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How to tell that test job is not a scam
Thread poster: Dmitri T.
Dmitri T.
Local time: 01:30
English to Estonian
+ ...
Mar 26

Hi all,

Just a general question about unpaid test jobs - how can a freelance translator be sure that the unpaid test job is not a scam if the translator agency is not sending the checked test back (due to confidentiality of the test) and not even telling how many mistakes were made?

Is this normal when doing test jobs?

Additionally no contract was signed prior to the job (which might guarantee that the translator keeps the test confidential) and no warning was given that the test results were not being sent back.

D.


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Maija Cirule  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 01:30
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
The only way Mar 28

Dmitri T. wrote:

Hi all,

Just a general question about unpaid test jobs - how can a freelance translator be sure that the unpaid test job is not a scam if the translator agency is not sending the checked test back (due to confidentiality of the test) and not even telling how many mistakes were made?

Is this normal when doing test jobs?

Additionally no contract was signed prior to the job (which might guarantee that the translator keeps the test confidential) and no warning was given that the test results were not being sent back.

D.


to be sure is to reject any demand to carry out an unpaid test. In order to be able to reject these demands, you should include your portfolio in your profile.


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Marjolein Snippe  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:30
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
you can't Mar 28

Hi Dmitri,

Apart from Maija's suggestion, I don't think you can be sure the test is not a scam; however, as long as the text is a short one (200-250 words or so), I think the risk is low.
If you don't get any feedback, perhaps you can ask for some. They may be able to tell you what type of mistakes they noted.
I usually get some feedback (even if it is only something along the lines of 'you have passed the test, we will be happy to work with you'). I have sometimes received the translation back with comments from the agency's reviewer, but in my experience that is the exception rather than the rule.

If the test is short though, I wouldn't be too suspicious of it being used as a paid translation by the agency. Most of their paid translations would be longer. And even if they did use it, you have not lost a lot of time.


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Dmitri T.
Local time: 01:30
English to Estonian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good idea Mar 28

Maija Cirule wrote:

Dmitri T. wrote:

Hi all,

Just a general question about unpaid test jobs - how can a freelance translator be sure that the unpaid test job is not a scam if the translator agency is not sending the checked test back (due to confidentiality of the test) and not even telling how many mistakes were made?

Is this normal when doing test jobs?

Additionally no contract was signed prior to the job (which might guarantee that the translator keeps the test confidential) and no warning was given that the test results were not being sent back.

D.


to be sure is to reject any demand to carry out an unpaid test. In order to be able to reject these demands, you should include your portfolio in your profile.


That is a good idea actually. I will start updating my profile with any new projects I complete, that might help avoid those test. Thank you.


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Dmitri T.
Local time: 01:30
English to Estonian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Results are confidential Mar 28

Marjolein Snippe wrote:

Hi Dmitri,

Apart from Maija's suggestion, I don't think you can be sure the test is not a scam; however, as long as the text is a short one (200-250 words or so), I think the risk is low.
If you don't get any feedback, perhaps you can ask for some. They may be able to tell you what type of mistakes they noted.
I usually get some feedback (even if it is only something along the lines of 'you have passed the test, we will be happy to work with you'). I have sometimes received the translation back with comments from the agency's reviewer, but in my experience that is the exception rather than the rule.

If the test is short though, I wouldn't be too suspicious of it being used as a paid translation by the agency. Most of their paid translations would be longer. And even if they did use it, you have not lost a lot of time.


So I asked about the results and the reply was that as the tests are confidential they are not allowed give me the results, which sounds like a made up reason.

So I asked about how many mistakes the test had and they ignored that request.

Anyway, I was hoping that there are some unwritten rules about sending test results, because that would imply the agency does some unpaid work also, after requesting unpaid work from the freelancer. Currently they could order a lot of unpaid test from freelancers without ever even opening them (because of time constraint, finding someone cheaper, losing the client etc ... )

Yes the test was short, but had some interesting parts that could be translated in different ways and it still took some time to complete, because of some extra checking and researching (as it contained different topics).


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:30
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You can avoid most scams Mar 28

Dmitri T. wrote:
how can a freelance translator be sure that the unpaid test job is not a scam if the translator agency is not sending the checked test back (due to confidentiality of the test) and not even telling how many mistakes were made?


Additionally no contract was signed prior to the job (which might guarantee that the translator keeps the test confidential)

So the text wasn't in the slightest bit confidential; yet the feedback is? Come on!!! I don't know if it was a scam or not, but it's certainly someone you don't want to be doing business with.

The test text and things to look out for:
- Never accept more than about 250-300 words as a free test - more should be paid for.
- It should be specific to your specialisation if you've given one. Don't just do any old subject they feel like sending, as they'll then do that all the time.
- Be wary of anything that looks like a complete short text.
- Be wary if they put a deadline on the job or say it's urgent (although I have had totally legitimate cases of that where it's the potential end client asking for the test).
- Be wary if they want it in a specific format, or anything else that makes you think it's going to be combined with other texts (unless you're confident that they just want to make sure you know how to use that CAT tool you say you use).

But before that stage:
- Check the request comes from a real company. There are many ways to do that - see the Risk Management Wiki(s) on this site. And you'll need their full company name and address for the first invoice, so best get that sorted now.
- Check their reputation - if it's an agency - both here on the Blue Board and elsewhere. If any alarm bells ring, refuse.
- Get their explicit acceptance of your terms and conditions, or at least negotiate and come to an agreement. Rates (including minimum per job), payment term (30 days?) and payment method all need to be settled.
- Check before you start what they're prepared to give in feedback, and get it in writing.
- Check what else they'll need you to do if you pass the test. NDA and/or agreement to sign? Any special invoicing requirements? Some say they'll only pay out when the amount owed gets to over a certain sum; others say you can't invoice them until they've officially accepted the translation (totally unacceptable, but common).
- Evaluate how well things have gone with the emails. If they aren't giving off the right signals now, your relationship will probably never go well.

You may not want to do all that every time. Freelancers need to be able to follow their noses and accept some amount of risk. We also need to invest in marketing. But they're all things to bear in mind before you waste your valuable time.


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Katarzyna Slowikova  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:30
Polish to Czech
+ ...
You can't proove negative Mar 28

Dmitri T. wrote:

Hi all,

Just a general question about unpaid test jobs - how can a freelance translator be sure that the unpaid test job is not a scam


The question should rather be formulated, how can you know the test IS a fake (i.e. a real translation the agency will get payed for), or even better, what are the signs of a test being a "real job".

Sheila gave you a good list of those, I'd just add, if there're trademarks, names of companies etc. in the "test", than it's either not a test or the agency is blatantly unprofessional. (meaning real names - I've seen tests where they invented non-existing companies, so check them first).

As to the deadlines, in my experience they sometimes restrict the time you have to do the test to ensure you won't spend 2 days on 200 words (which you wouldn't be able to do with real jobs, so it makes sense). But the deadline should surely be flexible - meaning you can ask for it to be sent when you have time to do it (and since that point have the time running). Unless of course it's a test for a specific project which is needed until a specific date set by the client.

[Edited at 2017-03-28 12:02 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-03-28 12:02 GMT]


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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 00:30
Member (2016)
English to German
What exactly do you fear? Mar 28

It seems to me that the "dangers" and "risks" of test translations are exaggerated. What exactly are you going to lose if you do a test translation? You lose a certain amount of your time. Consider it marketing time, the same way you would lose time if you visit a potential client or make phone calls or run to a tradeshow or whatnot. Here and there, you don't know beforehand if the time is well spent or not. You do it because you want visibility, you want potential clients to recognize your abilities and your value for them. I cannot see anything wrong with that.

Now, of course you should do your due diligence and check if the potential clients are what they say they are, like the others said. But if this is established, I don't see much potential of a "scam" here. I don't believe that anyone could create a fraudulent business model by collecting test translations. The real scams are those where people want you to part with your money, or maybe where people want to steal your identity and credibility.

And yes, sometimes agencies ask a little too much in the form of a test translation, then you should negotiate and cut it down to a reasonable request that does not demand too much of your time. But my experience with test translations was quite good at times and I see them as a useful marketing tool for me.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:30
Member
English to French
a rule in marketing Mar 28

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:
...Consider it marketing time, the same way you would lose time if you visit a potential client or make phone calls or run to a tradeshow or whatnot. Here and there, you don't know beforehand if the time is well spent or not. You do it because you want visibility, you want potential clients to recognize your abilities and your value for them...


"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wanamaker

Philippe


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:30
Member
French to English
+ ...
Test results Mar 28

As a senior translator, I am often asked to assess test translations.

Generally speaking, the fee paid and the time allocated do not allow a detailed report of each test to be given — nor does the agency want that: all they want is a go/no-go assessment of each translator.

So there would be no actual 'report' as such to return; I just given an overall assessment of which translators are hopeless, which are excellent, and of those in the midel, I may highlight some examples of typical mistakes made, so the agency can decide which if any of those are more / less important.

What rather horrifies me is that, on a typical job of assessing 20 translators, there was NOT A SINGLE ONE whom I considered to be absolutely faultless, and only 3 who were "passable". And of the 20, 11 who were complete non-starters! I find this utterly horrific, and although to some extent it shakes my faith in test translations, it also to some extent highlights why agencies consider them necessary.


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Vi Pukite  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:30
Member (2009)
Latvian to English
+ ...
Test results - 2 Mar 28

I'm also often asked to assess test translations, but my experience is rather different than Tony's. Most of the agencies I work with have a very specific procedure for assessment, including both an overall rating of the translator and detailing and classifying of the errors. I don't know whether or not the agency passes anything on to the translator.

I share Tony's horror, though - most of the test translations I see are abysmal. I can recommend as passable or better less than 1 in 20.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:30
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Same experience Mar 28

Tony M wrote:
What rather horrifies me is that, on a typical job of assessing 20 translators, there was NOT A SINGLE ONE whom I considered to be absolutely faultless, and only 3 who were "passable". And of the 20, 11 who were complete non-starters! I find this utterly horrific, and although to some extent it shakes my faith in test translations, it also to some extent highlights why agencies consider them necessary.

I evaluate translation tests for TWB, just the "general" ones in the French to English pair. I've checked about 300 and I rarely come across one that's both accurate and pleasant to read. Many applicants are clearly translating in the wrong direction as their texts sound more French than my own French writing (which I accept sometimes sounds very English in its structure ). And I sometimes get to see the medical or engineering ones, some of which really are laughable: raw Google Translate! I know that TWB accepts only around 50% of applicants. I'm actually surprised it's that high.


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Tina Wooden
United States
Local time: 18:30
Japanese to English
+ ...
Legitimate concerns with test translations Jul 12

Dmitri, I just want to state that your concern is legitimate.

A few years back, I happened to notice a term being asked on the KudoZ board that was pretty specific to the "test" I'd just done, so I contacted that translator and asked if they were doing the same test as I had. They asked me for advice on a particular sentence ("How did you translate this? Here's what I did but it doesn't sound quite right.") and I realized that they were doing another section of the same document. It turns out the agency had asked multiple translators to do different segments of the same document -- for free, of course! -- then strung those "test samples" together to submit to the client, who no doubt paid them for it.

Sheila has given a great list of things to look out for -- I'm taking notes from those myself.

I haven't done a lot of reviewing per se, but I have proofread translations that were simply abysmal. It's sad that so often people for whom neither language is a native tongue pass themselves off as translators.

Bottom line: A good translator is worth good money. If they're not willing to pay what you're worth, don't waste your time on them.


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Nor Afizah Thalhan  Identity Verified
Malaysia
Local time: 06:30
Member (2013)
English to Malay
+ ...
My opinion Jul 15

Always ensure the agency is listed in Blue Board! As simple as that.

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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:30
Member
French to English
+ ...
Too restrictive... Jul 15

Nor Afizah Thalhan wrote:

Always ensure the agency is listed in Blue Board! As simple as that.


Certainly a good starting point; BUT... other agencies do exist outside the ProZ.com world, and even within it, there are many agencies who may never yet have had a BB entry made; remember, people often forget to go and make an entry if they have had a good experience with an agency — entries often come about because people wish to report a bad experience. Luckily, this is far from always being the case, but still, it means a lot of good agencies may not have a BB entry, while a disproportionately high proportion of those that do might be unfavourable ones.

In the first instance, nothing beats checking out the credentials of the agency, like verifying their address and any other contact details, checking out their www and verifying their IP address.

Then you have to go on instinct... and also weigh up the pros and cons of doing their test, even if it does turn out to be a scam... What have you lost? Personally, I have for years refused to do free tests, and the very small number I have done have rarely (if indeed ever) led to an actual job. Now I don't think I'm the worst translator in my language pair; nor do I believe those tests were necessarily scams; so my conclusion is that either the agency simply didn't get the job they were bidding for — or else they preferred some aspect of other translators' tests and/or their prices!

If you have done a test, but are suspicious, you could always wait a couple of weeks, and then Google the source text; if it is to be found on the 'Net, then the translation may also have gone online, and if so you can check if your test translation is also online; should that be the case, then you can be fairly sure the agency were indeed scamming you — and armed with this proof, you can report them.


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