branding · creativity · inspiration · music · translators

For Olatz Rodriguez

I didn’t know Olatz in person but I came across her on Twitter. She was one of those translators I considered highly creative and with a passionate story to tell. People give you signs that if you interpret them wisely and with an open mind you just know there are things you share in common.

Olatz was tremendously creative. It was easy to see by her brand name: Transolatzion, a mix of her first name Olatz and Translation. I am stunned by how translators are creative and she was a glowing example. It couldn’t be more personal than that. If your brand is you, Olatz gave us a great example to be inspired from.

I assume that the beautiful handwritten fonts on her site were designed by her.

I was shocked when I read that she died. And I even sent a direct message to one of the girls who shared the devastating news to find out what happened to this girl of an angelic face and wise eyes.

I can’t even imagine the pain and shock her beloved ones might feel. She was only 23! I repeat: 23 years old.

As I wanted to somehow write about Olatz on the blog, I went over to her site and discovered that she had a YouTube Chanel. I would like to share with you a little video by Olatz. She is playing Nothing Else Matters.

Let us all learn from her departure. Let us embrace our future and go after our dreams. Olatz was teaching English language to children in China when she passed away. That was the story she somehow tried to tell the world. Your dreams are out there. Nothing else matters.


PS: For Spanish speakers: Marie Claire Cruz has dedicated a post for her colleague here. Also football player Aritz Elustondo dedicated a goal to Olatz.



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.


bohemian · fashion · finding your way · freelancing · life lessons · translation · writing

The many faces of Tilda Swinton (on freelancer’s versatility)

Tilda Swinton from the film “Only lovers left alive.”

“Tilda Swinton is 55 years old”. This is the title of the article I was reading last night. As I was scrolling the incredibly diverse pictures from movies with the Scottish actress, famous for her role as Orlando, I realised I had something to write about. I had no idea what but Tilda’s “many faces” are bound to give me ideas.

I remember reading a stunning article on The Guardian a few years ago, before becoming a translator. It was about the talented, intriguing and unusual Tilda Swinton, actress, model, icon of noble descent with looks and gaze of a solemn, aristocratic yet familiar character, both a woman of next door and a lady to respect. What sets her apart is that singular chameleontic appearance, a self which seems to float between characters, a person of many layers and faces, yet as authentic as one can be.

Life is bound to throw circumstances at you which you might not expect. You might need to shift your focus. Learn your lesson. Read a new book. Finish the one you started. Not to mention continue writing the one you started. Which translates to… an overwhelming loose ends to take care of.

Keeping up appearances is old school. And it is boring. I’d go for a change of direction even if it is on terms of how I perceive life’s events and challenges. I still wear the same outfit. But I wear it with a new conscience. State of mind. I elaborate what happens to me and I don’t want to convince anyone about the changes. I change. The many faces I have are basically one face reflecting an acknowledged and essential versatility.

Many faces means many resources for better life management.

As freelancers, we ought to be as flexible as we can possibly be. This applies not just to how we communicate and work but to how we perceive things and what we learn from life. The learning process requires flexibility. You need to “bend” your convictions if you want to move forward.

Flexibility requires you to act and be someone else so you can be yourself. You are the administrator, the translator, the proofreader, the business owner, the cook, the parent. It is a process.

Happy birthday Tilda Swinton!

freelancing · kids · mom · motherhood

A freelancing mom’s interlude

September is almost over. Oh and I heard that Summer was here too. Did you see it by any chance?

People love Summer. I think I like it too but it puts my life into derail mode that I am not exactly looking forward to it, besides for wearing shorts, tees and sandals. I am not much of a Winter fan either but being a homebody, I am okay with rainy and cold days. When you freelance, you don’t really care about the weather. Well, maybe you could be a little bit jealous of those who take holidays without fearing of losing clients (now, try to explain that…). It gets worse if you freelance full-time including weekends because you have a rent or mortgage to pay.

Which translates to… an overwhelming freelance lifestyle.

The truth is I don’t have time to write a blog post these days but a few days back one evening while listening to Else Gellinek’s podcast interview with Paul Urwin, I said to myself: You can do this. Go and finish up that post you drafted.

Right. Where was I?

The Summer.

Work wise it was busy with only a few “clouds” of urgent projects lasting a couple of days due to a fashion translation which proved to be more tricky than it seemed, though definitely more fun than anything else!

But in July and August this year I also received some translation requests impossible to accept. Out of the new prospects who contacted me this Summer, I only accepted new assignments on the grounds of feasibility, reasonable rates and subject-matter.

During the Summer holidays when the schools (or kindergartens or day-care centres) are closed, when teachers take time-off for the whole Summer while being paid for it (sorry, had to vent about this), us freelancing parents need to find solutions for combining work and having our kids around.

The options vary according to your family’s needs and of course financial status but if there is another female figure in your family (usually your mom or mother-in-law) who can give a helping hand, it makes everything a lot easier. Actually it is a blessing and not just because of the baby-sitting involved.

If you live abroad, you simply pack your luggage and move your office to your parents’ house with your children. However, having a female figure around to help you all year round or throughout the holidays, is not feasible for all freelancing parents. Regardless of whether living grandparents live next door or in another country, if they can’t help or if they are not around (anymore), there is little you can do.

What’s a freelancing parent to do?

This Summer I chose a combination of options:

  • Sent little one to Summer camp for one week
  • Accepted assignments that were important and turned down offers that I saw no potential in
  • Worked on the staircase of our building facing the courtyard, while watching my kid play
  • Stayed with friends in a town by the sea for a few days

I must admit that the most exhausting part was not working on the steps of the staircase, even if I did get a sore back for a few days. It was staying with other people. Exhausting in the sense that besides working, I needed to pay more attention to my 5 year old who needed to adapt to an entirely new environment.

In fact, these new surroundings have shed a light on my own parenting strategy in some areas like working towards better discipline and respecting a parent’s need to be (talk) with others without interruptions. There is always room for improvement. Staying with my friend was a wise holiday alternative at this point of my child’s life. I may not have been able to tour Tuscany because when my translation was delivered, sunny days were over (can you believe it?), but my revamped parenting style might help towards achieving greater balance and less stress.

Before I go, I have a tip for future moms. Please understand me. It is given with love.

Running a business from home with children is a truly rewarding experience but it’s hard work. Therefore, before jumping head and feet into it, you may need to consider that one of the risks of having kids, especially nowadays when women have kids at a later age or when women live away from their parents, is related to raising your children without your mother or mother-in-law. If she lives in another country, you need to consider that in times of real need, she might not be there, whereas, throughout the Summer staying at your parents’ or mom’s house might not be a holiday option for you. Imagine if your parents’ house is in a huge and stressful city very far from the beach or if they go away on holiday too. What’s more, if your baby is small (not a newborn) and is not used to being with his grandmother and other people, it might be difficult to focus on work without being interrupted all the time. One way to prevent this is to visit your parents’ house more often. The attachment of a baby to his mother all year round is a lot greater when there is no grandma around. At least, this is what I think and of course I might be wrong.

Notwithstanding everything, parents have powers they only realise while raising their children. They can miraculously handle lack of sleep, impatient children, activities, overlapping deadlines meaning that they can become really good at freelancing.

***Like it? Share it. Have something to get off your chest too? Share it! Also feel free to send me a personal email at mgdp05 (at) gmail (dot) com in case you want to vent off-line).***

picture: Woman at the Virginal Jan Miense Molenaer 1630 – 1640

diversification · translation · writing · writing projects

Joining the dots: My article for the ITI Bulletin (Sept/Oct 2015) on Diversification for translators


Hi everyone,

I am happy to let you know that I wrote a piece for the ITI Bulletin, featured in the latest September/October 2015 issue. Which translates to… my first writing piece published on paper (if you exclude a couple of articles I wrote for a magazine and a newspaper back home in my early 20s).

The topic of this article is diversification for which I wrote previously here. The idea has been percolating in my mind recently and finally took shape with this article (page 16 of the issue if I am not mistaken). It is inspired by Steve Jobs’s “connecting the dots” theory and the importance of asking questions.

The power of introspection through words is absolutely cathartic, revealing and …educative.


beauty · creativity · finding your way · inspiration · motivation · writing

3 Italian holiday locations for writers and translators

Hi everyone,

As I was talking with a friend the other day who wants to visit Italy, I thought it would be a good idea to write that travel post I have been thinking of.

Italy is not just about Venice, Florence, Rome. Places that, of course, I recommend everyone to visit because they are just spectacular.

What about an authentic break to nourish your writing soul? A holiday that has nothing to do with waiting in line to see the Uffizi, the San Marco Basilica in Venice or the Vatican museum? Isn’t that just too stressful?

A break to help you finish your novel, start afresh, overcome writer’s block, get ideas for a new book or simply take a break from an intense year of translating or writing, or meet people. Which translates to… staying in a place that you would usually be passing by or perhaps still haven’t heard of.

I am quickly illustrating three Italian towns from three different regions in Northern Italy hoping to offer you some off the beaten track ideas for a relaxing and inspiring getaway.

What these locations have in common? The water! One of them is inside a lagoon and the other two by the lake!



Canal Vena in Chioggia

Not all Italian houses that float on water are in Venice! But they can definitely be close to the world’s most unique city on water. Chioggia is in the Veneto region of Italy. A medium-sized fishing port inside the Venetian lagoon offering easy access to the Adriatic sea. Find out 17 things about this little promising town on the Virtual Tourist here. On a more personal note, I always buy fresh fish from this town whenever it is available and it is just delicious and nutritious. Fish is the word.



Colourful Varenna on Lake Como

Highly recommended for inspiration and romantic strolls, Varenna on Lake Como, is a special, picturesque little village definitely worth seeing if you are visiting Lombardy. Combine it with an excursion to Menaggio and Bellagio and you will not be let down by the sheer beauty and elegance of the place. Varenna’s uniqueness is summarised in the title of a post I fished out called Varenna, Italy: Lake Como Without the Glitz. 



View to Isola Bella from Stresa.

The queen of Lake Maggiore, Stresa is just breathtaking. Nothing more, nothing less. You will be inspired by those fabulous classy hotels, the impeccable and simply mesmerising beauty of Lake Maggiore dominated by the Borromean Islands – with Isola Bella being the most famous one. Find info on Visit Stresa site. An interesting fact of interest to writers is that Stresa hosts the Stresa Literature Award.

To write you don’t need to travel of course but if you want to do it the right way, think of places that are stress-free and help you breathe new air and be who you are. My suggestion? Don’t go there alone. Arrange it with other like-minded people like a sort of retreat.


balance · creativity · fatigue · freelancing · lost in translation · mom · Summer

4 Summer dishes for busy freelancers

I never thought I would write about food but nutrition is important especially for freelancers who often find themselves having to skip meals to meet deadlines. Not to mention, not getting enough sleep…

So let’s just call this post off-topic or slightly off-topic or even a nice roundabout way to get some fresh tips for those of us (most of us? all of us?) who will be working their butts off this Summer. Frankly speaking, I am booked only till the first week of June but my memory serves me well: July has always been busy as hell. Which translates to…. rolling my sleeves up, smiling. Work is always welcome.

Today, I want to share 4 ideas for quick, fresh and healthy (the souvlaki isn’t exactly known for being healthy but it’s definitely a tasty addition to the mix) that people who work from home might find intriguing to try out before continuing to hit keys while everyone else is enjoying their mojito, swimming, soaking up some sun, having fun, dancing under the moon.

You know. The usual stuff you hear or read about while you work on a deadline in the hot days of Summer.

Now let’s treat that freelancing palate:

1. Wilted Kale and Coconut salad

I can’t hide my passion for coconuts and exotic fruits. Apples are okay if they are Granny Smith and oranges are great when you drink a fresh juice but I prefer coconuts, pineapples and avocados. Another fruit I really like is watermelon but only if it’s particularly sugary. For an interesting way to use coconut in a dish, I find this recipe very interesting. Not just delicious but seems it’s a salad that can fill you up. I haven’t tried it to be honest but I would love to.

2. Prosciutto Crudo with Melon

This is a typical Italian starter but when it’s hot, it’s cool. I mean, it’s a pretty cool idea as it combines the nutrients of meat with the freshness of fruit. To make this, all it takes is some creativity as there isn’t an actual recipe. The secret is a fabulous presentation so before starting to wonder where goes what, google “prosciutto e melone” and get inspired. You can also make skewers like these here!

3. Spinach and Feta Cheese pie using puff pastry

So easy to make if you buy a ready-made pasta sfoglia (puff pastry) and fill it with sprinkled feta cheese, add the spinach, some olive oil, no salt, pepper and parsley, wrap in the form of an envelope and cook for 15-20 minutes according to your oven. You can do variations of the theme by just making feta cheese pie or add more greens. I have found this recipe on You Tube that I recommend you watch. The process seems to be the ideal one. Go for it and let me know.

4. Souvlaki aka Small Skewers of Pork

Souvlaki is for all seasons. If marinated and grilled properly – and provided the meat is of excellent quality – it will make you drool (and go book a holiday in Greece). It’s vital that you let the skewers marinate overnight and that you grill them well. First 10-15 minutes on high flame on both sides, then lower the fire and keep turning them around. Cook them well, letting them become dark brown around the edges. Follow this recipe here.

Buon appetito!


image credit

freelancing · kids · mom · motherhood · parenting · work life balance

Being a freelancer and a mom is a double act of courage

From the film “Motherhood” (2009) with Uma Thurman

Dear all,

You often hear about “work life balance”, juggling life and kids, trying to fit everything into 24 hours and into a lifetime. Most of it is true. Actually it’s more than true. We all do need to have balance even if in effect it’s not balance that we are targeting at when waking up in the morning to prep our kids for school. We do what needs to be done. If we are lucky to have “balance”, it will show later.

I am not so sure if terms such as “juggling” and “balance” can best describe what freelancing with kids is. I would go for other terms. It is an act of courage, patience, strong will and fearlessness.

Parenting teaches us

Actually, this fearless nature of parenting can show us ways to develop our business skills as freelancers not to mention that parenting can be a school of adults. With lots of exercises! Parenting represents a mirror of your psyche because it is through raising your kids that you get to really “see” who you are. And it is through parenting that you learn to “undo” or improve aspects of your personality.

Freelancers are no ordinary parents.

There are moms who juggle a job in the office with kids, moms who juggle a highly demanding career with a personal life without kids and ….there are women who juggle freelancing with kids. And for some reason, I think the latter is the most challenging of all because it means two unpredictable roles into one.

Freelancing with kids entails unpredictability

Unpredictability, work wise, usually has to do with overlapping and/or urgent projects, replying to urgent requests, receiving work from new clients (add your own). Unpredictability with kids… well, if you are a parent and you read this you know the drill.

But unpredictability is only a piece of the pie. Maybe a big one but the more time goes by, the more I realise that freelancing and kids entails another “risk” for moms who love to work and want to run their own business from home.

The need to do things

It’s the risk of doing too much and at the same time the risk of having people expect too much from us. Because they know we want to help. And we want to. It’s a genuine interest. They know we always squeeze time in. Until one day we see reality with bare eyes. But it’s not their fault. It’s us and our perfectionism.

That’s how – I humbly believe – you can at least remotely approach the issue of balance. By doing something about doing too much! And you need to start from yourself. The people around us, our clients, family, friends cannot be in the position to see that you are doing “un passo più lungo della gamba” (bite off more than you can chew) unless you put a stop to it. For example, it’s been a while I started emailing my translations very late in the evening so that they can be in my client’s inbox next morning. I do it for a specific practical reason but this way I also let them indirectly know that I am doing what I can so they can be more… gentle with delivery dates. 🙂 I think it works.

The image others have of freelancing moms

And what is it that people think we do? We freelancing moms sometimes get to be labelled as doing a bit of freelancing while raising our kids. Try tell this to that mom who delivered a translation at 11.59am which was due 12.00 after a very hectic day involving proofreading another text, prepping her kid for school, taking the laundry at the self-service laundry, replying to emails. Sounds crazy. And still, some parents do it.

I get the impression that by the “naturally blendable” nature of the two roles, we come off (not by everyone of course) as “moms that do some freelancing too”. But if this is the case, we are at least recognised as women who work full-time as moms! This type of recognition doesn’t happen everyday…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in Italy freelance translators don’t have their own pension fund but pertain to the infamous “gestione separata” which translates to…. paying the highest rate for social contributions because (this is my own interpretation) we are deemed as people doing some freelancing on the side and not a real job.

A freelancer’s “full-time” job

Guess what! Freelancing can be a full time job and worst (full time is usually 8 hours a day while some of us work 10-18 hours a day). A mom can be freelancing (e.g. translating) from 9am to 5pm and then from 10pm till 2am, during weekends, while being sick and this isn’t freelancing on the side.

Of course, some of us may well start “on the side” whether we have kids or not.

But eventually our business grows. We grow, our business grows and our kids grow too.

Not courageous enough?

Along the way, we need to have a huge amount of courage. Personally speaking, I have a lot of work to do in this department. I am not sure if I am courageous enough for all this. But I try.

One day you might even find yourself say “Today it was cool. Today I didn’t run too much”, while enjoying a cup of coffee looking at the sea from the balcony of your dream house. That is when you might find yourself doing a bit of freelancing. Who knows?


– Share your thoughts! Do you also feel that you need more courage to face it all? How do you find it?