There are a lot of reasons to avoid negotiating on price:
- Once you take on the lower-paying project, what happens when a higher-paying project comes in?
- Lowering your rate shows the client that, at least some of the time, you’re willing to work for less than your stated rate.
- Lowering your rate can cause you to feel resentful of the client or the project (even though you’re the one who agreed to the lower rate).
But what happens when, for whatever reason (interest in the client, interest in the subject matter, interest in bringing in more work in general), you’re offered a lower-paying project and you want to accept it? What other factors might you negotiate with the client?
A longer deadline. If you really want the work, but you and the client can’t agree on a rate, ask the client to extend the deadline. This protects you from having to turn down higher-paying work during the lower-paying project.
The non-translation tasks. Can the client’s admin staff do some of the formatting? Retype numbers from a PDF? Create tables? Do the annoying double-column layout that you’re dreading? Decipher the handwritten notes in the margins?
Faster payment. If you really want the work, can the client reduce their payment terms from 30 or 45 days to, say, 10 days?
Name recognition. Especially for a direct client, you may be able to negotiate for your name, website, etc. to be included on the translation. This can be appealing if the translation will be published/exhibited/distributed.
In certain circumstances, you might also consider doing the job for free instead of reducing your rate. This sounds a bit nutty, but here’s an example: one of my A-list clients approached me about doing a translation for a charitable organization that one of their employees was involved with. In light of the pro bono nature of the project, what was “my best rate?,” they asked. Here, I thought of item 2 on the list above: if I said “I’ll do it for half of my normal rate,” the bottom line would be that, at least some of the time, half of my normal rate is fine with me (which it’s not, even though I really like this client). So in that case, I preferred to do the translation for free, as a contribution to the charitable organization, rather than at a reduced rate.
Obviously, the best option is to have enough work at your regular rates that you don’t need to pursue these options. But I think many/most freelancers end up in situations where they feel torn: the project doesn’t pay their standard rate, but for some reason they want to take it. Readers, other thoughts?