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Free test translation - an universal answer
Thread poster: Milos Prudek

Milos Prudek  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:24
English to Czech
+ ...
Jan 25, 2007

Experienced freelancers know that agencies frequently ask for free tests. My experience has been that there are two kinds of agencies: those who send tests, and those who send jobs. There is an article on proz that says it, too.

Often agencies hide behind a term "it is our policy to require test translations."

I am looking for a polite way to refuse these free tests while still retaining a chance to get the job. Here is the basic scheme, a universal email:

Thank you very much for your offer. While I do not perform free tests, you can look at many samples of my translations at my website [URL]. You will also find my certifications there. I will be happy to send you my references upon request. If you absolutely need a test translation, I will perform it and invoice it in full. I will deduct the amount you pay for my test translation from the next job that you send me. Thus you may get the test translation for free.

Is it harsh? Can it persuade the agency?


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:24
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Sounds very good to me Jan 25, 2007

Hi Milos,

Sounds very fair to me to deduct the cost of the test from the first paid work that they give you. That is what we should all do.

Certainly they should pay for a test. They are a business, and businesses should take business risks - small ones at least!

Let's see... how I would write those last three sentences.

"Should you nevertheless require a test translation, please understand that I will be happy to undertake the test for my usual fee. I will also except it from my minimum fee of XXX, which normally applies, and charge only for the number of words included in the test. In addition, the amount charged for the test translation will be deducted in full from the invoice of the first job which I undertake for your company."

Yes, your last three sentences, as you wrote them, need softening up a bit.

Astrid


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Nadejda Vega Cespedes  Identity Verified

Local time: 13:24
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
Have you ever checked test translations for an agency? Jan 25, 2007

Perhaps you should. Most probably you will change your mind then.

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Capesha  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:24
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
clever... Jan 26, 2007

Dear Milos,

your idea sounds good.
You clearly deny to do work for free. On the other hand you can show a lot of samples and your cv, als well as diploma etc.

I worked in-house up to end of last year and I am now starting to get some experience as a freelancer.

Sometimes I wonder if it is a good idea to do one sample after the other for free.

On the other side I also agree with Nadejda - surely some samples are awful. And furthermore a short sample means also a chance for me to find out if the text fits to me?

My conclusion is: if I deny, I would do it in the same way as you did. This solution leaves the door open for further negotiations.


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Milos Prudek  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:24
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes I have checked test translations Jan 26, 2007

Nadejda Sokolova wrote:

Perhaps you should. Most probably you will change your mind then.


I know what you mean. Yes, some test translations are bad.

Well, I have just agreed to perform a test translation myself - but only 50 words. I do not strictly refuse test translations, but I would like to create a nice refusal letter when the test wordcount exceeds a certain number.

Everyone has his/her own limits how much work he/she is willing to do for free. This number will therefore be different for everyone.

In my experience all agencies who send long test translations just to include a translator in their database never call back after a successfull test. I do not think that they are fraudulent, and I understand their concerns. If they are made to pay for the test they will try harder to give me work. They are a business, so they should take some risk. They can recover their investment from their margin. But I go farther than that. I give them their money back with my first job. Is it not fair? What do you think?


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Alexandre Coutu
Canada
Local time: 06:24
English to French
Your suggestion is good Jan 26, 2007

You CAN say no to a test translation. I mean, if you gave work to a competent, busy translator, you can imagine that he wouldn't have time to waste on a test translation.

I was contacted by an agency about a year ago and they asked for a test translation. They knew I'd been a translator for the government X number of years and when they asked, I simply said I didn't think that was necessary. They accepted and I still received work from them.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:24
English to French
+ ...
Sounds like... Jan 27, 2007

A polite way of saying "I am willing to prove I'm for real, but I will not hand out free translations". You know what? Even if any smart person would see through this, any serious client will find this perfectly fair (and since they also work for money, they will undertsand).

Can I borrow your formula?


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Milos Prudek  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:24
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Borrow the text Jan 27, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Can I borrow your formula?


Astrid improved my text a bit and I still hope that someone will post a better text than I did. You can borrow the text - that is why I posted it here.

If many translators start to respond with similar messages, perhaps agencies asking for free translations will begin to understand.

[Edited at 2007-01-27 09:27]


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:24
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Not going to work Jan 28, 2007

Is it harsh?


No


Is it going to work?


In most cases, not.

When I was a translation manager at a software company, our screening process to find suitable translators to hire included a (short) translation test.

We did receive, from time to time, answers that, with differing degrees of civility, declined to do the test for free: some translators added samples from previous translations, other referred to their CVs, some asked to be paid for the test.

All of these people thus disqualified themselves: we sent test translations for several reasons - mostly 1) to compare the translations of the various candidates, and 2) to see if they could follow the instructions sent out with the test. We could not have done so if we had tried to compare apples with oranges (compare the quality of one translator from our test, with another who had submitted his or her own translation, and a third who had just sent a fine CV.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:24
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Recruiting requires some investments on the agency's side Jan 29, 2007

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:
When I was a translation manager at a software company, our screening process to find suitable translators to hire included a (short) translation test.


This is fine, especially if you are recruiting for a specialized project requiring industry-specific vocabulary, etc.

some asked to be paid for the test.


Well, why is this so bad, especially if the translator offers to deduct the amount from the first invoice?
This way the translators you accept and send them jobs will do the test for free at the end. Those that you do not accept, well, you lose that money you paid them, but hey, you need to invest into your recruiting process, too. Freelancers invest into their own marketing, time and/or money, work hard in order to find agencies or clients to work for, so the other side of the game should not have problems investing into this searching process either. I think it is only fair.
The agency can minimize the losses by checking all the other info regarding the translator first, and weeding out those that present weak CVs or bad sample translations.

All of these people thus disqualified themselves: we sent test translations for several reasons - mostly 1) to compare the translations of the various candidates,

Well, this is one method, an easy one, to compare how several people translate the same text. But this is not the only way. You CAN qualify translators based on non-identical texts, it is just a bit more work. You would not want to compare them to each other anyway, but more likely to some independent standard. I mean if you get 5 bad translations, will you choose the one that has the least errors (even though it still had way too many)? I hope not.


and 2) to see if they could follow the instructions sent out with the test.

This is a very valid point, it is very important when you outsource work. But you can check this with the paid test.

I think asking for payment for the test and offering to deduct it from the first job is a nice and fair offer from the translator. Considering, that there ARE agencies that pay for tests IN FULL, no deduction from the next job, etc., I think this is a fair solution for the risk and bugdet-conscious agency, too.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:24
English to French
+ ...
Reaction to Katalin's post Jan 29, 2007

Aaaa-men!

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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:24
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
No invoices: I was hiring for internal positions Jan 29, 2007

Katalin Horvath McClure wrote:

Well, why is this so bad, especially if the translator offers to deduct the amount from the first invoice?


Hi Katalin:

This situation did not apply, as these tests were part of the process to hire translators for internal positions, not freelancers for outsourced projects.

But in any case we would not have been interested in people that we not sufficiently interested in the position offered as to invest one hour or two of their time.

The process more or less worked as follows: 1) open the position, 2) advertise it, 3) receive resumes from the various candidates, 4) do a first screening based on experience, education, etc. (you wouldn't believe how many people did not even read the job ad, and sent resumes that were very far from matching the required skills and education), 5) Send out tests and instructions to the candidates who had passed the first screening 6) Have all the tests validated internally, 7) Decide whether there were candidates that looked promising, 8) If so, select the best couple of candidates, 9) Invite them to our HQs for interviews and further tests, 10) Decide whether or not any of the final candidates looked like they could work with us, 11) If so, offer the most promising candidate a job.

As you can see, the company was investing considerable time and money (e.g., plane tickets and hotel accomodation for the final candidates, not to mention the time spent by us in the screening process), so the decision not to pay for translation tests was not penny-pinching: it was an integral part of the screening process.

By the way, doing otherwise would have meant paying for some really poor pieces of translation: in particular, I remember vividly a translation test that had been done using Babelfish (there were just a couple of words different from the same translation done with Google's automatic translation tools). Should have we paid for the privilege of getting such garbage?



[Edited at 2007-01-29 20:44]


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:24
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Candidates Jan 29, 2007

but hey, you need to invest into your recruiting process, too.

Which we did, and considerably so: see my previous answer.


All of these people thus disqualified themselves: we sent test translations for several reasons - mostly 1) to compare the translations of the various candidates,

Well, this is one method, an easy one, to compare how several people translate the same text. But this is not the only way. You CAN qualify translators based on non-identical texts, it is just a bit more work. You would not want to compare them to each other anyway, but more likely to some independent standard. I mean if you get 5 bad translations, will you choose the one that has the least errors (even though it still had way too many)? I hope not.

Of course not: if none of the candidates did a good (not merely acceptable) test, none would be invited for interviews: we would start over, looking for more candidates.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:24
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Then Riccardo, your case is completely different Feb 1, 2007

Riccardo,
You did not specify in your posting that you were talking about hiring for full-time in-house positions. That is a completely different story.
The whole thread was started talking about freelancers and agencies that outsource work. I think opinions/viewes and ideas expressed here were all based on that situation.

If the job is in-house, full time position, with regular salary, benefits, etc., then of course, the whole story flips. In this case, I agree, it is strange that somebody interested in such a position would not cooperate with the hiring process. After all, it is almost like a Step 1 interview, except the candidate gets the benefit of not being tested on the spot, instead he/she can do the test in the convenience of his/her own home/office. So, given this new piece of information, I can agree with your points.

The only thing is that they are not very relevant to the original question and the situation described there, because as far as I understand, the question was about free tests required for outsourced freelance work, on a contract basis.


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Milos Prudek  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:24
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Precisely Feb 1, 2007

Katalin Horvath McClure wrote:

the question was about free tests required for outsourced freelance work, on a contract basis.


Yes, of course it was.


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