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
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