Can you provide samples? If you are a translator, you probably had to answer this question a lot of times. For the client is just a way of checking the quality of your work and it may seem something quite easy to get; in reality, it may be something we simply can’t provide.
Code of Ethics
As professionals, we are bonded by a Code of Ethics. The Code sets the basic principles to work professionally and ethically. Confidentiality is one of those principles. When we work on a project, all information exchanged between us and the client is confidential.
Sometimes, our translation will be in the public domain. I’m thinking about press releases, websites, news articles, etc., even so, we cannot disclose it, because we have to respect our duty of confidentiality. The information may be destined to be published but it is not our call to publish it. Also, we are not the authors, we don’t own the material, so it is easy to see we cannot do anything with it.
I’ve been asked for samples a few times. Not all clients ask, in fact, the great majority knows we cannot disclose the content of our work. But some may try. When that happens, I kindly decline to provide any samples and I explain that I can’t do it for confidentiality reasons. Most clients will accept it because they too want us to do the same with their material.
Samples we can provide
Forums like Proz.com and others may also have a section where we can provide samples. Once again, we can’t put any sample of a paid job, but we can put samples of translations we have done ourselves. For example in my case, I provided samples of articles I wrote for a private newsletter. I am the author of that newsletter and I also own the copyright for it, so I’m not in breach of our Code of Ethics and I’m still providing a sample of translations I’ve done.