Free translation test(s) for an agency - opinion needed
Thread poster: Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI

Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:41
Polish to English
+ ...
Nov 4, 2014

Hello all,

I decided to start this thread even though the topic of free translation tests has already been discussed on proz several times, but I really need to know what you think.

I've been in the translation busines for about 1,5 years and it's been going ok, but I'm still trying to get more regular work and be in a place where I don't have to constantly worry about my income. I've been sending out emails to various agencies and such, and I've recently received a reply from one of them. The agency seems ok, they've got great rating and opinions on proz, and they were recruiting translators in medical area (which is one of the areas I specialise in).

But when we started exchanging emails, things got a bit weird. The replies I got from them were very... laconic. I've also been asked to complete a free translation test. I want to say here that I avoid doing free translation tests for agencies I know very little about because I've heard too many stories about translators who never even got any feedback, not to mention a job following a free test. When an agency gets in touch with me and then they ask me for a free translation test, I usually say that I can do it for my minimum fee. If they agree, I know they're solid and I do the test like any other job. When they say "no"I say "too bad" and move on... But this has only been for a potential job, not in a recruitment process. I've only done about two free tests in my life (in both cases it was for a solid client offering a contract job based in-house or near the area where I live, and in both cases it was worth doing it - I was chosen for the project and that way I've managed to secure two really good working relationships).

So, back to the topic: I decided to probe them a little and when I actually got the file with all the tests, it turned out they want me to choose two texts (one general and one technical) from the whole document. There are about two texts for each area (the're listed about 12 areas, like marketing, HR, medicine etc) BUT they were recruiting only medical translators in my pair, so what's that about? Also, when I said that I'm away this week and then I have a lot of work to do so it might take me a while to translate, they replied that I should complete the tests "as soon as possible"... I'm not really sure about the whole thing. 600 words is a lot... though it kind of makes sense they give you such a broad choice so you could find a text you're comfortable with. Then again, it was abvious from the beginning I specialise in medical translation, so why not just send me a test from this area? Also, when I asked them about their payment policy, they said 60 days is standard and they kind of skipped my question about transfer fees. In general, they avoided the topic of dealing with payments for translators who are not based in their country.

I'm unsure. On one hand, I don't want to potentially waste my time. On the other, the agency seems solid and I really need to expand my client base. I haven't had much luck lately - I don't know if I should risk it or just keep looking. I would appreciate any input you might have. Is doing a free test really unavoidable in these times?


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:41
Member (2008)
French to English
Limit of 200 words Nov 4, 2014

While I rarely, if ever, do free tests any more, when I was getting established I did a few, and got some good clients from them as well. However, I would limit free tests to 200 words. I have never found that to be a problem, when I tell clients that they usually say to stop at 200 words. I can't say I totally understand the rationale behind free tests, but some agencies seem to do it.

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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:41
English to German
+ ...
Maybe 60 days Nov 4, 2014

is their standard, but it needn't be yours.

And a test to be done "as soon as possible" often means they will use your work for free and you will never hear of them again.


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The way I see it Nov 4, 2014

I know I will be barraged with criticism, but this is the way I see it.

Translation tests are the most objective way, so long completed honestly (otherwise it will be like shooting yourself in the foot), of measuring incumbent translator's actual and effective capability to handle certain kind of texts.

Therefore, in my opinion, agencies are "entitled" to having it completed by the translators who express their interest to collaborate with them.

Should it be paid? Ideally yes. Now, 300 words (and most of the tests I have done did not exceed this length) is no big deal. It takes 1 hour, on average, to translate. You are hoping to have a steady flow of work from that agency. They deserve 1 hour of you time, even if it is "for free".

600 words? Texts that divert from your area of specialization? Skip them. If I am offered an engineering or medical text to translate, I politely decline it, be it a test or an actual job offer. In other words, do the text you are comfortable with and send it through.

And hope to hear from them next week, next month, next year, never.

On average, out of 5 tests I did in the last three months, I got steady and very nice collaboration with one agency. This collaboration is "for good" (at least, util either party ends it), so I do not even consider the time I spent on completing the test as actual cost (rather, profitable investment).


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 20:41
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Not by me... Nov 4, 2014

Merab Dekano wrote:

I know I will be barraged with criticism, but this is the way I see it.


I would rather do a translation test (300 words, usually) for free than sending diplomas, references and the like and having to fill endless forms. Anyway, that’s how I got some of my best clients…


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:41
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
60 days Nov 4, 2014

I would be happy to do a short test translation free for a company I wanted to work for.

I'd be less happy about the 60 days payment terms!


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:41
Danish to English
+ ...
As soon as possible = as soon as you are able to do it Nov 4, 2014

Everything else apart, ASAP is as wide as the ocean and as long as a piece of string. I wouldn't see that as an issue here at all.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
One relevant short test, maybe Nov 4, 2014

Teresa Borges wrote:
I would rather do a translation test (300 words, usually) for free than sending diplomas, references and the like and having to fill endless forms. Anyway, that’s how I got some of my best clients…

I prefer this option, too. In my fields of marketing and tourism I think both parties need to know before the first job whether things have any chance of working out well. If an outsourcer is going to criticise my style (and there's even less of a "correct" option in that type of translation than in technical translation) then I'd rather know beforehand.

It's a shame you "asked them about their payment policy", Aleksandra. Once you've done that you either have to reject it or go along hoping you'll get what you want out of the relationship. I always find it much better to inform them of my policy and get them to agree to my rates, invoice minimum, payment period and method, etc. Once I've got that down in writing then I'll offer them a demonstration of my skills.

But I would never accept a test outside of my specialisation. Once a client is a regular, I'll do them a favour by stepping outside my comfort zone if they're in a fix, but I wouldn't want to be tested on it. A test should be your best work, even if you aren't being paid for it. You owe it to yourself.


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Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:41
Polish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I emailed them Nov 4, 2014

saying that two test translations is way to much and suggested doing just one in my area of specialisation - they were ok with it (as in, they agreed to it "as an exception"). I also managed to clarify their payment policy and the fees - they were also happy to agree to my terms and pay me in GBP and avoid all the hassle with transfer fees. 60 days is unfortunately not negotiable, which was also kind of my fault, as Sheila pointed out. Now I regret asking them about "their" policy...

Once you've done that you either have to reject it or go along hoping you'll get what you want out of the relationship


A valuable lesson for next time. Thank you!

I'm going to do the translation and see what happens. Can't hurt.


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