Charge-out rates for translation have always been a source of intense stress for freelance translators

Charge-out rates for translation have always been a source of intense stress for freelance translators. If you charge too little you worry that you won’t earn enough; charge too much and you’re worried that you won’t get enough work. Even though this topic has been covered in previous posts, we’ll take another look at it today because it really is a matter of huge concern for translators.

So the Question Is: How Do I Raise My Charge-Out Rate, and What’s the Best Time to Do This?

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Let’s first of all discuss your existing clients. You can’t drastically increase your rates with your current clients! If you put yourself in your client’s shoes, you’d understand that they’re probably not going to agree to any significant increase in rates. However, if you’re considering increasing your rates by a modest amount, here are some options you might like to consider –

Use a Third Party’s Suggestion. You could say something like: ‘My accountant has noticed that you’re the only client I have who’s paying x cents per word/hour.’ This tactic often works well because you still get to be the good guy, and this gives you the perfect opening for saying that you really love working with them and you hope this relationship will continue.
You could simply impose your new rate and see what reaction you get from your clients. Send an email advising that: ‘As of (date) my base rate will increase to X. If you have any questions at all, please let me know.’
You could open up a conversation with your clients, saying that you love working with them because their projects are always interesting, the staff are helpful, and they always pay on time. However, because they’re now your lowest paying client, it means that you can only accept their work when you’re not very busy. Say that you’d love for them to become one of your preferred clients, and that rate is X.
Perhaps you know your client is quite capable of paying more but for some reason that you’re not aware of, they are resisting. Ask for the truth! Say that you’d like their feedback on what they require from you in order to be moved up to the next level. Continue with the fact that you really enjoy working with them; that you’re committed to providing excellent results, and you would appreciate their feedback so that you can move your business to the next level.
In reality, though, in order to raise your rates to a new level you probably need to look for new clients!

So Let’s Move on to the Question of When You Should Raise Your Rates

The quick answer to this question is – when you have new clients, and when you are very busy!

And the reason for this is that, if your potential new client rejects your higher rate, then you’ve lost nothing because you’re still very busy. However, if they agree to your higher rate, that’s great because now you know that a certain percentage of your target clientele will accept this new higher rate. Be daring, and try 20% or 30% higher than you’re charging right now, and see what reaction you get. Remember that, if you believe your work is top-quality and that you deserve this higher rate, there’s every chance your potential clients will believe it too. So, go for it! And here’s a fact you must acknowledge: If 100% of your potential clients agree to your rates without any negotiation, this means you should be charging more! You’re simply not charging enough if no-one thinks your rates are too high!

It’s also important to remember that, if you’re working for agencies, you can only compete on service and quality up to a certain point: meaning that all agencies will have a rate ceiling. Generally, your direct clients have more flexibility to find this money if they really want to retain your services.
headline: How and When to Raise Your Translation Rates
sub headline: Charge-out rates for translation have always been a source of intense stress for freelance translators.

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