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Translation tests with no-follow-up
Thread poster: Daniela Cesana
Daniela Cesana
Local time: 18:10
English to Italian
+ ...
Feb 5, 2008

I am a freelance translator who is trying to get established again after having worked as in-house for some years and a break of 2 years for personal reasons.
In this period I have happened to complete some translation tests and I would like to bring up the question since I am very disappointed.
I have received positive feedbacks but I haven’t been assigned any translation jobs after that and in some cases it has been months since I have received the feedback. They just say the test is OK and that I will be entered in their database: but the aim of a test is to start a collaboration, isn’t it?
How come that you successfully complete translation tests and there’s no follow-up? This is happening again lately with two big and reknowned translation agencies and with two smaller ones. And all tests were done free of charge!
Have you had such an experience? What should I do? Call them? Ask them to assure a certain amount of work in case of positive feedback before doing the test?

Daniela


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:10
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
It happens all the time Feb 5, 2008

There are countless forums on the subject of translation tests. Unfortunately, it is very usual to receive (a) no feedback on tests (b) no work, even if the test was considered satisfactory.
However, I now have two good clients for whom I initially did tests, but with most such agencies I never hear from them again.
Many translators have concluded that it's not worth the time and trouble to do free translation tests. I'd only do one now if the client had a good Blue Board or other record and I had plenty of time.
Regards,
Jenny


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biankonera  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 19:10
Italian to Latvian
+ ...
same old story Feb 5, 2008

One thing you can be sure of - you are NOT alone in this. In fact there have been previous threads where somebody suggested that a research should be done on this phenomenon - test translations = no further job assignments in at least 90% of cases.

I was in your shoes some time ago and I quickly understood its better to stay away from (almost) anyone who offers you to do a free of charge test. In fact out of all the tests Ive done only 1 (!!!) ended up resulting in constant workflow. My advise would be - respect yourself as any other professional and dont do those tests, unless its for some potential client you are desparate to work for and they demand such tests - then at least there is some sense in it. The majority of them are just a waste of your (very precious) time.

Stella


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Alfredo Fernández Martínez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
Don't let yourself get trodden by abusive agencies/clients Feb 5, 2008

Daniela,

Most of my best, reliable and professional clients NEVER asked me any test.

If at all someone is in need to have a proof of your quality, I would provide an old one, with both versions.

Have a read on:

http://www.proz.com/topic/95443

http://www.proz.com/topic/95443



Saluti,

Alfredo


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 19:10
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Simple answer Feb 5, 2008

I'm both a freelance translator and, since recently, an agency, and certain things became obvious only after that.

Like, not answering applicants. If I post a job and get, say, 20 replies and I send them a test and get back only 10 tests (the other ten never bother to explain) and of the 10 test I receive, three are done using machine translation and three more are full of spelling errors (toi say nothing of the meaningful part) and I'm still a translator with my own workload and deadlines - what are the chances of my writing back to the first three explaining why I don't think their tests are unsatisfactory?

As for Daniela's question: surely I'll be happy to have another good freelance translator in my database. They are all freelancers and that means, that a situation when all or most of my best and reliable and proven translators are busy is not improbable. Finding another good provider is really good, it makes me feel more confident - but at the same time, I can't immediately increase the inflow of jobs in this language pair!

So basically, a successful test is often nothing more than a promise of potential work in the future. (It's different when a test is offered for an immediate job).

Cheers,
Oleg


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Guillermo de la Puerta  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:10
German to Spanish
+ ...
Much more than a simple coincidence Feb 5, 2008

Hello Daniela

Not a single agency of the translation agencies I have worked with (and there is a long list) has ever asked me to do a test. And adding to that, among those for which I did and passed the test, not a single one has assigned me any translation job. Suspicious isn't it? Is that a coincidence? Unfortunately, I think it is not a coincidence.

In many cases, after doing and passing the test, you are only registered in a translators pool. This doesn't mean you are going to get a job. But it is really suspicious that we almost never get a job even if the test was OK. It would be interesting to make a research on the reasons.


Don't get disappointed anyway. We all have suffered and wasted our time doing some of those tests.


Kind Regards and good luck

willdlp



[Editado a las 2008-02-05 17:34]


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Sigrun Gemuend  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 19:10
Greek to German
+ ...
different experience Feb 5, 2008

Well, I have to say that my experience is somewhat different. I was asked by several agencies I am meanwhile cooperating with to do a test translation. In nearly all cases I got an answer, in some cases with detailed feedback. Though it seems to me that in some countries test translations are more common than in others.

Of course, this doesn't automatically mean that you get work at once. I remember cases where agencies came back to me after months or even years ! I think this really depends on the needs of the agency. But with many of them meanwhile I have a regular cooperation.

And as I have already written in one of the other threads (in the German forum): Meanwhile some agencies send me test translations for correction, and it is really unbeliefable what you get there. A large number of the candidates who claim to be bilingual (and thus able to translate into German) are not able to write a single German phrase without grammar mistake, not to speak form the style ....


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:10
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Was there an agreement? Feb 5, 2008

Daniela Cesana wrote:
How come that you successfully complete translation tests and there’s no follow-up?


Did they say that there will be follow-up, or are you just assuming that doing follow-up is the only morally right course for them to follow? I suspect that you assume too much. Asking translators to do a test is a gatekeeping mechanism, in my opinion. By asking for a test translation, the agency filters out translators who are unwilling to display their skills. Marking a test can take a lot of time, and it may be that they're keeping your test on file until they need your services.


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Suzette Martin-Johnson
Canada
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Action step - purchase 6 months membership on Proz Feb 5, 2008

Hi Daniela,

This is an uphill battle for anyone trying to become freelance.

You can increase your chances by paying for 6 months of membership on Proz. By beefing up your profile considerably, and having access to info on lots of agencies worldwide, you'll get your business going much more easily. You'll be able to bid on real jobs and have agencies look at your profile. You'll also know with a pretty high rate of accuracy which agencies are to be avoided, etc... After a while you won't even necessarily have to bid on jobs on the site, because an agency or two might like your work and send you jobs without Proz after while. I've actually had to turn away quite a few jobs since joining Proz.

Just my 2 cents.

Good luck!


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Zanjiin
Local time: 22:10
English to Russian
+ ...
Don't give up. Feb 5, 2008

I haven't been in such situation, though it is really hard to find work as an translator in my city. Though there not that much translating agencies in my town the each of them has huge database. The answer is simple every student knowing fair bit of English applies for the job. So but hardly many of them receive enough work to earn for living. I was lucky that I found my agency on the first attempt, but I think I was taken in. They promised me one wage and paid for test translation!! the money they promised. But then when I received constant everyday work I was assigned fixed salary regardless of the text amoun. And I wouldn't say it is good: 12000 characters per day, 220 USD a month. Though I cannot decline it as there is no other agency willing to give me constant work, and they treat me like that because there is still one year till I graduate from my university.

But recently I've got an offer from another employee, and done some small bits of test translation. They offered me quite reasonable payment (matching my skills of course).

But I'm grateful that my current agency gave me such experience. I know much better how this "test translation" system works, I know what I am capable of and can set my own terms now.

So keep on trying.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
That's not the worst of it Feb 5, 2008

Some agencies will send you a "package" of DOC, XLS (usually of the misbehavin' type), and PDF files, ask you to fill them in, print them out, sign, and fax or scan+email these immediately, and send the signed originals by snail mail.

The time it takes to prepare all such documentation surpasses what an average translator needs to do an average test.

And then... yes, you guessed right! You'll never hear from them again.

I think they sell all the paper they get from this procedure to recyclers.


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Amy Allen Schleicher  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:10
German to English
do the tests, but be selective Feb 7, 2008

As someone who has been on both sides of the fence - project manager, vendor manager and freelancer, I think you should prepare yourself to do tests but be selective.

You would be surprised how many freelancer's references do not reply. Samples can be unreliable, and tests are often the most objective way of determining whether a new freelancer will be able to handle the work you are sending them. Screening a new freelancer can be time consuming and costly if there are no recommendations from trusted linguists or responsive references. The agency usually has to pay someone to review your test.

We have a client where the majority of our translators are electrical engineers, even though I put this in the job posting as "highly technical", before we required tests to join our team, we had translators dropping like flies due to the difficulty of the work. By requiring a test, the freelancer got a chance to take a good look at how hard the material was. Since we started requiring tests, we have had a much better record of our translators being qualified and being able to handle the work.

As a freelancer, one of my best clients required a test before start which I happily did. I also got feedback. I consider it a sign of a professional screening process for agencies.

Results will vary. You can always ask for feedback from the agency if you don't hear anything!

Hope that helps!

Amy


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A catch 22? Feb 7, 2008

Amy Allen wrote:
As someone who has been on both sides of the fence - project manager, vendor manager and freelancer, I think you should prepare yourself to do tests but be selective.

You would be surprised how many freelancer's references do not reply.


What surprises me most is that some translation agencies - often those that won't assign an urgent project before having an original signed NDA by snail mail - have online freelancer application forms that won't upload unless full details on three references are given. The NDAs strictly forbid translators from ever revealing that they worked for them.

So they demand references sine qua non, but they won't allow translators to give them as references.


About non-responsive references, imagine this... a "new" translator, after having worked for three agencies, thinks it would be good to expand their business. So they subscribe to Proz and/or alikes, and send CVs, applications, e-mails, whatever, to a few hundred other agencies, mentioning these three first ones as references. The three initial agencies get swarmed with requests for confirmation of these references. Multiply this by the number of "new" (as well as "old") translarors, and they'll need a whole (costly, unprofitable, non-value-adding) department to answer the questionnaires!


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Amy Allen Schleicher  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:10
German to English
agencies are in a tough spot Feb 8, 2008

I'm not saying that every agency does things fairly and it has always made no sense to be when agencies are not willing to be a reference for a translator's work, but you have to see it from the agency side too - how are they supposed to evaluate a potential translator without being able to verify qualifications?

Recommendations, references, review of previous work and tests are pretty much it. If you only have 2 of the 4 options, then tests will be more important.

If one of my trusted translators recommends another translator, I find that most reliable.

As a translator, I specifically ask my clients if they are willing to be my reference before listing them. I think it improves response rate. If you are a translator just getting started, why not get another freelancer to be your reference?

There are good agencies out there and not every request for a test is unreasonable, is all I'm saying.

I do think it's wrong not to provide feedback when a test is given.

At my agency too, we have translators who get screened and then we find we have trouble giving them work - sometimes because they were screened for a prospect that disappears, and sometimes because project managers have their favorite translators and it's hard to get them to try someone new. There are a lot of factors going into it.


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Daniela Cesana
Local time: 18:10
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
An Feb 9, 2008

Dear Amy, I understand the point. I am more than willing to do free translation tests, but I wouldn't like to receive answers like this (which I did 2 days ago!):

"Your test passed, but do realize that we have quite a number of freelancers in our database".

The question is: if they do not need new translators, they should tell me in the first place and not send me a test.


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