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Persistent silence after test translation
Thread poster: Melanie Meyer

Melanie Meyer  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:09
Member (2010)
English to German
+ ...
Oct 1, 2013

I usually try to avoid griping in public forums, but I am interested in your opinion on this quite annoying situation.

About two months ago, a translation agency contacted me and asked whether I was interested in collaboration. Various friendly and informative emails went back and forth, we agreed on a rate and I was asked to fill out a number of forms (NDA, tax forms, etc.). I agreed to fill out the NDA for the time being, since that was apparently needed for the required test of about 300 words.

Although I am normally not a fan of agencies that ask for a slew of paperwork and tests up front, I was going through a slow patch at the time and wanted to put in the extra effort for a promising new client.

So I did the test on August 27, the agency confirmed receipt and I was told that the review could take up to two weeks. Ever since then, the agency and/or my contact seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. Two inquiries sent four weeks and six weeks after the test were completely ignored.

I know that in the greater scheme of things, this is not a huge deal, but it does really annoy me when I go the extra mile, agree to the free test, put a lot of effort into it and the agency is not even decent and professional enough to let me know whether I passed or failed.

I was even considering leaving a negative comment on the Blue Board to warn my colleagues not to fall for this client, but I am not sure whether this is possible, since technically, they are not even my client yet.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:09
Hebrew to English
A few points... Oct 1, 2013

Melanie Meyer wrote:
Although I am normally not a fan of agencies that ask for a slew of paperwork and tests up front, I was going through a slow patch at the time and wanted to put in the extra effort for a promising new client.


Understandable.

So I did the test on August 27, the agency confirmed receipt and I was told that the review could take up to two weeks. Ever since then, the agency and/or my contact seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. Two inquiries sent four weeks and six weeks after the test were completely ignored.


True colours. Even if the agency did get back in contact with you, I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole, since they clearly are not professionals.

I was even considering leaving a negative comment on the Blue Board to warn my colleagues not to fall for this client, but I am not sure whether this is possible, since technically, they are not even my client yet.


No, it's not possible under current ProZ rules. You have to have undertaken paid work for them.


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 19:09
Japanese to English
+ ...
Yes Oct 1, 2013

It's kind of like when you complete a RUSH job that absolutely must be confirmed and completed ASAP, send it in, then get no response whatsoever unless you ask about it. No acknowledgement of receipt, no "Thank you for dropping everything and dealing with this for me," nothing. It always makes me think of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCVR_ajL_Eo


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:09
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
An all-too-common scenario Oct 1, 2013

What Melanie describes is an all-too-common scenario. Yet other unpleasant outcomes involving test translations involve having them nitpicked to death by some in-house proofreader or being told that one has passed--and then never hearing from the agency in question ever again.

I in fact can remember very few instances in which completion of a test translation resulted in receiving substantial paid work thereafter.

It is for this reason that I have decided not to do test translations again. Instead, I offer the alternative of sending on a completed translation in the field of interest, and/or of doing a small project for a fee (inviting the agency to consider that a test for further work).

Strangely enough, I had just responded along the above lines to an agency that had e-mailed me just minutes before I read Melanie's post.


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:09
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Test your agencies! Oct 1, 2013

I understand your annoyance. I always try to avoid doing anything other than agreeing rates prior to taking on a translation test but admittedly sometimes it's tough.
I used to get really wound up when I went to all the effort of offering a free test and never received a reply but now I've switched my way of thinking.

You know when people tell you that a job interview is as much for you to see if you want the job as for the company to assess whether you're a good fit?

I think the same about agencies and their tests. I feel that I'm testing them as much as they are testing me.

An agency that handles the process on time, professionally and communicatively is probably a client you want to work for and one that doesn't, well...isn't.

I have also started to think of a test as a brochure and therefore as a marketing spend (of time rather than money but it still boils down to the same).
By sending a test, I'm sending a brochure that showcases my work. I wouldn't get annoyed by a client not responding to a brochure. I would accept that brochures either get thrown away, get put to one side for when it could come in handy, or elicit a response.
When I used to do mailshots in a previous role, I would be happy to get a 2% response (although a mailshot doesn't really compare to a personalized test). However, we often see our translations (even tests) as a labour of love so it's hard to accept when someone doesn't respond.

Sometimes companies spend money on marketing campaigns that don't work, or generate leads that don't convert into sales. You're taking the same risk by providing a free translation. I would say that my test < client conversion rate is far higher than a conversion rate I would expect from "normal" marketing activities or cold-calling so I continue to offer them. I just forget about them now once they're done and sent.

If I have a client contact me two years after having sent a test (it does happen) to ask if I'm available for a job without ever having given feedback on the test, I mirror their responsiveness (OK... So I ignore them).


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Martina Fink  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 22:09
Member
German to English
It's common Oct 1, 2013

It's common, which doesn't make it any less annoying!

I once did a test translation for an agency who had offered me a decent rate and were communicating very well. About a week later, they told me I passed the test and that there was an upcoming project translating medical studies that I might be interested in. Because they hadn't tested me on that kind of subject matter, they asked if I would do another short test. I was reluctant but they were so polite and apologetic, plus I had been referred to them by another translator and it wasn't some kind of "out of the blue" agency, so I did the second test. A month later I received an email saying it still hadn't been graded and they were waiting on a particular proofreader to be available. A month after that, I checked in again. No reply. I think it's been about a year now...

Come to think of it, only one of my test translations has ever led to a project. Usually they are met with silence or "congratulations, you passed!" and then silence.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:09
German to English
Give it no more thought Oct 1, 2013

Assuming the test translation took an hour of your time, consider it an hour spent in a marketing effort. Consider yourself lucky if you get a response, even luckier if you get a job. Even if you've already filled out paperwork, all you've lost is time. Not getting a response says nothing about you as a translator.
There's no real lesson to be learned here, as there's no way to anticipate the potential client's response.

Mother sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach and then abandon them. Sometimes the eggs hatch and the turtles make it out to the sea and thrive. Other baby turtles get eaten, and some eggs don't hatch at all. It's the same story with test translations and bids on jobs.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:09
English to Spanish
+ ...
Worse Oct 1, 2013

What's even worse is that you do a job for them and you never hear from them again and you never get paid, so consider yourself fortunate.

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:09
English to Polish
+ ...
... Oct 1, 2013

Don't presume that agencies act rationally. Agencies are manned by people and people usually make some sense in general but are rarely strictly rational. Especially rational in expending your time and resources.

Don't guess at their motives, just forget it and move on. In the future, don't fill, sign and send anything that isn't really necessary in order to process the test translation. This said, a translation test may very well come from a 'sophisticated customer' (such a 'client' being more likely than not to be just another agency, except larger or more powerful), in which case perhaps an NDA might be in order if the test sample comes from an actual text used by the company, but otherwise it isn't really necessary.

Just because it isn't necessary doesn't mean they will realise that, though, or that they wouldn't prefer to have all your paperwork just in case they like your sample. Or your signature under their NDA just to make sure you won't talk to people about whatever. Again, don't presume they're acting rationally – or, rather, acting on a principle that you would deem rational from your point of view.

Bottom line, vet paperwork requests. Delay that until they can confirm they like your sample.

It's not like you can sign an agency's contract without needing to propose at least some changes, usually, anyway. Going through negotiations and amendments while not knowing if they prospect is real is likely to be a waste of time. The quality of translation is subjective, remember, and not all reviewers are competent to begin with.

One more thing: Communicating failure to contestants is a hard task that some people prefer to avoid, especially if they are non-confrontational folks, so they just pretend they don't exist. To some others, on the other hand, you aren't worth a second of their time once it's clear you're of no use to them, e.g. because you failed the test.



[Edited at 2013-10-01 15:37 GMT]


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flore7
Local time: 12:09
German to French
+ ...
agencies aren't always very rational, or maybe yes Oct 1, 2013

I agree with this. It very often happened to me, to do a test for agencies. They were satisfied with the test, we agreed on the rates, they sent me the supplier agreement and i sent it back, and i never got any work fom them. Sometimes, i have the feeling the agencies just want to fill they translator database, a lot of waste of time for us...

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:09
Chinese to English
Me too Oct 1, 2013

I had something similar just recently. An agency pursued me for a while, kept sending emails asking when I could do their test and fill in their forms, then told me I'd passed, and since then, absolutely nothing. I haven't contacted them either, so not quite so bad as in Melanie's case.
It happens, and all we can do is not take it personally.


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Melanie Meyer  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:09
Member (2010)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great comments – thanks! Oct 1, 2013

Many thanks for all your encouraging and insightful comments so far! This seems to be a more common theme than I thought and it's comforting to know that I am not alone with this annoying problem.

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Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:09
English to Spanish
Abuse and disrespect Oct 1, 2013

In the past things used to be quite different. Between agency and translator there was a professional relationship based on mutual respect, not the current vulgarity based on how little the translator is willing to work for.

I think the abuse and disrespect mentioned by posters in this thread has been fostered by sites like ProZ and others that have reverse auction where jobs go to the lowest bidder.

Why agencies should respect translators when for every job they post on the Jobs Board they receive scores of offers for 3 cents a word?

For as long as sites with reverse auction exist, things will keep getting worse and worse.

The saddest part is that many translators, since they do not know any better, foolishly keep atracting agencies to sites like this one, where those agencies end up posting their jobs on the Jobs Board, which is nothing but a hunting ground for them for cheap labor.

[Edited at 2013-10-01 22:28 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:09
English to Polish
+ ...
... Oct 1, 2013

Miguel Carmona wrote:

The saddest part is that many translators, since they do not know any better, foolishly keep atracting agencies to sites like this one, where those agencies end up posting their jobs on the Jobs Board, which is nothing but a hunting ground for them for cheap labor.


Unfortunately, any sort of social or professional outlet and meeting place for translators where jobs are available is gonna end up like that, i.e. Dutch auction for jobs. Wish I knew, wish someone knew, how to prevent that.

Probably can't, though, in a capitalist economy.


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Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:09
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
Free translations Oct 1, 2013

I have completed test translations on several occasions in the past and never heard anything again. This makes me wonder how many of them were test translations and how many were really just free translations. Experience is (very slowly!) teaching me to be more discerning about whether or not to do a test translation. I only do them if they are relatively short and I don't have much other work at that moment in time, so I am not sacrificing too much by doing it. I think alarm bells might have rung in my head if I was asked to complete an NDA for a test translation.

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