Asking translators for free sample translations is a more and more common practice in the industry, but I’m not a big fan of these tests. In my opinion, they’re essentially a waste of time for all parties involved:
– I would rather spend my time working hard on the projects I am awarded rather than translating samples. There are unfortunately too many cases of outsourcers asking for samples to basically get a free translation, or without any concrete future projects in mind. That time is much better spent ensuring my very real partners get the best translations possible.
– A test simply doesn’t prove anything: the person you ask to translate a sample may outsource the work to someone else only that time, or spend time doing a good work on your sample, but not on the actual projects, etc. A translation test can help you filter out the really bad translators, but there are so many other ways to do it. In the end, you just spend some of your precious time creating and evaluating tests that won’t help you pick up the right translator.
– I am a professional translator and I am happy to share references or show you samples of my previous works. If you want to evaluate my translation and business skills directly, you can ask me to work on a small paid project. For example, if you are working on an iPhone app, I could translate the application’s description to start with. If you are selling computer hardware, I could start by translating the text that will appear on packaging or descriptions for online stores.
I love my work, I care a lot about the quality of my translations as well as my communication skills, and this is why I don’t and can’t work for free. I accept projects of all sizes however, so why not starting with a small one?