Promises Don’t Pay the Bills

Occasionally, translators are contacted by new clients who, after getting a quote, ask for a discount simply on the basis that they are a new client and that, so they claim, there will be more work to come. Nice try.

There is no incentive there for a sole trader for the obvious reasons that 1) a discount effectively means a direct reduction of our personal income; and 2) the promise of future work may never materialise – whether it is a genuine promise in the first place or not. Besides, what entitles a new client to a discount? Would you go to a solicitor or a dentist and ask for a discount on their first task?

Haggling also rings alarm bells for it gives the message that the client does not appreciate the skills required or the value of the service offered, and that he could prove a bad payer – just what nobody wants! The first project is a test run for both parties to check that each side fulfils their part of the deal reliably and professionally. (And this doesn’t mean that discounts or any special favours will be granted after that first project. A second-time client once suggested we did a new project “without an invoice”. I took him off my list of clients.)

While translators are more than happy to help their regular and reliable clients, those little extras only come as the relationship develops over time. In the short term, discounts and vague promises do not pay the bills.


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