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Marketing Translations in a Way That Doesn’t Work for Everybody

Imagine that you are a translation buyer looking for a translator. After you find a candidate, you ask them to provide samples of their previous work for other clients as you want to make sure this candidate meets your expectations. But the candidate refuses to provide samples since everything they translated is subject to confidentiality agreements. You say, “No problem, will you do a free sample translation for me then?” The answer is again no because this is against the candidate’s policy. We recently had a couple of similar situations when a candidate just sent their CV, but refused to provide any sort of samples. In this post, I’d like to share a few thoughts about when this type of marketing works and doesn’t work.

Translation Vendor Selection Risks

Let’s take a brief look at how we select freelance translators. First, we consider their CV. Next, we ask for multiple samples of previous work. The next step is offering a translation project as a test. But instead of asking to complete a very short translation as a free sample, we prefer to send a larger project and ask a candidate to provide a small discount representing a “free sample.” For example, if we send five pages for translation, we may suggest paying for four pages and getting one for free as a “sample.” We like this approach because it reduces risks for us as a buyer. And a candidate is happier, too, because they actually get paid for several pages instead of completing a short translation entirely for free, which is often the case with the sourcing process at other translation agencies.

Now, if a candidate doesn’t provide any samples at all, it means we take 100% of the risk. As a potential buyer, this is a risk we aren’t comfortable with. We don’t want it even though we are a single-language translation company that has in-house resources to see whether a sample translation is good or bad almost immediately. For a translation services company that doesn’t have the same resources, the risk is even worse. They have to engage another linguist to revise a sample translation and end up paying for both the translation and review. Given that most candidates don’t pass the sourcing process, this is just too much for any agency to pay.


While I respect the marketing philosophy and self-esteem of translators who market themselves in this way, I’m not sure if this kind of marketing is right for all of us. What are some of the potential drawbacks of their approach?

  1. A renowned expert on sales Brian Tracy says that today, an business spends $250 on average to acquire a new customer. Finding customers is getting tougher with each day. If you don’t want to invest in your relationship with a prospect, how are you going to get clients in this day and age?
  2. One of the main goals in marketing is to get a prospect’s interest and make them willing to receive more information. If you don’t offer important information that a prospect needs to consider your services and make an informed decision, it means something is inherently wrong with your marketing strategy.
  3. If you aren’t prepared to provide any sample whether it’s a giveaway or not, a prospect is likely to feel insecure and want to look elsewhere. If your competition is limited, then you might be fine because there just won’t be much “elsewhere.” But I don’t think this is the case with translation industry—it’s just too competitive, and a typical prospect can’t tell a difference between a translator with an X rate and someone with a 5X rate.
  4. The best marketing word has always been “free,” but these folks miss on the opportunity to benefit from it. Better yet, a giveaway in the form of a free sample translation isn’t just a great marketing tool, but is also an excellent way to save time and avoid frustration for both sides of the deal. It gives your prospect a “preview” of what they might expect. If they don’t like it, they can end the relationship immediately. And it’s way, way better than if they find they’re unhappy with the quality of your work only after you deliver a large translation.


Marketing translations without any samples of your work may be good for folks that have a truly unique value proposition. They can choose among dozens of prospective clients. It’s they who do the choosing, not their clients. If you don’t fall into this category, you want to pursue a more traditional marketing strategy that relies on some sort of translation samples.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.