Freelancers: 7 Things to Know Before Your Next Negotiation

This post was originally published on the Copyediting.com website on June 20, 2017. It is reposted with permission of ACES, The Society for Editing.

Editorial business owners are always negotiating. Whether it’s terms for an upcoming project or an existing contract that’s gone out of scope, having these tough conversations is part of the job.

Here are 7 things to know before your next negotiation with a client.

1. BE READY TO SAY NO

The fear that many of us have around negotiations is hearing, and saying, “no.” But remember that every negotiation starts with a “no.” Otherwise, why would you be negotiating?

Practice saying “no” in a mirror, or with a friend—whatever it takes for you to get used to saying that tiny, yet powerful, word. Soon it will feel like second nature, and your business (and personal life!) will be better than ever.

2. PLAN TO AIM HIGH

Before the negotiation begins, it’s important to know your bottom line. What’s the lowest number you’ll consider before walking away from the deal?

Then, decide what you’ll ask for in the negotiation, and aim high—as high as you can while still being relatively realistic (don’t ask for $1 million for a proofread). Even if this number feels ridiculous to you at first, know that you’ll negotiate down from there.

Here’s the key to this concept: if you go into a negotiation knowing exactly what you want and you start there, you’re actually showing that you’re not willing to negotiate anything. You’ll look like you’re not willing to compromise, and the client will almost always call you out on it.

3. START ON COMMON GROUND

In their simplest form, negotiations are based on one fact: someone wants to buy something, and someone wants to sell it. As a freelance editor, you want to sell your services, and your client wants to buy them. This is your common ground.

Start every negotiation by simply stating your common goal, in very general terms: “I would love to work with you, so let’s talk about ways we can make that happen.”

Strive for a respectful tone, and use “we” to show that you’re invested in working together to achieve a win-win result.

4. NEVER SHOW YOUR CARDS

Once you’re in the middle of a negotiation, be careful not to show your cards. This gives the other person all the power, and you will lose ground without gaining anything.

Avoid phrases like these at all costs:

  • “The least I can do this for is $200.”
  • “The most I can pay is $100.”

These types of phrases give away your bargaining power and back you into a corner.

5. BE THE FIRST PERSON TO THROW OUT A (HIGH) NUMBER

Not showing your cards doesn’t mean you should avoid being the first person to throw out a number. In fact, studies have shown that the first number mentioned during a negotiation serves as an anchor, especially if the seller says it.

For example, if a graphic designer is negotiating with a CEO who wants a new logo, the graphic designer should be the first to say that the logo design will cost $10,000. Even if the CEO had planned on offering $4,000, he or she will usually respond with something closer to the anchor number, like $6,000.

6. DON’T RUSH INTO A “SOLUTION”

As freelancers, we often feel caught between wanting to make our clients happy and still needing to make a living. Many times, we go above and beyond to find a quick “solution” that really isn’t addressing the root problem. One example of this is accepting projects that offer lower pay and/or unreasonable deadlines.

Instead of rushing into closing a deal that you know isn’t a good fit, give it time to breathe. Don’t rush into something just to make the other person happy—the beauty of negotiation is that it can, and should, benefit both sides.

7. BE PREPARED TO WALK AWAY

Let’s face it: walking away from a negotiation is hard. We’re often afraid to disappoint a prospective or current client, or we’re scared they might spread rumors about our business or try to go after us in some way. This is especially true with authority figures, such as an influential person in the community.

But it’s so important to be able to leave the contract on the table if the terms aren’t right for you. Just remember: walking away from the wrong client frees you up to attract your ideal client.

Look Out(!) for these Red Flags in Client Communications

Over the years I’ve received a lot of spam emails from would-be “clients” requesting my services. Here are just a few of the red flags I look for to determine whether an email is from a legitimate client or a scammer.

Ambiguous requests

“Hello, I’m contacting you in regard to an English content document worth 11,633 words (44 Pages). I need this document translated into [your language here]. I would like to know if you are interested and available to get this done for me. Please get back to me as soon as you can. Thank you.”

Some of the details I noticed here:

  • No deadline
  • Nothing about the topic
  • No mention about why you would be the right linguist for the job
  • It comes from a Gmail account or some other free domain

Trying to get personal / Grammatical errors

“I hope that you are enjoying the best of health and this message meet you well.

I would like to know if you are interested and available, I got your contact from an online Directory of Translators and Interpreters.”

Note the writing errors:

  • Sentences are separated by periods instead of commas
  • Poor subject-verb agreement; “this sentence meets you well” would have been correct

Inaccurate claims about your profile

“Your portfolio published on [your association here]…”

We don’t put portfolios on our association websites! We have profile listings that describe our skills and specialties. That’s an immediate red flag.

Math about the experience of their staff

Sometimes a client will try to convince you they are great by saying they are “managed by highly erudite professionals with over [xx] years of combined experience.” We don’t know how many professionals are on the management team, so if their combined experience adds up to 50 years but there are only 20 people, this doesn’t mean much.

Unusual contracting procedures

Some clients will claim to offer a certain amount of pay per month, and will report with a 1099-k structure. That means that they are not the ones sending you the 1099; whoever processes the electronic payments is. That would be PayPal, QuickBooks, or whoever they work with. You have to receive either 200 payments or $20,000 through that system to get a report through them. In other words, they do not do their own 1099 reports.

Phone number and address

When in doubt, I call the phone number listed in the potential client’s email. If I get a Google phone message, this raises a red flag. A Google message is unusual for a language company, especially if it does not identify the company the email supposedly came from.

You can also look up their listed address on Google Maps. Occasionally it is at a Dollar Tree, a barber, or a storage unit site—I have seen all three of these! As soon as I ask why they operate from that type of address, the emails stop coming.

Better Business Bureau rating

If a company reaching out to me has a poor rating on the Better Business Bureau website, that’s a red flag too. The company isn’t worth working with if they are known to be delinquent in payment to their contractors. If a company has one star out of five, beware!

Unsolicited prepayments

Some clients will try to send me a check before I have started the job, without me asking them to do so or agreeing on a price. Once, I got the translation… and a check in the mail for an amount I had not negotiated. We had not negotiated any price at all! Then I got persistent emails asking whether I cashed the check instead of asking whether I had any questions about the translation. This is a red flag, too!

I went to the bank and discovered it was a fake account from a fake bank. The bank destroyed the check. I never cash a check before finishing my assignment; first I have to negotiate the deal, then complete the assignment, then receive payment.

When something looks off, it probably is. If you think something is questionable, it probably is. Standard business practices exist because they prevent problems. It is always helpful to find colleagues to check with when you have questions, though. Local chapters and national professional associations such as ATA are excellent resources.

Image source: Pixabay

Pursuing the Translation Dream: Professional Demeanor

Your translation career is moving right along: you have a growing slate of repeat customers and a modest circle of close colleagues. You can even hear a little voice in your head wondering whether you’ve finally “made it.” But that little voice has a devilish counterpart that doubts work will always be plentiful and that you’ll earn enough to meet your goals.

This post, which is part four of a five-part series on how to achieve a successful professional career in translation, explores what it takes to continue to build your business and foster professional relationships that will help you meet your long-term goals.

This series is inspired by the ATA’s Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators. The previous three posts in the series contemplated what to know before the phone rings, what to know after the phone rings, and how to keep the phone ringing. In this fourth installment, we’ll look at selected questions from section 4 of the questionnaire, on “Professional Demeanor.”

Have I honed my “client education skills”? (For instance, what would I say to politely refuse a request for a job with an unreasonable deadline or fee?)

Sooner or later, newcomers to the profession will hear old-timers talk about the need for client education. But it can be hard for a budding translator to imagine what client education looks like until she finds herself in a situation that calls for it. Even then, it can feel easier to shy away from the problem than to figure out how to face it.

Here are two recommendations on how to help clients understand your work as a translator:

Talk to experienced colleagues. If there’s no one you feel comfortable seeking advice from, consider consulting the enlightened and lively participants of the ATA Business Practices list, where you’ll be sure to reap advice from those who have worked through their own trial and error. (For the record, we’re always happy to answer your questions here at The Savvy Newcomer blog, too!)

Use the power of visualization. In other words, put yourself in the client’s shoes. Close your eyes and imagine you’re the client. Visualize yourself in their office, at their computer, even literally in their shoes. Now think about what drives that person, what worries them.

Now think of the client’s role in the exchange at hand: Imagine you’re the one who needs the translation. You’re the project manager challenged with delivering a quality translation to the end client in a short timeframe and you must find a well-matched translator who’s also able to deliver on time. Or you’re the head of marketing trying to figure out how to produce effective copy to attract customers in other languages without the CFO questioning“unjustified” expenses.

Now open your eyes and return to your own shoes. Think about how you can communicate in a way that speaks to the “client version” of yourself. How can you help the client solve their problems, while still taking into account your knowledge of the nature and value of your own work?This may mean finding common ground with the client, or it may mean forgoing the project altogether in order to maintain your own sanity and professional standards.

Either way, understanding the other party’s perspective is key.Not only does this allow us to demonstrate empathy and solve our clients’ problems; it also helps us better understand the factors that impact negotiations. If you recognize the importance of a certain text or a critical deadline, there may even be room to negotiate a higher fee commensurate with the value you can offer.

Do I request constructive feedback on my work and services? (Do I accept criticism graciously, and consider it seriously with the intent to learn and improve my skills and services?)

We’re taught from a young age to seek positive feedback, whether in the form of good grades or “gold stars” for following the rules. This can make it uncomfortable to receive critical feedback later in life, since we often understand criticism to mean that we’ve done something wrong.

Yet constructive criticism is key to honing one’s professional skills. What master cellist, ballet dancer, or surgeon perfected their craft without any guidance? Similarly, the craft of translation is no easy feat and can’t be mastered in isolation.

Indeed, many translators are content to translate in the privacy of their own homes and share their work only with the clients who hire them. The best translators, on the other hand, spend painstaking hours teaming up with keen-eyed colleagues who help them refine their craft.

Yet, because translators are generally a kind breed, it can take time to find a colleague who has what it takes—that is, not only the talent, but the willingness—to provide the constructive feedback you need to advance your skills. That said, it’s worth the search.

You’ll find some helpful tips on how to do this and more in this post: “Hone Your Craft Before You Sell—How I Would Have Practiced as a Newbie in Hindsight.”

Do I refrain from casual discussion about an assignment or a client/bureau/colleague, realizing that such casual talk could be problematic and detrimental to everyone – the client and the translation profession as well as my colleagues?

Our job as freelance translators is both thrilling and challenging. There are inevitably times that we want to revel in a positive experience—or vent about a negative one—with colleagues.

Especially when it comes to negative experiences, keep in mind that there’s a difference between sharing factual information—such as a dubious payment record—and badmouthing a client or fellow translator. Before indulging in gossip, consider how your words will come across to others. How would you would react if your comments were to get back to the subject of the conversation (that is, the criticized client or colleague)?

Most importantly, if you have regular complaints about someone you work with, be it a client or a colleague, it’s probably time to find a new customer or collaborator whose praises you’ll want to sing!

Do I acknowledge those who refer clients to me with a thank you note or call, a reciprocal action, an agreed-upon finder’s fee, or some other mutually understood recognition?

Humans are social creatures. We function on reciprocity. A thank-you note or a return favor (for example, a return referral) goes a long way. The lack of reciprocation may go an equally long way—in the opposite direction.

In some professions, it’s customary to reciprocate referrals with a “finder’s fee.” There have been discussions about this on the ATA Business Practices list, and the general consensus has been that translator colleagues prefer a karma-based system (and a sincere thanks) over a cut of the earnings.

There are plenty of simple ways to show gratitude that may not fill anyone’s wallet, but do fill a metaphorical“bank account.” One of these is to let the referrer know you’ll keep her in mind as a resource in the future. If you know she would be a good fit, you could also hire her to collaborate on a project when the opportunity arises.

When you show gratitude for favors or, better yet, have the opportunity to return them in a meaningful way, you find yourself in a mutually beneficial cycle of reciprocity that builds trust, camaraderie, and—yes—more work.

In short, take advantage of the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Do so with grace and the benefits will multiply.

Now that you’ve armed yourself with powerful relationship-building tools and learned how to avoid pitfalls that could make things go sour,you’re ready to explore what it means to become a Promoter of the Profession, the topic of the fifth and final post in this series. Stay tuned!

Image source: Pixabay

Freelancer Primer: Invoices

This post was originally published on the Copyediting.com website on December 9, 2016. It is reposted with permission of ACES, The Society for Editing.

For new freelancers, invoicing is a bundle of questions: When should I invoice? What goes into an invoice? How should I send my invoice? When should I follow up?

If you aren’t using a service that will create invoices for you, such as FreshBooks or QuickBooks, those questions can be daunting. Today’s Tip is a primer to invoicing.

WHEN TO INVOICE

When you send invoices will depend on your clients and their projects.

Your client, especially established companies, may dictate when you invoice. The more established the company, the more likely an accounting department will have a system for receiving and paying invoices. To receive timely payments, follow that system!

When you set the terms, however, you have several options:

  • Invoice for the total at the end of the project. This works for well-established companies or individuals you have a good relationship with.
  • Invoice for a deposit now and the balance later. For new clients, especially individuals, protect yourself from nonpayment. Ask for half or a third of the total before beginning the work. Invoice the balance in one or more subsequent installments, with the last installment due at the end of the project, before you hand over your edits.
  • Invoice monthly. This works well for clients who send you several projects a month or a long-term project (think six months of ongoing work). It also works well for clients with larger accounting departments, as they usually have a schedule of when they make payments.

WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR INVOICE

Unless a client dictates what software to use to create invoices, MS Word is your best bet. You’re already familiar with the software and you can create a simple template in just a few minutes.

Information to put in your invoice:

  • Your business details. Think letterhead copy. Include your name, company name, mailing address, email address, phone number, and logo. You can also include your company tag line, company web address, and organizations you belong to as part of promotional copy.
  • Your client’s business details. Add your contact’s name, mailing address, email address, and phone number. You can create a template for each client or store this information in text expander software for easy pasting.
  • The term invoice or If you collect tax as well, you may need to use the term tax invoice instead. Check with your account to see which term is best for your business.
  • Date of the invoice.
  • Invoice number. Don’t skip this step. When an invoice or a payment goes astray, an invoice number will make tracking it down easier.
  • Description of work. Include a brief description of the work performed, pay rate (e.g., hourly rate, project rate, or page rate), and the total amount due for the project.
  • Total amount. Make sure this number is easy to find and read. If you charge tax, list the amount before tax, the tax, and the full total.
  • Payment details. Explain how the client should pay you, how long they have to pay you, and what your late payment policy is.
  • Thank-you message. Thank your client, and ask them to refer you to others.

Optional information:

  • Tax identification number. While I don’t recommend including this sensitive information to your invoices, if a client asks for it, add it.
  • If your client will pay for the work in two or more installments, list the installment amounts, due dates, and current balance. Installment invoices can be based on the original invoice, with payment updates noted.
  • Any additional information the client requests. Some clients need more details, such as the date the work was done or a billing code. Find out upfront what’s needed and deliver it.

HOW TO SEND YOUR INVOICE

Once you’ve created an invoice for a client, save it as a PDF file. This will ensure that your invoice looks the way you designed it to and that it’s not easily tampered with it.

Email is the most common way to send an invoice. Be sure your email signature has all the necessary contact information, especially if you send your invoice to someone other than your daily contact.

FOLLOW UP ON OVERDUE INVOICES

Once you’ve sent your invoice, log it somewhere (like in my free Invoice Tracking Form), and track who paid you and when. If a client misses a payment deadline, politely follow up: Did they receive your invoice? Did it have all the information they needed to pay the invoice? When can you expect payment?

A polite inquiry keeps the client from becoming defensive; often the problem is simple human error that the client is willing to fix quickly. If the client doesn’t follow through on payment, however, stronger measures may be required.

#ATA59 Session & Book Review: The Business of Translation

When I attended the ATA59 conference in NOLA, many colleagues encouraged me to attend a session about a topic outside my specialty. So, I browsed the booklet trying to choose a session about a topic that I’d like to know more about. I chose the Business of Translation” session listed under Language Services Companies and Independent Contractors, and I’m glad I did. The speakers, Renato Beninatto and Tucker Johnson, were informative and funny. Renato told his story of going from freelance translator to project manager, to finally owning his own business. So, in a presentation on the business of translation, he was speaking from experience.

At the end of the session, the colleague who was sitting next to me asked the first question: “How can I get a copy of your book?” The presenters immediately said, “We’ll give you a free copy. Here it is, it’s yours!” The audience didn’t expect the response, so we laughed and told our colleague to get it signed, which he eventually did. I took the book from my lucky colleague and quickly skimmed it, then decided to get myself a copy. I ended up reading it on the plane back to New York after the conference. After finishing it, I’ve decided to write a summary so I can encourage others to read it.

The General Theory of the Translation Company provides information on the business of translation. It addresses a few main elements that are market influencers within the field of translation, as well as seven support activities and core functions such as providing accurate translations in a timely manner (terms defined below). It touches on the enduring factors and changing elements that will impact the field of translation. Market influencers are basically the forces within the translation business that bring risk and opportunity. One example of a market influencer is the number of translators who open a business with minimum costs. Support activities are activities that create a framework to minimize risks and maximize opportunities to empower core functions. Core functions are the functions that add value to a translation business. Adding value here refers to creating economic value that customers are willing to pay for.

The book then talks about five forces that were introduced by Michael E. Porter to analyze competition within any business market. The five forces are competitive rivalry, the bargaining power of suppliers, the bargaining power of customers, the threat of new entrants and the threat of substitutes, products, and sources (reading material, documents, or paperwork). One advantage within the translation business is that it does not require much cost and is not tied to many government regulations. Anyone can start a translation business by having a computer, a website, and a PayPal account. Most people do own a laptop or a computer today, and creating websites and accounts is no longer a huge challenge. The field of translation grows proportionately to the growth of content.

The book elaborates on how translation businesses face competition due to the simple requirements needed to start up. How, then, do clients differentiate between a good service and an average one? Here, the book highlights the need to have an advantage that will drive one’s business to the forefront over competitors. This angle, which addresses service quality, goes under the competitive rivalry for a translation business.

Next, there’s the bargaining power of suppliers, which needs to be addressed by anyone planning to excel in the field. One needs to know how cheaply they are willing to offer their services without compromising quality. At the same time, one needs to ensure that there is breakeven or profit within the business that will allow it to thrive. Thus, it is crucial for those who want to start a translation business to understand the dynamics within conducting a translation business itself. If they are going to be employed with a translation company, then they might want to consider the benefits of working independently compared to being employed.

Also, there is the threat of new entrants: new businesses and new experts appear in the translation business on an almost daily basis. The book discusses how such challenges can be addressed and how one can stay in the translation industry despite the competition.

The reality for each translation expert may be different based on the country or city where they are located. Thus, the book serves as a framework that offers translators important tips for conducting business. New entrants may have trouble securing business offers without a track record. Hence, they must work hard to gain clients, who may prefer to go to translation experts, who are well established. However, if new entrants can offer additional perks, such as lower prices or faster turnover, then they can gain clients quickly. Here, the need to balance the various factors, such as quality, time, and service offered, will determine whether a translator will be successful in a competitive environment.

The book then proceeds to detail the seven support activities that are important for any translation business. These consist of management, structure, finance, culture, human resources, technology, and quality assurance. Of course, individuals are free to arrange their business as they see fit, but the guidance in this book serves as a helpful framework. The book stresses the importance of financial margins, and focuses on net margin. Just like any other business, the goal in the translation business is to make a profit. This means making a surplus after charging clients and paying suppliers. The book also addresses how changing technology will impact the translation process. Translators need to realize the importance of continuously updating their businesses and knowledge with the latest technology so that they can provide their clients with the best services.

In conclusion, the book focuses on how one can conduct a successful translation business by considering factors that can impact the business in both the short and long term. It may not be relatable to every single translator out there, but the book serves as a good guide for translators around the globe regardless of their business environment. In the end, a business is a business, and one needs to be familiar with challenges and obstacles before venturing into the business of translation.

Author bio

Amal Alaboud is a PhD candidate in the Translation Research and Instruction Program at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She holds an MA in Arabic/English Translation from the University of Salford in the UK. Her research interests include literary translation, translation project management, and volunteer translation. Currently, she is a project coordinator at TransPerfect in New York.