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job offers that spell trouble for proz.com members
Thread poster: Bernhard Sulzer

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:58
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Nov 24, 2008

Hello everybody.

My purpose in starting this thread is to help all translators (but especially new ones) save some valuable time, a lot of unnecessary anger and money lost.
Everybody wants as much business as they can possibly handle, with a good rate.
There are a lot of jobs, there are a few with good rates as well.
There are a few jobs you should never take (IMO):

Scenario 1:
Somebody (probably a translation company) contacts you through your proz.com profile page...

and asks you if you are available for a job, a job right away, or maybe for an urgent job, maybe even over the weekend and offers you a pretty decent rate, or agrees to your decent rate. A few emails go back and forth, nice conversations, everything seems okay.

Beware.

Follow these steps (my suggestions):

Check out the company's blue board record. It could be terrible (= non payers, late payers but not just once but ten or twenty times) and they might have even been barred from posting jobs on proz.com. But they are still looking for you, dear proz.com translator, making you feel good about yourself by contacting you directly.

If you can't find them on proz.com, check out their website. If none exists, forget them.
If a website exists, ask at least one experienced proz.com colleague if they have heard of the company recently, not a year ago, and what their reputation is.
Look up information on them by searching for their name and combine it with non-payment, bad payment, reviews, bad experience, warning, etc.
If you still can't find much (or at least a few positive statements), forget them too. Do ask them why they are not registered with proz.com.

Scenario 2:
A job posting turns into a free test translation and nothing else (well, a bit of a headache).

Posters on proz.com might disguise free test translations as real jobs.
And not only that but as "connect jobs" - a very nice feature by which only certain translators receive an invitation to submit a quote. You might feel privileged and think the poster on the other side is a reputable company.
Don't be fooled. This nice feature is vulnerable and so are you.
Again, anybody registered with proz.com may post a connect job (I think I am right here but please correct me if I am wrong).
The posting talks about a large project for several languages and several translators in the medical and/or technical field and you are invited to submit a quote.
When you receive their reply you are asked if you wouldn't mind providing a free test translation. You tell them a short translation is OK.
The poster sends you 3 test translations (each around 300-500 words), adding a general text to the technical and medical one because you would then be considered for more jobs. You can already stop and forget them.

Note: The same job might be posted as a regular proz.com job and even come with a moderator warning attached to it saying that the poster's address or website could not be verified. This disclaimer appears above the job posting. But quite a few people will simply not see it. And, the job posting might still be open.


No reputable company will ask you to do a free test translation and not many companies could afford paid test translations for I don't know how many translators only to find the best one and then pay her/him a great rate. A reputable company will look at your profile, they might contact you, they might offer you a job at a good rate (instead of asking you for a test) but there is no guarantee whatsoever that you will not be taken advantage off unless you do your homework and repeat the steps I listed above, beginning with their blue board record.

In addition: always send any company or individual who orders a translation your own order contract that they have to countersign.


Scenario 3: you are already trapped...

You did what you should not have done and now sit there asking yourself why was I so stupid in the first place.
Well, you weren't stupid, just naive, eager to work hard and expected to be treated the way you treat people. If you did a real job for a bad payer, stick to your guns and don't let them tell you other things such as "your translation was bad." Maybe tell them you read about their record on proz.com and urge them to pay.
All might not be lost.

In any case, this will hopefully not happen to you (again).

Come back to this topic, hopefully you will find a few more hints,

Good luck,

Bernhard








[Edited at 2008-11-24 08:12 GMT]


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:58
English to Dutch
+ ...
Not in my experience Nov 24, 2008

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

The poster sends you 3 test translations (each around 300-500 words), adding a general text to the technical and medical one because you would then be considered for more jobs. You can already stop and forget them.



[Edited at 2008-11-24 08:12 GMT]


This is simply not true. I've found several new and good clients this way. All of these big agencies, who simply CAN afford to work that way.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:58
Italian to English
+ ...
Test translations Nov 24, 2008

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

No reputable company will ask you to do a free test translation


I no longer do free test translations, but in the past I have done and a couple of these have led to long-term relationships with reputable agencies. As with all things, it's best not to make sweeping generalisations.


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Christopher White B.A. (Honours)
Local time: 20:58
Italian to English
If only more professional translators refused to do so-called "test translations Nov 24, 2008

[quote]Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:


" I no longer do free test translations, but in the past I have done and a couple of these have led to long-term relationships with reputable agencies."

After 12 years' experience I also refuse to touch test translations as a matter of principle. Experienced professionals in other sectors quite rightly don't work for free.

If other translators showed more self-respect in securing work (rather than simply adopting an "I must work at any cost" attitude) then the translating sector would be less exposed to the exploitative practice of "test" translations.


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Katarina Perna
Slovakia
Local time: 20:58
English to Slovak
+ ...
Beginners vs. agencies Nov 24, 2008

I think your opinion is right. Whenever I was willing to take a translation text in my country, I got one, but it was only once that I established a good cooperation with a translation agency.
I dare say I am a good translator. I am only a beginner but the worst thing is that most agencies require a several-year experience in translating and when you cannot prove it, no agency is likely to work with you..


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Melina Kajander
Finland
English to Finnish
On the contrary... Nov 24, 2008

Bernhard's advice was otherwise very good, but this I have found to be quite opposite:
Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
No reputable company will ask you to do a free test translation


In my experience, it is exactly the reputable companies that do ask for a free test translation - those are the ones who want to make sure they do get a quality translator. The non-reputable ones usually don't bother... (Of course, there are exceptions to this as well, but this seems to be the general rule.)


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:58
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Test translations are not the main issue Nov 24, 2008

If you do a test translation within reasonable size limits and never hear again from that agency, it's a minor waste of time. It's like the fuel you used while taking a test drive in an auto dealer where you never came back to buy anything.

There are however a few telltale signs in a job posting on Proz.

1. If they are reluctant about the subject, limiting the information to e.g. technical, or engineering, or legal, they might be a) ignorant; b) amateur; or c) concealing something much more complex, which would justify doubling your rates, due to the need for extensive research.

2. If they say there are XX pages, it means that they were unable to get a character/word count, so be ready for a poorly scanned PDF file, where an OCR program will say that everything is "graphics".

3. If they demand sine qua non specific CAT tools unsuitable for the kind of work, e.g. audio/video, handwritten text, or lousy scans as above, you are dealing with amateurs (who read somewhere that CAT tools make all translations a lot cheaper), or mere promoters of the CAT tools required.

4. If they require to preserve formatting on a forewarnedly "complex" publication in MS Word, you might have more "fake DTP" (Word is not DTP software) work in stoct for you than actual translation.

5. If they ask you to bid your lowest, rock-bottom rate for this relatively "minor" job, as they'll have tons of work to come from this client at better rates in the future, treat it as an invitation for a one-night-stand. You may offer better rates when they eventually book solid chunks of your time, but don't undersell yourself just on candid promises.

6. If their payment term is beyond 30 days, they are probably getting paid COD by the end-client, and having fun with your money in the meantime.

7. If the payment method is TBA, it may take weeks before they get set up on any payment method that is convenient or feasible for you.

There are many others, but these are some of the most common.

Bear in mind that there are really many great, honest, hard-working and professional people in the translation outsourcing business. However according to Pareto's Law, these make up only 20% of the whole. The remaining 80%, theoretically, are amateurs or schemers just trying to make a quick buck on someone else's work.

Your mission, if you care to accept it, is to find some from these 20% and provide them with the best service you can.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:58
French to English
I see what you did there Nov 24, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:
As with all things, it's best not to make sweeping generalisations.


Made me chuckle, anyway.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:58
Italian to English
+ ...
Ha! Nov 24, 2008

Charlie Bavington wrote:

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:
As with all things, it's best not to make sweeping generalisations.


Made me chuckle, anyway.


I hadn't thought of that - it wasn't intentional!

[Edited at 2008-11-24 12:22 GMT]


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Stuart Dowell  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:58
Member (2007)
Polish to English
+ ...
What's wrong with (genuine) tests Nov 24, 2008


After 12 years' experience I also refuse to touch test translations as a matter of principle. Experienced professionals in other sectors quite rightly don't work for free.


I understand a test to be a chance for a prospective client to review my abilities with materials of their choosing, which I think is quite reasonable and many professionals in many areas are happy to undergo tests.

Think of an actor reading for part - they are still acting even if the director is not going to use that reading in the play or film.

Musicians perform in order to become members of an orchestra. Chefs perform in the kitchen in test conditions to work in top restaurants and a wide range of professionals may perform role-plays during selection procedures.

Why is it that many translators think that performing a test for a paying customer is so beneath them when our profession lends itself so easily and conveniently to performing short tests over the internet?

Stuart


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LoyalTrans
Local time: 02:58
English to Chinese
+ ...
Size matters Nov 26, 2008

As long as the test translation is within a reasonable word count and falls into my specialty, I don't find anything wrong with it. Even if the test turns out to be a fake one, I did not lose too much time.

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FarkasAndras
Local time: 20:58
English to Hungarian
+ ...
- Nov 26, 2008

Christopher White B.A. (Honours) wrote:

Experienced professionals in other sectors quite rightly don't work for free.


Actors go to castings all the time. Even established, successful, internationally acclaimed ones.
The person who pays the check has to know if you are the right person for the job so they test you. Simple as that.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:58
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
how to avoid accepting fraudulent job offers Nov 26, 2008

Maybe the above headline is more to the point.

Thank you everybody for your comments so far.

Of course, there is never anything wrong with genuine job offers. The problem is : how do I distinguish the genuine ones from the fake ones?
Regarding free test translations, one could also argue that there's nothing wrong with them. But from my own experience, many times you won't hear back at all and it has nothing to do with the quality of your text. But you gave something and received nothing in return.
There are certain tasks one should carry out to avoid the fake and dishonest job offers (see suggestions above), otherwise it can become very costly. And if somebody posts a large job and then wants a test translation, I'd be very careful. Especially if you had to already quote a price. Or if they contact you through your profile page.
Let's not be naive.
That's why I gave 2 scenarios which, at first sight, seemed to be reasonable to me and later turned out to be unprofessional offers.

I am not out to complain about honest businesses. I just want to forewarn everybody that something looking very genuine can be a hoax, and that it can happen to anybody.

Bernhard


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:58
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
not as simple as that Nov 26, 2008

Let's not oversimplify things, please.
There is a difference between an actor reading for a "genuine" director and a translator sending off a test translation to Mr. X from company Y in where??

Bernhard

FarkasAndras wrote:

Actors go to castings all the time. Even established, successful, internationally acclaimed ones.
The person who pays the check has to know if you are the right person for the job so they test you. Simple as that.


[Edited at 2008-11-26 11:08 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:58
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
you gave something and received nothing in return Nov 26, 2008

Hi.
Can you really afford giving your time and expertise and not even get a reply?
What happened to your text?

LoyalTrans wrote:

As long as the test translation is within a reasonable word count and falls into my specialty, I don't find anything wrong with it. Even if the test turns out to be a fake one, I did not lose too much time.


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