The answer is not to charge a minimum fee for any small additions to the previous projects. I am talking about those situations where after delivery of the main project, a client wants to have an additional short piece of text translated. Such additions typically result from missing a few pieces of material during preparation for translation or from making a few last-minute changes. Technically, an addition is a separate order subject to a minimum fee. But paying an extra fee (say, the addition is just 50 words, but a translation agency always charges for at least 250 words) just because they originally forgot a couple of things can be understandably frustrating for a client. Because we all make mistakes and hate to lose money as a result, it is our policy is to charge the actual price for additions instead of our minimum fee.
I put this post together after my colleague Vladimir had challenged this policy when a client had sent an addition one month after delivery of the main project. Not only a lot of time passed since the original delivery, but the new material also didn’t appear to have a direct connection with the main project. The client, however, indicated this was an addition, and we accepted it as such. Here’s why I think we did the right thing and how we generally approach additions:
The most important factor in deciding whether a follow-up job is subject to a minimum fee is to listen to a client. If a client says this is an addition, we don’t apply a minimum fee, irregardless of whether they expect us to apply it or not. This approach might mean a small financial loss for us, but the goodwill it generates means more to us than the extra money we could make. We tend to think of this not as a loss, but rather an opportunity to once again thank our client for repeat business.
Even if a client doesn’t mention the new text is an addition to the main project, we do our best to correctly identify it as such. For example, we recently translated a blog by a computer device manufacturer. After delivery, the client realized they had originally provided only the posts for translation, but didn’t include the GUI items such as menu names. Although the client didn’t mention this, it was clearly an addition, and we charged just 50% of the minimum fee. However, since we are working on multiple projects on an ongoing basis, our PM might not always be able to appropriately identify a project as an addition and will therefore appreciate if a client mentions this initially.
Why It Makes Sense Economically
Not applying a minimum fee to an individual job might appear to be an unwise financial decision because any job, even if it’s a just 10-word sentence, always involves time-consuming project management and invoicing tasks and may sometimes require very extensive research on the part of a translator—way beyond normal expectations. A minimum fee is specifically designed to cover these tasks or efforts, and not applying a minimum fee is—technically speaking—a loss. But why not look at the big picture? This loss, at least for a small business like ours, is usually negligible compared to goodwill it can generate. And we’d rather incur a minor loss than lose a client who might get upset with an extra charge and take their business elsewhere the next time.
We also support the so-called open purchase order where a client wants to send small pieces of material for translation on a regular basis over a period of time. In this case, we don’t apply any minimum fees, but add the amount of words for each piece to the total word count and invoice the total amount upon completion.
This policy lends itself to a small, but nonetheless tangible improvement in terms of the customer experience. Very often, an addition is just a result of someone at a client’s side missing a piece of text during preparation, and punishing a client with a minimum fee for this human error might not be a good business practice. Readers, do you agree?