Should I give an agency translation discounts for regular translation work?

Blackboard with percentage translation discounts for regular translation work

Written by Lucy Williams

Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer

When you’re a freelance translator, you don’t always know where your next project is coming from. It can be tempting to take work, even if it’s at a reduced rate. Maybe a translation agency is promising you regular work in exchange for discounts. Should you take them up on their offer?

Having some translation work to do is better than twiddling your thumbs, right? You might feel like this when the tumbleweed is rolling through your inbox. Especially when you first start out. But think carefully before you agree to drop your rates on the promise of more work to come.

What are the problems with agreeing to discounts for regular translation work?

That extra work might not materialise. Maybe you’ll get drips and drabs here and there, and at a lower rate than you’re comfortable with. Once you’ve agreed to a reduced rate, it can be hard to row back.

OK, so maybe they’re true to their word and it’s a big project. You’ll still make good money, right? Even at a lower rate? Maybe. But remember that it could tie you up and mean you’re unavailable for other (better paid) translation work. If you’re turning down other translation clients for this lower rate, then none of those clients can become regulars. And they might be regulars at a better rate than the one you’ve agreed to.

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Does the agency want discounts on top of the agreed translation price?

Remember that agencies will often require you to work with a CAT tool and will usually apply a sliding scale for different matches. That means they’re going to expect a further discount on projects with repetitions. And with machine-translation post-editing on the rise, the rate may also be slashed there. Why would you accept further reductions on top of all that?

Have you seen the source text?

If you haven’t seen the text you have to translate, don’t agree discounts. The content may be more complex than you think or include time-consuming formatting (see Gwen’s article “Translator Survival Guide to Profitable PDF Pricing”). If a job is more time consuming than usual, then you’ll earn less than you typically do. As a freelance translator, you need to maximise your income, and one of the ways to do that is to be careful about the work and rates you accept.

When might you accept a discount on work for translation agencies?

If you’re already working with the agency and know them to be reliable, there are circumstances where it’s a good idea. Perhaps they normally offer you something in one specialism but can offer you regular easy work in another. If your hourly rate is the same or better even with a discount because you can do the work faster, then it can be worth it.

Become a qualified translator

If you’re looking for a way to stand out from the crowd and command better rates, train with us to improve the quality of your translations and to work towards a recognised translation qualification like the CIOL DipTrans.

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