I reprint here something I wrote in a long comment thread in Jill Sommer’s Musings from and Overworked Translator. The comment is about whether CAT tools are convenient for translators, when they make it easier for translation companies to “demand” discounts. I’m reposting it here as I believe it might be of general interest.
By "nobody can demand a discount from a freelancer" I mean that we are always free not to work with certain customers, if we believe the conditions they insist on are not convenient for us. Of course, they also are free not to use our services, if they consider it not convenient for them.
We sometimes grant discounts for fuzzy or 100% matches, when we think it is still convenient for us to do so. For other customers we invoice the full text, no matter how many matches. And we are prepared not to work any longer with certain customers when it is no longer in our interest.
A VP from a certain major translation company last November announced that a "compulsory" 5% discount would be applied on all translator invoices for the next few months. Those of us, however, who declined to grant the so-called "compulsory" discount continued to be paid at our usual rates.
Of course that means that one should be ready to ditch a customer who makes unacceptable demands. We were able to resist the "compulsory" discount because that customer represented for us less than 15% of turnover – we might have had to swallow and grant the discount if they had represented 80% of our total invoices.
But I believe it is up to us to manage customers: If we want to have more freedom in accepting or rejecting conditions, we also need to be careful not to have too much of our income come from too few customers.
One of our first customers a few years ago asked us for a 20% discount across the board. In exchange they would "guarantee" more work. We decided not to work with that customer any longer, even though up to that point we had invoiced them several thousands (or dozens of thousands) dollars a year. Again, we had managed, through foresight (and a bit of luck), never to have that customer represent more than about 20% of our turnover – that was what gave us the freedom to decide not to work any longer with them.