Next steps for freelance private legal/financial translator
Thread poster: James Greenfield

James Greenfield  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:19
French to English
+ ...
Feb 26, 2014

I've been working as a freelance private legal and financial translator for 3 years and am now starting to get regular work, mainly through one particular agency. I am now looking to get to a position where I can guarantee full time work with a number of suppliers. I am starting to think that working for direct clients might be a good idea alongside my existing agency contacts. How does one go about this? Is it enough to find companies that might have need of a translator and then send them a cover letter and CV by email? Is there a directory of companies that require translators? I saw a presentation by Javier Gil advertised online which includes a list of companies that require translators. I wonder if buying this talk might be worthwhile, not only for the contacts but also in order to give me ideas about what direction to go in. http://www.ecpdwebinars.co.uk/specialising_in_financial_translation.html
Any advice is much appreciated. I'm also looking for any books about the practice of financial and private legal translation as I want to increase my fluency.
Many thanks


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:19
German to English
Need more information on your specialisation Feb 26, 2014

James,

You'll have to be a bit more specific than "legal and financial" nowadays, I'm afraid, as those descriptions really are pretty general. What sort of "legal", and what sort of "financial" do you/would you like to specialise in? Once we know that, we can narrow down the opportunities open to you.

And what exactly do you mean by "private legal"?

One thing in advance: I'm not aware of any meaningful list of companies needing legal and/or financial translations.

Robin


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James Greenfield  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:19
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
My specialisms in more detail Feb 26, 2014

Sorry, I should have been more specific. I translate documents which relate to private law rather than public law. The bulk of these documents are contracts. As regards financial translation, I would have been more accurate to say business and finance documents such as letters of credit, annual reports and notices to shareholders.

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James Greenfield  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:19
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 26, 2014

Thanks for your post, I reallise now I need to be more specific when marketing my services as a translator.

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 08:19
English to Polish
+ ...
Law degree/Law Society exam... Feb 26, 2014

... would be a sensible long-term project, as a confident legal translator does require more than just some experience converting caffeine into legalese. Otherwise at least get your DipTrans if you haven't yet. Go where the lawyers go. Model your website after lawyers' websites (which all translators should do anyway). Show lawyers that you understand them. The following is a good example of a translator who does just that, and very intentionally so: http://wantwords.co.uk/tlumacz/. Work on your branding if you feel like it.

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:19
Russian to English
+ ...
I thinkit might be helpfu lto work in a law firm Feb 27, 2014

for a year or two in any capacity. Dealing with legal documents in everyday life really helps a future translator. I am not exactly sure if I understood correctly what Lukasz meant, but I think I agree with the point that it is not enough to complete a few courses to become a legal translator.

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James Greenfield  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:19
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification Feb 27, 2014

I should have been a lot clearer in my first post. I translate mainly financial and business documents such as letters of credit, annual reports and notices to shareholders. In terms of the legal translation I do it is mainly contacts for companies. I would never consider translating a document in the field of public law, such as court documents. I benefited greatly from having my translations of legal contracts reviewed by a mentor who has a lot of experience in translating contracts and owns a translation agency. I have also done my own research and read books such as 'l'anglais des contrats internationaux' which is a book I'd highly recommend to anyone who translates contracts from French to English. It goes through common clauses found in French contracts and includes a sample with a parallel translation. It also provides examples of different kinds of contract with parallel English translations. I should add that I've also researched a lot into the translation of contracts. I feel confident translating these contracts and my clients have been happy with my work. I think it is mainly further business and finance knowledge that I need and also perhaps some guidance as to how to better market my services. I am considering some kind of business course through the open university. As far as the legal side is concerned I stick to what I have experience in. Thank you all very much for your advice.

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Peter Leeflang  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:19
Member (2014)
French to English
+ ...
Consider reseraching unique product/market niche and keeping it simple Feb 27, 2014

James,

Great that you are thinking about the next step in your business. Good thinking to work on diversifying your customer base to reduce your dependency on only one customer's revenue. That is a typical growth model for a start up maturing in his market.

Make sure to first determine what specific services you want to offer to what specific market, so customer group. So refine the 'legal and financial'. Determine what kind of private law customer would you want to cater to in the future and what qualifies you to do that. Also consider which of the areas you seek to serve is very competitive and which one not so, and try first to build a niche in the less competitive areas if you qualify for that. You can that way leverage best your competitive advantage. If you are for example well immersed in the antiques world and can provide services for international contracts between antiques dealers and auction houses and their foreign customers, you may not have so much competition as compared to providing services for translatable divorce agreements. So that will require some research beyond forums.

Once you know and decide what niche could be yours, you can start finding the channels which will give you the best, fastest and least expensive access to those markets. Then you can determine what collateral you would need to market your services there.

Don't over complicate, like starting to build lots of marketing collateral. Reduce it to the bare minimum you need to get started.

Bear in mind though that asking fellow translators where to specifically source one's customers is not something that will give you the information you really need, if it does at all. Creating one's niche product/market combination requires that one does that sourcing oneself by thinking outside the box. The less your fellow translators can answer your question, the better for you. That gives you the head start over the others. They will then have a hard time catching up with you.

Peter



[Edited at 2014-02-27 13:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-02-27 13:28 GMT]


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Feb 27, 2014

I'm surprised you're limiting yourself to private law. I would have thought that a legal document is a legal document, and I wonder if you're imposing an unnecessary restriction on yourself - especially since a lot of translation companies won't know the difference between private and public law.

If this is what you want to do, I agree that you should market yourself as "specialising in private law", not "private legal".

Good luck - it sounds like you've definitely got the ball rolling with your business.


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:19
German to English
Suggest greater specialisation Feb 27, 2014

As others have noted, the term "private legal" is at best ambiguous, and at worst (especially as "private legal and financial") quite meaningless.

While "private law" is technically OK, you'd probably be better off calling it something like "corporate legal", which necessarily covers a multitude of sins.

Is there really still a market for Fr-En/Sp-En documentary credit translations? Without knowing the full details, I would have thought that translations like that would be largely automated nowadays, with translators mainly "filling in the gaps" - the sort of market that I would expect to be fully in the hands of the agencies with the necessary technical infrastructure.

From where I stand, nobody translates "annual reports" by themselves anymore (except perhaps for absolutely tiny, trivial documents that are probably being translated because they have to be, i.e. where quality isn't a big issue). Rather, translators - at least the good ones - tend to specialise in particular sections of annual reports, for example:

- Front matter - the glossy image or "magazine" section with a heavy marketing bias. Something for the real communication specialists.

- The heavy financial sections of the management report/OFR/MD&A, together with the financial statements (primary financial statements, notes, accounting policies, other disclosures). Intimate knowledge of the accounting standards involved and how to translate them correctly into English is a precondition here. And some translators are even more specialised, for example in financial instruments accounting, pensions accounting, revenue recognition, tax, etc.

- The non-financial sections of the management report dealing mainly with non-financial key performance indicators/CSR/environmental reporting. These are of growing importance because of the trend towards integrated reporting.

- The heavy legal/financial sections, for example the risk report and the remuneration report, as well as other legal matter.

As a result, it is getting rarer for individual translators to work directly for listed companies on these translations, except perhaps for those companies that still have functioning translation departments (not many nowadays). As a rule, these translations are therefore increasingly handled by specialist translation providers or more general (larger) agencies, often via financial media/IR/shareholder communication agencies.

You say "notices to shareholders" - well, that market must surely be clear: listed companies! However, many listed companies have outsourced both the drafting and the translation of such documents to the sort of specialised financial media/IR/shareholder communication agencies referred to above, so you should be thinking about identifying those agencies for your language pairs and pitching to them accordingly.

As far as training for legal work is concerned, the Legal Translation MA at City University, London, would probably have been ideal for you, but that's now been discontinued (it's "not core business"). However, I understand there is a chance that City will resume running the modules from the MA as professional diploma courses, so you might want to keep an eye on their website.

One of the very best Fr-En legal/financial translators working today recently completed a law degree to strengthen his subject-area knowledge, but you would have to be pretty sure that this is what you want to do before embarking on such a course. What you could do though is keep an eye out for relevant legal and financial translation semianrs offered by the SFT in France. Plus of course the SFT's financial translation summer schools (Univ. d'été) run every two years (the next one should be in July this year), and the equivalent Swiss summer schools run by ASTTI in Spiez (CH) in odd years.

Anyway, that was some advice from a very experienced financial translator. And, as Peter, pointed out, you really ought to be thinking about developing your uniques - the points of difference that will make you a "go to" translator for one or more areas of deep specialisation.

Robin


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 14:19
Chinese to English
Don't overlook the benefits of agencies Feb 27, 2014

There's a lot of talk of looking for direct clients, and of course they can offer better rates than agencies. But I have both types of client, and frankly, I prefer agencies. A good agency will offer support (I hate working on ppts, my good agency clients get their graphics guys to do that part); will generally be realistic about turnaround times; and most important of all, you can always say no to them. If you say no to a direct client, you are liable to lose them.

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 08:19
English to Polish
+ ...
... Feb 28, 2014

James Greenfield wrote:

I should have been a lot clearer in my first post. I translate mainly financial and business documents such as letters of credit, annual reports and notices to shareholders. In terms of the legal translation I do it is mainly contacts for companies. I would never consider translating a document in the field of public law, such as court documents. I benefited greatly from having my translations of legal contracts reviewed by a mentor who has a lot of experience in translating contracts and owns a translation agency. I have also done my own research and read books such as 'l'anglais des contrats internationaux' which is a book I'd highly recommend to anyone who translates contracts from French to English. It goes through common clauses found in French contracts and includes a sample with a parallel translation. It also provides examples of different kinds of contract with parallel English translations. I should add that I've also researched a lot into the translation of contracts. I feel confident translating these contracts and my clients have been happy with my work. I think it is mainly further business and finance knowledge that I need and also perhaps some guidance as to how to better market my services. I am considering some kind of business course through the open university. As far as the legal side is concerned I stick to what I have experience in. Thank you all very much for your advice.


Seen this one one yet, James?


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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:19
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Thanks! Feb 28, 2014

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

James Greenfield wrote:

I should have been a lot clearer in my first post. I translate mainly financial and business documents such as letters of credit, annual reports and notices to shareholders. In terms of the legal translation I do it is mainly contacts for companies. I would never consider translating a document in the field of public law, such as court documents. I benefited greatly from having my translations of legal contracts reviewed by a mentor who has a lot of experience in translating contracts and owns a translation agency. I have also done my own research and read books such as 'l'anglais des contrats internationaux' which is a book I'd highly recommend to anyone who translates contracts from French to English. It goes through common clauses found in French contracts and includes a sample with a parallel translation. It also provides examples of different kinds of contract with parallel English translations. I should add that I've also researched a lot into the translation of contracts. I feel confident translating these contracts and my clients have been happy with my work. I think it is mainly further business and finance knowledge that I need and also perhaps some guidance as to how to better market my services. I am considering some kind of business course through the open university. As far as the legal side is concerned I stick to what I have experience in. Thank you all very much for your advice.


Seen this one one yet, James?


I hadn't seen that video yet. Thanks to you Lukasz!


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Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:19
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Find your own niche Mar 1, 2014

Any list you could get of clients to market translations to would already be swarmed by other translators. You want to go where the other translators aren't like industry conferences, your local bar association, consulates or embassies for countries with your language/s, and the list goes on. Be creative and don't look for someone else's off-the-shelf solution!

You proposed cold e-mailing, which is an option but a very hard sell usually. Have you considered print media like a postcard instead of an e-mail? It seems to me to have more of a chance of getting read.


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