When your budget is too high

  • Your budget is too high for this particular job.
  • That is too high.
  • That is expensive.
  • We cannot go that high.
  • Would you consider a lower price?
  • Can you lower your rate?
  • I have lower bids already.
  • Is your bid negotiable?
  • Unfortunately, it is beyond our budget.

These are some of the replies I got after offering my quote on a few translation projects. If you’re offering a service and applying jobs, you’ve probably heard of these words. In the translation business, it is inevitable that a client will find someone who can provide their service with a lower price than you can offer cause there are handful of translators out there. And when this happens, the client is likely to ask you for a lower bid.

As a freelancer, it may be difficult to negotiate your prices because you have spent time and resources developing your resume as well as marketing your business in order to land that particular project. But in fact, it’s in your best interest to think about how you value such a request, because if you consider it as a real challenge, it’ll make you more accurate when delivering the final quote.

In this post I’d like to share some thoughts on how you should put the price of a translation project in perspective and answer your clients when they ask you for a lower price.

First, learn the market value of your skill

The market rate for your skill is the amount you’ll charge to do what other people like you usually charge. So, let’s say, for example, that a client wants to hire a proofreader for their book project.

1. A freelance proofreader with five years of experience would charge $50 an hour. (Five years of experience means that she will have a better reputation.)

2. A freelance proofreader with one year’s experience would charge $25 per hour. (One year’s experience means that she will be younger and less proved, so may be more attractive to the client.)

After taking a look at the competition and seeing how much other translators charge, you can determine an estimated value for your services. If you’re new in the industry, for instance, just charge a reasonable rate.

Set your prices

I know that for some people, the price of translation is a mystery. Some translators have a standard price and some just go with the flow. I believe both works fine, you just need to determine where you stand. Let’s open up the both options a little bit.

Becoming a premium provider and offering a standard price: You can have the lowest price in the world, but if people don’t feel like they are getting value for their money, they won’t come back to you. So sometimes it is not about the lower price, but the right price. For instance, you can have a standard quote of €0.08 per word for general translation jobs, and most of the time charge exactly that.

If you’re going to set a standard price for your services, separating yourself from the competition is crucial. To do this, you’ll have to stand out in some way. You can do this by improving your efficiency, quality and service, and providing a premium service. Don’t also forget to stay mindful of how the market is changing and keep your prices competitive.

What is a premium service?

A premium service is the one that saves time and money and gives the client value for their money. In this case, the client benefits from:

- A better environment for communication (Skype, email or phone).
- A faster delivery time.
- A more accurate, up-to-date and quality translation.
- A personal approach.
- Support 24/7.

In this scenario, you might come across with replies such as the ones I have shared at the beginning of this article. If the client finds you “expensive” and can’t afford your price, you can tell them that your prices are firm and that you really want them as a client but if they can find someone else cheaper, then so be it. This way you will not lowering your price but still encouraging them to keep you as a resource in case they find someone too expensive or too low quality for their project. In more cases than not, the clients will understand your situation and cancel the project or accept your conditions in order not losing you as a potential resource.

Setting your prices depending on your current situation: Prices depend on your own standard, but they also depend on different elements like quality, deadline, your background knowledge about the client, and how polished the product is. If you’re not going to set a standard price, you need to evaluate your situation and negotiate your terms with the clients. Don’t forget that some prefer a fixed price, others prefer to negotiate. You must find a common ground.

Evaluate your situation

First, I would recommend you gather as much information as possible about the project in order to give a more accurate quote. One of the steps I usually take to gather information about an application is asking the client to provide:

  • The source document and/or pages (a Word document or PDF is OK)
  • The genre of the job (for example, thesis, report, speech etc.)
  • The purpose of the translation (for example, a document to be published or a report to a client).

Estimate the time it will take to translate your document. Use an online tool if necessary. You can also use it to estimate how much time it will take a second translator with your standards.

Secondly, try to find out more about the client and their background. If you can find out how much the client is willing to pay, then you have a price range. In this case, it is essential that the client knows what her idea of your services is. If she’s in a position to judge them by herself, this is better, because she can evaluate the quality of your work with more detail.

Lastly, you need to decide your position. Sometimes, a client may have a very small budget, but present a good long-term project that will help you grow your business in small steps. You can ask yourself these questions before deciding:

  • What will this project do for you in terms of experience and income?  
  • How many more clients are we talking about if I make a compromise?
  • Is it a one-off or an ongoing project?
  • Do you want to have them as a long-term client or not?

After you evaluate your situation, you can simply decide if it worth to lower your price or not. Sometimes lowering prices might mean lower quality output but personally I don’t find it ethical. If you’re going to deliver low quality work just because you receive lower payments, it is best to say it directly rather than promise something you just can’t deliver.

Also keep in mind that if the clients tell you their budget is limited, it does not always mean that they are looking for a way to hire someone cheaper. It sometimes simply means that their requirements are simple and straightforward, or they know exactly what they want and can give you an idea of how much it will cost them to meet their objectives. In either case, this client is serious about doing business with you, but they might need some time to discuss your quote with others in their organization. So, don’t lose hope if they quote low because it might be an opening to negotiate them up to a fair price and an acceptable deadline.

And after you agreed on the terms and started working, you can show that you are willing to work quickly, finish the work before the agreed date and offer a slightly better service. If your client is happy with you and they might come back again for another project for a better price.

And what is more rewarding than when you get an opportunity to work on a new project, spend more time working with a client who was happy with your services, and be able to provide high-quality work?

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