Processes for translators: keeping track of clients and rates

In my most recent post: Why should freelance translators spend some time standardizing their processes? I discussed briefly the value of having some standardized processes to free up brain space and time to do the things you love, such as translating. I will not go into too much detail on that at this point, but feel free to read the post if you are interested.

The aim of this particular process is to ensure that you keep track of your clients and rates. If you are a beginner translator, you may not be feeling the need for such a process just yet, but this is the ideal time to begin.

Over the years as a freelance translator, you will work with many clients and for varying periods. Some will get on board at the beginning of your career and stay with you for many years; others will hire you for one-off projects, and some of these seemingly “one-off” projects will come back after a few years with a new project. Keeping track of who they are and how much you charged them for your last project with them is crucial to your business development.

Here are the two main reasons why:

  • Consistency and opportunities for increasing rates

Needless to say, even if you start out with the same rate, you will have different rates for these clients over time. Your rates will hopefully increase as your experience increases and you become more knowledgeable about the market. You can charge more from new clients coming on board now than for clients who have been with you from the beginning and paid your initial lower rate. In addition, you will have varying degrees of success in your negotiations with other clients, which will mean different rates as well. If you keep track of how much each client paid you for your most recent project with them, whenever a client comes back requesting a quote, all you have to do is quickly check your spreadsheet and you know what your negotiated rate with that client was. This information enables you to provide a quick quote, or start negotiating a new rate from your first reply.

Furthermore, as I mentioned before, some clients will disappear for a few years and come back unexpectedly with a large project. In such cases, it is handy to know how much you charged back then, so that you can decide, before they ask, whether you need to charge them more or not. Also, you may have charged them a higher rate at the time than what most of your clients are paying now, e.g. because they are a direct client and you are currently working predominantly with agencies, and if you just go ahead and charge your must current rate, you may waste an opportunity to earn more for that job.

Conversely, if your rates are much higher now, when a client comes back to you after a few years expecting your original rate, you are able to decide whether to go with the original rate, increase your rate slightly so as not to scare them, or gently let them know your current rate. Many clients will agree a project with you assuming your original rate, without even asking for a quote, so you are better off always making sure the rates that you are charging for a particular project are clearly stated in every case. Again, in any case, not having to go back through your files to try to find how much you charged originally is extremely handy.

  • You have a ready-made list of leads

Sometimes we work with clients, they come and go, and over the years, we forget to check when we last worked for them. This will not happen in the beginning of your career, but after a few years, you will see that you actually forget certain clients, because you were busy with other projects.

When you keep a list of your clients, your contacts in their companies and rates, you have a ready-made list of marketing leads. Whenever you have a low period, you can go through your list, identify those clients with whom you have not been in touch in a while, and send them a friendly reminder that you are available, or just say hello. This is incredibly effective in making sure that your clients remember you and whenever they have a project in your language pair, you will be the first person they think of.

In addition, if you decide to offer a discount for a limited period or any other deals, you can contact all of these people easily and it will not be cold emailing, because they are already familiar with you and your work.

In order to do this, I use a spreadsheet that I created (picture below), which I call Client Database. My spreadsheet contains:

  • Client: company or person
  • Last job: date of the last job
  • Service: translation, revision, proofreading, transcription, content analysis, etc.
  • Rates currency: GBP, USD, EUR (depending on what I negotiated with the client)
  • Rate: amount/unit, e.g. 40/hour or 0.1/word
  • Status: Active or inactive. If I am currently working on a project for this client, or if this client regularly contacts me for projects, I consider this an active client. Otherwise, I classify the client as inactive. The reason for this item is that I can easily filter my spreadsheet by active or inactive clients depending on my marketing strategy. For example, I may want to contact all clients with whom I have not been in touch in a while, so I filter my spreadsheet by inactive clients. If I decide to offer a discount to my current clients, I can filter the spreadsheet by active clients.
  • Last contact: date of last contact with a representative of this client, perhaps when they offered a project that fell through, etc. This may or may not be the same as the last job date, but it is useful for you to know that you may have been in touch with them, but unable to secure work with them for some reason.
  • Contact person: name of project manager or direct client
  • Contact details: e-mail address. I am unlikely to call my clients, so I use e-mail, but if you like calling on occasion to make it more personal, then also add a phone number.
  • Notes: this is more for inactive clients and, basically, I add any information that might be useful if I were to engage with this client again in the future, such as tried to negotiate rate down or delays payments, etc. For example, if I have a promotional discount for some time, I may contact a client who negotiated my rates down and ask if they want to take advantage of a limited discount offer.

Client database printscreen

I update this spreadsheet at the end of every month. Updating your spreadsheet regularly is essential to ensuring that you have recent data on when you last worked for a client, etc. In addition, it helps you remember all those clients and reach out to them when you need more projects. It is very easy to panic and look for new leads every time you find yourself in a low period, and forget that you have a ready-made database of people who already know you, know your work, and who would probably be willing to work with you again.

This is a simple enough spreadsheet and a simple enough process, so make sure you implement it and you will reap the benefits from having this data compiled before you know it! Do you have any better processes for keeping track of your clients and rates? If so, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Happy translating!

Share This: