Every profession requires a set of tools. For translators, there are CAT tools. Before you raise your hand, no, they are not mandatory – if you like it and the type of texts you work with justify it, you use it. No obligation implied. However, there are many clients that try to impose a CAT. And worse: they demand discount for matches.
Since I work for translation companies, I often get the request that using Trados is a must. That is by far not my favorite tool. My first purchased CAT tool, and once-upon-a-time my favorite, was Wordfast. The tool paid itself in the first project (no leverage discount). If I purchased this tool alone, and I still have to pay for upgrades, why would anyone else other than me benefit from it?
I used to believe that this mandatory discount was just a way for the company to get a higher profit. Actually, I still believe in that, although this one company offers discounts for direct clients based on leverage. But clients strongly believe that they should not pay, or at least they should pay less, for something that is pretty much done.
You have two paths to follow when a client demands leverage discount: you either take their hand or you run the opposite direction. The problem in taking their hand is that most of the times (if not all of them) you will receive a crappy TM, with fuzzies and 100% matches that will need to be redone, from scratch. So you will be discounted for your full work. No fairness in that.
Nowadays, whenever a client demands me to comply with a discount grid, I look carefully to the percentages. If anything is below 50%, I tend to refuse. The only exception is 100% matches if they are not to be revised, and in this case I simply don’t add them to the count. Of course, this must be agreed with the company before receiving any projects. The client must be very confident about the quality of that TM to accept this, and I must add that this rarely happens with me, maybe because I deal with translation companies and most of them don’t have a steady team for their projects.
But in past times, old clients required a very naive translator (yes, me) to comply with their discount grid. And she said yes. Of course I felt the burden in the first projects, but I was afraid of refusing, or saying anything which could upset the client. My solution was to be upset myself, and that’s it… Be thankful you have a client.
Fortunately, we all grow up and grow some confidence. After talking to some colleagues, getting new and very different clients, I started talking to the old ones whenever the TM was too low-quality to be used. I would send examples of the problems and try to convince them to either not discount the usual grid, or assign that project to someone else. For the Portuguese speaking clients, it was easier, they were aware of the linguistic problems the examples showed. For non-Portuguese speaking, it was bitter, but they didn’t have much choice. And if the low quality TMs would keep coming, I would request to revise our pricing agreement. One client got tired of me complaining and offered to revise the pricing agreement, to a 15% discount only, so I would just carry out the project and leave him alone. It was a win-win deal.
CAT tools have their advantage. For me, the main advantage is consistency – you can do a quick search and find how this one specific word was translated before, or this specific chunk. You have a full database of your previous work ready for consultation.
Finally, there is a Portuguese saying that “cada um sabe onde aperta o sapato”, something like “Everyone knows where the shoe pinches”. So my rule of thumb may vary, it depends on my feast-or-famine period, the client’s way (is he interested in my work, or am I another name in a database?). But I try to keep in mind that if the client is making this demand, that means that others have accepted in the past. Businesses always follow the supply-demand rule.