Wheeling and dealing: How Freelance Translators Can Negotiate Rates

Posted on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 @ 13:10 PM

freelance translatorIt’s your lucky day. On the other end of the phone is a prospective client and she may have a translation job for you. After a few minutes of discussing the project, the inevitable question pops up: “What are your rates?”  Depending on your answer, the conversation can go a number of ways, but to make it go in your favor, we’d like to share five tips from Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia’s book, The Wealthy Freelancer: 12 Secrets to a Great Income and an Enviable Lifestyle.

Wheeling and dealing: How Freelance Translators Can Negotiate Rates

Ballpark it before you formally quote
When asked, “What are your rates?” many freelancers might say, “Tell me more about the project and I’ll email you a quote later this afternoon.” Seems like a perfectly normal response, but it actually lowers your chances of getting the job at the rate you want.

Instead, offer the client a ballpark figure over the phone; then submit a formal quote later. Why? It takes care of pricing issues right off the bat. Sending a quote later on gives the client the opportunity to shop around for another translator.

If the client doesn’t ask about price, ballpark it anyway
Even if a client doesn’t ask for a ballpark quote, give her one. This keeps everything transparent, gives you room to negotiate right off the bat, and saves you the time of drawing up a formal quote only to find out that it doesn’t fit into your client’s budget.

When a client says, “Your price is too high!”
So you offer a ballpark figure and the prospective client says one of the following:

  • “We just don’t have the budget for that.”
  • “That’s a lot higher than we expected.” 
  • “We’ve used other language translators who charged a lot less.”

So what do you say? Try something like this: “I can appreciate your concern. My rates are pretty standard for the industry, but I’d really like to work with you. What were you looking to pay?” This forces the client to make a counter offer—and if it isn’t too far off from what you originally quoted, it may be in your best interest to accept.

Learn to negotiate better
You set your rates where they are for a reason, so don’t accept a counter offer if it isn’t fair. Instead, negotiate by doing one of the following:

  • Offer to get the job done faster: Many clients would gladly pay extra to wrap a project a week early just so they don’t have to worry about it.
  • Offer a discount for paying your full fee in advance: Getting paid in advance is a rare treat. If the client can’t (or won’t) meet you exactly where you want, accept a lower rate for full payment in advance.
  • Ask for more time to get the project done: If you’re taking a job at a lower rate, ask if you can have an extension on the deadline.
  • Offer a bulk discount. Does the client have any upcoming projects that she could offer you? If so, take on those projects and offer a bulk discount.

Don’t talk about price
You’ve given a ballpark price and sent a formal quote. Now all you need to do is follow up with a phone call. When you do this, proceed as though you’ve already gotten the job: Don’t bring up money. Instead say something like,

“Hi, _________.

I just emailed you the proposal we spoke about earlier. The next step is for me to ___________.  I can get started on that right away. Does that sound OK to you?”  

If that seems bold, it’s not. It’s just smart business.

Download our exclusive guide:  Translation and the Empathetic Imagination

Topics: Modern Language Translation, Spanish Translation Course, French Translation Certification, Online Translation Certification Arabic, freelance translation, freelance translator

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