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Free translation tests
Thread poster: Séverine Watson

Séverine Watson
France
Local time: 04:03
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Jan 30

Hi everyone,

After seven years as an in-house translator, I'm trying to make it into the world of freelancing.

I am very much aware that competition is fierce and that you may have to go down the route of tests/trials and possibly even a free translation in order to get your foot in the door. What I would like to know is, where to draw the line?

If it's a test, my gut feeling is that you can tell the quality of my work within 300-500 words. I've found a po
... See more
Hi everyone,

After seven years as an in-house translator, I'm trying to make it into the world of freelancing.

I am very much aware that competition is fierce and that you may have to go down the route of tests/trials and possibly even a free translation in order to get your foot in the door. What I would like to know is, where to draw the line?

If it's a test, my gut feeling is that you can tell the quality of my work within 300-500 words. I've found a potential avenue, but I'm being asked to translate 60 subtitles in the space of four hours - what I failed to ask at the time was what that meant in volume.

Do you think that this is excessive or is this standard practice?

Many thanks for your help.
Séverine
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Laurent Mercky
 

Laurent Mercky
France
Local time: 04:03
Member (2019)
Chinese to French
+ ...
Not too much Jan 30

Hi

To make free trial translations is sometimes necessary or required by new clients.
However, a trial is ALWAYS very small and should not look like an entire document -- you may understand easily the reasons why.
For example, shouldn't exceed several lines or half a page or just 300 words.
If former clients request you to pass through trials again, just ask to be paid, with a lower rate of course.


Andrew Morris
Jorge Payan
Emmanuella Ozioma
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
Séverine Jan 30

Séverine Watson wrote:
I am very much aware that competition is fierce and that you may have to go down the route of tests/trials and possibly even a free translation in order to get your foot in the door. What I would like to know is, where to draw the line?


An appropriate limit for a test or a free translation is 30-60 minutes of work. This means a simple translation of about 200-300 words. For any job paid by the hour, it means... well... between half and hour and one hour's actual work.

I'm being asked to translate 60 subtitles in the space of four hours - what I failed to ask at the time was what that meant in volume.


While you may actually be able to translate 60 subtitles in 4 hours (that's 200 words per hour, if we assume 2 lines of teletext per screen), it's still 4 hours' work, which is much too long for a test. However, if you have nothing better to do, then... why not. At least you'll learn something about your limits.


Andrew Morris
Laura Kingdon
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
The needy agree to anything Jan 30

Looking for the time when (1) credentials, (2) a relevant portfolio, (3) references, and (4) a short interview will be more than enough...

Besides, why not negotiate a paid test?
A sensible direct client would be even better though.


P.S. It's quite professional to have the 'absolute bottom' when it's high time to say 'Have a nice day too' and just walk away.


Irina Levchenko
 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:03
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Free translation tests Jan 30

Be careful. Some agencies will request a "test" which is really a bidding sample for a large project. Be assured that if the sample passes,
you will not get the work.


Jorge Payan
Diana Kaplan
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
The important criteria, IMO Jan 30

Samuel Murray wrote:
An appropriate limit for a test or a free translation is 30-60 minutes of work.

Laurent Mercky wrote:
a trial is ALWAYS very small and should not look like an entire document

To which I would add that I would never agree to submit a free sample (I'd never call it a "test" but maybe that's just me ) until we'd agreed terms and conditions, at least in principle. There's no earthly point in you proving how good you are if they're only ever going to be willing to pay half your rate, or if you expect to be paid within 30 days and they never pay before 60.

As for time-critical tests, I'd want justification for that. I always guarantee not to miss a deadline -- at least, not silently -- but how I organise my time is my own affair. I certainly wouldn't agree to it for a potential job, and if they expect me to down tools and give the test top priority, they can pay my rush rate.

Do make sure you do all the necessary risk management checks before you agree to do a test or fill in an application form. Too many agencies nowadays will ask you to just fill in a form at first, then will come the request to print, sign and scan long contracts, then they'll want a free test. By that time, they're hoping you already feel "invested" in them. When the first job arrives at a poor rate, you might well think that it's "better than nothing" after all that onboarding. Resist that feeling !


Philippe Etienne
ahartje
Michele Fauble
Irina Levchenko
Rachel Waddington
Jan Truper
Buthainah Hamoud
 

Séverine Watson
France
Local time: 04:03
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
After all, nothing is free in life... Jan 30

Many thanks to you all! Your comments have ultimately bolstered what's been niggling at the back of my mind...

I have replied back to the potential customer to indicate that four hours is excessive to determine my linguistic capabilities and stated that I will handle a maximum of 300 words.

Whilst there is certainly a part of me that thinks something is better than nothing for my own sanity, I feel that a bit more hard graft on my end and seeking out my own customers m
... See more
Many thanks to you all! Your comments have ultimately bolstered what's been niggling at the back of my mind...

I have replied back to the potential customer to indicate that four hours is excessive to determine my linguistic capabilities and stated that I will handle a maximum of 300 words.

Whilst there is certainly a part of me that thinks something is better than nothing for my own sanity, I feel that a bit more hard graft on my end and seeking out my own customers may be a better bet rather than grovelling for scraps!
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Laurent Mercky
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
Dan Lucas
Mina Chen
Philip Lees
ahartje
Rachel Waddington
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Checking out: It really makes no sense, does it? Jan 30

Séverine, the very first question: WHY an experienced translator should prove the competence? followed by: HOW the agency can prove their solvency and competence too?


Ok, you wrote
I'm being asked to [do a four-hour free test]
and
After all, nothing is free in life
Still both seem alright?)


If a prospect tries to trick you right away, I'd rather find another prospect or go for a paid test.
However, if you really have got spare time and willing to practice, then it's up to you.


By the way, while volunteering might count, how do you diversify your income--rewriting, copywriting, transcreation, mentoring, consulting, interpreting, or something more real-life?


 

Laurent Mercky
France
Local time: 04:03
Member (2019)
Chinese to French
+ ...
just do as you feel Jan 30

Séverine Watson wrote:

I have replied back to the potential customer to indicate that four hours is excessive to determine my linguistic capabilities and stated that I will handle a maximum of 300 words.



Next time, you maybe could argue that you are a busy translator and you have only few time to spend for such chronophage free jobs.
Never forget, time is money.
A free trial never should exceed 15 minutes.


 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:03
Member
Italian to English
. Jan 30

.

[Edited at 2020-01-31 15:08 GMT]


DZiW
Wilsonn Perez Reyes
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
. Jan 31

.

[Edited at 2020-01-31 16:41 GMT]


DZiW
Wilsonn Perez Reyes
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:03
Member
Italian to English
. Jan 31

.

[Edited at 2020-01-31 15:09 GMT]


Wilsonn Perez Reyes
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Why care so much what other strangers think about you? Jan 31

Not long ago I was surprised that even smart statisticians simply use 2080-formula for employees
Hourly_rate = Annual_salary : (52 weeks × 5 working_days × 8 hours)
to calculate freelancers’ income, recklessly disregarding low self-esteem, PEMT, “best rates”, “fuzzy/repetition discounts”, “freebies”, “undefined working hours”, no benefits and so on.

That’s one of the reasons why most ‘averages’ polls and reports neglect the fact most freelancers are but just devaluing their own interests. Little wonder, many sincerely believe an average free*lancer really makes some $40 × 8 hours × 5 working_days × 52 weeks ≈ $81k a year gross.

In other words, an ex-employee may have really hard timers learning the freelancing ins and outs.

Businesswise, knowing the absolute bottom (minimum) is a must.
As for me, it makes about an hour or $100 equivalent. Do the math)


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
. Jan 31

.

[Edited at 2020-01-31 16:41 GMT]


Wilsonn Perez Reyes
 

Jan Truper  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:03
English to German
+ ...
... Jan 31

Séverine Watson wrote:
I've found a potential avenue, but I'm being asked to translate 60 subtitles in the space of four hours - what I failed to ask at the time was what that meant in volume.

Do you think that this is excessive or is this standard practice?

Many thanks for your help.
Séverine


Since this appears to be about subtitling, the actual number of words is pretty much irrelevant.
And a time limit on a test can be one of the tools to gauge the ability of a translator, especially in subtitling ("Can the translator work autonomously without outsourcing the job or consulting outside help? Will the translator be able to help us hit our regular production targets? Will the translator be able to help us with SNAFU jobs in cases of planning/technical/production blunders when we need to deliver subtitles yesterday?").

It all depends on whom your dealing with.
When you have ensured that it's a decent, reputable client offering good rates, fair payment practices and a steady supply of work, then a test of "60 subtitles in the space of four hours" is fine. In a normal work situation, you should be able to translate 60 subtitles in about an hour.
When it's a dubious agency that is "building up a team for potential work", then you might consider walking away.


 
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