Rates for legal & financial translation?
Thread poster: Anna Fredén

Anna Fredén  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:48
Member (2016)
French to Swedish
+ ...
Sep 21, 2017

Hello everyone,

Those of you who specialize in the legal or financial area, how much more are you usually able to charge for this, compared to less specialized translation jobs?

No need to specify your rates, of course, just give me a percentage.

I'm thinking about specializing in these fields and even trying to become an "authorized" translator in my country, but only for money issues since I'm not actually that interested in law. Authorization requires both legal and financial specialization, so I need to figure out if it's worth all the studying.

/Anna


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:48
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What do you WANT to do? Sep 21, 2017

Anna Fredén wrote:
I'm thinking about specializing in these fields and even trying to become an "authorized" translator in my country, but only for money issues since I'm not actually that interested in law. Authorization requires both legal and financial specialization, so I need to figure out if it's worth all the studying.

If you aren't particularly interested in law or finance, won't there be others who are passionate about those sectors (or at least very interested in them) who will be able to outshine you, if only in their enthusiastic marketing? Meanwhile, you'll be spending maybe 30 hours a week for the next 30 years translating texts that don't particularly interest you.

Those of you who specialize in the legal or financial area, how much more are you usually able to charge for this, compared to less specialized translation jobs?

Bear in mind that many legal and financial texts aren't considered to be particularly specialised by many agencies and many translators. A contract is a contract is a contract, after all. Are they really that well-paid? I don't know as I never touch either sector if I can help it, although regular clients do sometimes get me to. I suspect that the majority of the work doesn't pay much better than the average market rate for 'general' translations. The high rates will likely be reserved for those texts to be used in situations where accuracy is worth paying for, by clients who realise that you do actually have to pay more for quality.

I'm wondering why you've been specialising so far in sports texts. Is it simply that the work you were offered was in the sports sector (which is a valid reason), or do you have a real interest in that area? If it really interests you, you already seem to have a solid background in it, plus a great reference from a well-known client. Maybe you'll find clients that will pay handsomely for top-quality sports translations in your pairs - that's certainly been my experience. I also find the same to be true in the marketing and even the tourism sectors. Yes, there are vast numbers of clients wanting tourism translations for peanuts, but there are others who are appalled by the general quality of tourism translations and are happy to pay more for polished ones.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
What Sheila said Sep 21, 2017

Do what you enjoy, Anna.

Translating out of Swedish, there is no premium for translating law or finance if you work with agencies. Every Tom, Dick and Sven claim they can do contracts and accounts.

That said, if you really know your stuff and can find direct clients that need quality, you can charge a lot more. But they can be hard to find.


 

Anna Fredén  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:48
Member (2016)
French to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Fun or well-paid and in demand, that's the question Sep 21, 2017

Thanks for your replies, Sheila and Chris.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
A contract is a contract is a contract, after all. Are they really that well-paid?


Well, that is what I'm trying to find out icon_smile.gif If I was to have an important contract involving large sums of money translated, I would be quite keen to have the job done correctly.

What I want to do? I'd love to go all-in on subtitling, if it wasn't so badly paid compared to other forms of translation (at least in Swedish). I started specializing in sports because that work was offered to me, and continued because I liked it and because I keep getting work in it. Sometimes you only start liking a subject once you learn more about it, I am hoping that this would be my case with law. I think in choosing a specialization, I cannot only consider what I think is most fun, but also what the market looks like. That's why I started this thread.

Chris, you have specialized in economics/finance (an area which I do actually find interesting, more so than law). Do I understand your comment correctly that you chose this out of personal interest, and not for higher pay? Or was it because you saw a demand for it? Do you think that you would be equally well off (financially) translating, say, tourist information?


 

David GAY  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
I don't agree Sep 21, 2017

Chris S wrote:

Translating out of Swedish, there is no premium for translating law or finance if you work with agencies. Every Tom, Dick and Sven claim they can do contracts and accounts.


If you think there's no premium for finance or legal, I think you don't know how low rates can
be for general translation even for languages like English, German and Dutch: some agencies offer rates as low as 0.03-0.04 euro.It's true that if you translate for non specialized agencies, it will be difficult to claim a premium compared to technical translations (engineering). But technical translation
is not what you would call general translation. If you work for upscale agencies specialized in legal and financial translation, you may get rates above 0.1 euro. (the kind of rates you'll never get from
other agencies). But it's not always a good deal because sentences can be very complicated so it's more difficult to translate. It may be more time-consuming in some instances. You have to keep in mind that you hourly earnings are the hourly rate* number of words you can translate in 1 hour.
Your hourly rate may be higher but it's partially offset by the fact that your turnaround is adversely affected. On the other hand, I think it's good to be on the higher segments because MT is unable yet to translate highly complex sentences. If you don't manage to get a significant premium, I think it's pointless to translate financial and legal documents.

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Phyllis Elago  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:48
French to English
+ ...
There is a premium for law/finance but it depends on the customer Sep 21, 2017

Hi Anna,

I specialise in law & finance, and in my experience, there is a premium even from agencies. It really depends on the actual nature of the agency's business, who their clients are and how they cultivate their customer relationships. For example, my highest paying agency client has a magic circle law firm as its end client, and when I am on a job for this client, the PM even pays me more than the (already high) rate I have entered in the database because neither she nor her client apparently care about money. I don't ask her to do this, she just automatically always gives me the most that she is able to. I am guessing she does this because the client is so important for them that it's more important that I am happy so that I do a very careful and good job.

And law is not just contracts and accounts. Opinions, judgments and pleadings are often really difficult because they need prior legal research of what is going on in the two jurisdictions before you can make certain translation decisions. These cross-border matters are not always so well-defined, they are still in their process and being worked out in the real world, so as a translator, you are often having to deal with what is a quite messy reality but still have to produce feasible solutions, and usually under a big time pressure. The clients know this and will pay.

Law can be fun if you are a natural type for it. You must like the intellectual challenge and pressure. As the others have said, you should choose something where you have a natural passion. You will really need that when you are marketing yourself to potential customers. But you are right that you also have to be practical. You should basically figure out if you are the technical type (seems already you are not), the corporate type (law/finance), the creative type (marketing, tourism, sports, etc.) or the pure literary type. Each type has its challenges but it is possible to be successful in any of them if you have the skills and ability.


 

Anna Fredén  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:48
Member (2016)
French to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Sep 21, 2017

David, thanks for sharing your experience. Good point about legal/financial texts being more time-consuming due to complex sentence structures - in the end, what counts is how much we earn per hour.

Phyllis, your message is very interesting, thanks for sharing! I'll keep reflecting on what "type" I am. I do like intellectual challenges, for sure.

Any more legal/financial translators (or outsourcers, for that matter) want to share their experience?icon_smile.gif


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 02:48
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
To answer your question... Sep 21, 2017

I charge about 25% more per word for legal work than for general topics and my clients are fine with that. As David pointed out, this type of work demands great precision and can be very time-consuming. Sometimes you may spend more hours than you had anticipated but no matter how difficult the document is, you are keen to figure it out and do your best on it. I agree with what others have said: you should not (maybe never) do anything just for the money. You need to be interested and passionate about what you do and enjoy it. Why not specialize in sports if you are interested in it and getting work, and do some subtitling on the side? Who knows what may come your way?

[Edited at 2017-09-21 16:17 GMT]


 

MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:48
French to English
+ ...
Why not both? Sep 21, 2017

Many (most) translators have more than one area of expertise. It's not an either/or situation. Hone your skills and gain experience in both. This way, the next time a client needs subtitles for a feature-length legal thriller about a complicated financial scheme that ruined millions of lives, you'll be the perfect candidateicon_smile.gif

 

The Misha
Local time: 04:48
Russian to English
+ ...
Finally a voice of reason Sep 21, 2017

Phyllis Elago wrote:


And law is not just contracts and accounts. Opinions, judgments and pleadings are often really difficult because they need prior legal research of what is going on in the two jurisdictions before you can make certain translation decisions. These cross-border matters are not always so well-defined, they are still in their process and being worked out in the real world, so as a translator, you are often having to deal with what is a quite messy reality but still have to produce feasible solutions, and usually under a big time pressure. The clients know this and will pay.



If only I could get a dollar for every translator I have come across over the past thirty years who claimed to specialize in law and finance yet couldn't put a sentence together properly in their target language, I'd be a rich man and retired from this business altogether.

Disclaimer: I do specialize in law, finance, investments and accounting.


 

Anna Fredén  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:48
Member (2016)
French to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree that it's not an either/or situation Sep 22, 2017

Thanks for your replies, Tina and MK2010! I'm definitely not leaving sports translation behind, neither giving up on subtitling! I'm not looking to have one single specialization, at least not for the moment. Rather, I'm looking at different alternatives, considering both what I like to do, what there is a market demand for and what pays off. It's good to work with what you like, but it's also good to just work a couple of (well-paid) hours a day and do whatever you like the rest of the time icon_smile.gif Being well-paid for what you love would of course be the dream come true!

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
@Anna Sep 22, 2017

Anna Fredén wrote:

Chris, you have specialized in economics/finance (an area which I do actually find interesting, more so than law). Do I understand your comment correctly that you chose this out of personal interest, and not for higher pay? Or was it because you saw a demand for it? Do you think that you would be equally well off (financially) translating, say, tourist information?


I didn't choose economics for the money, but it has turned out quite lucrative, which is nice.

I think you can command good rates in any field at all if (a) you're very good at it, and (b) you can find sufficiently discerning and deep-pocketed customers.

I'm not sure there is such a thing as "general" translation. But there is such a thing as "workmanlike" translation. People (especially agencies) seem to confuse the two.

I actually think translating tourist texts is very difficult and a perfectly valid specialist field which deserves to be highly remunerated. Alas, normally it is not. But if you can find the right customers, ones who can appreciate quality, it still can be...

It's all about matching the right translator with the right customer, which is what agencies ought to do, rather than just driving down prices and quality, blah blah blah...

Lycka till!


 

Anna Fredén  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:48
Member (2016)
French to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Chris Sep 26, 2017

Tack Chrisicon_smile.gif

 


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