e all know that one of the most important things for a linguist to do is to specialise. It’s one thing to know how to translate, but translators who claim to be experts in every type of text demonstrate not only a misunderstanding of the word ‘expert’ but also a lack of understanding of what a good translation…
Raising Rates? Anticipate and Answer These 3 Client Questions
This post is part of a series about building confidence and momentum as a freelance translator. You can read Part 1 of the series here.
As a newcomer to the profession, it’s easy to play down your own worth compared to more experienced translators. There’s a little voice inside your head, naysaying: The rest are all better than you, you can’t hope to compete with them on experience or quality, if you charge more you’ll get less work and end up with less money…
Well, there comes a time in every young translator’s life when we have to stop listening to those voices and start talking over them; when we have to stop charging what we think we can get away with and start charging what we’re worth. For me, that time has come. As I mentioned last time, my first anniversary as a translator is fast approaching, and so my price list has come under review. This means that the rates I quote when I approach new agencies has gone up, but it also means contacting current clients and letting them know that, starting next month, they’ll be paying more for my services. This is where it gets tricky.
If you want a client to start paying you more, you have to earn it – and demonstrate that you’ve earned it. When I raised my rates with a current client, I did it via a PDF letter attached to an email. I thought of this letter like the cover letter for a new job, as its purpose was to anticipate and respond to the reader’s biggest question: Why do I deserve this job/raise? This question breaks down into three aspects, which I’ll go on to explain.
…Or, from the client’s perspective, “Why should I pay you more today than I did a year ago?” You need to demonstrate what’s changed between the day you started working with this client and where you are today.
- How many months or years have passed?
- How many words have you translated (in general and in your specialist areas)?
- What more can you offer in terms of experience, reliability, and quality?
If you can, remind them that you’ve never let them down, that your work has always been on time and to a high standard, that you know how they work and how they like you to work. In short, show them how much more valuable a resource you have become since you quoted them those old, out-of-date beginner’s rates. Show them that they have a better translator today than they did a year ago.
…Or, from the client’s perspective, ‘Would I pay you this much if you were approaching me for the first time?’ You’ve shown why your old rates aren’t appropriate any more; now it’s time to demonstrate why the new rates are suitable. It’s time to make them forget you were ever a beginner offering cheaper rates, and compare yourself positively to all the other translators out there. After all, what’s to stop them from going off and looking for a replacement? Pretend you’re applying to work with them for the first time and show them why, even without all your history together, you still hold a competitive position in the language services market.
- What qualifications do you have? Even if they’ve heard it before, it could be worth repeating.
- How much experience do you have? Don’t make them work it out – remind them!
- How spotless is your reputation? Quote client feedback to back up your point (even better if this feedback is from the same client you’re writing to!).
If you like, tell them about your business philosophy, the professional values you believe in; remind them of the areas you specialise in and how well this suits their needs; tell them anything you would tell a new client. You could even look back at their company website and refresh your memory of how they operate, just like you do when writing cover letters for new clients. If the new clients you approach are accepting your new rates, there’s no reason why the old ones shouldn’t do the same, just because they’ve been getting such a great bargain up until now!
…Or, from the client’s perspective, ‘What benefits will I get from the new, more expensive you?’ You’ve shown that you’re not the same rookie you were when you first came to them, and you’ve demonstrated your current value as a professional. Now they’re be wondering why the sudden need to be earning more, and what’s in it for them. Take a look at your business plan and goals to remind yourself of why you’re taking this step forward, and then help the client to understand that if you are to continue to become a more valuable resource to them, you’ll need to cover certain costs, for example:
- Tuition fees – Are you pursuing further study? Thinking of taking any CPD courses, at college or online?
- Membership fees – Is one of your goals to join a professional body such as the ITI or the CIOL? Thinking of upgrading to a premium ProZ or LinkedIn account? Raising your rates will allow you to do this.
- Conference entry fees, flights and accommodation, trips abroad to improve your language skills… Anything else you do to propel your career forward will surely benefit the client too.
So, when raising your rates for a client, pre-empt their asking these three “Why”s: How far have you come? (Or: ‘Why should I pay you more today than I did a year ago?’) Where are you today? (Or: ‘Would I pay you this much if you were approaching me for the first time?’) What’s next for you? (Or: ‘What benefits will I get out of this?’). See if you can impart a little of your own enthusiasm about the brightness of your professional future. You never know – if you do it well, they could end up so excited about what it will mean for their business that they’ll even thank you for it!