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Ever since I started to record the time I am spending on different job-related activities, I see with utter amazement how much time it REALLY takes to put teams of interpreters together, negotiate with the client, answer all the questions, forward documents, write contracts and invoices etc. I always underestimated the time all this takes since it is "only" half an hour here and 7 minutes there and another hour after the assignment is over - or so I thought....

Using Baralga as a time-tracking software, I started to charge for organisation time on the basis of an hourly fee but I work it out exactly by the minute. (Baralga tells me - for example - I spent 5.67 hours on a particular activity, so I just need to multiply this by my hourly rate). I can even send the client a screenshot with the accumulated time spent on the project, broken down into days and intervals that also match the times when they received my e-mails which enhances the credibility of the records.

I have found that many customers appreciate the accuracy of the time-tracking approach and of the invoice - and the fact that I can tell them at any point in time how much time I already spent on the job. There were two incidences where we agreed to cap the time, saying that if I should not have found a suitable team of interpreters after spending X hours looking for colleagues, I should get back to the client who would then decide whether I was to go on looking or stop. Fair enough!

What is your experience with charging for time spent on organisation? Do you simply charge the client a percentage of the interpreters' fees, or do you charge a lump sum and how do you work it out? Or is there any other useful model we can think about?

asked 16 Mar '13, 03:35

AlmuteL's gravatar image

AlmuteL
3.8k101520

edited 16 Mar '13, 17:42

1

Clarification please. You write, "Do you simply take a percentage of the interpreters' fees"? Please explain "take": (1) calculate the organisation fee you charge the client as a percentage of total interpreter fees, or (2) charge no organization fee to the client but "take" X% of interpreters fees to cover the time and expense, or (3) something else.

(16 Mar '13, 06:54) Luigi

I always add to, never subtract from interpreters' fees, as I'm sure does Almute... although you are right, Luigi, this is not universal :-(.

(16 Mar '13, 07:04) msr

Oh, I am sorry I was unclear: I meant (1)calculate the organisation fee to be paid by the client on the basis of a percentage of the total interpreter fees.

(16 Mar '13, 07:13) AlmuteL

thank you Almute - now it's very clear. Perhaps it would be a good idea to edit the question in this regard?

(16 Mar '13, 07:15) Luigi

... I call it RC&CE, for recruitment, coordination and heading of team :-) and for what it's worth, I don't always put a figure to it (say, for one local bi-active booth for one day) but I always do include that item on my estimates.

When I do quote a figure, it's normally between 5% and 10% of fees, depending on the number of booths, days, location, origin of colleagues, exotic languages, whether it also involves coordinating equipment, etc... but it can be a lot more than that, for special cases, I remember one such instance where all the evidence available warned me that it would be a very complex affair, recruiting etc, so I charged for a whole week's worth of work - for a one-day conference, mind you - and used up every penny of it :-).

As you know I do not (as yet?) use time-tracking, so I'm afraid I shamelessly base my estimates on rule-of-thumb, on the strenght of what little experience I've got.

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answered 16 Mar '13, 05:30

msr's gravatar image

msr
4.6k6923

edited 16 Mar '13, 06:44

Thanks a lot for your input! I suppose you mean 5% to 10% of the fees only - excluding any travel expenses, per diems etc. Right?

I can easily believe one can spend a week on recruiting and coordinating a team for one day only. And it's great you could charge for it. The next question is: How can we make it plausible to the clients so they will pay for this kind of work and see the benefit it gives them?

(16 Mar '13, 06:07) AlmuteL
2

I haven't ever had a client who did not understand that organisation work is part of the service and has to be paid. If they entrust an event agency with the overall management of an event (catering, party, dj, etc.), this agency will charge them an organisation fee, as well.

(16 Mar '13, 06:13) Angelika

Yes indeed, Almute, those would be expenses, not fees :-).

Unless one negotiates a non-final organisation fee, say x per time unit or some such... which in this day and age is rather difficult, costing such item in a quote as opposed to charging for it ex post will always be based on one's credibility (assuming ex post isn't, which I believe it also is) somewhat like interpreting fees themselves.

How do you do it, ie quoting versus charging? How does that work in the context of competitive bidding and budget allocations, by clients, ie is it acceptable in your markets to finally charge (fees) over an approved quote, other than for expenses?

(16 Mar '13, 06:52) msr

When quoting I make a rough estimate of the time it will probably take me to get everything and everybody organised so the client gets an idea. If I stay below my estimate, the client is - of course - delighted. If I see I am going beyond my estimated time, I call the client and give them a warning with explanations why this is happening. This way they get an idea of what was already done on their behalf and we can agree on how to go on. What's most important: We don't end up with unpleasant surprises for the client once they receive the invoice.

(16 Mar '13, 07:21) AlmuteL

Thank you very much, Almute :-)and TIA for answering my next question: how does that work in the context of competitive bidding and budget allocations, by clients, ie is it acceptable in your markets to finally charge (fees) over an approved quote, other than for expenses?

(16 Mar '13, 07:42) msr

As I said - I make a rough estimate and inform the client when we threaten to exceed the limit. But this ONLY happens in unforeseen situations. For example there was one occasion where I needed three interpreters for Danish-English CONSECUTIVE and the EP was in session that very week. It was a living nightmare and I had to inform the client that I had contacted dozens of colleagues in vain (which I was able to prove!). They were nonetheless happy I had tried to help them but then had to postpone the meeting - and they paid my fees. It is NOT a rule in our market to overstep an agreed budget but, as you can see, there might be situations when it is unavoidable - BUT ONLY ONCE YOU HAVE COMMUNICATED WITH THE CLIENT!

(16 Mar '13, 11:25) AlmuteL
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

Rather than writing too many comments, I'll try to answer Manuel's questions in another answer:

When quoting I make a rough estimate of the time it will probably take me to get everything and everybody organised so the client gets an idea.

If I stay below my estimate, the client is - of course - delighted.

If I see I am going beyond my estimated time, I call the client and give them a warning with explanations why this is happening. This way they get an idea of what was already done on their behalf and we can agree on how to go on. What's most important: We don't end up with unpleasant surprises for the client once they receive the invoice.

Exceeding an agreed budget ONLY happens in unforeseen situations.

For example there was one occasion where I needed three interpreters for Danish-English CONSECUTIVE and the EU institutions were in session that very week. It was a living nightmare and I had to inform the client that I had contacted dozens of colleagues in vain (which I was able to prove!). They first asked me to continue to look for interpreters, but eventually we had to give up. The client was nonetheless happy I had tried to help but had to postpone the meeting - and paid my fees. Luckily enough it also worked out the other way - for the very same client - when it really only took me four phonecalls to find a team of three interpreters for Vietnamese-English and I stayed way below the time I had thought it would take me.

It is NOT a rule in our market to overstep an agreed budget but, as you can see, there might be situations when it is unavoidable - BUT ONLY ONCE YOU HAVE COMMUNICATED WITH THE CLIENT!

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answered 16 Mar '13, 12:45

AlmuteL's gravatar image

AlmuteL
3.8k101520

edited 16 Mar '13, 17:41

Thank you very much, Almute :-)... I was trying to come to a conclusion about whether using "your" :-) time-tracking made it any easier to quote, obviously ex ante, an organisation fee, vis-à-vis the time honoured rule-of-thumb system, based on experience.

I had been surprised to read that you used time-tracking to susbtantiate your claims, inasmuch as, by definition, one can only time-track during, and thus produce related substantiation ex post, whereas quoting is obviously ex ante ;-)... hence my latest question.

I now understand, thanks again, that even with time-tracking one must do as w/o, ie quote based on experience and hope for the best... although in theory one would indeed be in a better position, supported by time-tracking evidence, to try and negotiate an upwards revision of one's approved quote, if organising a particular conference had proven to entail a greater workload than expected....that is, of course, if one decides to do so, all things considered.

(16 Mar '13, 13:08) msr
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question asked: 16 Mar '13, 03:35

question was seen: 1,868 times

last updated: 17 Mar '13, 14:38

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