The CPI rose 9.1% in June, an increase from the already high rate of 8.6% in May. These might be low compared to Turkey (78.6%) or Argentina (60.7%), but it’s not a rate we are used to. CPI is an acronym for consumer price index and it’s a method economists use to understand the economy. By tracking the prices for a wide range of services and products, they measure the change over time.
Gas prices are up, housing prices are up, and in a chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, we can see that the price of butter has skyrocketed since January of this year.
We all know that prices are going up—that’s inflation—but what do the inflation rates mean for us? It means we have to make changes.
If you are a freelance interpreter, you are an independent businessperson, and every business faces competition and needs to make decisions. You can lower your overhead expenses—drive a more fuel-efficient car for example, or maybe avoid car expenses by only working remotely. You can also look to increase your rates—something that many interpreters find uncomfortable—but how to do it?
First understand what you want to charge—you are a businessperson and it’s up to you to establish your fees. Do you walk into a doctor’s office and tell them what to charge? Like any other professional, you need to consider your costs and decide your fees. Understand that your clients face competition too.
I’m not an attorney, and I don’t give legal advice, but you can read each contract to see if it defines a process. Look for sections addressing rates (usually an exhibit) and also “notices.” Rate changes almost always need to be confirmed in a written agreement, but sometimes you can simply share your new rates in a written notice and they take effect.
Ways to Increase Your Rates
Strategy 1: Raise your rates—notify clients of the new rates and policies. Decline work if the new rates are not accepted.
Strategy 2: Negotiate—open a conversation about increasing fees. Offer a rate higher than you are willing to accept and signal flexibility. Remember that if you are not willing to “walk away,” you are simply asking, not negotiating. If you have several clients, try working with the least important or least desirable before approaching the others.
Strategy 3: Develop leverage over your existing clients—get new clients at higher rates, then offer the higher rate to existing clients.
The three strategies work differently with different client types. Many will simply accept your higher rate and you will then receive fewer assignments—interpreters with lower fees will be prioritized. But if your quality is top notch, your service responsive and professional, you’ll probably find that you are still busy and more highly compensated.
Richard Antoine, MIB/MBA
Executive Director, InterpreterEd.com