Happy New Year = Happy New Pricing?

Happy New Year = Happy New Pricing?

Finding the right timing for a price increase is a tricky business for any entrepreneur. Naturally, the New Year virtually lends itself to changing existing price structures – isn’t it a nice fresh start for everything?

However, increasing one’s prices as a translator is not an easy chapter. Having spoken to several old-timers in the translation industry, the results were often quite eye-opening. One translator lamented the fact that she hadn’t been able to increase her price per source word with her agency in 10 (TEN!) years. Several other colleagues of mine stated that they were simply reluctant to change their pricing policies for fear of being dropped by their clients for cheaper competitors.

This has presented me with several questions. 1) Is it not justified for a sole-trader to adjust prices at least according to the national inflation rate? 2) Is it fair to say that agencies “drop you” once you’ve raised your prices after working with them for a considerable amount of time? 3) Is new pricing bound to have a negative impact on your workload (i.e. higher fees = less clients?) And last but not least: 4) If these assumptions are true, are translators too shy when it comes to efficient price negotiations?

I refuse to believe that there is “no way”, as some colleagues in the translating industry have put it, to be running an increasingly profitable translation business and have happy long-term clients (or agencies) at the same time. Working for clients for several years implies that a relationship of trust, reliability and mutual understanding has been formed. If these ingredients aren’t the perfect basis for price negotiations, what more could you wish for?

In my experience, clients have been very open in terms of increasing my prices after set periods and once they could convince themselves of my reliability and translation quality. If agencies replace you right after you’ve increased your prices by some percent, it most probably wasn’t a very trustworthy work relationship to begin with.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your clients – it’s your right as a service provider to do so. Don’t be greedy, either. Price jumps of 200% very rarely receive a cheerful standing ovation by your clients. Never forget what your work is worth, and keep a watchful eye on competitors if you need guidance for the right pricing guidance.

7 more weeks till 2014 – plenty of time for a good re-think of dusty fees from years ago that might be in desperate need for some polishing up.


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