Some thoughts on rates and quotes

I really enjoyed reading The Freelancery’s recent post on whether or not to publish your freelance rates on your website. Since my website redesign a few years ago, I’ve struggled with this same dilemma: I grow weary of preparing quotes for clients whose budget turns out to be 1/3 of what I charge, so I post my rates on my website. Then I feel like having posted rates is too restrictive and doesn’t steer the conversation toward value for money, so I take my rates down. Here’s my current line of reasoning, which is, of course, subject to change!

No question about it, handling inquiries from prospective clients who have little to no budget can be draining. Sometimes the slim to nonexistent funding isn’t mentioned until 25 minutes into the phone conversation (this happened to me recently), and sometimes it’s brought up with a tone of righteous indignation on the prospective client’s part (“If you can’t do it for $25 an hour, our marketing manager’s son who studied abroad in Belgium will be happy to do it for $15”). It’s just a bummer to spend so much time talking to prospective clients who expect so much for so little. However, I agree with The Freelancery’s suggestion that these interactions are also opportunities: maybe an opportunity to refer work to a beginning translator who charges less, maybe an opportunity to mention that professional translators don’t generally work for what the client’s budget is, etc. In the end, I do think that we perform a service on behalf of the profession when we have these types of conversations.

In terms of posted rates, I feel that I’ve found somewhat of a happy medium that works for me.

  • I removed my general “Rates” page from my website and I ask prospective clients to call or e-mail for a quote. However, I don’t prepare a detailed quote until they confirm that my rates are at least somewhat within their budget. This avoids the time-suck of preparing a full quote only to find out that the client’s budget is less than half of what I charge.
  • I left my rates for “fixed-price” items on my website. For example for certified translations of official documents, I always charge $50 per page for the translation and $15 for a notarized certification, and most of these clients are first-time, one-time clients. The Freelancery’s post hits this one on the head (and they mention translation in their examples!); clients who want their birth certificate translated into English don’t want to call for a quote, they just want it done fast and for a not exorbitant amount of money. My rate to translate official documents might be more expensive than some other freelancers, but I know it’s much cheaper than most agencies’ minimum charges, so I feel fine about posting it.

In closing, although I think of myself as a kind and understanding person and as someone who tries to be helpful whenever it’s possible, two aspects of rates and quoting really raise my blood pressure. I’ll admit them publicly in order to get them off my chest:

  1. Why do so many prospective clients seem to lose the ability to do math when it comes to translation quotes? If I give the example that at 25 cents per word, a full page of single-spaced text would cost approximately $125 to translate, why is it then a surprise that a 10-page document costs $1,250 to translate?
  2. Why do so many prospective clients feel that it should take a couple of hours to translate something that took months or even years to write? I get this a lot from authors: “But the book is so short! It will really take you 10 hours to translate it?” I can’t decide whether it would be helpful or nasty to ask if it really took them more than 10 hours to write the book, but I try to just answer the question objectively since I enjoy doing literary translation and working with authors.

Feel free to add your own observations on rates and quotes too (or associated issues that you need to get off your chest!). Thanks for listening, I feel so much better.

18 Responses to “Some thoughts on rates and quotes”
  1. Victor Alonso Lion April 6, 2012
    • Victor Alonso Lion April 6, 2012
  2. waltkania April 6, 2012
  3. Smart Translate April 7, 2012
    • waltkania April 9, 2012
      • Smart Translate April 10, 2012
  4. Simone April 9, 2012
  5. GB Translation April 10, 2012
  6. John Bunch April 14, 2012
  7. christinedurban April 18, 2012
    • lukegos April 16, 2014
      • lukegos April 16, 2014
  8. kevinhendzel April 25, 2012
  9. Anemos Translations June 13, 2012
  10. Jesse October 15, 2013
  11. Gaelle September 30, 2016
    • Corinne McKay October 1, 2016

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