The Business of Translating Official Documents - Part 1

By Stacey
Jul 18, 2016 · 2 min

Many translators avoid translation work which involves individual clients’ official documents.

The Business of Translating Official Documents - Part 1 | One Hour Translation

It’s common knowledge that many translators avoid translation work which involves individual clients’ official documents. They’re either not interested in even looking for this type of work, or refuse it when offered. The kinds of documents we’re referring to here include driver’s licenses, diplomas, educational transcripts, birth certificates, and various other personal but official documents. Perhaps experienced translators consider that this type of work should be completed by beginner translators, or maybe they simply feel it’s not worth their time and effort, so they don’t even include this type of work in their range of translation services on offer.

It’s understood that translating official documents will probably never be the largest component of your freelance translation work, particularly if you’re already working for agencies and/or direct clients, but these smaller amounts of money certainly add up, and the work itself can be very satisfying.

Confidentiality with the Translation of Official Documents

At this point, we need to mention confidentiality as related to the translation of official documents. Because we’re talking about private and personal documents, these often contain extremely confidential information. As an example, divorce documents in French often have many pages of very personal details about the reasons behind the breakdown of a marriage, like mental illness, infidelity, lying, and so on. In addition, birth certificates previously produced by former French colonies clearly state when babies were born out of wedlock. Obviously, you’ll be required to translate all the details, including these private matters, but no comment about these details should ever be made to the client, or indeed anyone else. Any comment on wording in any of these documents should only be made if you, as the translator, require a factual clarification.

Below we’ve listed our thoughts on why translators should include translating official documents in their range of services, and how this work can be successfully carried out –

The Translation of Individual Clients’ Official Documents Can Be Rewarding Because –

  • The Work Can Be Very Lucrative!

The first reason is because this kind of translation work can actually be quite lucrative! Perhaps not very exciting, but lucrative all the same. It certainly doesn’t require stylistic greatness and it’s definitely not creative work, but the pay can range between .50c and $1 per word because the normal billing unit is ‘per page’. The other bonus is that the official document market is one that agencies are generally not interested in, simply because the size of these projects can’t justify their overhead expenses. This means that the best option for most individual clients is to find themselves a freelance translator.

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The translation industry is a relatively small one but it’s also a highly competitive one. Basically, do your research on a translation agency prior to making initial contact and it will certainly pay off; perhaps not immediately because there may not be any work available at the time, so just be patient. Your application must stand out above the rest, and by following these simple steps you should have no problem whatsoever in achieving your translation goals.