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Test translations - how many words is acceptable to you?
Thread poster: Sarah McDowell

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:52
Member
English to French
500 words is a lot Sep 11, 2012

In my books, I shouldn't spend more than one hour all inclusive to transform a prospective agency into a customer. My success rate being likely around 1/10 or 1/20 (only select prospects who namely contacted me) whatever the screening process, investing 500-1000 euros worth of time to secure one new client is acceptable, even if the return on investment is 3 years...

I have done many free tests, and I can't remember being told that I had failed. Except a timed medical translation (
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In my books, I shouldn't spend more than one hour all inclusive to transform a prospective agency into a customer. My success rate being likely around 1/10 or 1/20 (only select prospects who namely contacted me) whatever the screening process, investing 500-1000 euros worth of time to secure one new client is acceptable, even if the return on investment is 3 years...

I have done many free tests, and I can't remember being told that I had failed. Except a timed medical translation (400 words in one hour), which I couldn't finish in time.
But at the end of the day, out of those tests, very few led to actual work.

Overall, I got far more good customers from an service offer only than from an introduction email, paperwork/form signing, supplier database self-entry and a free test.

In terms of wordcounts, I can do 250-300 words for free without moaning too much, provided that I do them in my free time, ie not constrained by a deadline. I no longer do 500 words for free, even with free time on my hands. You can do more efficient marketing during the same amount of time.

Philippe
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Alexandra Schneeuhr  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 23:52
English to Russian
+ ...
No more than 200 words for unpaid tests Sep 11, 2012

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I never do tests to be included in a database. Only for actual work that has to be assigned.


I remember happily working on all and any translation tests that came my way - after all it was fun, and I was young and had all the time in the world )). It is only when the actual workload became so heavy that I had to choose which job offers to accept and which to politely decline, I stopped doing generic tests. You know, the ones of "we want to check you language skills" type. I always refuse them now, not because I am so above it, nothing of the kind, but simply because it would be unfair to spend time on unpaid tests when I have paying clients waiting.

However, I am whole-heartedly with Phil on this one - just work it out on a case by case basis (c). If you are excited about the upcoming project (an offer from you favourite fashion magazine, a subject you have special interest in, etc.) and if you can afford it time-wise, why not give it a try?
I'd say that 150-200 words is about acceptable for an unpaid test if you have an overall good feeling about the company/customer. I think somehow that a good outsourcer wouldn't/shouldn't insist on a larger test, as it's time-consuming for you as well as for their own proofreaders/editors ))


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Do you have an "overall good feeling"? Sep 11, 2012

Alexandra Schneeuhr wrote:
I'd say that 150-200 words is about acceptable for an unpaid test if you have an overall good feeling about the company/customer.

The other possibility (apart from simple time-wasting) is that this is not actually an unpaid test: it could be an unpaid job.
I'm with others in that I wouldn't normally accept that length of unpaid test (I rarely accept them at all), but I certainly am prepared to make exceptions if I really want the job (the one they're dangling in front of me, not some "maybe" one). But I'd never be prepared to translate a text for free if I thought someone else would make financial gain from it. Unless the potential client is giving off really good vibes, I wouldn't touch it.


 

Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone! Sep 11, 2012

I am going to think this over VERY carefully. Maybe I can negotiate something with them.

-Sarah


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In memoriam
Lamp testing Sep 11, 2012

I tend to equate translation tests to testing lamps in a store.

Envision this... on a Saturday morning, a father and a teenager son walk into a self-service hardware store.

The father has a shopping list, and covers the store filling his cart with electric cables, sockets, switches, fixtures, connectors, insulating tape, you name it.

The kid sees a lot of stuff that looks boring, until he gets to the lamps rack, and sees someone testing a bulb. So he finds
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I tend to equate translation tests to testing lamps in a store.

Envision this... on a Saturday morning, a father and a teenager son walk into a self-service hardware store.

The father has a shopping list, and covers the store filling his cart with electric cables, sockets, switches, fixtures, connectors, insulating tape, you name it.

The kid sees a lot of stuff that looks boring, until he gets to the lamps rack, and sees someone testing a bulb. So he finds an amusing pastime, and proceeds to test the most varied types, to see how they look when lit.

This process may end suddenly with an accident, or when the father finally arrives there to pick, say, the five lamps he needs, and both will go to the checkout.


Now, as a translator being tested, you are like the clerk behind the "special items" counter on that store. Will you be serving the father or the teenage kid? Since this is done over the web, you can't actually 'see' them, so you'll have to guess.
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Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 21:52
Japanese to English
Based on my experience Sep 11, 2012

Sarah McDowell wrote:
Hi TransAfrique!

I am not sure about this. Actually, I thought it was an actual job but now that I read the e-mail again it doesn't say this explicitly. It just says that they are recruiting translators in my language pair. What would you understand this to mean?

-Sarah


"Recruiting translators in language pair XX" usually means "We don't have any jobs at the moment, so we're killing time jerking translators around." However, since you don't have anything else going on at the moment, you might as well go for it. As in Robert Forstag's case, I only have one experience where doing a free test led to paying work, but it was fairly lucrative work at that, so no complaints. Who knows, you might get lucky too. 500 words is too much for me, though. As Sheila suggested, it may be an unpaid job.

Others have mentioned checking to see if the agency is willing to pay your normal rates before taking the test. In my experience they usually say "Yes" until an actual job rolls around, then they either go for the cheapest translator in their database or try to lowball you, so I wouldn't put too much faith in that process.

[Edited at 2012-09-11 16:54 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-09-11 16:54 GMT]


 

564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:52
Danish to English
+ ...
Any amount I choose - from my own files Sep 12, 2012

I don't do free test translations. Period.

I think it is a terrible waste of time, and I know from experience as a full-time employee at a translation agency that it is utterly and completely unnecessary. Any professional translation agency that insists on checking the quality of potential freelancers' work will be able to do so on the basis of any work such translators submit to them. There is absolutely NO NEED for them to insist on new translators translating the agency's specifi
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I don't do free test translations. Period.

I think it is a terrible waste of time, and I know from experience as a full-time employee at a translation agency that it is utterly and completely unnecessary. Any professional translation agency that insists on checking the quality of potential freelancers' work will be able to do so on the basis of any work such translators submit to them. There is absolutely NO NEED for them to insist on new translators translating the agency's specific sample texts.

So, if an agency is genuinely interested in testing your work, offer to send them one or two texts that you have already translated. If they are professional and actually able to assess your work properly, they can do so equally well from any work you have already produced. In fact, they should be happy to receive such sample translations from you, because you will, undoubtedly, be submitting examples of what you consider to be your 'best' work.

I have assessed many sample translations from hopeful freelancers based on their own chosen texts in this way, and it is completely sufficient to get a good idea of the standard of their work.

So, once again: Why should we as professional translators work for free?
If agencies want to check my work, by all means, let them, but it will have to be at their expense (their time), not mine.
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