Rant About the Freelance Life
Yesterday, a film company in Barcelona contacted me in the morning with a rush translation job. It was a short synopsis for a film they're going to move on the international market, and I was able to get it to them after lunch, and then get back to my already-pressing deadlines. It was such a small item that I can't even invoice them for it until they give me some more work, since my bank charges $25 to receive a foreign wire transfer and too much of this fee would be eaten up in banking charges.
That afternoon, they contacted me again with another rush job, this time an entire film script which they wanted by next Wednesday. I gave them a rate, taking into account the rush they were asking for, and also asked if it can be delivered anytime during the day on the 25th or if they wanted it BEFORE Wednesday.
They wrote back saying they needed it by THIS Wednesday.
I told them it was impossible, and gave them an even higher price quote to deliver it to them Friday morning, which would mean being even later on certain things and hardly sleeping this week, but it was such a high fee that it would've compensated.
They don't reply until the middle of this morning, when they call to make sure I was still available to deliver it by next Wednesday at the original fee I'd first quoted them.
(So much for the rush of needing it by tomorrow!)
An hour later, they called back to ask if I could lower my fee, since they had a lower bid from someone else in Madrid.
Now, this was the first indication I had that they were consulting other translators for bids.
And while I was a bit put out by their not having informed me of that, I also wasn't about to back down on my fee schedule.
This is something I actually learned about from people in the world of hustling, but it applies not only to those who turn tricks but anyone who makes a living as a freelancer: if you once lower your fee, the client will never want to pay full-price for it again. If you want to reward a regular client, you can give it away, as a freebie, on a special occasion or as a special favor, but never drop your rate or the client will hound you to drop it all the time.
A half hour later, they called back to let me know (at last) that they were going to go with the other translator. I actually have no problem with this, especially since the timing was actually pretty bad for me.
And being able to turn down a gig is a place of strength when bargaining.
Film and PR clients are a nightmare to work with, in terms of their constant pressure for speed and then their typical inefficiency in getting you the right version of the right documents in a timely fashion--not to mention their always trying to get you to underbid (yourself, others) in a hysteria of competition. On the other hand, one can charge them more than more-literary clients, and they often have (for Spanish into English at any rate) more work.
What they are never appreciative of, though, is how much of one's working day they eat into with this nonsense.
(This particular company has a problem where they have all these interns who last less than a year, so no one has any experience and no one knows where anything is; the last gig they asked me to do, again to translate an entire film in a major rush, never happened because it turns out there was already an English translation from 5 years ago, which no one had been able to find since everyone who had worked there then is no longer with the production company, although someone did at last locate it in the archives and thus they didn't need me to retranslate it--though I was, of course, the last to be informed of this.)