Candid talk from an ordinary freelance translator.

Dec 4, 2014

Unpaid Test

The Code of Professional Conduct and Business Practices" of the American Translators Association stipulates: "As an employer or contractor of translators and/or interpreters, ... I will not require translators or interpreters to do unpaid work for the prospect of a paid assignment." (, 2002)

I' ve done many unpaid tests in the past for various agencies and direct clients precisely because I was fairly new and desperate to get my dream career going. Most times, they yielded poor results, which in my view, is because test translation can be abused, and since everything is internet base, the abuser can easily disappear into thin air without ever admit their wrong doing. I have quite a few of my translation pieces stolen through this medium.

Having said all that, I have to also add that test translation landed me many contracts with many reputable translation agencies and even direct clients to date. If you ask me, I would say what makes the difference is elements in which you use to decide whether test translation is a good idea. For example, if you are asked to do short test translation by a reputable company(do some background check, take note of company's address, landline number, and its overall online presence) prior to a commence of a project, then in my humble opinion, go for it! On the other hand, if you are asked to do five pages translation unpaid by a client who claim he/she is from an agency but use free email account, and so much in a hurry to get the translation done.. you know where this likely to take you, right?

Test translation can be tricky at times especially when you just started your journey as a translator. Do keep in mind that, with the risk of free test abuse, test translation is consider a common practice by many. If you decide to ever go ahead with test translation, it is advisable not to exceed 250 - 300 words.

As an alternative to the test translation, you could offer your clients a sample translation (of non-confidential nature) for review. Given that the piece is in the same or related field, it should act its part as your competency representative.


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