Some thoughts on rush charges

Recently, the e-mail list of our local translators association erupted with posts on the topic of rush charges, and I’m assuming that the level of interest on this topic isn’t restricted to translators in Colorado. I was really intrigued by the variety of ways in which people handle rush jobs; some charge as much as 100% extra while others don’t charge extra at all; some people apply rush charges to all of their clients while others waive rush charges for repeat clients; some consider rush jobs to be anything requiring more than 2,500 words of translation per day while others charge rush for anything due in less than 24 hours.

There are a few issues underlying the question of rush charges:

  • What constitutes rush? Is a rush assignment one that requires the translator to translate more than x number of words per day (and if so, is x 1,500 words, 2,500 words, 3,000 words or something else entirely…)? Or is a rush assignment one that requires the translator to rearrange his or her schedule in order to meet the deadline? Or is a rush assignment anything that has to be turned around in less than 24 hours?
  • Is there a difference between rush and overtime? When we receive a rush assignment, do we really translate faster or do we just work longer hours?
  • What kind of rush charge should a translator levy? Some sort of minor inconvenience surcharge like 10% or something cataclysmic like 100%? And if many workers who are paid by the unit (normally the hour) get at least time and a half for overtime, why not translators? Should the rush charge be applied to the whole project, or only to the portion that requires the translator to work extra?

Obviously, few of these questions have hard and fast answers, but it’s interesting to find out what other people’s pricing methods are. In addition, most people admitted that subjective factors (someone mentioned “tone of desperation in the client’s voice”) enter into the rush charge equation as well. In my own case, I try to avoid nickel and diming regular clients with rush charges when the job in question is a short one. If a regular client calls me and needs a few hundred words by the end of the day, I try to squeeze it in without charging extra. On the other hand, if an infrequent client or a new client calls and needs a big project done on a rush basis, I quote at least 50% more than my regular rate and often refer to it as “time and a half” to put it in perspective.

I’ll also go on the record as saying that I really dislike rush work. Everything about it, from the need to respond with a yes/no and a firm quote immediately to the pressure of having to skip steps in my normal research and QA process, stresses me out. However, rush jobs are in some ways unavoidable. Many times, clients don’t want to have their things translated on a rush basis but there’s no way to avoid it. In addition, a rush job that I do at 50%+ more than my normal rate can be a good way to work a few hours in the evening and take the next day off. Any other thoughts on the rush rate world?

16 Responses to “Some thoughts on rush charges”
  1. Jill April 27, 2009
    • paramjit June 30, 2010
  2. Judy Jenner April 27, 2009
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