Here are questions and answers from the webinar The Price is Right—Pricing Strategies for Your Translation Services for ATA on April 28th. I had promised to provide answers to all questions here in a blog post. That way everyone that are interested can also benefit from them. I will focus the answers on questions related to the webinar subject.
Q: I have been working with a translation agency for a long time and recently they asked for a couple of rate adjustments. I agreed to lower my editing rate but kept my translation rate the same. Since then, they have only sent me editing jobs, not translation jobs. Should I renegotiate and lower my translation rate?
A: I have been in the same situation. There are a few things you can do. If you have a good relationship with them, you can simply tell them that you would prefer translation work. You can also raise your editing rate. I would not lower the translation rate if you have already raised it, but you might have to look for other clients to fill your schedule if this one is not giving you enough work anymore.
Q: How do you time yourself in Studio?
A: There is no timing function in Studio, but you can use Toggl.com and turn on the timer when you start working in Studio, stopping it when you are done. Alternately, you can download Rescuetime, which automatically records the time you spend working in Studio.
Q: How can I find clients willing to pay my target prices?
A: This question is at the heart of every freelance translation business. When looking for clients willing to pay your rate, consider their reputation in the industry, what they seem to value (quality, quantity, price) and where their business is located. My best tip is to take a good look at the clients you already have. Which ones are enjoyable to work with and value your services? Which one are costing you time and energy and don’t seem to be worth it in the long run? Let go of the ones that are costing you more than they are worth and focus on the ones that are enjoyable to work with and whose projects make you reach your target hourly rate. Then go out and try to find more of those. We are fortunate to have a profession that is location independent.
Q: Can you give a real life example of a PROJECT and PACKAGE?
A: Project pricing is when you get an inquiry from a direct client who wants you to translate a project for them. You look at the files, estimate the time it will take to translate them and perhaps even break it down into a desired per word price. Add time for research, communication, formatting, etc. Summarize all this and give a total price for the project to the client. I use this method most of the time for direct clients (also called end clients).
Q: As a freelance translator, how do I approach translation agencies? Is there a website where I can browse a list of agencies?
A: I recommend finding agencies through trusted sources such as the ATA directory, paymentpractices.com or similar online databases where agencies are registered. Then research each one individually. Check their reputation, see if they work in your language combination and expertise, find out how big they are, where they are located, etc. Then you can browse their website to see if they accept applications and what method of contact they prefer. For more detailed information you can check out a webinar recording on this topic: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/course/12518-how_to_create_profitable_and_rewarding_relationships_with_translation_agencies
Q: If you get offers that are well below your minimum rate, is it worth your time to reply to try to educate them, in hopes of turning them into clients?
A: It depends. Often it isn’t, but sometimes I still reply and explain why my rate is higher and give concrete reasons (experience, certification, market rate for language combination, references, etc.)
Q: Is it worth your time to do free translation tests?
A: That is something you have to decide for yourself. Many people feel it is worth their time, and many do not. For the most part I don’t do free translation tests anymore and instead mention my certifications and recommendations. However, sometimes translation tests are required and in certain circumstances I translate up to 300 words for free if they have a project lined up that they are specifically testing for.
Q: How can you understand your value? What is this understanding based on? (ATA certification, the highest rate your clients pay you or … ?)
A: If you know your clients well, how you can help them, and are sure of your translation skills, plus can prove it with recommendations and referrals, you can show clients how you can help them and how you can provide value to them. See this blog post for more information: http://marketingtipsfortranslators.com/communicate-value-clients-dont-sell/
Q: How does Rescuetime automatically determine your time allocation? Is it based on open apps? What if I leave the apps open but minimize them when not using them?
A: I think it can track which tab/program/page you are active on, but I have not researched it. Rescuetime.com will certainly have more information.
Q: How do you know when to stop raising your rates?! I’m already at $.55/word with some clients, but with others am still at $.45. Can I keep increasing my rates by $.01 per year?
A: I would say the sky is the limit. If your clients keep coming back and you’re busy, then you can keep raising them. You will notice if clients start to protest or if projects become scarce. This might mean you’ve reached the limit.
Q: I have sent many ‘cold’ emails to prospective clients (referred by somebody I know, or other sources). Most of the time, the prospect doesn’t even answer my email. What is the best practical way to contact a prospect?
A: I don’t think “cold” emails work well anymore. “Warm” emails are a better option and involve knowing something about prospects and showing them how you can help them. For more information on warm email prospecting, please see: http://marketingtipsfortranslators.com/episode-28-warm-email-prospecting-translators-interview-ed-gandia/
Q: If you really are just starting out (as in without a single client or time tracking), because you are planning for your future business, is the best way to set your rates to go by rates on surveys until you can figure out how much time you are spending on each job?
A: Yes. It is hard if you don’t have any clients yet. I would look at rate surveys for your language combination and area of specialization and also at the costs and what you “want” to earn and try and set a rate based on that. If you have a colleague/teacher or mentor, you can also ask them for advice.