The 'Sample Translation' Catch-22: How To Avoid Being Exploited

September 8, 2014
The 'Sample Translation' Catch-22: How To Avoid Being Exploited

Sample translations and test translations are a tricky area for professional translators. 

While a reputable professional translation agency should be happy to pay for sample translations, in recognition of the value of the translator’s time, sadly many still ask translators to undertake sample or test translations for free. 

A worthwhile investment?

It can be hard to know whether or not undertaking unpaid sample translations is worthwhile. On the one hand, they may lead to more work, and therefore more income. On the other hand, spending time on test translations reduces the amount of time you have to complete your paid work. 

Some translators seek to avoid the need to undertake sample translations by providing snippets of documents that they have translated on their websites. However, many companies have a policy of wanting the translator to complete a sample that they allocate and will not accept pre-translated copy. 

Set your own limits

A good approach to sample translations is to set your own limits as to how much text you are prepared to translate for free. You know the value of your own time, so weigh that up against the potential reward of undertaking sample translations and work out how much time you are prepared to commit to the tests. 

While flexibility will no doubt be required on occasion, try to stick to your limit where possible. Usually around 100 words is a reasonable amount to undertake without payment. 

Beware those demanding long samples

Be wary of companies that demand long samples of text to be translated for free. 

Sadly some unscrupulous translation companies reach out to translators with the promise of a big project in order to get them to undertake ‘test’ translations. However, these translations are actually small jobs that the translation agency is charging customers for, but hopes to get translated for free by using the test scam.

Trust your instincts when it comes to approaches from agencies and be sure to look them up on the internet before undertaking any tests. 

Reputable companies will have a strong web presence and it should be possible to find reviews of them to reassure you. One excellent resource is the Blue Board on Proz, which provides translation company ratings for your peace of mind. 

A note of caution

Bear in mind that a company that is demanding and awkward regarding sample translations or test translations is likely to be just as difficult should you proceed to actual employment with them. So listen to your misgivings and let your instinct be your guide when it comes to providing sample and test translations. 

There are companies out there that will respect your time commitment and pay for samples, so why not invest time tracking down those companies instead of spending it on unpaid samples?

Have your experiences of providing sample translations been positive or negative? Let us know by leaving a comment in the box. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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