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Is there an accepted length for samples to translate?
Thread poster: Alexandre Chetrite

Alexandre Chetrite
France
Local time: 14:47
English to French
Mar 25, 2014

Hi,

I have a potential customer who is asking me to translate 2 documents, each about 600 words long. Should I accept? I feel that translating 4 full pages of text is a little excessive as a sample.

How can I negotiate with this customer please?

Also: another off-topic question but important nevertheless: have you ever applied a different pricing to a customer some months after the initial translation and if yes how to negotiate with the customer without him or her leaving you (worst scenario)?

For example: I announce a specific price per word for the first translations which is lower than my standard rate.

A few months after, feeling more confortable with the customer, I feel like raising my rate a little. But the client may as well refuse and leave me (worst scenario).

Regards,


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
No way! Mar 25, 2014

If they're asking you to do 1,200 words for free, they're either very naive, or they're cynically exploiting you. A few paragraphs are enough to tell whether you're any good or not.

In answer to your second question, no, it's not good customer relations to increase your prices after a few months. You should decide what you want to earn long-term, and then charge that rate from day one.



[Edited at 2014-03-25 17:55 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:47
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Lay the rules down the first time Mar 25, 2014

I second philgoddard's opinion.

1,200 words is way too long for a test. Don't let yourself be taken advantage of.

As regards increasing your rates with an existing client, it is of course possible. Some translators do it annually or every two or three years. But you should not count on doing it right after you've delivered your first project. Better insist on your rates from the start and stick to them.


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
200 - 300 Mar 25, 2014

...seems to be standard practice for test translations. I never accept more than 300.

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Giovanna Alessandra Meloni  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:47
Member (2012)
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
no more than 300 Mar 25, 2014

A 1,2000 test is too long, it seems an "easy" way to have a translation for free.

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María González, M.A. ForLang
Spain
Local time: 13:47
English to Spanish
No and no! Mar 25, 2014

Question no. 1: Anything over 400 source words is not a test, but an assignment. Kindly decline to do it, or else let the client know that, in order to demonstrate your competence, you'll be glad to just translate the first few hundred words.

Question no.2: If you try to please clients with an introductory offer or discount, most of them will leave you - regardless of your good work - the minute you intend to charge a higher rate. That's not the type of client I'd go after. As you've been told above, rates must be determined by a number of factors, one of them (and not an irrelevant one) being the cost of living in your country of residence.

Best,

Maria


[Editado a las 2014-03-25 17:59 GMT]


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:47
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
No more than 200 Mar 25, 2014

But why doing them at all? You pass your exam, you get in their database and that, in the most cases, is it!

When I am asked to do a 'test', I send the agency the following answer:

'With all due respect, I don't do free test translations anymore. Sorry, but I passed that stage. The reasons are quite simple, the returns are too few and I simply haven't got the time for it. For this purpose I published 3 example translations on my website, one of each language combination I am working in.'

I do understand that starting translators are eager to find clients (to avoid this subject), so they do make them, but why not getting paid for it?

I mean, we are talking a two way street here! The client wants to know your skills and I want to know if they are good clients. So, I am willing to do a 'test' if they are willing to pay me my minimum rate!

Brings me to the second point: raise your price or not?

Of course, raise it, I did or I was still working for €0.05 a word, but do it on a proper moment, like the beginning of a new year, and maybe not for everybody. If one agency is responsible for a substantial part of your yearly income, give them some courtesy.

That is the way I think about it (and of course in my situation).


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:47
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
About first-job discounts Mar 25, 2014

You've already got the "up to 300 words" message.
Alexandre Chetrite wrote:
I announce a specific price per word for the first translations which is lower than my standard rate.

I don't normally give first-job discounts but I have done it on occasions. But each time I made sure that the client knew my standard per-word rate, and I kept reminding him of that. The invoice showed a total as per my standard rate for the job, followed by a discount (percentage or per-word reduction) labelled as a one-off, non-repeatable offer, giving the lower total to be paid.

Just look at it from the client's viewpoint: always good to be given a discount; never good to be strung along thinking in terms of N amount, only to find it's actually N+. We all know that from restaurants that don't follow local accepted practice of including tax, etc. You get a nasty surprise at bill time, you don't go back, even though maybe the bill total is actually quite acceptable and you'd have paid it happily enough had you expected it.

I would never quote one rate for a (first or any other) job and then try to raise it for the next. I do raise my rates occasionally, of course, but I always give clients notice (a month or more) and I accept there's a risk associated with it. It follows that I don't raise my rate for all clients at the same time. I do quite often quote a slightly higher rate for new clients: low-payers, move over - there are higher payers coming through!


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:47
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
200 - 250 Mar 26, 2014

If the test is unpaid, then the maximum of words to be translated as a test is 250 words. This is, of course, aside from the fact that nobody (or hardly anybody) provides free samples. Imagine going into a bakery and asking the sales person for a few free samples before you decide with bread or cake you will buy. And it is no different in our profession. Therefore, a translator is under no obligation whatsoever to agree to an unpaid test of any length.

The only exception to the rule might (and I do mean "might") be a new translator with no professional experience. And even for someone fresh from university an unpaid test should not exceed 250 words.

Like Sheila, I sometimes offer what I call the new-client-discount for the very first project. And I do ensure that the client knows that this discount - granted solely at my own descretion - is a one-time benefit.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:47
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Your work is just as valuable as anyone else's Mar 26, 2014

You are not employed in an office where you start as the message boy/girl and work your way up. It is a complete misunderstanding to think you start cheap and raise your prices. Don't let clients get away with it, because often they won't go along with price rises! They will just look for another rookie to exploit. If you have to work at beginners' rates, move on as soon as you can.

Don't tell clients you are a beginner in so many words. They may guess, but if you look professional they may not make a big deal of it.
You ARE a qualified professional, and if you take on work, clients can expect you to deliver full value.

They can't use translations of contracts, instructions for operating machines, or most other texts, unless they are fully accurate and fit for purpose. That is what they are asking for, so that is what they must pay for. Who translated it is less important.

It is absolutely legitimate to say 'Sorry, I am not qualified for this job,' and perhaps recommend a colleague who is, if you are asked to take on anything where you are out of your depth. That is advisable in any profession. Good clients respect you for it and come back when they have something in your field.

I find there are times when a test is in order - but you should not do more than an hour's work for free.

That is how the freelance market works - and if you want more pay, you have to find better clients, work faster, or move into more lucrative specialist areas.

Happy translating and best of luck!

[Edited at 2014-03-26 15:04 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:47
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Why I do short, unpaid tests Mar 26, 2014

Thayenga wrote:
If the test is unpaid, then the maximum of words to be translated as a test is 250 words. This is, of course, aside from the fact that nobody (or hardly anybody) provides free samples. Imagine going into a bakery and asking the sales person for a few free samples before you decide with bread or cake you will buy. And it is no different in our profession. Therefore, a translator is under no obligation whatsoever to agree to an unpaid test of any length.

I don't feel under any obligation - I can always say "no". But I think there is a place for it, over and above testing beginners. I can imagine one instance might be if a text is very technical, with specialised jargon. A translator may claim to be able to handle it, but are they really?

The other case is my area: marketing, or what's called transcreation. This is an area where every one of us is capable of translating the source words, as it will normally be a text that any translator with good knowledge of the source language will understand. But will their handling of the text really be appropriate? This is an area where there is no "correct" translation, just ones that are more, or less, appealing to the target audience. A too-literal translation may convey the words perfectly, but bore the readers to death. The translation may be suitable for older readers but aimed at younger ones; or full of variant-specific idioms when aimed at an international readership. It makes sense for a client to want to compare two or three pre-qualified translators if they have a clear idea of what they're looking for.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:47
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Dubious rationale Mar 26, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:
The other case is my area: marketing, or what's called transcreation. This is an area where every one of us is capable of translating the source words, as it will normally be a text that any translator with good knowledge of the source language will understand. But will their handling of the text really be appropriate? This is an area where there is no "correct" translation, just ones that are more, or less, appealing to the target audience. A too-literal translation may convey the words perfectly, but bore the readers to death. The translation may be suitable for older readers but aimed at younger ones; or full of variant-specific idioms when aimed at an international readership. It makes sense for a client to want to compare two or three pre-qualified translators if they have a clear idea of what they're looking for.


You're right, Sheila. That's what tests are for -- to make sure you're the right person for the job. But that doesn't mean they must be unpaid.

[Edited at 2014-03-26 14:59 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:47
English to Polish
+ ...
three hundred, yeah Mar 27, 2014

Five hundred happens too but is rather long on the scale.

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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:47
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Testing budget Apr 23, 2014

I just received a similar request. 708 words. Not for a particular project but a general view to potential collaboration. I wasn't addressed by name either, so this probably went out to many.

I asked to either reduce the word count to below 200 words or confirm it as a paid assignment. Response: Sorry, we don't have a budget for tests.

Nor do I. I will do them at times, if they are of a reasonable volume and relevant. But there certainly isn't a budget for X amount of hours of free work a week.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:47
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
How much do you want this business? Apr 24, 2014

Alexandre Chetrite wrote:
I have a potential customer who is asking me to translate 2 documents, each about 600 words long. Should I accept? I feel that translating 4 full pages of text is a little excessive as a sample.
How can I negotiate with this customer please?

I am constantly amazed that translators presume to dictate to a potential customer how long a test translation should be. What matters is how much you want this business and whether you are prepared to invest the time and effort to get it. Remember you are not just a translator – you are also a business person and lneed to ook at this situation from a business perspective, not a translator's often unbusinesslike approach.

By all means get in touch with the customer to negotiate and point out that 300 words are normally regarded as sufficient. Then it is up to you to decide whether to translate 1,200 words. Bear in mind that that quantity of words will give your customer a better view of your skills, and that the people who advise you to limit the length are your competitors as well as your colleagues. Do what is best for you, not for them.


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