Professional subjects from a personal perspective

Simplify, Focus and Work Smarter

I have been meaning to talk about work/life balance ever since I read this great post entitled ‘Work chunky, work better’ over at The Freelancery (on my blogroll for a very good reason!). This need was compounded by coming across this advice piece on Self Employed Success, which offers some solace for those of us still in the early stages of our careers, as well as providing some food for thought for more seasoned professionals.

So how can we deal with ‘overwhelm’? I have highlighted a few points below, which I found to relate to my personal situation particularly well, but please feel free to head on over and pick out your own.

• don’t try to be everything to everyone – this is something that I readily admit to struggling with. I have always been someone who is energised by being busy and having a lot going on (I’m currently running my business while completing an MA), but I accept the need to focus my energies on other aspects of my life sometimes (e.g. reading a good book/enjoying a lovely meal/spending time with family).
• say ‘no’ to people and projects – I addressed this point in a post a few weeks ago, and it is a vital lesson to learn for newcomers to the industry. Reputation is everything, but we also owe it to ourselves to take time out and recharge the batteries now and again. Do you really need to take that rush job? Haven’t you got friends to catch up with, a newspaper to read, or, as is often the case for me, cakes to bake? In short: take on the work that you know you can handle, refer the work that you can’t, and take time out.
• clear the desk  I am sometimes guilty of keeping things on my desk that don’t need to be there. I try to restrict the documents on my desk to those concerning ongoing projects, but I still end up needing to clear the decks every now and then. Tidy desk = tidy mind, and lots of various bits of paper only serve as distractions to the task in hand.
• tick things off – I have sung the praises of Anxiety in a previous post (read it here), but there is definitely something to be said for crossing off tasks on a physical to-do list. It’s very satisfying!
• celebrate – I hadn’t previously considered this, but why not mark the end of a particularly challenging project with a little treat? I’ll be putting this into action as soon as possible!

What do you think? Do you have a work-life balance strategy?

Website Wonderings

construction sign - translators' websites

I am currently in the process of getting a website designed (update to follow!). As this is my first professional website, I have been thinking long and hard about what needs to be included – and what doesn’t. There are a myriad of hints and tips on this subject, but I tend to take my advice from other translators and linguists, who have sites that offer the same type of information as I do.

The first stage in this process was compiling a collection of sites that I feel work really well, on the basis of visual interest and social media integration – a must in today’s business environment. My favourite translators’ websites are (in no particular order):

• Twin Translations – The logo immediately captures the attention and the quotation is the perfect illustration of the art of the linguist. This website, owned by Judy and Dagmar Jenner of the Translation Times blog, serves as inspiration in terms of its clarity and content.
• Naked Translations – the online home of Céline Graciet, an English-French translator, interpreter and star blogger. I particularly like the tagline and stark colours.
• Sarah Dillon – translator of French, German and Spanish to English and a highly regarded blogger at There’s something about translation. The clean and clear layout of this site is a real winner with me, and the photos are a great way to create a connection with visitors.
• Want Words – I absolutely love the clean look of this site and the use of one, strong accent colour to highlight salient information. The icons and integration of social media elements are things like I hope to emulate on my own website. Marta also maintains an insightful industry blog.

What can I take away from these sites?

Throughout this process, I have learned that clear, attractively presented, engaging content that is updated regularly is one of the secrets (if you can call them secrets) to creating an effective website.

As I add the finishing touches to my website copy, I will take into account the great content on all of the aforementioned examples, and also attempt to convey aspects of my own personality. After all, who wants to work with a bland, faceless translator?

What were your priorities when creating a website? Do you have any other inspirational examples to add to my collection?

Bribe Yourself and Get Things Done!

It is sometimes difficult to stay focused when working on a large-scale translation or completing administrative tasks (logging expenses, anyone?).

I am currently working on a sizeable revision project for a client who is presenting an academic paper on linguistic, which proves difficult to get through at times, but I stumbled upon this post on the Freelance Folder, which offers great advice to stay on task.

Please do head on over and take a look, but I have outlined my 3 favourite suggestions here:

1. Keep regular office hours – know when you’re “at work” and stick to those hours. Deviation from this makes it much easier to procrastinate.
2. Picture the project completed – imagine what it will be like to bank the cheque, or follow up with the client to check they are happy with you work. Positive thinking is key here!
3. Bribe yourself! – this one sounds like the most fun: “the bribe could be anything you enjoy but normally wouldn’t get–a special meal, a day off, the purchase of something you’ve wanted to buy for a long time…”

I am considering my bribe for this project already!

What do you think of these suggestions? Do you have any secret weapons for staying focused?

Translation Workflow and Quoting

After reading this great post on the Translation Journal Blog, I started to think about conventions in translation pricing and, although the suggestions made in the post may not be serious, I think there is a case for breaking down charges on a quotation, in order to clarify the breadth of skills required and employed by a linguist throughout a translation project.

I have a rather large translation project on the go at the moment which, rather that frying my brain, represents an opportunity to test and improve my time management skills and my quotation and planning process for other potential translation jobs.

There are lots of things to consider when it comes to deciding whether you can (or want to – we are freelancers, after all!) take on a job following an enquiry. It may be that the text is outside of your comfort zone as regards the subject area, or that the client’s expectations of costs or turnaround are unrealistic. Is there room for negotiation? It’s always worth explaining the value of your expertise to them.

I have considered a few of the factors that I consider when evaluating a project, and producing a quotation, but please do add to these in the comments section:

• How long will I need to research/read around the subject? This will be significantly reduced if the source is in one of my areas of specialisation.
• Will I need to compile a glossary for yourself or the client? Will I need to work with the company’s style guide?
• How long will it take to complete the translation stage? Factor in time for potential software/formatting issues and calculate output per day.
• What is the QA process?  Is an external proofreader required? Remember to factor in this time – it is vital to add the final layer of gloss to your work.
• How long/what steps are needed to return the file? Will I be required to change the format/return multiple formats/do any DTP work?

There is an argument that this is all part of a translator’s work, but I think there may be some scope for itemising (and even adding) costs to your quotation. Such a clear and extensive explanation of the time, effort and expert skills involved in their translation project can’t fail to impress a client, can it?

What do you think? Please do share your opinions and experiences!