Pricing Your Services and Negotiating with Confidence

Online workshop with Susie Jackson, organised by ITI FrenchNet

Written by Sarah Bichot.

Freelance translator and financing and pricing mentor Susie Jackson ran a three-hour online workshop for ITI FrenchNet members on pricing and negotiation on 18 May.

If you needed an explanation of the importance of time-tracking, this was it. Knowledge is power, and data is essential for good decision-making.

Susie broke the three hours down into three parts and held our attention throughout with her lively presentation interspersed with interactive exercises using the time-tracking data we had brought along.

She kicked off part 1 by looking at how to know if you’re undercharging (if you’re having to work really long hours to make ends meet, for one thing). A recurrent theme was that we need to make decisions based on our own individual circumstances, costs and needs, not on comparisons with those of other people, whose experience – even if similar to our own – is not necessarily relevant, or with so-called industry averages, which give us no information about the average translator’s circumstances.

What we do have information about is our own performance, and this is where time-tracking is pertinent. Basically, tracking data enables us to understand our profitability. Using data that we had brought along for a selection of our own projects, we completed Susie’s Excel sheet to calculate our profitability and arrive at a baseline hourly rate that we can use to compare all clients and types of work.

Time-tracking also makes us realise what we can actually do in an hour, something we tend to overestimate! This helps us produce more accurate quotes and, looking at the bigger picture, shows us what we can realistically expect of ourselves in order for our business to be sustainable.

It’s a question of finding clients who will pay our desired rates. If our customers’ primary focus is cost, it’s time to start looking for other clients, who are more focused on quality, reliability and/or a long-term relationship. It’s important to remember that not all clients are looking for the lowest price.

In part 2 Susie explained how she recommends we should set our rates, based (she emphasised again) on our own personal circumstances. One of several elements Susie talked us through is how to calculate our time and working pattens: how much time do we realistically have in which to earn this money. There is a difference here between working for agencies and working for direct clients – with the latter we probably spend only 50-60% of our time on billable work. This is why it’s important to track the time we spend on all the unpaid stuff (admin, accounts, marketing, prospection and customer relations).

Setting an aspirational rate is useful because it provides a range within which to quote. We should aim to never drop below our minimum rate, but if the client has the budget there’s no reason why we shouldn’t pitch higher.

Talking of aspirations, Susie led us through a long-term visualisation exercise in which we were invited to picture ourselves and where we would be in ten years’ time – what we are doing, our priorities and overriding emotions, down to how much time we spend working and what kind of clothes we wear. It’s just as important for freelancers to have a clear vision of what we’re aiming at as it is for companies.

The concept of minimum and aspirational rates led us on to the question of negotiation. Susie reminded us not to quote our minimum price so as to leave room for negotiation (but avoiding saying to the client that “price is open to negotiation”!). Also, we should be careful not to lower our price without obtaining something in return, such as early payment, extended delivery deadlines, a reduction in the scope of the project, or not having to do document formatting.  Another approach is to propose several different levels of service at different prices, leaving the client with an element of choice.

Lastly Susie encouraged us to regularly assess existing clients. Thanks to our data, we can see how much we earn per hour for each client. This helps us decide which clients to raise our rates with, although we also need to take into account the “enjoyment” factor. Susie recommended raising rates one client at a time rather than en masse!

Part 3 was an interactive session, where we did exercises in small groups, focusing in turn on preparing quotes, preparing to negotiate, and preparing to raise our prices. Participants discussed ideas and shared their own experiences in the break-out rooms and then with the main group.

Susie gave us the tools and motivation to achieve our goals of adopting an effective pricing strategy for our freelance businesses, as well as some very practical negotiating tips.

Many thanks to the French Network’s Event Officers Alanah Reynor and Holly-Anne Whyte for organising this very useful webinar.

Connect with Susie on Instagram (@The.OrganizedFreelancer) or read about her free resources to help with pricing and finances on her website

Here are some key impressions from participants:

“My principal takeaway from Susie’s workshop was the practical tips for communicating with agencies and clients when initially setting your prices and when negotiating. Working in the industry herself, Susie was able to provide real-life examples and encouraged all the participants to share their experiences too. Also, being a self-confessed spreadsheet lover myself, I couldn’t help but be thrilled to see not one but three spreadsheets to help us set our rates!” Sue Farmery

“This was an excellent, practical and very well organised webinar. As a certified translator, I sometimes feel my clients are effectively in control of my work, and even of prices. So I learnt some practical and empowering tips on how I can be in control of my clients and my work. It was also good to be reminded that you don’t have to be subject to market forces or clients’ demands. You are the one that decides, even whether you want to work for a certain client. It’s basically about taking back control of your business.” Jo Harding