The Couch

The Couch – Discounts: To Give or not to Give In?

The Couch is a learning place, not only for its contributors but also for our readers who engage in the ensuing discussions. What do you do when you are the victim of unusual practices?

Discounts are in the spotlight again. How about we all contribute to create a Best Practices type of document? Please understand that The Couch is a teaching and learning forum within TNO. Let’s be on our best behavior and teach.

Discounts only tomorrow tag

Discounts. It has become a dirty word. There’s a lot of argument for and against the practice. What is your take?

When is it ok to give a discount and when is it not? Do you send invoices for your pro bono work disclosing the full value and $ 0 due? Is there an advantage in doing that?

Why I ask? Because a direct client just trapped me into giving her a discount. And I hated myself afterwards. How do you avoid giving a discount when confronted head on?

Yeah, I know. Too many questions. But I believe a lot of our colleagues will benefit from your answers. Thank you, Wise Ones, for your generous guidance.

Share your knowledge, opinion or questions, Wise Ones.


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Check out other topics discussed here and here.

6 thoughts on “The Couch – Discounts: To Give or not to Give In?”

  1. Chris Verduin says:

    Interesting – I just had an incident involving this.
    I’d rather not get into all of the upsetting (for me, anyway)
    details, but to summarize a large company I had done occasional
    work for asked me to work 2 Sundays (at request of their client),
    I didn’t really want to do it, explained it was my only day off, but
    I would make arrangements. Then when the event was same-day
    canceled, their client (allegedly) asked if I would waive the fee.
    When I said I’m sorry, but no, they persisted in badgering me
    because it was such a good client, gave them (not me) a lot of
    business (not me), and after all I had been requested personally
    by them. Unfortunate results: I asked them to relieve me of this
    client, and am now I am pretty sure relieved of this company.
    But I am past the time when I will be forced to do whatever a
    company asks, just to work for them. I think they might have
    been surprised. But it was very stressful for me, and in order
    to alleviate this stress it is better that I give up that client.

  2. Gio Lester says:

    I don’t have an issue with discounts. I have an issue with the attitude of some clients when they “ask” for it as if they are entitled or as if our profession is nothing other than a way of making pocket change…

    I have donated my work to many entities, even individuals. I have given discounts but I made certain to state the actual value of my work and justified the discount as “professional courtesy” or other such reason. A plain blanket discount? No. You gotta deserve it.

  3. I’m with Gio here. When clients do not know the real value of our work, they will very literally not value it.
    It may sound paradoxical, but while clients don’t like paying high prices, they are more likely to be convinced of the quality *because* it was expensive. I find that high-paying, quality-conscious clients are *more* likely to become/remain regular clients than low-paying ones, who are more inclined to drop me for a cheaper deal.
    I rarely refuse a one-time discount when an existing high-paying client asks for one, but the actual value of the work will be reflected on the invoice. On their part, they will rarely refuse my requests for a rush surcharge, a deadline extension, or a surcharge for complicated layout restruction. That’s just part of mutual respect and courtesy, without which work is unpleasant and unsustainable in the long run.
    And to a new client who contacted me in June and didn’t want to pay $0.23, I offered a special “reduced 2018 rate” of $0.18. This $0.05 discount has appeared on a dozen invoices now. I have no doubt that this client values our work and will continue working with us after our discount will end next month, at least as long as the same project managers are still around.

  4. Alfredo Babler says:

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando.
    Perhaps “discount” is, in this context, a misnomer. Always be willing to negotiate. If you’re dealing with honest people that have everyone’s best interest in mind, they’re not going to try to nickel and dime you. I know there are many agency operators that can make a freelancer jaded, because they run their business like a Turkish bazaar. But the reality of doing business is that in order to stay competitive one always has to be mindful that there’s will be negotiations between the end user and the agency, that will trickle down to the linguist. There is nothing wrong with flexibility in your rates, and not being intransigent is a good, not a bad, thing. We have benchmarks that we base our quotations on. We have ballparks that we use to estimate margins and viability to accept or reject a number in a negotiation. Oh crap, I don’t even know if this kind of common sense is going to get anywhere nowadays. I mean, I have some stories but, as a matter of professionalism, I am not going to discuss them here. Suffice it to say that, to answer all your concerns in one boiled-down statement that will benefit everyone involved, will be impossible, but be fair minded in your approach to negotiations with your agency clients. It’s a service industry. We carry no inventory. We are selling words and their meanings, not diamonds and empanadas. Some jobs are very simple, so that’s factored-in. Some are complex, so that’s factored-in. Some clients have serious budget constraints, so that’s taken under consideration. Some clients have a Carte Blanche type of attitude and expect the best of the best, so that’s factored-in. The situations are endless. You have to get off this mindset that, by the way, is also being taught wrongly to the new talent arriving in the field, that hourly rates and per word rates are set in stone and any deviation from them means someone’s being abused and taken advantage of. The real world is not at all like that. Give free market capitalism and fair competition a chance. Trust me, it isn’t a perfect system but it is the one you want. It creates wealth and weeds out the insanity, keeps the cash flow moving, and anchors trust. reliability and business relationships. This thing of not negotiating and being the one-time-kill linguist all the time is just untenable. Think about it. Anyhoo, that’s my two cents… oh, I understand, it’s a government client and they are super budget oriented, plus it will help you and in turn me create another semi-steady revenue stream that will end up benefiting both of us greatly, so you’ve got yourself a deal. Thank you for explaining the situation to me. I’m willing to work with you in this symbiotic endeavor., so that’s my 1.75 cents.
    See what I mean, jelly bean?

    1. Gio Lester says:

      “But the reality of doing business is that, in order to stay competitive, one always has to be mindful that there will be negotiations between the end user and the agency, that will trickle down to the linguist. There is nothing wrong with flexibility in your rates, and not being intransigent is a good, not a bad, thing.” Quite well said.

      I do disagree with the statement that we sell words. That’s a very simplistic view of our professions. We sell a communication solution. The idea that we “sell words” is what created the issue we have with fuzzy matches and the like. I actually heard someone presenting on how o use translations and how low they cost with the advent of CAT tools because you only pay for a work once, it makes no sense to pay twice for the same word that the computer – not the translator – is suggesting. Yeah, right.

      I sell a solution, my merchandises are my time and my knowledge. The fact that the final product takes the form of words, should not influence the cost. Imagine if we were to pay only for the canvas and the paint used in a Portinari? Is that what we are buying? No. And words are not what we are selling. The quicker we as a profession get away from the per word model, the better it will be for everyone. I mean, make your calculations per-word if it helps you, but do not present the breakdown per word in your invoices. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, but for the last few years, I have been giving per-project rates.

      I use three variables to calculate my rate: the number of words, the subject matter and how long it will take me to do the job. It has worked well with both agencies and direct clients. I mean, a 1000-word document with little formatting will cost less than a 1000-word document with a lot of formatting.

      And how many here charge for certification? I did not use to, but now I do charge for my certification. I have to take courses, pay for webinars, association fees, the certification itself did not come for free. So, I now charge for it.

  5. Vicki Santamaría says:

    I have a part-time staff interpreter job, so the question of discounts doesn’t come up that often for me except for the translations I do. One agency, after I had done numerous jobs at what I considered a low rate, asked me if I was willing to work for less. I said no and I have never heard from them again, which is fine with me. I think that each translator/interpreter needs to set the lowest rate he or she is willing to work for and politely decline lower rates.

    That said, when I translate documents for private persons (birth certificates, college transcripts, etc.), I charge a flat per-page rate which is fairly low because I know that most of my clients are immigrants with little extra money.

    I have done a few pro-bono jobs, but only for family members and non-profit organizations whose cause I believe in.

    It is important to charge a decent rate because we are trained professionals and that is one way we can distinguish ourselves from untrained bilinguals.

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