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An eye operation, a book, a fainting episode or saying goodbye to 2016

close up ragazza


It’s been a while I haven’t written on my blog. I kind of owe it to myself to write one last piece for the year about to end. Which translates to… trying to account for my mental whereabouts since April. I think I will just focus on the present.

First of all, I have a confession to make. I was thinking of abandoning this blog (and perhaps start a new one some time in the future) as I thought of blogging as an interference with everything else. That is why I haven’t written in 8 months. I gave priority to other things. And I got some pretty cool results, as you will find out if you patiently read along. I trust you will.

What did I learn from this blogging hiatus? Love for writing cannot be an interference with life. And when it does, you take a break.

Taking a break from writing has been impossible, though. The year 2016 has been a good one for me because I have finally finished and published my book Tapping Into Translators’ Creativity. Incredible. I did it. I got there, before the end of the year.

And this is one item off the list, my wish list, my writing wish list. The book is out for the world to read. That’s all I wanted. My exclusive relationship with the manuscript has ended.

A few days prior to the big day of my book’s release, my 7 year old went through an eye operation. I had hoped to avoid being busy with work before and after the operation and, fortunately, nothing major (that I could not manage) happened. Besides the book. I wanted the book to go live before the end of the year and considering it was impossible to have everything ready before December, it had do be right before Xmas and… a few days after the operation.

Theoretically speaking, being ready to publish isn’t exactly the best way to describe the end of a writing journey. The writing journey never ends. Right now, I am thinking of ways the book could be even better. But projects need a deadline and I gave me one.

I will make a tiny parenthesis here to say that in my book I speak of deadlines and of writers and translators. The writers featured in this respect are Tracy Chevalier who wrote her book Girl With a Pearl Earring on a 9-month (biological) deadline and Fyodor Dostoevsky who wrote The Gambler on a 1-month deadline because of an agreement he had with the publisher. Money problems. Inspiring stories we all need to know about. Us whose life is determined by deadlines.

And there I was at the hospital after the operation, fainting. Because of fear, of concern, of love. And because I have a low blood pressure. Let’s be realistic. I know what it means to go through an eye operation, as I went through one myself. But when it happens to someone so close to you, the feelings are just incomparable.

The nurses were nice to their patient (and to me). They gave me tea. I still need to arrange an appointment with my doctor to talk about this, when I am done with a couple of translations, when I am done with 2016. Here’s another deadline for me. See?

I wish you a happy new year and lots of interesting things to pursue!

finding your way · freelance translation · freelancing · inspiration · life lessons

10. It’s normal to be afraid



Lessons in freelance translation, n.10

I don’t know why but I sometimes go through occasional phases of fear of failure, of not having enough work. I guess it’s rather unavoidable when you freelance.

Nothing major happened. In fact, good things are kind of unraveling themselves as I proceed translating. But those big dreams are still playing hide and seek with me. Which translates… to feeling afraid that they will remain dreams.

So what do you do? I mean, besides doing the obvious of pursuing your dreams, doing your job and all the bits and pieces everyday life requires? Nobody has the answer but you. It is you who needs to accept that fear will knock your door. Occasionally. For no real reason maybe.

Letting fear take a hold of you is like allowing people who do not know you to make the rules for your life.

Think about it. Fears are a part of the setting but they don’t make the rules.

Tomorrow is a new day. If it’s getting better, why be afraid?

That’s what I say to myself.


finding your way · freelance translation · freelancing · motivation · work · writing

9. Promise yourself

image source

Lessons in freelance translation, n.9

Ever get that feeling that life is just too overwhelming and you don’t know what to focus on? Projects you started, book(s) to finish, new ideas surfacing. Which translates to… a feeling of overwhelm when I don’t have a translation to work on.

Today was one of those days. I delivered a small fashion translation this morning and I am free. No other deadlines. The good side of it is that these couple of days I wrote long emails to friends, something I haven’t done in a while.

As far as (writing) projects are concerned, I still have a long way to go but I made a lot of progress as my book is almost finished (oops, have I told you I am writing a book?).

However, I know my limits, I have my priorities so I cannot dedicate all the time, energy and money on my writing project. I wish. But I have made a promise to myself not to give up. Freelancers constantly make promises to clients. How about making a promise to ourselves? Work towards the dream.

For some people it takes longer than others and this is why I needed to get this off my chest. I am fast at things I have to do but slow in doing what I want to do. It is a struggle within.

A promise to ourselves, to work on a side project or to conclude one is good for morale. When times are hard, we can look at our achievements and boost our confidence.


finding your way · freelance translation · freelancing · money

8. The right price

peonies, symbol of prosperity – image source


Lessons in freelance translation, n.8

During the first couple of years of freelancing, I knew very little about how freelancing could be a “real” full-time job and that freelancers can earn a “real” income. With time, courage, a lot of work and networking, I changed a few aspects of my business, especially regarding pricing. I had no other choice, anyway. This is what I wanted to do. Nothing happened overnight and I still have a long way to go but I am glad I stepped up. Which translates to… I would probably be doing another job right now if I didn’t make those changes.

Since I don’t want this to be a long boring post about money issues (on which I am totally no expert) I will only quickly share two facts, purely based on personal experience, tightly knitted with the rates you charge. Feel free to disagree.

You know you are charging the right price for your services when two things happen:

  • You receive more work from good/high paying clients (they are the ones who help your business stay afloat and grow)
  • You receive less work from “one stop” clients who tried to ruthlessly negotiate with you throughout the Summer or Christmas holidays because their regular translator was on holiday (they didn’t say so but you figured it out and, by the way, I am very surprised at how translators accepting low rates can afford a holiday but don’t let me get started on that).

I believe that if you are truly good at what you do, you will be rewarded. Provided you know that for the kind of work you do, there is a certain price to ask. It’s as simple as that.

For more information on financial matters, I suggest you check out Paul M Urwin‘s site and the book The Prosperous Translator (if you don’t already know about it) by the well-known and gifted Chris Durban.

Till next time.


freelance translation · freelancing · kids · mom · parenting · translators

7. The right words

image source


Lessons in freelance translation, n.7

When I explain what my job is, I usually get a smile of amazement often followed by “what do you translate” or “where is your office“. I have learned to be proactive and normally give a brief description of what I do based on what I was asked in the past to avoid feeling awkward. Which translates to… feeling as if the world cannot understand a simple concept:

Freelancing has no stable working hours and parenting is a 24/7 “job”.

There was one occasion when I was told by someone that if a mom of three, whose personal and family circumstances I am not aware of, can manage alright, then I shouldn’t be having any issues with only one child. That someone was not a parent, of course.

In that specific moment I didn’t respond to say that a mom of 3 who works in an office and returns home has a completely different lifestyle from a mom of 1 who needs to stay alert, be available, respond to emails while her child or children are home.

Parents who do “normal” non-freelancing jobs know that the moment they step into their homes, regardless of the noise, no freelancing project is going to invade those precious family moments. Sometimes it takes me a while to react. I mean to things people say. What about you? The only positive thing about reacting late is that the lesson is not only learned but an “official” reply is ready to be served next time. I don’t recall how I responded but it certainly wasn’t along the lines of my carefully thought out reply, now well embossed into my mind:

– “Freelancing has no stable working hours” (simple) or “Freelancing never ends” (edgy) or “Freelancing moms, compared to moms with non-at-home jobs face a variety of challenges throughout the day” (precise)

Communicating effectively with everyone, including non-clients, is also a way to improve self-awareness and increase self-esteem (and avoid unnecessary anxiety) But – hey – the Spring is here and it seems as if the blossoming around us will show us the path to maturity and prompt responses.



creativity · diversification · freelance translation · freelancing · side projects · time management

6. Diversification is optional

Alphonse Mucha


Lessons in freelance translation, n.6

The new year started well. Which translates to… feeling grateful, blessed and tired.

If you have been freelancing for some time and have had to cope with overlapping deadlines and a lot of hours of work from day till late at night, then you know that time is money. Time is a lot more than that.

You need time not just to work. You need time to think. Even if you eventually find out that thinking while working works best. But that is just my opinion. And you need time to figure out how to best diversify your business. What if my clients stop sending me work? What if Italy cuts back on imports to Greece? So far so good but what about tomorrow? However, diversification is also a personal desire. Even if I had the absolute certainty that I would be always as busy as I was recently, I would still do other things.

And by working on side projects (inadvertently trying to find the best diversification path), I have come to the following six conclusions.

Here they are.


1. UNDERSTAND yourself better. This is the toughest part. Sometimes I think I figured it all out and then I am back to square one. What you are really good at?

2. BE REALISTIC. You might be dreaming of becoming a public speaker at local and international events but if you do not have the time for basic everyday things because you have small kids, then you should be more flexible and find the right thing for the circumstances you are in.

3. BE PASSIONATE. Being realistic is not enough. Your side projects – a way to diversify – need to reflect what you have in your psyche. What is it that could make you happy both professionally and personally? You need to constantly work on your side projects regardless of the little time you can allocate to it. To be able to do that, it has to be something that makes your heart sing.

4. THE SITE (not side) THEORY. I got you now. I am getting into the deep waters of my theory now. Not having my own site has really helped me do some serious thinking about where I am and where I want to be. I am still not there yet completely but some improvements have been made. This is how this theory works: If you were to create a website for your business, how would you name it? What tagline would you have? What pages would you like to see? What clients would you want to attract? I have done this “exercise” a few times and have even deleted a site I started creating. Then I created it again from scratch and the pages I have there now are getting close to what I would like my business to be in the near future. The site is not up yet and I do not even know what is going to happen with it but I am trying to learn from this.

5. BE FREE. You do not need to follow someone else’s footsteps. You do things because it is natural for you. If you are busy enough translating, why worry, why diversify? Yes, I know. It’s your heart’s desire. In that case, yes, go for it. Work while on the bus. I always take notes on the bus. I started taking notes for a writing project at the playground. Nobody got hurt. 🙂

6. TEST NEW WATERS. The other day I inquired about writing an article for a publication. I am glad I approached them. I realised I needed to do more than just blogging. If you see an opportunity, try and check it out. A slot of 5 minutes you create today could mean something bigger tomorrow.

That is all. For now.


freelance translation · freelancing

5. Stretch your limits? It depends.


Vermeer, detail

Lessons in freelance translation, n.5

Have you ever worked on a project that somehow required you to “bite off more than you can chew”? It’s definitely an educating experience.

You find yourself translating long hours, eating mostly hamburgers, pizza or bananas, not answering your phone, taking a nap without taking your jeans off, typing as fast as you can, thinking as sharp as you can.

Which translates to going through an experience you don’t feel like sharing with anyone. Because they might say how insane you are to have accepted a project like that.

However, it’s not rare to come across projects that eventually prove to be more demanding than expected and maybe that’s because the client (or more likely the end-client considering your own client has always been extremely professional) had underestimated the difficulty of the text and set a deadline which only a robot would be happy with. Or someone with 6 hands and 3 brains.

But you did it. And you know that the client did everything possible to support you in every single way.

You see, the world didn’t end because of a project like this one.

Judging from what I have been reading across other blogs and talking with fellow translators – it seems that we all sometimes find ourselves in really deep water. And we do the best we can. You might find out you are faster and better than you think. In my opinion, the more you translate and gain experience, the more you will be able to reasonably stretch your limits.

Have a beautiful Sunday.


freelance translation · freelancing · time management · translation

4. Treat freelance work as (almost) urgent even if it’s not



Lessons in freelance translation, n. 4

A couple of weeks ago, I was working on two different translations with – luckily – quite reasonable deadlines when client #1 emails me at 12.00 one day prior to delivery to say that she needed the translation within half an hour.

Whereas delivery day was the day after.

For a moment, I had no idea of how to react, what to think.

Within half an hour?

And it’s as if I knew. I had almost finished translation #1 because I treated it as urgent. I don’t normally do it but on that occasion I did. It was a fairly easy translation and even if I had almost one week to do it, I started working on it the moment I received instructions. Which was a wise choice because when translation #2 came in, I didn’t panic.

I know that this may sound as a pretty conventional advice and that translators with many years of experience would consider this tactic as “it goes without saying” but I felt the need to mention it here.

Of course, treating all translations as urgent isn’t always possible. We are only human. It would be perfect if we could always translate without being super-stressed because of the deadlines we have but this is the nature of our job and I have found this tactic to be a good one.

Time management should also be about following a specific work pattern that takes into account all the things than can potentially occur throughout the day.

And I’m not only talking about translation projects but other things too. So much can happen. Administration stuff, phone calls, emails. We could catch ourselves completely off guard, not knowing what to do first. Which translates to a bit of a chaos.

But what if we were “saving” time by acting faster than expected?

Not easy. I know. Especially in my case as I am still trying to manage my time more effectively and the way I would like it to be.

-How about you?

-Do you agree? Do you sometimes treat a translation as urgent to accommodate new work or other things that life throws at you?