First job: I'm scared
Thread poster: Andrea20042011

United Kingdom
French to English
Dec 31, 2015

Hello everyone

I've recently finished my postgraduate training in translation (French to English) and several months later have been contacted by an agency about some work! Exciting times!

It's a legal translation, not translating the law but providing a translation of what French legal documents say, so I guess that the final authority will always be the French documents and the Code Civil. I'm not a lawyer though I have done the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting law option and worked as a legal secretary in the past, so I have some idea of legal terminology and legalese. In my online profile that the agency saw I don't make any claims to be specialised as a legal translator. After spending ten or fifteen minutes looking at the document (I think it's around 5,000 words though some of it is repeated eg copies of letters to sign and return) I decided that I felt able to take on the job.

However I'm now terrified in case I do a substandard job and the agency is sued by their client, and then decides to sue me! And of course I want to do an adequate job and provide a useable translation for the agency and their client. I've really tried hard to put my very limited legal experience and translation training into practice and use my specialist dictionaries and online resources to the best of my ability. I have some experience of voluntary translation (including a 15,000 word report about farm management) and I was nervous about submitting that too, though more comfortable with the subject matter and purpose of the report.

I'm sorry to sound so negative but my fear of litigation is fast turning my dream of working as a translator into a nightmare. I guess I'm wondering if this is normal and what steps I could take to protect myself. I guess that the agency is responsible for the quality of translations that they send over to clients and will thoroughly check my translation and decide whether or not it is useable? I've been sick with worry over the past couple of days and really regretting taking my first step into the world of professional translation.

Thank you so much for reading



Stephanie Ev (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:02
English to French
+ ...
Every little thing is gonna be alright ! Dec 31, 2015

It's normal you feel so stressed about your first assignment. You will probably feel the same for the first ten jobs ! But then you'll settle in and things will slowly feel easier. If you can ask someone to proofread your translation before submitting it, that would be a great idea. There will most probably be room for improvement but despite some may say, nobody was perfect at first. However, it's true that the agency won't care that you're a beginner so proofread several times, have your work proofread if possible, before submitting anything. As for ways and means to protect yourself, I have to admit I don't know much about this. I think one of the main problems you may face is for the agency to not pay you... I've never had to face such issue so I couldn't advise you any further.


Teresa Borges
Local time: 21:02
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Don't panic! Dec 31, 2015

As Stephanie says it's normal to feel stress about one's first assignment and, in my opinion, in the translation world it's preferable to be underconfident than overconfident: results tend to be better, but until you gain more experience you could ask a more experienced translator to review your work...

[Edited at 2015-12-31 14:42 GMT]


Dani Karuniawan  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:02
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Self-confidence comes from long experience Dec 31, 2015

My first translation project (1996) was a textbook from a local client. She satisfied. Then, I expanded my market step by step. In 2009, I have a confidence to accept an International project. Self-confidence comes from long experience.

[Edited at 2015-12-31 14:41 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-12-31 14:41 GMT]


David GAY  Identity Verified
Dutch to French
+ ...
Proofreading Dec 31, 2015

Dear Andrea

You should have it proofread by someone.
If you like, I can check (for free) there's no major mistake.
(I'm a French native)
I wish you a happy new year
Best regards


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:02
Member (2007)
+ ...
You're clearly conscientious; is the agency? Dec 31, 2015

You seem to be approaching your first job in a very level-headed way. It's to be expected that you're a little worried about the responsibility. Just don't let that turn to panic as that's a very negative emotion. Take your time; check everything twice; only deliver when you're ready (deadline permitting). You've already had good trainng and some experience, so there's no real reason why you should fail catastrophically. Just accept that you probably won't earn much per hour for this job. I remember managing only 100-150 wph on my first few jobs, due to the ridiculous amount of time I spent researching and re-reading. But that soon changed.

Hopefully you have all the details for the invoice in writing (company name and registered address, tax no if necessary, all the job details such as rate, volume and total fee, payment method and date due). Once the terms have been agreed and authorisation to do the work has been received then the client MUST pay you for your labour. Of course, if the delivered text is totally unfit for its purpose then you might accept their demand for a 100% discount, but they have to provide proof. If a lot of work is required to fix the text, a discount of less than 50% might be appropriate. But a couple of less-than-perfect word choices don't normally call for anything other than an apology. Most of us never have to accept a discount. Nor do we get sued. So put that out of your mind.

Good luck!


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:02
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Great! Dec 31, 2015

Being affraid of messing things up is something that should never disappear, even after decades working in the profession. Self-confidence is our worst enemy. Every little detail matters, always!


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:02
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Way to go! Jan 1, 2016

We've all been there!
Take a deep breath, do your best and check it, then have your work checked if the agency doesn't.

Different people have different approaches, but I like to find the problems first.

I read the whole thing through, decide on terminlogy to get it consistent, and make notes about the sections I am uncertain about. That is when you ask the client if necessary, or get help from a colleague.
As you cut the problems down to size one by one, and deal with any surprises, you will feel calmer.
I translate from start to finish after that, and it is much more like plain sailing. Formulating can be a challenge too - even when you understand the source perfectly... but reading it all first gives your brain time to work subconsciously and turn things over 'at the back of your mind'.

After the first translation, I give the challenging sections an extra once over, and go through it all again...

Once you have sent the job off and invoiced it, move on and DON'T think about it! Just archive it where you can use it for reference if necessary.

Best of luck and happy new year!


Sarah Symons Glegorio, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
take a deep breath & protect yourself if it puts you at ease Jan 2, 2016

Congrats on the new project and for stepping out of your comfort zone! I’m sure you’ll do fine, given your background. If it’s something that really terrifies you, it may be worth looking into Errors & Omissions or personal liability insurance, for peace of mind.


Josephine Gardiner  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ask a legal specialist to review it Jan 2, 2016

Hello Andrea,
As others have said, your nervousness is perfectly understandable and a good thing because it will make you more careful.

Also, I think that once you become absorbed in the translation process, you will soon forget that it is a 'live' translation and your ability and skill will rise to the surface. It might be worth paying an experienced legal translator to review your translation when you've finished (unless you know someone who would do it as a favour) - obviously this would shrink your profit, but might be worth it for your peace of mind this first time.

All the best...


United Kingdom
French to English
Thank you! Jan 11, 2016

Hello again

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to reply to my message, it's much appreciated and very kind. You've given me plenty of food for thought.

Best wishes and thanks again



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