Test translation scam?
Thread poster: Alyssa Yorgan

Alyssa Yorgan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
Russian to English
Mar 3, 2016

Hello!

I replied to a ProZ job posting from an agency on Feb 8 for work in one of my area of specialization (IT/ software). They immediately got back to me with a "free test assignment" of ~400 words, which I did and returned to them immediately. I am confident that I returned high-quality work. They noted in the course of the email exchange that followed that the assignment "was a real one" for a new client and that they would contact me about the results of the "test" as soon as one of their editors had time to look at it. Well, that exchange was on Feb 11. On Feb 19th, I asked for an update and was told that nobody had had time to assess my translation yet, "due to the high workload of editors". This is the last I've heard.

What should I do now? After reading other forums, I am worried that they may have just scammed me into doing a free translation for one of their clients. Should I inquire again as to the status of the "test"? Do people ever post to the Blue Board about misuse of "test assignments"?

Should I reveal the name of the agency to see if others have had this experience with them, or give the agency another chance to respond first?

Alyssa


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Test scam Mar 3, 2016

Wait another week and then ask for results.
If they stonewall you, place an LWA of "1" on their proz.com page but leave it blank.
They will get the message. Then get on with your life.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:21
English to Croatian
+ ...
Blue Board Mar 3, 2016

As far as I know, you can only post on BB after a paid assignment, ie. you can't add a BB entry about an agency for which you haven't done any paid assignment.

I wonder how many agencies would keep on asking people for free tests and then disappearing off the face of the Earth, if this BB option were possible? Shall we ask for this option in "Proz.com suggestions"? If implemented, I am sure free test requests among agencies will rapidly decrease.


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AnthonyLee  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
Russian to English
+ ...
Scam Mar 3, 2016

The agency probably passed off the actual assignment as a competency test. 400 words is rather high for a test piece. Did they say it had to be done within the next hour or two? if that was the case, then, you can be sure that the test was the actual assignment.

It's best to agree to test pieces of no more than 300 words. That's anywhere between 30-40 minutes of unpaid work. Anything more should be paid. (My opinion).


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Alyssa Yorgan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
Russian to English
TOPIC STARTER
There should be a Blue Board for "test assignments" Mar 3, 2016

I like your idea, Lingua 5B!

"400 words is rather high for a test piece". I agree, Anthony B. I'm never agreeing to that substantial of a test again. Other forum posters even suggest 200 as a cap. Guess I learned my lesson!

I'm getting more convinced that this was a scam (despite this particular agency having a solid BB rating!). Maybe they're trying to cut costs by getting free work now that the ruble is in the toilet. They did seem pretty eager to get the "test assignment" back: "Please confirm the receipt of the letter and inform us when the translation will be done." I'm newish to freelancing, but it seems contradictory that they would push to get the "test" back and then not bother to have a look at it for over 3 weeks.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:21
Member (2014)
English to German
Good idea! Mar 4, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:

As far as I know, you can only post on BB after a paid assignment, ie. you can't add a BB entry about an agency for which you haven't done any paid assignment.

I wonder how many agencies would keep on asking people for free tests and then disappearing off the face of the Earth, if this BB option were possible? Shall we ask for this option in "Proz.com suggestions"? If implemented, I am sure free test requests among agencies will rapidly decrease.



There was a time when I was very happy to do test translations (now I am a bit choosier), and from a good number I heard nothing more, even after asking. So, I spend several hours on a test translation because I wanted to made sure it is good, I think the least the agency can do in return is to have it reviewed and provide feedback - that would just be polite.

On the other hand, over a year ago I did two test translations (one paid) for an agency and heard nothing more, when asked I was told that I passed it and they gave me the first job just yesterday!

[Edited at 2016-03-04 06:18 GMT]


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:21
Member
English to French
Deleted Mar 4, 2016



[Edited at 2016-03-04 07:55 GMT]


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:21
Member
English to French
What did you expect? Mar 4, 2016

Courtesy of Schweppes

If you accept to do a free test for an agency in order to have a chance to enter their books, you also accept not to ever hear from that agency again. People don't have time to spare with other people they will never work with, and civilised manners have long gone through the window.

Scam or no scam (although I don't believe it is a scam here).

AFAIC, I hardly do free generic tests to win prospects, but I can do pieces below 250 words that are related to a new project/end customer, with some caveats:
- The more paperwork, the less inclined I am to oblige.
- No strict deadline.
- I don't buy the "we'll see at the outcome of the test" when it comes to agreeing on rates. Rates and conditions are agreed beforehand, assuming the test exceeds expectations (because it will, and if it doesn't, then they'll choose somebody else).

Every time I break those rules, translating the test is a waste of time.

Doing free tests can be a way to get new business. Getting business requires investment, and sometimes the return on investment is zero. So the main thing is to invest wisely so that your average ROI is satisfactory.

I also confirm that some prospective agencies may come back to you years later and become major customers. A way to screen full-timers from temporary moonlighters?

Philippe


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xxxIlan Rubin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 01:21
Russian to English
Nothing to worry about Mar 4, 2016

Last year I did a test for an agency. It took them a month to reply that the test was fine. And since then they have given me work and always paid on time. So take it in your stride.

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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Paid tests Mar 4, 2016

I don't do free test translations anymore, past that station. As I see it, a cooperation is a 2-way street, I therefore charge my min. price for any test (max. 200 words). Only seems fair, the agency wants to know my capabilities, and I want to know theirs. Why should it only be us who have to proof themselves.

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Alyssa Yorgan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
Russian to English
TOPIC STARTER
It wasn't a "generic" test though Mar 4, 2016

I didn't agree to do a "generic test to enter the books" though. It was pitched as material for a concrete client that would result in paid translation work if successfully passed. So I do expect a reply and will be periodically checking out the end client's web site to see if my "test" ends up among their growing body of marketing material that is translated into English. The main issue here is whether or not this agency is farming out different chunks of their clients materials to translators passed off as "tests" or not. If they are, then I'm in agreement with other posters that there should be some way to take action.

I'll give it some more time and see if their editors ever get around to actually assessing the "test" as promised first though.
Philippe Etienne wrote:

Courtesy of Schweppes

If you accept to do a free test for an agency in order to have a chance to enter their books, you also accept not to ever hear from that agency again. People don't have time to spare with other people they will never work with, and civilised manners have long gone through the window.

Scam or no scam (although I don't believe it is a scam here).

AFAIC, I hardly do free generic tests to win prospects, but I can do pieces below 250 words that are related to a new project/end customer, with some caveats:
- The more paperwork, the less inclined I am to oblige.
- No strict deadline.
- I don't buy the "we'll see at the outcome of the test" when it comes to agreeing on rates. Rates and conditions are agreed beforehand, assuming the test exceeds expectations (because it will, and if it doesn't, then they'll choose somebody else).

Every time I break those rules, translating the test is a waste of time.

Doing free tests can be a way to get new business. Getting business requires investment, and sometimes the return on investment is zero. So the main thing is to invest wisely so that your average ROI is satisfactory.

I also confirm that some prospective agencies may come back to you years later and become major customers. A way to screen full-timers from temporary moonlighters?

Philippe


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:21
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Urban legend Mar 6, 2016

AnthonyLee wrote:
The agency probably passed off the actual assignment as a competency test. 400 words is rather high for a test piece.

This idea of agencies passing actual work as test translations is an urban legend for translators. No agency would work that way.

My impression is that they haven't had the chance to review the test. A test is reviewed immediately only when there is an urgent need. The fact that their editors are busy means that there are many other translators working for them already, and they only wish to grow their database with more translators in case someone is not available or workloads increase. Maybe some PM had nothing to do one particular morning and decided to run tests through a number of potential candidates just to put the working hours to some use.

[Edited at 2016-03-06 08:04 GMT]


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
My experience is to the contrary Mar 6, 2016

Alyssa Yorgan wrote:

I didn't agree to do a "generic test to enter the books" though. It was pitched as material for a concrete client that would result in paid translation work if successfully passed. So I do expect a reply and will be periodically checking out the end client's web site to see if my "test" ends up among their growing body of marketing material that is translated into English. The main issue here is whether or not this agency is farming out different chunks of their clients materials to translators passed off as "tests" or not. If they are, then I'm in agreement with other posters that there should be some way to take action.

I'll give it some more time and see if their editors ever get around to actually assessing the "test" as promised first though.


The "generic tests" I did lead to several clients that each has been assigning jobs to me on an on-going basis. These clients were the major sources of my income in the past 5 or 6 years.


I think if you are asked to do test translation on a document for a concrete client that would result in paid translation work, you are at a higher risk of wasting your time. The reason is that the client's winning of the contract depends on many factors in addition to your test. No matter how well you perform on the test the client might still fail to get the contract.

I'd rather take a "generic test" than one which is part of the potential client's bidding process.

[Edited at 2016-03-06 12:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-03-06 12:36 GMT]


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Katarzyna Slowikova  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:21
Polish to Czech
+ ...
one more story Mar 6, 2016

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
This idea of agencies passing actual work as test translations is an urban legend for translators. No agency would work that way.


May I ask what world you live in, so that I can move in?
We do have all kind of dodgy agencies in my world, unfortunately, and their creativity in making profit without any (or as little as possible) costs seems to be endless.

But @ Alyssa: I once did a test (a real test which has been handed over to prospective translators for years) for a company I know exists, is legit etc. since I was working there inhouse previously on a non-translating position. I asked after several months what happened to my test, they said they need more time..... then I asked some year after, same response.... needless to say I never asked again and they never contacted me in any way. The test is probably rotting there unchecked to these days.
So these things do happen even with otherwise respectable companies. It probably means they don't need you right now but when they will they may as well forget they already have your test and search for new translators (happened to me as well). So of course, it's not good sign for you.
And to be sure, it's pretty rude to misuse our free time in this way.

If you're assertive enough, I'd confront them with those suspicions head on.


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
What would be your response in this situation? Mar 6, 2016

The client has sent you a 400 word free test, and you are required to send back your test within the next 24 hours, and the client has honestly told you that it is part of the real job assignment by one of his clients, and you test translation will be used by the client after being edited by another linguist (who will at the same time be your grader).

[Edited at 2016-03-06 12:34 GMT]


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