Post #6 — Healthy lucre

Here we take a look at a few money issues.

We’ve agreed that generosity is good, even essential. But what about passionate, generous freelancers and entrepreneurs who are so engaged with their clients’ concerns that they give away too much? Who undermine the sustainability of their own business by invoicing only a fraction of the intellectual input they provide or the hours they log?

It’s an easy behavior to slip into, especially when start-up energy is pulsing through your veins, you love your work and you take your clients seriously. Literate but often non-numerate freelancers like translators seem particularly susceptible, one sub-text being that money is tacky and vulgar. Or simply an uncomfortable issue to address.

A few rules of thumb:

•   If you’re self-employed, each day has billable and non-billable hours. Your fee for the billable ones must cover both, and include provision for, say, retirement regardless of your age.

•  The price you quote to a first-time client reveals your pain threshold. Unless you indicate clearly that this is a special introductory rate—with a defined cut-off point—it will be all but impossible to raise it significantly with that same client further down the road. Not a problem if you plan on perfecting your skills with one set of clients and then moving on to a new group… but worth thinking about all the same.

•  Money can focus the mind in a very healthy way. Client dithering and disorganization impact your ability to manage capacity. So specifying in your quote that the meter starts running after a second mark-up can light a salutary fire.

•  Free trial offers can work both ways. For potential good customers who have no idea how your input can help them (even save them), they’re a terrific idea and a great way of creating trust. If you’re tackling a prospect who gives out bad client vibes, less so (but why would you want bad clients, anyway?).

Bottom line: “How much should I charge?”—a constant refrain among new translators—has only one real answer: “It depends”. On what you’re selling, when you’re delivering, which market segment you’re in and a multitude of other factors.

In the meantime, Seth Godin’s freelancer math guidelines resonate. Read them and ponder.

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