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Proving Oneself

Last year, I was contacted via email by two very different potential clients:

– Company A

"I was wondering if you'd be interested in an English into Catalan translation project. The word count is somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words. I'd like to have you perform the job given your credentials. This is not quite the usual job, which is why we look for highly specialized professionals."

– Company B

"I'm glad to inform you that your resume has passed the initial screening stage. As a next step, we require you to take two sample tests. You'll need to submit the tests within two business days. In case we find that the translation has been derived from MT, we will disregard your candidature."

While Company A sees me as an ideal candidate, Company B is asking me to prove myself.

Company A accepted my rate and gave me the job. This is the feedback I got:

"That was very good. Thank you for following the instructions and making it so easy!"

It took me two hours to perform the job for Company A. Not only did I get paid soon after, but I've continued to collaborate with that client.

Meanwhile, I never heard back from Company B. I know they wouldn't answer the following:

"I'm afraid that I'll have to refuse to take the tests. If needed, I can provide references that will verify my credentials. While I understand that it's your company's policy to take a small test, you should consider testing only inexperienced translators."

The tests that Company B asked me to do were also somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words in total. However, I don't take unpaid translation tests, especially if they have more than 300 words and a due date. That, in my opinion, is a huge red flag. Is the company trying to get people to work for free?

"We can't pay you for your first job. But if you do it well, we'll give you paid work in the future – And please make sure to have it ready by the due date!" Would you ask a plumber to do their job for free the first time to prove themselves on the condition that you'll pay them for future jobs?

MORE: To Test Or Not To Test

I would never work for a client like Company B. Considering their policy and remarks about machine translation, it's evident that they don't trust their potential vendors. If someone has decided beforehand that they don't trust you, why would you invest your time and energy to convince them otherwise?

Just like we've come across clients who are actually scammers, I understand that clients may run into translators who have misrepresented themselves. The risk factor is always there for both parties. Yet, there must be a trust factor as well.

READ: Managing Professional Relationships

It can be risky to assign a project to a stranger. If the work is not well done and on time, it could lead to the loss of a client. But aren't we all taking chances? Unless we charge in advance, vendors risk not getting paid after completing a project.

I'm not entirely against translation tests, but I believe they only make sense when the translator has little to no experience in a specific field. I also think that, unless you've agreed to work pro bono, people must be paid for their time. That's why I don't support free translation tests.


In the words of Liz Ryan, "Some companies don't deserve your talents because they just don't value them."

Clients have several ways to verify their vendors' credentials. Besides asking us for references, they can also search the Internet for evidence. Is it a coincidence that my best clients are the ones that never tested me?

Because my best clients chose to trust me beforehand, I've been giving them my best. That's why they continue to rely on me. That's how I prove myself!


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