Um. Yes. Of course. That’s practically a rule.
I’m surprised when I hear this question from other freelancers.
Some wonder if it is fair or ethical to charge one rate to client George, and a different rate to client Miranda.
Others worry that this is vaguely illegal. (Maybe it is, if you’re a supermarket. Or if you live in the Netherlands or Singapore. I have no idea about that.)
I know one freelance developer who charges everyone the same because he doesn’t want the angst of figuring out a new price every time. He is even lazier than I am.
But the fact is, our livelihood depends on matching the fee to the task, to the client’s urgency level, to our anxiety level, and to the client’s checkbook balance.
That must be part of our skills stack. That is how we grow in this business.
Otherwise we’re merely day laborers.
Think of it this way.
Two hours of raking leaves isn’t quite the same as two hours of dragging 30-pound cinder blocks to the top of a hill.
Translating nine pages of text for a bi-lingual instruction sheet isn’t the same as translating nine pages of a communique from an angry Prime Minister.
My friend Sullivan, a roofing and siding contractor, used to mentally adjust his estimate as he drove up to a house. A big house in a fancy neighborhood got an automatic surcharge. “Because those people always badgered down the price, were a royal pain in the butt, and oddly, were really slow to pay.”
This is partly why I’m leery about posting rates or fees on your web site. And why I’m not a fan of hourly rates.
You need room to think. To assess the situation. (Yours and theirs.)
I know, it’s easier to point to some generic price list. But that’s amateur. That’s cowardly.
We’re allowed to say what we charge, case by case. (Even if it’s hard, and even if we guess wrong once in a while.)
We need to be pros about this. This is our living, after all.
April 18, 2017 @ 12:39 pm
That’s yet another reason that I don’t charge an hourly rate, but rather a price certain for one whole book design/layout project. (Well, except that I include in my contracts a clause that if a certain percentage of pages have to be remade due to reflow from the client’s rewriting, then an additional hourly rate kicks in on top of the agreed-upon price for the whole project.) That said, I have more than the one issue with hourly rates. Even before I ever thought of how each project and client is different, so that I never want to work for a fixed rate, the IRS informed me that hourly rates are a factor that makes them look harder at whether someone is not an independent contractor, but rather an employee.
April 18, 2017 @ 1:51 pm
Great post, Walt. In case you haven’t seen it, you might also be interested in ‘Part Three/Money Talk: Pricing Design’ featuring Chris Do, founder of Blind, a brand strategy design consultancy in Santa Monica. Chris discusses pricing the client rather than the job. He asks a group of logo designers, ‘What does it touch?’ and ‘What’s the risk to the client if the job isn’t done well?’ http://www.logodesignlove.com/how-to-price-design-services
I love seeing how people outside my own industry (editing and proofreading) deal with pricing issues, and Chris’s workshop does a really good job of asking business owners to think and behave like pros.
I’m like you; I don’t put prices on my website because my copyediting and proofreading work ‘touches’ different clients in different ways. My prices need to reflect that.
July 25, 2017 @ 1:39 pm
I like the part on not putting the price on the website. I’s really eye-opener. But for Indonesian market where the supply of translators seems to exceeds the demands. Competitions force the price down, making a dichotomy of local and international price unavoidable. Thanks for the article. Hikmat Gumilar
March 12, 2018 @ 4:52 am
Thank you for your nice post. “Two hours of raking leaves isn’t quite the same as two hours of dragging 30-pound cinder blocks to the top of a hill. ” You absolutely right.
March 20, 2018 @ 3:36 am
well, the reason hourly rates in the translation business do not make any sense is because in that case, if you work fast and effective, you get less payment. I think the best way is to charge after word count. in this case, the client gets more or less a standard price and if you are fast and effective, they get fast delivery, which is obviously good for them and gives them advantages if they use your services. Also I find it completely acceptable to set different rates for more difficult text, to give bulk discounts, to rate differently when you have excessive extra work (e.g. with graphics or other exporting procedures) and also if the client is simply giving you a hard time for no reason. what if someone keeps asking you about when the translation is finished every hour and that before the agreed deadline. I think it is ok to charge for this client a higher price the next time.