Friday 4 March 2016

2 simple things that will make your business a cut above the rest

How many times have you read articles upon articles on how to streamline your business more effectively, how to get more clients, juggle multiple projects, deliver quality or keep your sanity at the office? Many times, right? There are so many things we need to tick off that list before we can call ourselves professional.

For me, it is all down to two simple things.

Two things that I have incorporated in my book of good business practices since the very beginning of my freelance career and which make my clients come back to me again and again for more work. You would think that any business which takes itself seriously would have incorporated these two simple techniques in their everyday dealings with clients but you would be surprised. I am astounded, almost on a daily basis, to find out how many freelancers ignore these two simple steps.

Acknowledging receipt of an email

In today’s connected world there is absolutely no reason not to acknowledge receipt of an email. Please note that I am not referring to unsolicited emails or any other type of unwanted communication. I am specifically referring to emails from current or prospective clients with regards to a current or prospective project.

And I repeat, in today’s connected world, there is absolutely no reason as to why you would not acknowledge a client’s, outsourcer’s or collaborator’s e-mail communication, at least during business hours. Not having time to reply to an email is not good enough reason simply because if you had time to read the email in the first place, you also had time to hit reply with the words “Received”. It takes five seconds.

I understand that there will be times when replying to an email immediately will simply not be possible, e.g you are driving and cannot stop to reply to an email. That still doesn’t justify not replying to an email. You still have the option to reply two hours later or five hours later or even much later on that same evening. If your business depends on the amount of emails you get from prospective leads/clients, etc. forgetting to reply to an email is not an excuse but rather a chance to realise that you need an effective filing system put in place. You should be checking emails all the time and have by now devised a way to highlight emails that need answering right away as opposed to those you can answer a few hours later. That way you cannot miss anything. Endeavour to reply within 24 hours at the latest. Go over 48 hours and you risk coming across as sloppy, unprofessional and unreliable. Not to mention you can anger people too. If you are in the pub, reply from your iPhone/Android/smartphone; if you don’t have one, then you are simply not taking your business seriously.

Let’s take a moment to see how acknowledging receipt of an email can help your business by going back to the first paragraph of this article.
  •        Getting more clients.  It is a non-brainer. If you don’t reply promptly or acknowledge receipt of an email with the intention to reply, your prospective client will go elsewhere.
  •       Juggling multiple projects.  Again communication is key which is why you need to communicate with your client promptly, especially if you come across a problem along the way, eg. if more time is needed to finish one project or if one project needs prioritising over another. 
  •       Delivering quality. This is closely tied with point b and refers back to the importance of smooth communication between you and the client. And it all starts with acknowledging one another’s email. 
  •       Keeping your sanity. This is the most important of all. In this online world that we live in, where most of the work we provide can be done online, with little face-to-face contact involved, you want to make sure that you and your client are on the same page. Did he or did he not receive what I sent him this morning? Is she or is she not happy with my work? Am I going to get paid?  

Finally, I will concede the fact that sometimes it really is very difficult to reply to an email because a) you are in a conference or in training and no mobile phones are allowed, b) you are in a plane, c) you are off sick or on holidays or have just come back from holidays and have hundreds of emails that need answering. For all the above reasons, there is simple technique no. 2.

The Out of Office message

First, I will start by saying that if you really want to be successful at what you are doing, you can never truly be Out of Office. I am never completely out of reach from my clients, not even when I am on holidays.  While I will most probably not take any work while I am away, I will still make myself available to communicate my availability, negotiate a different deadline or simply answer a question a client may have.

On the subject of Out of Office messages though, I am truly amazed to see how many freelancers fail to use this tool for the purpose it was created, Out of Office messages. While the majority of freelance entrepreneurs use it after hours, during the weekend or on holiday, that is not the only time you should be using it. No one is stopping you from using it for a couple of hours only, while you are away giving that presentation and can’t check your emails for example.  Out of Office messages allow you to choose the dates and the clients you want your message sent to, so there is really no excuse not to reply.  You should also be able to set your message up from your mobile phone if for some reason you cannot get to your computer. Alternatively, you should ask your partner, if you work at home, or the colleague who is normally sitting next to you to do it for you.  You can use Out of Office messages for just about everything. I have used them before to communicate a temporary power outage, a faulty internet connection or the fact that I am going through a very large list of e-mails at the moment and can’t reply instantly.

Anything to make my clients’ life easier. Do you agree? 

Monday 24 November 2014

The Client from Hell or how… Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

At some point in our freelance career, we are going to have at least one client from hell. By “client from hell”, I don’t necessarily mean someone who didn't pay; I am talking more about the type of client who plays psychological games that may make you doubt your work and yourself. For someone who has had nothing but positive experiences with clients so far, (in my career of 11 years, 6 as a freelancer) this came as a serious blow.  And so, I decided to write this post in an effort to find out what constitutes a bad client, as well as “educate” any potential clients who may want to work with me in the future.

My client from hell was a very large company, with dozens of offices both in Europe and the United States. A direct client, not a translation agency, and that is perhaps the first red flag in the story. Without wanting to generalise too much, the common perception is that doing business with an SME accounts for a much easier and smoother process, as opposed to doing business with a very large company.  Business with an SME is a lot more personal. In many cases, the person you talk to over the phone or via e-mail is the CEO of the company himself. My client had CEOs, Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Chairmen that were impossible to reach. It also had a legal department which handled our dispute until the end.  I have worked with many SMEs in the past and my experience has always been positive. This was the first time I decided to work with a very large company and my experience, unfortunately, was everything but positive.

So what exactly went wrong with that client?  This is the second version of my post. In the first, I ended up writing pages after pages about what had happened exactly. But why would I want to relive this experience anyway and how would that be of any interest to you? Instead, I prefer to bring to your attention some of the things that went wrong as a result of this client’s behaviour and way of doing business.

I consider this client to be “the client from hell” because:

·      They were difficult to communicate with and evasive in their emails. A good client responds to your queries when you want to find out more about the project. After all, you only want to do the best job possible. They do not only contact you when they want to tell you something; they also take the time to reply to your queries. They do not only talk, they also listen. Of course, it goes without saying that this works both ways. In other words, if you and your client don’t communicate well, you can kiss your project good-bye.

·      They were highly disorganised. Excluding the fact that they never replied to our e-mails in time, when we finally went ahead with the project, they sent us the files a lot later than they said they would, they sent us the wrong files, and they changed our deadline. The more pressure you put on a project and the people working on it, the more chances you have to condemn it to failure.

·      “Too many cooks, spoil the broth.” The bigger the company, the more people will get involved in the project and this can potentially have disastrous consequences. In my case, I cced a team of five people in all e-mails, and while my direct communication took place with one person only – their coordinator – it seems that the team itself was not very good at communicating with each other. As a result, none of the guidelines that we set at the beginning of the project were adhered to or respected. While I got the confirmation from one person on how to go ahead with the project, the rest of the team were not necessarily in the know about that discussion [which is strange, since all 5 people were cced at all times during the project]

·      They were unable to understand simple instructions or willingly decided to disregard them. Instructions and guidelines are set for a reason and once they have been confirmed and agreed to by both parties, they should be respected to the utmost detail. Any deviation from this, even the most minor one, can have disastrous results. I believe my fault here lies in not “educating” the client enough about the importance of adhering almost religiously to the guidelines. As a result, when we got our feedback, and a list of complaints, we realised that none of the things we had agreed upon together, had been respected.

·      We never heard from them again, after we submitted our work. Whenever I submit work, especially to a new, direct client, I always make sure to mention in my email that I want to be contacted immediately, if there is something wrong with the work. I don’t pretend to know everything, however if you help me, if you educate me about the inner workings of your company, I am more than pleased to correct any mistakes I may have made, free of charge. That didn't happen. Although, I asked for it on the day I sent out our work, I never received an answer from them. Not even an acknowledging e-mail that work had been received ok. We were informed about potential problems in the project, only on the day we started chasing them for payment! Don’t do that, if you are a company hiring a freelancer! This behaviour will only serve to compromise your position even further.

To cut things short, when payment day came, they refused to pay us (and only offered to pay half the price on our invoice) with the excuse that the project had fallen to pieces. When we asked them to send us a list of particulars –I was quite curious, as you can understand - we received an e-mail that further exposed what lack of communication and mismanagement can do to a project.  Without wanting to go into too many particulars, I will just say that the issue took a legal turn and was handled by their legal department, however we were able to win our case, quite easily, after we explained to them in great detail that the problem was a result of their own miscommunication and inability to manage the project. I used previous e-mail communication to prove that guidelines had not been adhered to or that they had been willingly disregarded. Furthermore, lack of organisation (checking the wrong files) and the fact that non-native speakers were trying to correct our native speakers did not help much either.  Our work was impeccable, and although they never admitted to it, they gave in and paid full price, as they could not find anything to blame us for.

From the bullet list above, you can see various reasons as to why a project can go wrong. For me, lack of organisation is the most serious one, especially when you work on a large project (20 files in this case). Our client accused us of not proof-reading a file, which had been proof-read sufficiently, however they were looking at the wrong place. We submitted all files in order, but somewhere at their end, some of them got lost or misplaced. Lack of organisation also means not keeping track of your e-mail communication and the things that were agreed to with the other party. Lack of organisation also means that we were booked for a further date by them for another project but our services were never used, resulting in significant loss of profit and resources on our side. And because a project binds two parties, one party’s shortcomings can have a negative effect on the other party as well (in this case, me, the project manager who had to explain myself to my translators, as well as pay them out of my pocket).

If I could have done something differently, I would have tried to keep my calm and sang-froid. That didn't happen unfortunately, as we felt we were being attacked for no reason. At the end of the day though, truth shines, and no one can take that away from you, no matter what is said in the heat of the moment.

Have you ever had a client from hell? What were your experiences?

Natali Lekka is the owner of Worlds of Words 

Wednesday 19 November 2014

The travelling translator reporting from... the Galapagos Islands!

This is yet another exciting post from Martina Russo, an English, German and Spanish into Italian freelance translator who enjoys travelling and making the most of her professional independence.  In the past, she reported from SE Asia and now she is once again at the other side of the world. Here's her latest story:

"Exactly 1 year ago, I was typing all the way from South East Asia. Today, after more or less 1,5 years of full time freelancing, things are going smooth and I'm enjoying a very happy lifestyle, living in South America. Right now, I'm typing from the Galapagos Islands!

That's right. I am – literally – living on an earthly heaven, where incredibly colourful creatures walk, fly and swim all around me 24/7. There's no break from beauty.

The pros and the cons of South America
Peru and Ecuador – and I guess the same could be said about the whole of South America – have brought along their challenges.

The biggest one: time difference. South America is between -5 and -7 hours behind (compared to Europe). My clients are mainly European. This means that when I wake up at 7 am, it's already 2 pm in Switzerland; 10 am for me, 5 pm in Europe.

-        The problem: my main fear was that I would lose a great amount of work from some clients because of the time difference. I would wake up very nervous every morning and instantly check my email in-box, sometimes finding messages that had been sent hours back and occasionally tasks that had been cancelled because I wasn't available at the time.

-        The solution: I told my clients where I was located. They were all OK with it --actually, some of them were even excited about it. At first, I tried to work according to the EU time zone, but eventually it wasn't worth it so my clients happily adjusted their schedule according to mine and we successfully found a meeting point. Of course, I will go the extra mile to meet a deadline, so I still make exceptions when needed.

I got a local SIM card and made sure that 3G was always on so as to receive email notifications promptly. This way, I can always reply within minutes; maximum within one hour. I communicated my local telephone number in case of emergencies and have been planning on opening a Google Voice number (or similar) so that I can keep the same number, no matter where I am.

Being so many hours behind can be quite stressful at first, but then you adjust to the rhythm. I can accept jobs early in the morning and I need to be constantly available until around midday, but after that I can take a few hours off and enjoy the day or any activity, because in Europe everybody's dining and sleeping at that time. In the afternoon/evening there is more time to get work done.

My typical day here usually unfolds like this:

I wake up between 6-7 am, instantly check emails from my phone and reply to urgent jobs. I do some stretching exercises and eat breakfast. I then start working and stay in the zone until around 12-1 pm. I have lunch and get some more work done, and around 2 pm I get my snorkelling or surfing equipment ready and off to the beach I go! A couple of hours later I'm back and, after a shower and some reading, I get back to work until dinner time.

Some of the highlights of this trip (and there are still many more to come!):
-        swimming and snorkelling with sea lions and giant sea turtles
-        learning how to surf and (working on) getting over my terror for the sea
-        travelling across the Amazon rain forest and the Andes, experiencing breathtaking landscapes, remote cultures and languages and local wild animals

Constantly pushing over my limits and boundaries allows me to grow on so many levels, and it keeps me ever more motivated to do my job. Not only do I love languages, cultures and translation –this flexibility is one great perk of freelancing that I would not give up for all the money in the world."

Martina in a nutshell:

Martina Russo is an English, Spanish & German into Italian freelance translator with 4 years of experience and a BA in translation studies. She also offers proofreading, subtitling, transcribing and (light) post-editing services in Italian. Her main domains are Tourism & Hospitality, Marketing & Communication and audiovisual translation.

Martina enjoys the advantages of working from home by taking her home to different countries. She likes experiencing new cultures and learning new languages – her dream is to become a polyglot. She is currently writing an essay about memorisation strategies applied to language learning and specialising in SEO and localisation.

Would like to get in touch with her? Have a look at her CV, browse her website or send her an email.

Photos: Martina Russo, 

Wednesday 5 November 2014

How Time Zone Differences Influence Business Relationships (Including in the Translation Industry!)

The next article is from Textualis, a Montreal-based translation company with clients from all around the world.

Doing business with a client located in a time zone ahead
Nowadays, internet and technology allow us to do business practically everywhere around the globe. While distance is no longer a problem in doing business worldwide - and that also includes employing remote workers from everywhere around the world- time zones may still be a problem, or at least a real challenge for those doing business with companies based in another time zone. A Canadian company like Textualis, for example, which is doing business with clients located both in Europe and Asia would find it challenging to match their clients’ working schedule… at the beginning at least!

The problems companies face and how to deal with them
Differences in time zones would easily affect business done between countries. For example, while in Canada the day has just begun, in Europe, it would already be around noon, while in Asia, it would be afternoon to evening, depending on the countries’ location. This would possibly make communication offbeat… unless you set up a schedule you commit to follow. Here are some tips in order to avoid the possible problems that might affect deadlines and communication, because the client’s satisfaction is key to a successful partnership.

-          Keep count of your clients’ time zone. Although this might be difficult especially at the beginning of your business, you can overcome the confusion created by different time zones using different technology tools for your help. You can use specific tools (eg. a time zone converter add-on for Firefox, the World Time Buddy extension on Chrome, EasyTZ) that help you automatically convert time zones to find out what time it is in the country where your clients are based. And why not display it in your office as a reminder! Many companies have several clocks on a big wall to make sure every client is taken care of in due time. 
-         Choose a default time for your meetings. Avoid creating confusion for yourself or your clients by using the same time zone in all of your emails and conversations. Start by choosing a time for reference and use the same for all your upcoming schedules, meetings and emails.
-         Pay attention to Daylight Saving Time. This is probably one of the most common and difficult problems when you work with clients from another time zone, as it is not universally observed. Not paying attention to DST might create two undesired situations: either missing deadlines or schedules, or standing up for an extra hour for the scheduled meeting, for example. In order to avoid such problems, you are recommended to check with your clients and colleagues to know whether they observe DST.
-             Be specific about the time. Whether you are scheduling a meeting or setting up a deadline, when you tell your client or colleague about the time, be specific as to whether you refer to your time zone or their time zone.
-          Find a common time that suits both you and your client. Especially when you work with people who are on the opposite side of the planet, this means that one of you would probably need either to wake up very early in the mornings, or to stay awake late at nights. Try to find a common point or to regularly shift, so that schedules are suitable for both of you.
A few words in the end
Although it might be very challenging to work with clients based on the other side of the planet, things can be made a bit easier if you pay attention to some things. Also, it can be very enriching for your team to work with clients who probably have different cultures and ways to negotiate.

No one wants to miss a deadline or a meeting, so paying attention to the time zone and remaining consistent by establishing the correct time for meetings helps you avoid confusing situations when working with clients and colleagues from different time zones than yours.


Wednesday 1 October 2014

The travelling translator reporting from ....Sri Lanka. Ankie's story!

It's been some time since I updated this column but the Travelling Translator is back with a wonderful story from Sri Lanka. Ankie Renique is a Dutch into English freelance translator with a truly inspirational story to share. Here's what she had to say about her life as a travelling translator in Sri Lanka post-Indian ocean tsunami:  

Ankie, tell us a few things about your life before you became a travelling translator. I was born in Holland but my parents quickly moved abroad (Kuwait) when I was still a toddler. This meant I started my education in English in a Muslim Arabic country and spent all holidays in Holland with family and in our farm house in the South of France. This exposed me to many different cultures at a young age. I did my degree in London, where I studied Economics and Philosophy at LSE. By this time I was fluent in English, Dutch, Flemish and French. I loved the multi-cultural vibe in London and so I decided to settle there after graduating and started work for large IT consultancies. I quickly found my niche in writing so I ended up as a Bid and Proposal Manager mainly writing tender documents for all kinds of IT projects in the Financial Sector.

The local lagoon
What languages do you speak and what made you become a translator? As mentioned above, I speak English, Dutch, Flemish and French, although sadly I do not use my French enough to keep it fluent. The main language in Sri Lanka is Singhala (the second is Tamil) and I am currently learning this. However, I am just concentrating on speaking it for now as writing it is near impossible (the Singhala alphabet has 58 letters for example!). There are several reasons which made me become a translator. All my life I have been around other languages, different cultures and in various countries. Different languages also came very easily to me at school (in addition to the above I also understand German and a little Arabic) and although I didn't do a formal language or translation degree, different languages and cultures were a constant part of my life.

After leaving London and the above job in 2003 to travel, my first stop was Sri Lanka where I did some casual work in a hotel bar for a friend and all was going great until Boxing Day, 2004 – the Indian Ocean tsunami. Luckily I wasn't hurt and I didn't lose any friends, although I did lose all my belongings. Most of the tourists soon left and as the hotel had been damaged, there was no more job. I stayed on and did some voluntary work but soon discovered that my resources weren't endless and I needed to find some paying work. I went to Holland in 2005 and worked in a restaurant for 3 months but decided I wanted to go back to Sri Lanka and this is when my foray into freelancing started. I stumbled across some Dutch to English translation work online quite by accident, applied and got the job (I now realise how very lucky I was!). I really enjoyed the work and started searching for jobs using my fluent Dutch! This was nine years ago and I haven’t looked back.

What made you become a travelling translator and lead the life that you do now? 
becoming a freelance translator full-time I have lived and worked in Holland, England, Sri Lanka and travelled and worked in India, Thailand, France and Dubai. I am currently living in Sri Lanka again because I fell in love with this country, its people, its culture, food and my partner who is Sri Lankan. However, there is a very big chance that we will move on because there is still so much to see! These days with wifi and great technology everywhere, I am lucky in that the nature of translation work allows me to work anywhere.

Describe a typical day in your life as a travelling translator. 
In Sri Lanka a typical day is rare, random occurrences are a part of life which means every day brings surprises and often new things to learn. This drives some people round the bend but I find it a welcome distraction if I've been working behind the laptop for too long.

At the local vegetable market
I normally wake up at around 8 or 9, have a coffee (before anything else is done), check my iPhone to see if I have received any urgent work e-mails which need attention. This is quite often the case due to the time difference. If there is anything that cannot wait, I start work. If not I will get the household chores out of the way, shower, eat etc. and then switch on the computer after.  I tend to work throughout the day because other things are best done early or later on in the day because of the weather being so warm. The local people do the same. Most Sri Lankans wake up very early, even the schools start at 7 a.m. and close at lunchtime. The liveliest part of the day is between 5 and 7 p.m. People tend to leave their houses, go and visit others, watch the sunset, go and pray in the temples and the kids play in the street. My favourite time of the day – walk the dog, relax, catch up with friends, get things ready for dinner (cooking is one of my hobbies) – time away from work. After dinner I often work because all my clients are working then due to time differences. If we go out at night it is usually after 9 and I make sure I have no deadlines early the next day!

Sri Lanka is mainly a Buddhist country 
What are the advantages and disadvantages of living life as a travelling translator and how do they affect your translation business? Well the advantages are definitely being able to work when you want and where you want – it is this freedom which you need to embrace whilst at the same time being very responsible to make it a success. Another advantage for me is making a living doing something I love. So many people I know only work because they have to earn money. They would much rather not have to go to their offices every day. I enjoy translating so I don’t suffer from the common “I hate Mondays” or “TGIF” or the feeling of anger when it turns out you will be working all weekend to meet that deadline. However, if that does happen I give myself a full day off during the working week to enjoy the other things I love. I aim to have one full non-working day a week. Plus I get to live in a tropical country with the Indian Ocean on one side and the jungle on the other, which others may only get to visit for a few weeks a year on holiday. Sounds like a win-win situation doesn't it?

Hikkaduwa beach at sunset
Wrong. There are disadvantages too. To make any freelance profession work you need to be focused. If you cannot say no when friends want you to come for lunch, to the beach or if you cannot ignore the sunshine, the ocean etc. this job is not for you. You need to be very self-disciplined and organised. Especially in Sri Lanka where there are often power cuts for a whole day, the humidity on the coast means that electrical appliances are constantly breaking. I have used 5 laptops in 9 years (and that excludes the one which was swept away in the tsunami!). Be prepared! As the others have mentioned – back-up your work; I back-up the majority of my work on the Cloud now. Have a back-up internet connection (smart phone, dongle etc.). Learn as much about the culture where you are as you can, for example; it may take twice as long to fix a laptop problem in a developing country as in Europe. Be prepared for quiet times when you are not earning, always have a contingency plan. I learnt this the hard way. Thankfully I persevered and came out on top J
Cooking a Sri Lankan crab curry
Where do the majority of your clients come from? Europe, UK and a few in the US. I have two direct clients and the rest are all agencies.

What is your advice to anyone wishing to live the life of a travelling translator? Research, research and research (yes also the boring stuff such as red tape, taxes, pensions, health insurance etc.), be prepared for all eventualities. Fully expect to take a few knocks along the way. It’s not for the faint hearted. Be very open and patient. Patience is very important because success does not come overnight. It can take years to build up a reliable client base. It takes time to find the right agencies which ‘work’ for you (instead of you just working for them). They all have different cultures too. Try to find clients and agencies which understand that you may not be in their time zone or may not be able to work because of a 2-day power cut or that you are on the move, but that will also know that you are happy to take on weekend work when you can and that you are 100% committed to a job once you accept it. 
It's hard to work with this on your doorstep!

The main thing is to be realistic about things – you are not going to become a millionaire sipping margaritas on a beautiful beach in a developing country whilst translating a few things at developed country rates. Once you understand that and embrace your freedom and enjoy your surroundings whilst doing hard work (sometimes), you are well on your way to a wonderful fulfilling life!

Ankie is a professional freelance translator from Dutch into English (and sometimes the other way around), English editor and proofreader. Native in both English and Dutch, she specialises in Finance, IT, Marketing, Travel & Tourism, Website and App localization. She grew up abroad and still lives abroad. J She's passionate about food, seeing new places and experiencing new cultures. You can find her on her blog, Facebook page and LinkedIn

Photos by Ankie Renique.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

The travelling translator ...reporting from around the world. Martina's story!

Next in our mini interviews is Martina Russo, an English, Spanish and German into Italian freelance translator who loves languages and living a truly location-independent lifestyle. Here's what she has to say about living life as a travelling translator: 

Martina, tell us a few things about your life before you became a traveling translator.

A trip to Holland
Well, traveling and living in different countries have always been part of my life. I started working very early in my life, mainly in the hospitality industry, in order to self-finance my studies. I moved out of Italy at the age of 18 and spent some time in Germany until an opportunity to work in tourism arose back home. Therefore, I relocated to Milan and truly enjoyed the international environment and lifestyle that you can experience when working for airline companies. 

The very same day I started my new job I also signed up at the faculty of Interpretation and Translation of the IULM University in Milan.

What languages do you speak and what made you become a translator?

My mother tongue is Italian and I can speak English, Spanish and German very fluently, and those are indeed the languages I work from. I have also started studying Russian and I am interested in Dutch. I can also understand a bit of Portuguese.

Cabin for interpretation
I have always been in love with the Italian language. As I grew up, this love spread to other languages and I soon realized that I wanted to do something with it. I was very undecided about what to do. Then one day someone came up to me with the brochures of a school for translators and interpreters... and I was enlightened.

What made you become a traveling translator and lead the life that you do now?

A few months after starting my career in tourism and my training as translator, I had my first translation job (and I still happily work with this company 3 years later).

However, I knew that in order to pursue my dreams and become a professional, trained  translator I would have to make some sacrifices, because the university I had chosen was quite expensive.
Cycling in the Cambodian countryside
After a couple of years, I needed to move out of Italy again because – as you might know – the Italian job market was not doing so well. The chosen destination was once again Germany, since for me it was a chance to dive deep into the German culture and language. I agreed with my university that I would continue my studies as a distance learner.

And this is where it all started. While in Germany I strengthened my translation and language skills. As time went by, other occasional projects added up to my curriculum. I was also continuing my training, occasionally going back to Milan to take exams at university. In Germany I also took part in the creation of a project called NGO Taxi South America. It is a very innovative “travel & work” project which aims to support local NGOs throughout South America.

After a while I was open to a change of scenery and got a job in the German part of Switzerland, where I lived for about one year. I just recently left Switzerland and moved to a beautiful house around the Garda Lake in Italy where I stayed for a few months. Afterwards, I decided that it was time for a reward and jumped on a flight to Thailand. Right now I am writing from Cambodia.

Describe a typical day in your life as a traveling translator.

Bangkok train station
It usually depends on the workload I have. On a typical day I wake up and (after having breakfast and all the other things that all human beings do) I check my emails. I prioritize my tasks using old good pen and paper to have an overview of my day and then spend something between half an hour and one hour reading articles, the news, etc.

The first working activity of my day normally involves 3-4 hours of translating/subtitling for a company that I have a fixed job with. Then I move onto any other job which is lined up, unless there is a deadline or an urgency that will obviously mean a change of order. After I have been translating for a while I stop and let my brain rest and fill in the “gaps” by carrying out minor tasks from my to-do-list, like replying to emails or doing some marketing.

During my working days I usually don't travel or go to see places. I'd rather take 1-2 days off and dedicate all of that time to discover the area where I am living.
The beach

I think that the beauty of it lies in the fact that you can choose where you want to work from and where you want to live. This means that you can spend one month in Thailand working from the beach; next month you can be typing while facing a beautiful river in a charming town in Cambodia; and, at some point, you can catch a flight back to Europe and work from a hut on top of the mountains to enjoy some good snowboarding (yes, this is my plan).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of living life as a traveling translator and how do they affect your translation business?

As far as I'm concerned, there are way more pros than cons in working as a traveling translator. You can take your job everywhere, and sometimes your job can take you places, too. You can enjoy different countries, cultures, people, food, different activities and lifestyles. Being “location-independent” is freedom. Your destiny is literally in your hands.

I believe that the combination of working for yourself, loving what you do and being able to do it from ANYWHERE on the planet gives you such a feeling of satisfaction, happiness and freedom that I couldn't think of doing anything else in my life.

I also appreciate very much that being in some parts of the world is quite convenient time-wise. For example, right now I am 6 hours ahead of Europe. This gives me more flexibility when dealing with deadlines.
My home office in Koh Phangan, Thailand
But of course there is the other side of the coin. For example, it is not always easy to find a fast and reliable internet connection. However, you would be surprised to see how – in 2013 – the internet has reached even the most remote of places.

One more thing that I am not specifically happy about is that sometimes clients might not pay on time, and when this happens they usually also forget to let you know. So you'd better be prepared for this inconvenience, as you really don't want to find yourself at the other side of the world with empty pockets.

Last but not least, I can imagine that anyone who likes traveling has a sparkling enthusiasm and a drive for adventures. It can sometimes be hard to concentrate when you know that you have to spend 8 hours working, while you see all those people chilling out at the beach. It often also happens that people are curious and would like to embark on a life-long exchange of thoughts and ideas which obviously won't do any good to your productivity. This is a matter of self-discipline. You should find a rather quiet place where you can concentrate, behave as if you were in a virtual office and politely let everyone know that you are busy. Isolating yourself with headphones might be a good idea.

Where do the majority of your clients come from?

The client I work most with is an American company with a branch in Europe. Otherwise most of my clients come from Europe.

What is your advice to anyone wishing to live the life of a traveling translator?

Becoming a “location-independent” professional is probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me and I wouldn't hesitate suggesting this to anyone. However, this lifestyle isn't for everybody. You might be more comfortable and productive working from home or in an office with all your equipment and your own internet connection.

For those of you who are considering to embark on this journey, here is my advice. Before starting, make sure that you have:

and tolerance: You will gain a lot of these as time and countries add up in your list – however, sometimes, especially if you have chosen an exotic destination, you will have to deal with random and sudden electricity blackouts or seasonal heavy rains which will cause the internet to slow down.

Travel with a proper smart-phone and buy a local simcard. Enable 3G and use your smart-phone to: 

A) always have an overview in case important emails flush in; B) use it as a modem and connect your computer to it when the electricity goes down. Unless you are on the top of Mount Everest, cellular connections nowadays usually work quite fast through 3G. TIP IN THE TIP: To really make sure you have thought of everything not to let down any clients in case of “emergency”, I also suggest you buy a portable power bank for your devices, even better if it is a solar powered one.

Equipment: Before leaving for a round-the-world trip or just visiting a few countries, equip yourself with a proper laptop. Out of experience, I would suggest one which is not too big as it would be heavy to carry around, but I would avoid one of those mini notebooks. The screen is very small and after a while it can be disturbing. It's also a matter of memory and software compatibility, so make sure you do proper research. Also bring an external hard disk for a back up and, in case anything broke down or got stolen, create a Dropbox or Google Drive account with an online version of (at least) all important files. And, if you don't already have one, you might consider buying an e-reading device.This can be a great break from your laptop to read articles or books without making your bags too heavy.                                                                                                              

Be constant:
Especially if you already have issues with this at home. Being flexible is a great thing, but it is also a good idea to set time frames and always stick to them, as if you were to go to an office. It is also a great thing to break the rule once in a while.
Related to the point above: Remember that you are not on holiday. Choosing a more flexible, enjoyable lifestyle and renting out an apartment on the beach doesn't mean that you should spend every day sun tanning. You have to keep up with what you did back home. This is crucial for a successful “location-independent” life.

Stay healthy:
We all know how easy it is to get lost in emails and files, this resulting in us sitting in front of the screen for hours. Whereas at home it is also quite easy to adjust your regular schedule and find a place to release all the stress by doing sports, if you're always on the move, it becomes less obvious.

Give yourself a limit, no matter what, and get up. Take a swim in the ocean, walk along the river, find a gym or go jogging. This will also reboot your mental system and boost your productivity.                                                                           

TIP: It can happen that you end up in a country where a gym is nowhere to be seen, or where facilities are way too expensive, or you just don't like running around that area. You could get yourself one of those elastic bands. They are extremely light, they don't take up any space and allow you to bring your own gym to your (temporary) home. 

Keep yourself informed about what's happening around the world and look for online opportunities for self-development within the industry. In 2013 there are countless resources to keep up to date and widen your knowledge, even if you can't buy your favorite newspaper or you can't physically attend a conference.


Enjoy your new life!

Martina Russo is an English, Spanish & German into Italian freelance translator with 3 years of experience and a BA in translation studies. She also offers proofreading, subtitling, transcribing and (light) post-editing services in Italian. Her main domains are Tourism & Hospitality and Marketing & Communication. Her main focus is her clients' peace of mind.

Martina also volunteers translating for NGOs and is one of the staff members of the NGO Taxi South America, an innovative Travel & Work project that supports and promotes development programs through South America.

Martina enjoys the advantages of working from home by taking her home to different countries. She likes experiencing new cultures and learning new languages – her dream is to become a polyglot. She is currently writing an essay about memorization strategies applied to language learning.

Would you like to get in touch with her? Have a look at her CV, browse her Moving Words  page or send her an email.