Should you say "Yes" to a free German to English translation to test your translation skills?
This is a fairly common request. It normally comes up when a
potential client wants to be sure that the German translator can do the
job before being officially instructed. Although you wouldn’t expect a
plumber/doctor/taxi driver to meekly agree to an unpaid test
installation/examination/journey, somehow translation is regarded
It’s “just translating”.
However, seen from the view
of the outsourcer, your potential client, why should they spend
potentially significant sums if they have no guarantee that the
translation you’ll provide meets professional standards? They want to
avoid wasting time and money getting your text redone.
So, when asked, your answer is....JEIN! ("JA" and "NEIN" – i.e. "yes" and "no"!)
As so often, it depends.
Reasons to say "Yes"
You may agree to a free German to English translation test when you:
Have heard of the client or outsourcer (agency) and are confident they can genuinely assess your translation abilities.
Are only asked to translate a maximum of one paragraph of text.
Are fairly sure that a good job done will lead to repeat business,
making your initial investment in time and effort worthwhile.
Can’t provide a sample translation in that particular subject area but are confident of being able to do a good job.
Have carried out some research on the client (web searches, translator
communities) and find no reports of them treating translators unfairly.
Reasons to (politely) say "No"
On the other hand, you might REFUSE to provide a free German to English translation where:
The potential job is too small to warrant the initial input.
You deem it unlikely that the job will lead to future work.
The test piece is a significant length – this indicates a lack of understanding about the work involved in translation.
The outsourcer is making the request of several translators
simultaneously, significantly reducing the likelihood of you becoming
the chosen German translator.
You can already supply sample
translations in that particular subject area (remember to ensure client
anonymity by blanking out removing names/figures where necessary).
Your CV clearly states that you have experience in the field in question
and/or you can supply references from satisfied clients.
A cautionary note...
I’ve occasionally come across forum discussions on translator community
websites warning about outsourcers who attempt to obtain a German to
English translation free by asking several translators to provide
Each translator is sent a separate section of
the original text as the outsourcer attempts to get the entire text
translated free of charge. Luckily active discussion amongst the
translator community makes this sort of practice increasingly rare.
An important exception!
If the idea of a free German to English translation comes from you!
This is a really good way of showing a potential, direct client that you can really help their business by providing quality translations.
Limit the offer to 5-6 paragraphs, examine the company literature/website for a text which has either been badly translated, or not translated at all, and show what you can do.
This is putting your money where your mouth is, and a good sign of your determination to do a good job.
Go get that client!
You may want to consider offering a special reduced rate for a first
translation. But bearing in mind that it’s always harder to put your
prices up than to reduce them (!), the terms of any such offer have to
be clearly spelt out.
Give your standard line or word rate and then
offer a once-off discount, as a percentage. You might want to specify a
maximum text length too.
This solution indicates that both sides are
interested in entering a professional partnership.
hope this gives you a little food for thought and helps prepare you for
the inevitable free German to English translation request!
a German to English
translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts
into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their
stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business
and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly
and effectively. How can I help you today?
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