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Suspecting that company asking me to do a test really had me do a genuine job without pay.
Thread poster: xxxTrine B

xxxTrine B
Local time: 15:39
English to Danish
Apr 19, 2013

Yesterday I replied to an entry - a company looking for freelancers.
I got a quick reply, asking me to do a test within 3 hours.
I replied right away, that I'd be happy to do, though I wasn't able to start before in 2 hours time, and if that would be okay?
I didn't hear anything, but did the test anyway and mailed it.
It was a report on a financial statement.
Today I got a reply - thank you, but I had not replied to the email asking me to do the test.
I wrote back that yes I did, and as the email was in my outmail, someting must have happened along the way (yeah right).
From the get go I did suspect that it wasn't actually a test, but a genuine translation, that the company didn't want to pay for.
Has this happened to anyonelse? Is it a know problem?
Or am I just being too sensitive?


 

accents_ie  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:39
English
+ ...
Free test Apr 19, 2013

Just do not do any free tests. Agree, but say that company must pay for it.
That is all you need to do.
V


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:39
German to English
No rush jobs for first-time clients Apr 19, 2013

Trine B wrote:

Yesterday I replied to an entry - a company looking for freelancers.
I got a quick reply, asking me to do a test within 3 hours.



No test is so urgent that it has to be completed in three hours. That in itself is a warning flag.
Even if this had proven to be a legitimate job, you, like so many others here on Proz, would have been saddled with rush jobs forever from the client.


 

ExScientiaVera
Faroe Islands
Local time: 14:39
Danish to English
+ ...
How many words? Apr 19, 2013

I have run into that twice before.
If it is more than 200 words, walk away.


 

Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:39
Member
French to English
+ ...
A couple of points... Apr 19, 2013

accents_ie wrote:

Just do not do any free tests. Agree, but say that company must pay for it.
That is all you need to do.
V


As a matter of principle, this tends to be my policy too; I don't do free test, except where there's a job that I'd really like to do.

In other cases, I often suggest to agencies that they pay me for the test, and if we end up getting the job, then I will credit them back with the amount; I know that's not actually much help to them — but it does weed out the time-wasters icon_wink.gif

One way to tell if it is a genuine test or a hidden translation is to know if all applicants for the same job have been given the same test to do, or different chunks making up a whole — since the average translation test length is in most cases too short to accommodate much of a real job; another clue might be to see if the document appears to be complete in itself, or if it is obviously an extract of some kind.

It's a pity we're not allowed to mention names here; otherwise, anyone getting a test to do could post "I've been asked to do a test by XYZ company, and it starts with 'Abcedef...' and ends with '...vwxyz.' Has anyone else been asked to do the same or a different test by XYZ?" — we do often find terms coming up from different askers in KudoZ revealing that several people are working on the same text, which does often indeed turn out to be a test.

In view of the restriction on posting names, and the natural desire for anonymity on the part of the testees too, I wonder if ProZ.com could consider putting in place a special forum for this?

What I'm thinking of is something along the lines of a place where a user could post into fields like 'ProZ.com job no.' 'Name of company' and 'test text', and then if any other users posted matching information, this could be processed automatically and flagged up for staff to take a human look if, for example, the same job / same company had a test with singificantly differing texts. I would have thought that the automatic filtering would be able to avoid most false positives, leaving staff with only a minimal extra workload — and that would be representing those dishonest agencies trying to get work done for free, hence catching those would (I'd have thought) be a good way to use ProZ.com resources. Staff could then send out a warning flag to all posters on that thread alerting them to the possible abuse.

How about it, ProZ.com? Are you prepared to put a little bit of time and development effort into something that would address an issue that is clearly of major concern to very many people on the site — and especially those who are perhaps most vulnerable?

This isn't one of those places where it ought to be up to the translator to take precuations and practice their own risk management — in this situation it simply isn't possible, it needs a central clearing-house resource like ProZ.com; and after all, surely ProZ.com ought to be as eager as the rest of us to weed out any dishonest elements from our community — shouldn't it??!


 

Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:39
Member
French to English
+ ...
e-mail reliability Apr 19, 2013

Trine B wrote:

Today I got a reply - thank you, but I had not replied to the email asking me to do the test.
I wrote back that yes I did, and as the email was in my outmail, someting must have happened along the way (yeah right).


Sadly, the e-mail system is very much less reliable than most of us like to think; e-mails do very often go astray — but of course, the vast majority of the time, we remain blissfully unaware of this!

So the fact that a company claims not to have received your mail cannot in and of itself really be taken as a sign of bad faith — though it might of course add to the other warning signs...


 

Jeannette Eckel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:39
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Trust your instinct Apr 19, 2013

Dear Trine,

No, I do not think you are being too sensitive; there is definitely something fishy about the incident you described. And yes, I have had to learn my lesson in that regard, too. I provided generous "test" translations and never heard of the potential customer again. So I sort of developed my own guidelines on this:

- I offer free test translations only to translation agencies and only to those that seem trustworthy (see the recommendations with regard to false job offers), for all others I offer to do a portion of the actual translation or a very short translation at the normal rate and send it to them for approval, so in case they do not like the result, the loss is limited both for me and for them.

- I refuse free test translations if:
* the text is longer than 500 words
* the text appears to be a "standalone" text (e.g. somebody once asked me to translate the summary of a book as a free "test"; I refused)
* the text appears to be a shorter concise version of a longer text that a customer has already inquired about (e.g. a law firm once first asked me for a quote to translate their entire website and much later came back with 4 pages asking me if I would offer a generous free test to win the translation of the entire website; I refused that one as well)
* there is anything even vaguely suspicious about the whole story (rush deadlines, slow communication, no full contact details at first contact)

- The ultimate test if I feel suspicious: Instead of translating their test, I offer them to send previous translations (as far as confidentiality permits) as samples, and if that is refused without a good reason or greeted with silence I know that I have just made a right decision.

My experience here - as with many things - is that is pays to rely on your instinct, and to stop being nice and understanding when your instinct is warning you. Those out there who do business honestly like yourself will understand that you have certain rules and will try to find a good trustworthy solution for both of you (any other customer is not worth winning anyway).

Hope you are not too sad about it. You will be wiser next time.

Best,
Jeannette


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:39
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nothing wrong with free tests per se Apr 19, 2013

This discussion has come up many times before and I must say that I see nothing wrong with free tests. To me it's a marketing expense and a very effective one at that.
However, I think that this particular case has flagged up some warning signs which you are right to be suspicious about in my mind.

First of all, I can understand an agency wanting to give you X amount of time to do a test, just so that they can assess your speed. However they must understand that you give priority to paid work.

Therefore, if an agency asks you upon first contact in the future to do a test with a short deadline, my advice would be to say that you are currently busy with paid work but can slot in the test on X day at X time and see what they say.

If it's a job, they won't be able to wait until the time you've determined and there you have your answer. If it's a genuine test, there'll be no problem.

A second flag to me is their comment on not receiving your email. What does it matter whether you've answered regarding the test or not? That matters for allocating a job, not a test. The point is that you've handed it in within the three hours. Again if it's a genuine test, this would be enough.

I don't see that there's much you can do about it now other than insist on receiving your test result and hope that it is positive and they end up being a good client and if not, put the whole thing down to experience.


 

Nicole Coesel  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:39
Member (2012)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Test translations Apr 19, 2013

As a rule of thumb and leaving the door open just a bit, I do two things:

* if asked (and if I have the time) I will do a free test translation for up to 250 words AFTER referring them to the portfolio on my ProZ profile (plenty of examples there)

* if they come back asking me again, I will first negociate and agree on the price for the assignment

Just the fact that you make them make an effort will rule out the not so serious onesicon_smile.gif

In my experience, if you do not follow these steps (or the like) you will find yourself doing numerous free "tests", printing and filling out countless NDA's, putting your signature and disclosing personal information, scanning and sending it back only to find out you are hired (lucky you) and the only thing left for you to do is accept their wonderful rate of around EUR 0,03.

To tell you the truth, your profile along with your resume and your application should provide them with plenty of information already.

Good luck!
Nicole.


 

Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:39
Member
French to English
+ ...
My observations Apr 19, 2013

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:

This discussion has come up many times before and I must say that I see nothing wrong with free tests. To me it's a marketing expense and a very effective one at that.



On the basis of my several years' experience, I have to say that my observation has been rather different.

Of all the free tests I have ever done, quite a large number were never even acknowledged (not even with an automated message), only a small number bothered to let me know if we'd got the job or not — and only a very tiny handful have ever led to actual work.

Of course, this could be simply because I'm a lousy translator — but I hope not icon_wink.gif

Further, all the very many customers I have who have given me work without requiring a free test have been almost unanimously satisifed with my work, and have given me repeat orders.

In some specific instances, agencies have taken the trouble to say (truthfully or not, I of course have no way of knowing) that their end customer requested a test to check style / register / mastery of the field, etc.; those cases are perhaps the most understandable. I was recently asked by an agency to do a test for an important new customer — but right from the outset, they offered to pay for the test — and it was actually a real translation job, a try-out for the main project.

In any case, I never waste my time with all those forms, NDAs, tests, etc. until I have first received confirmation from the agency that my typical rate is in line with their budget expectations — that immediately rules out around 80% of the time-wasting agencies with whom I wouldn't want to bother to do business anyway. If they are rude enough to say "Your rate is way too high!" then I am rude enought to reply "No, you're too cheapskate for me to want to deal with!"

Regarding the urgency, I do to some extent think this is understandable: in a genuine test situation, the preselection is obviously eating in to the actual translation deadline, so it's quite important to not waste any more time than strictly necessary; but as has also been said, I don't tend to go rushing after those agencies who always want everything in a rush — it just isn't possible to do quality work under those circumstances.


 

xxxTrine B
Local time: 15:39
English to Danish
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all of you! Apr 19, 2013

Yes, I guess I better put this down to "an expensive lesson"icon_smile.gif.

For me too, the warning flags were
a) the fact that it clearly was a full text - a letter, starting with a header, ending with a signature.
b) if one is looking for more than one freelancer "long term collaboration", it really shouldn't matter if I start the test now, or in two hours.
And after the fact:
c) if my email really didn't reach him, but the test did, I isn't much of a reason to turn me down for a potential job. I might not have seen the email.
The excuse that "yes, I received the important part, that is the test, BUT I did not recieve and email saying that you would do it".

Thank for all your advice.
I appreciate it very much. As I actually do quite a bit of work locally, I haven't had much opportunity to practise "the proz-world".

So thank you!


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:39
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
@ Jeanette re. standalone texts Apr 19, 2013

Jeannette Eckel wrote:

* the text appears to be a "standalone" text (e.g. somebody once asked me to translate the summary of a book as a free "test"; I refused)


I'm not sure that you can really determine anything from that alone. A standalone text might just as easily be a short job they happened to have come in that day, and something that is obviously a section of a larger text could also be an attempt to get a free translation. I think the latter happens relatively rarely, because it would just be too difficult to pull off in terms of putting an entire free translation together on time from assembled tests. On the other hand, I can imagine a scenario where an unscrupulous agency would take advantage of the possibility to get 500 or 1000 words of a large translation done for free by a good translator, even if they have to pay someone else (who is much cheaper) for the rest of it.

I don't generally do free tests anymore, but I've previously run into scenarios where a reputable agency has sent a longer, obviously dated text and simply asked me to pick whatever section of ca. xxx words appeals to me and translate it as a test, with no time limit. Offhand, there's nothing untoward in that.


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:39
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
@Tony Apr 19, 2013

It's certainly not that you're a lousy translator!! There are LOADS of agencies out there who don't reply regarding tests and even those who reply to say you've passed and subsequently never give you work. I've even had agencies pay me for a test, tell me I've passed and never give me work (I've never been able to fathom the point of that exercise).
I think that it's just a case of there being so many agencies out there that it's the luck of the draw sometimes. I have, like you, found that those agencies whose application process provides more workload than the average translation are generally those with rates at the lower end of the scale so I 100% agree about establishing rates at the outset. There's nothing worse than going through a whole load of effort only to be haggled with as though the agency were trying to buy a souvenir in a souk.

I have found though on the whole that the value of the clients I have acquired through free tests makes up for the ones that don't reply.

However, my theorem is that when you're starting out and don't have much paid work, doing a free test is a better use of your time than doing nothing, with this type of marketing activity probably being able to gradually be phased out over the course of your career as your experience becomes more marketable.

I still remember when free tests and weekend jobs were the things that got my foot in the door when I was starting out so I hesitate to knock them per se.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:39
English to Polish
+ ...
... Apr 19, 2013

We have already agreed with Marie-Helene in a different thread about the same subject lately. Normally, one would need to pay for the opportunity to show off professional skills or qualifications. Free tests are at least at zero in the strictest monetary sense.

Free tests also have a screening purpose for a translator, contrary to their design. Throughout the testing procedure you get to see some corporate culture, see how polite the correspondence is, whether people respond in reasonable time-frames or not, do they answer all of your inquiries or just some or none, is there anything else worrying, and finally you get a sample of their proofing and review procedure.

For example, a while ago a widely known agency some time ago told me the work did not meet their expectations but refused to show me the sheet, on the grounds of lack of time for that type of thing, and thanked me for participating in the recruitment. I promptly informed the lady that if she had the time to look me up on message boards and follow up with an offer, then 1) they had plenty of time, 2) I certainly was not an eager candidate they were unable to accommodate but rather I was someone whom they'd pursued in the first place. I did not appreciate that, or the long delay in communication.

A different case: a proofreader did not mark anything wrong other than a single legal term he or she changed into a badly matched colloquial description ("landfill" instead of a specialised communal waste disposal/storage location), in which he or she made a spelling error. Otherwise it was playing around with sorta-stylistic matters like the subjunctive without really having an organised idea about it. That happened in a celebrity agency with one of the most famous, recognisable names in the country. The re-evaluation consisted in sending the text again to the same reviewer, who did not change anything. I refused to work for them in the pair in which they'd not rejected me.

There was once a boutique translation agency that ran a test rather than a sample translation. I argued with the native speaker about the grammar and other rules and ultimately heard that the client was always right. I complained with the management and got a vague answer.

In none of the above cases would I've been able to have peace of mind working for them. Bad proofing, bad review procedures, and what if a client came with a DIY proof sheet and demanded a discount?

A different situation involved samples with errors in them. Some agencies do that on purpose, elsewhere it's just an oversight, and you never really know. I know I was really upset when in one situation mistakes were combined with some poor formatting that was expected to be kept or copied unaltered. Whatever they had in mind. Sent it back, told them I was not interested in working with them anyway. They replied the result was negative anyway. Whatever.

I've also had some tests required by agency clients with bad proofreading or reviewing, where the agency was on my side or avoided making assumptions. I've typically reacted by explaining my decisions, explaining why the proofing or reviewing was bad, and stipulating that I don't want to work for that client unless the client changes the proofreader or reviewer on the client's side. Without the tests, I might have failed to avoid a problem client with a heightened risk of ignorant after-sale follow-ups.

Bottom line: Test procedures test agencies too. Your prospective agency failed the test.

[Edited at 2013-04-19 14:47 GMT]

As for burdensome test procedures, they sometimes bring in large, responsible work. One of the recent years, a half of my income for that year tracked back to a very long and hard test I did free of charge or for a half fee. I don't remember. But just see how much you potentially stand to lose in turning down free or discounted tests.

Oh, and if you're concerned that your rejected translation could be used somewhere, you can google it up later after some weeks or months. If it's online, it's going to be indexed. You could probably press criminal changes at that point, apart from copyrights. To prevent such a situation you could say, okay, the test can be free if it must but I want a guarantee that it won't be used anywhere.

[Edited at 2013-04-19 14:53 GMT]


 

Alina Cincan
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:39
We don't believe in test translations Jul 10, 2013

Like many of you here said, free test translations are sometimes a means of getting a free project done (and there are unscrupulous agencies or outsourcers out there who would do that). As an agency, we don't believe they bring any value and we have just published an article on our blog detailing why we do not use them. You are welcome to contribute with your views http://inboxtranslation.com/blog/translation-tests-dont/

Certainly, there are cases where the client may ask for a sample translation for a big project. First and foremost, it is the agency's responsibility to match the requirements of the respective job with the most suitable translator. Yes, the translator may be asked to do a test, but it should be paid. If the project goes ahead, the sum paid for the test can be deducted out of the total.

As for testing potential translators by asking them to pass a translation test, it makes sense if it is an in-house position and the test is done at the client's (agency's) premises. Sending the test over by email does not guarantee you that person will not outsource.


 
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