Do you think that your clients are unfair?
Lately, I have been hearing and reading many comments about how clients seem to want to dictate the way a freelancer—be it a translator or any other freelancer—should charge for their services. There has also been talk about clients not being willing to accept the payment policies freelancers or small businesses have in place.
Concerning the pricing issue, a lot of freelance translators complain that clients are always requesting lower prices for their services, or are trying to impose their own prices. I also hear complaints about other “translators” driving the industry prices way down; something that hurts the rest of us.
When I hear these complaints and rants, a question—sometimes several questions—pops into my head: “Who is the boss, you or your client?” And anybody might counter ask, “The boss? The boss of what? I am a freelancer. There are no bosses here!”
Wrong! Of course, there is a boss. If you are a freelancer, then you are running your own business, which means that you are the boss, your own boss; the person who determines how to run your business, what services you offer, and how you are going to charge and get paid for those services. Do you notice a keyword here? Yes, that’s right: YOU! Not your client, not your client’s staff, not your neighbor… YOU!
If you are the boss, why should YOU allow clients to run your business and dictate how things are to be done? Can you turn around and buy services from this same client and then tell them when, how much and how you are going to pay them? I don’t think so!
And if you don’t consider yourself a business yet… it is definitely time you did. No more excuses!
Are you a professional or are you a peddler?
A peddler has a cart that he found on the side of the road, filled up with whatever he could get his hands on, and then went trudging down the road offering his findings from door to door to whoever could offer him the best money for his stuff. Peddlers, by the nature of their business, are used to haggling, and even encourage it. They usually overprice their goods because they know that they will definitely get the price they really want when haggling time comes.
Peddlers don’t care about the value or quality of what they sell. They just care about getting money for their stuff, emptying the cart so that they can fill it up again, and then going on their merry way with their earnings for the day.
Professionals know their trade, craft, business, art—whatever you want to call it. They know what they are offering because they have spent endless hours learning about it, perfecting it, finding the very best way to offer the best value for their knowledge. Professionals know that with their services or products they are offering real value to their clients, not just a bunch of “everyday stuff” to fill their desks, bookcases, and computers.
Unfortunately, many clients do not know the difference between a professional and a peddler—others prefer just to ignore it. For those who do not know the difference, the problem can be solved by gentle education.
What drives the price rant against clients?
This rant against the “unfairness” of unknowledgeable clients comes from a place of deep fear within us.
Wait… fear? What am I talking about? Yes, fear! Fear to assert ourselves; fear to truly show that we know what we know. Fear that if we do not bend to our client’s wishes they will take their business elsewhere. Fear that, in order to compete, we will also have to lower our prices, thus producing high-value work for a pittance.
Taking their business somewhere else, the client risks receiving less polished work than we can produce, or work with a less knowledgeable translator—even someone who might not be a translator at all; someone who is just looking to make a couple of bucks here and there to supplement his/her income.
The problem here is that the client might not even be aware of this. The only thing they are aware of is that this person is charging them much less than we want to charge them for the same document; and since money is a lot of times the driving force for many transactions… These specific clients will go with the peddler, not with the professional!
Did you know that the majority of clients requesting translations have not a clue of what translation entails? Did you know that clients who haggle prices and go with the cheapest option end up paying double the price in the long run?
The real reason why you rant and spit fire when a client asks you to lower your prices, or doesn’t want to comply with your payment terms but imposes his, is that you are not asserting yourself as a professional, as a business owner. You are allowing the client to run the game and get frustrated because they are not running it your way.
How can clients take small businesses seriously if their owners do not assert themselves? A lot of clients are like hounds… They smell fear from a great distance! If your client smells the fear that invades you concerning your prices and payment policies, you can be sure that they will do everything in their power to outmaneuver you. They will do whatever they can to make a peddler out of you.
What to do? They will keep going to the lowest bidder!
Show them what value really is about. Teach them, be patient, and teach them again. Yes, the translation industry is fiercely competitive—more so for certain language pairs than for others—but it is an industry that will not go away. It has been a part of the human existence since the beginning of time, and will still stick around until the end of time too.
However, we need to be aware that just as we don’t know the ins and outs of our clients’ business, they do not know either the ins and outs of ours. This only means that, as part of our role as translators, we need to continually educate our clients so that they can understand what we do for them, how we do it, and why we charge what we charge for the value we offer them.
And as far as our clients going to other people who will charge less for the same job… As I said, the translation industry is not going anywhere; it is here to stay! So, if a client doesn’t want to accept your prices and/or payment terms, move on! Find another client. Find better people to work with; people who will truly appreciate you and your work. There is not just one person in this world to offer your services to, is there? Don’t limit yourself then. As the saying goes, “There are plenty of fish in the sea…” So, go fishing!
With this, I propose to you to calm your fears, get a grip on your rant and start showing your mettle instead.
Why not take a page from Rolex’s book, for example. Do you think Rolex has never faced competition by lower end watch brands? Do you think they compare their prices to those brands so that they can lower theirs and beat the competition on price alone?
Not at all! Rolex sets their prices based on the excellent value of their watches, no matter what their competitors do, because they are confident of what they are selling. Irrespective of how many people buy Rolex imitations, the true Rolex brand keeps its head high, their prices and payment conditions as they see fit, and live in the assurance that no matter what, clients who want real value will always come to their doors.
What about you? Are you willing to stick to your guns and defend your prices and policies, head high, in the knowledge that what you are offering your clients is value and not just the haggling game of the peddler?
Share your comments below and let me know what path you will take 🙂
Wishing you the very best,
Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC