Boost your income immediately – with direct clients

It is often said that there are three general ways to grow a business:

1.   Raise prices

2.   Find new clients

3.   Sell more to existing clients

In this section we’ll deal with the first of these, as continually raising prices should be front and centre in any on-going growth strategy. Providing it is done sensitively and methodically, it can be the quickest way to improve your business’ revenues.

I’ll start with raising prices among direct clients first, as this is the direction I would encourage you to explore. There are translation agencies who work for other translation agencies almost exclusively, but the majority seek out direct clients of their own. Just as all successful businesses select the most profitable clients, so do language service providers.

Should we enter into direct competition with the large LSPs, then? Well, no, of course we cannot compete with their budgets so we should look to use our strengths. We should make the most of our agility, responsiveness and approachability. The big LSPs wouldn’t even look twice at some of the clients that could provide us with years of more than satisfactory income. They chase down government contracts, multinational companies. We are looking lower down the scale, at single departments and small companies.

To use the approach employed in this book, you will have to ‘grandfather’ your old clients. This is a lovely term I’ve often heard used to look after your existing clients at the prices they’re used to. Don’t give them any major frights. Small annual increases, perhaps, but nothing major. I’ve charged per project and day rates to existing direct clients and agencies, but I wouldn’t confuse them by changing pricing structures too much. It’s much easier to find new direct clients than convince an old client to pay significantly more.

These new clients are your testing ground for new prices. The aim here is to go as close to the value of future returns for the client as is fair and acceptable by both parties.

To justify your price, always discuss the client’s requirements (the chapter on sales goes into more detail here) and structure your quote to include a range of services they need for a translation project with the highest ROI. This brief-based quote shows exactly where you add value, and can be used to remove services in negotiations, rather than lowering the price for the same work.

I quoted a relatively new agency I work with a fixed price for a project that was based on my work situation at the time (i.e. busy) and an estimate of the budget they’d have for it. It was double my standard rate with them, yet they accepted it without blinking. They value the work I do as much as I value their marketing efforts, and I have found that there is room to offer a fair price in these situations.

The hard part is always in making the higher offer, but remember that it must be done for the health of your business. It must be done for its sustainability, growth and the continued improvements in life quality that it can bring as a reward for the risks you take in business.

To make the higher offer you simply have to state the price of your service for this particular project with confidence. Either by email, phone or in person. Then you wait for the approval of the client. Do not negotiate, unless the counter-offer is close enough to your quoted price as to be acceptable (and above the minimum rate we will work out later). Before accepting a counter-offer, mention that one of the services you had offered will be removed to accommodate their budget. They may then find a larger budget after all, or you can reduce your workload accordingly. Either way you both benefit.

If accepted, congratulations. You have just given yourself a well-earned pay-rise. You have further secured the on-going likelihood of your business’ survival. You have placed a higher value on your own work, and that of the client. You now just have to deliver an exceptional service. Now, at least, you have the time and resources you need to do so.

Remember, direct clients are used to paying contractors, freelancers and consultants per day or per project, so this will come as no surprise to them. The only surprise is that more of us don’t do this.

But this all assumes that you have some new direct clients asking for quotes. Later we will look at how to go about finding these in a systematic manner, but first we’ll look at how to increase your revenue with your agency clients.

Thanks for reading. I do translation from French and Swedish to English, so if that's useful to you, feel free to connect and message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.