Posted by: patenttranslator | November 5, 2011

If You Can’t Afford Me, Could You Please Stop Bothering Me?


I usually receive several price quote requests from the Price Quote Request button on my website every week. I normally answer these requests because a relatively small but very significant percentage of them will result in real work for me. And a certain percentage of clients who find me through my website in this manner will then become repeat clients.

But sometime it is obvious to me that I am just wasting my time answering a price quote request. For example, a doctor asked me recently to quote him the cost for translating more than a dozen medical patents from Japanese to English. Since he only gave me the numbers of the patent applications, I had to first find the patents online, download them, print them out, count the words and send him my price quote with the breakdown per each document. It took me about 2 hours to do that. I never heard from this doctor again. He never even bothered to say thank you, but it is too expensive. Maybe he had a miserable childhood, he was brought up in a number of foster homes and never had a mother that would teach him that you should be polite to other people, especially when you ask them to work for you for free.

I usually kind of know that I am almost certainly wasting my time when I am spending an hour or two preparing a price quote for a lot of money for a lot of work. Many people don’t understand how labor intensive, and therefore expensive, technical translation usually is. But I still spend the time preparing my quotes, because sometime I do land a major translation order in this manner.

But recently, I started ignoring some of the requests for quotes if I think that pursuing the matter with a potential client would be probably an exercise in futility. This week, for instance, I quoted a price of a few hundred dollars for translating a patent to a small law firm, which I think is basically a one-man show.

Small patent law firms are among my best clients. They really appreciate competent translators and they often show their appreciation by paying faster than larger law firms. But this guy never actually sent me any work so far, although I must have given him at least half a dozen price quotes over the last two or three years.

When he e-mailed me to let me know that once again, he found a cheaper translation provider, I e-mailed him back to let him know that I will not respond to his e-mails in the future because I will just automatically assume that he can’t afford me.

There was also an e-mailed price quote request from a major corporation that I ignored this week. I had two reasons for doing that.

1. From the manner in which the e-mail was formulated, it was clear to me that the company wanted to find out what they needed to know by spending the least amount of money. They did not really ask me to quote a price for certain documents. Instead, they wanted a price quote for vaguely defined “abstracts of Japanese patents”, or “translations of descriptions of figures and related passages”, whatever that means.

2. I would probably try to pursue the potential projects further by asking for more specific information. But I happen to know that the major corporation that e-mailed me because they wanted to know my price is a major US tax cheat. This company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States in 2010. But it did not pay any taxes in the United States. None. Yes, you guessed it. The company that was curious about my rates this week was General Electric, which claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion in 2010 instead of paying taxes as you and I do.

So I ignored this particular price quote request. Even if GE would be willing to pay a reasonable rate, which is probably not very likely based on the manner in which the e-mail was formulated, I will consider buying a refrigerator from them or working for them only if they start paying their taxes again.



  1. Hey, Steve, don’t be so harsh with GE. Corporations are people, too! šŸ˜‰


  2. I’ll believe that when Texas executes one.

    (From an Occupy Wall Street sign).


  3. Very interesting post. What I can say about technical translations is that it is of paramount importance to rely on a good and professional translation agency.

    As a translator working mainly on medical translation from English into Russian I can tell that there is a higher demand for this field. It is true, though, that doctors (especially) tend not to understand how laborious our job is. As it happened to you, I always have to make a greater effort than what is actually required from me as a translator, but often this is not paid.


  4. People and especially those who work for corporations like to negotiate because it is quite common that they will get what they want.

    A friend of mine once told me that he called a music store to let them know that he was interested in a particular keyboard and that he would buy it for 2,000 EUR and not for the listed price of 2,500 EUR. At first he was told that the store does not negotiate prices. Two hours later he got a call from a sales guy that they would agree to sell the keyboard for 2,100 EUR. Sold.

    What people do not understand is that a translator does not have a 30% sales margin on his services…


  5. […] Quality by Susan Andrus The Best of British – The American’s guide to speaking British If You Canā€™t Afford Me, Could You Please Stop Bothering Me? How Can Machine Translation Affect Your SEO/SERPs? The Global Language Monitor Ā» Top Words of 2011 […]


  6. thats why!!


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