From A.R.: Some direct clients and agencies ask me to do a trial translation, but rarely get back to me. Should I ask them for the result?
The Translator’s Aunt: Dear A.R., a lot of agencies will indeed ask for a test translation, this is part of their standard hiring procedure, and personally, I have always done them in the past but set a limit of about 300 words. If you don’t jump through this hoop, the agency is unlikely to consider your application. They should however always get back to you, even if it’s just to let you know whether or not you’ve passed.
If you don’t hear from them at all, email each week asking for their answer. You’ve taken time out of your day to do a test translation so it’s the least they can do. If the answer is negative, I believe that you should always get feedback from agencies so that you can understand where you went wrong and improve upon it next time. There’s no harm in failing as long as we have an opportunity to grow and learn from our mistakes each time.
As for direct clients, my view is that you can be the one to offer a free, short translation, of their home page for example, to get them to consider using your services, but that they should not be the ones asking you to do a sample translation for free. If you’re hiring a home decorator, you don’t ask them to paint one wall for free to see if you like their work, do you? If direct clients want a sample of your work, simply have a few examples of your previous translations ready to show them.