Writing a good quote

Clients are called clients, not customers, because they pay for our service, not for our product. End clients especially deserve extra service. Extra service costs extra money – and therefore we translators have to invest extra time. This starts with the quote.

When a client sends me a text for translation or proofreading, I make it a rule to send them 2 or 3 translated paragraphs as a sample (with track changes if it’s a proofreading job).

I use these paragraphs to comment my choices – for example why I prefer translating German substantivizations into English verbal phrases, why I’m skipping the literal meaning or why I’d choose an entirely different headline instead of just translating the existing one.

Incidentally this showcases my experience, how I add value to the text and that I’m willing to put in “extra” effort. Fortunately my target language, English, is one most Germans read well enough to appreciate my work. So I have to use this advantage.

I take time to respond to e-mails and pick out relevant projects that could interest the prospect, before I hit ’em over the head with my fat resumé. Sometimes I take half a day to prepare a quote; it’s good advertising, even if I don’t get the job.

I also tend to write a real PDF quotation instead of just throwing a price and deadline at them. Initially, I write very formally and then scale it down to always sound just a hint more formal than the client. They will usually be the ones to break the ice.

All these preparatory services cost me more, so I state that in my quote. Instead of guesstimating a low price to win the job and then trying to correct afterwards, I start high. If the client negotiates, so do I. If they decline, also good. In any case, I won’t regret it if they say yes.

No client will be insulted by a high bill, if it’s served properly. Even if in the end you get the same hamburger, it’s a big difference, if the waiter brings you the bill in one of those leather booklets or if a cashier says: “That’s 2,99. Would you like fries with that?”

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