Last but not least, on the same day, a translator who had too much work asked me to help her with a few jobs. In six hours time, I earned a third of the amount above.
I was so happy!

dondu(#4800161) said...

Hello Erika,

Nice hearing from you. Do read my other posts and give your valuable comments. Please feel free to comment in French, I will be glad to get the comments in French as well.

Dondu N.Raghavan