When Your Cost Estimate Is Rejected

  • Greater than 2 minutes

    I was asked for a cost estimate of a big job, almost 60.000 words, about a technical document that some professionals needed for an investigation (I believe for their thesis). “We can’t afford your translation,” one of the professionals said in his email two days after receiving my cost estimate. I was about to ask him why and even try to rearrange the amount or the payment method. Then I said to myself, “It’s Friday, I have other customers who don’t hesitate to pay what I ask, and I’m sorry, but that’s the cost of a qualified translation.”

    Then I did an opinion poll on Twitter where I asked my colleagues what they would prefer if their cost estimate were rejected because the client couldn’t afford it:

    ScreenHunter_101 Sep. 28 11.13

    1. Being cancelled.
    2. Being bargained.
    3. Arranging a long-term payment.

    Most of the voters chose option ‘a’, which was my actual reaction to the situation too, and here is why I believe I did the best:

    Time: When considering doing a big project alone or one that requires more creativity, as when transcreating, we must take into account the time it takes us to do the job, or the time we have until the deadline day. Also, consider some extra time for having it proofread or edited by someone other than you (which is a cost you should add to the estimate as well).

    Research: Sometimes the job is about a specialized topic and when we don’t have much experience in a certain topic, we must consider research as an important task to do before translating. Besides, do we have a glossary or does our customer provide any thesaurus/TM? Either option will help us improve and speed up the translation process.

    Life itself: If we have a family, we will think twice before accepting or arranging a job on a weekend. We have a life, whether we are parents or not, I personally try to spend time sharing with the ones I love and disconnect from work. I often take advantage of the weekend, which is when my husband doesn’t work. It all comes down to the way we manage our life.

    I don’t know what’s your reality, or if you translate for a living. There’s a lot of people out there —who are not even professional translators— that accept lower payments or work around the clock. I do work under pressure, but I charge what it costs.

    What option would you prefer if your cost estimate were rejected as mine? I’d love to know your opinion!


    Clarisa Pereira G. A.

    About Clarisa Pereira G. A.

    I am a mother of two, a passionate translator, a writer by vocation, and a fearless entrepreneur. #mamásindependientes #xl8 #CreativaMente

    4 thoughts on “When Your Cost Estimate Is Rejected

    1. Thanks for your article Clarisa. It’s a topic we have to face all the time, sometimes from abusive agencies, and sometimes from individuals (or even small companies) who really can’t afford the costs of professional translators, and end up feeding amateurs. Depending on who is the client and which is the context, I believe one should not rule out all options: being cancelled, bargaining (not being bargained – it’s my decision) or giving credit. In general, and if the applicant (not client in this case – arrogantly set) deserves it, I would prefer giving credit. For a freelancer, not in principle and yes in practice, income is not guaranteed month after month, and having someone owe you money is like having money in the bank, a savings, and if times get rough you can be thankful you gave that applicant a chance to enjoy the work of a professional instead of leaving him/her alone in the jungle where he/she surely will be eaten by monkeys.

      1. Haha, I loved your final illustration! And thank you for taking time and giving me a piece of advice, which is precious for me right now.
        I forgot to mention that the person who contacted me this time actually contacted me last year and, again, he didn’t accept my price. I know he was bearing the costs alone that time, but now he was dividing it with other professionals. I don’t know what to think. Next time I’ll try giving credit. 🙂

    2. This is what I do, too, either I get rejected or I offer about 20% discount, depending on whether I have other customers or not. But, to tell you the truth, giving a discount did not work a single time. Some people just have no idea what translation costs. One time somebody wanted to have a roman of about 300 pages translated, just for her own purposes. Imagine that, a book that costs 10-15 bucks, and have it translated for about a thousand to two-thousand bucks, ha-ha. At another time I gave a quote for a series of articles, but as I did not know the full size of the documents, I gave a per character price. She then sent me the whole nine yards for an exact quote. Turns out it would have cost her about half of a good average month’s wage. She was a student, so I guess she just shrieked when she saw the offer, and never contacted me again.
      Things like that happen. Just today I ran into a movie-maker agency, offering only one Euro per minute for the translation of ready-made subtitles. As I had no idea how much words fit in one minute, I tried my luck. Then I found that the per word rate was only about EUR 0.007, so I couldn’t help but I tried to negotiate first, informing them that this price just won’t work I think with any of the translators, but they did not budge. So, after all, if I have nothing that would give me enough to feed my kids, I’d rather starve while doing nothing, (using my time for studying, recreation) than starve while I am working my ass off. Additionally, this way I am ready for the better opportunity when it comes.

    Leave a Reply

    The Open Mic

    Where translators share their stories and where clients find professional translators.

    Find Translators OR Register as a translator