Welcome to the next post in the Great Productivity Project series, part of the Looking-Glass Translations productivity programme! Contact me on today if you’d like to be featured in the series.
This week, I speak to Catherine Christaki of Lingua Greca Translations! Let’s go!
1. How did you enter the industry and what do you remember most about your first year in business?
I always knew I wanted to be a translator, so after finishing my BA in Modern Languages in the UK, I returned to Greece and started translating right away while working in a hotel group as a sales and marketing assistant.
During my first year as a translator, I was very, very tired all the time. I was lucky enough to get a nice big project right after graduation (three books of speeches from three international conferences, from English into Greek), but that meant having to do two full-time jobs. So, after eight hours at the office, I went to my room and worked on the book translations for at least eight more. Another thing that I remember from back then (2001!) is the lack of resources, forums, dictionaries, communities and so on online. I had to carry a suitcase with my dictionaries everywhere I went… Oh, and no CAT tools!
2. Are you a morning lark or a night owl?
Until we moved to Canada two years ago, I was always a night owl. I couldn’t sleep before 1-2 am, had dinner at 10 or 11 pm and woke up around 8 am. That changed when we arrived in Canada. Because of our many European clients, one of us (the other being my translator husband, co-owner at Lingua Greca Translations) had to make the sacrifice and get up at 5 in the morning to reply to emails, take care of urgent requests etc. I’m not sure how I managed to do it, but it’s been going very well; I actually enjoy the quiet time and the night view from the office window! So, I guess I am now officially an early bird 🙂
3. On average, how many hours do you work a week?
At least 60, so 12 hours a day (on good days) without weekend work, but I do spend some weekends working. Sometimes on translation projects but most times it’s about administrative work, writing for our blog or reading other translators’ blogs to find gems for our Weekly Favorites.
4. Do you stick to a set routine or do you prefer to go with the flow?
I am an organisation freak, the last thing I do before closing the computer in evening is prepare the next day’s hourly schedule. Sometimes (wonder days!) I manage to stick to the schedule, but most days I’m lucky if I do about 70% on my list.
5. As freelancers, we are very lucky in that we have a lot more flexibility than other workers. How do you take advantage of this?
I wake up every day with a smile because I don’t have a boss! I have the freedom to organise and spend my time as I wish, there’s no one telling me what to do. I travel as much as I can, sometimes combining a trip with a conference in that city. I take days off whenever I feel like it or just move the office (i.e. the laptop) to a nice beach location (well, that was easy in Greece, not so much here in Toronto). Sometimes, I go for walks by the lake or to an afternoon yoga class if I don’t feel very productive for work. Lately, I’ve started talking half-days off on Fridays (because I’m too tired from the previous days) and Mondays (because the week ahead always looks busy). I hope I can keep this new trend for many months to come. Most importantly, I have the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want it, like moving to a new country. My job just comes with me.
6. What does work-life balance mean to you? Do you think it’s important?
I think it’s very important, but also very hard to achieve. Each freelancer has a different perception of work-life balance. For me, it’s making sure I find the time for a good rest at the end of the day, travelling as much as possible and visiting friends and new places, and spending quality time with my hubby and cat babies. Being in the office with your husband (and cats) helps, but it doesn’t mean we spend much quality time together during the day; we just talk about work or not at all because we are both focused on our translations. Every now and then, I take baby steps in improving my work schedule, e.g. in the first four to five years as a freelance translator I did a lot of all-nighters. I’m very glad I got rid of that bad habit.
7. What’s the biggest productivity challenge you’ve faced running your own business?
I am happily at a point in my career where I enjoy every single one of the translation projects I do. But sometimes it’s just a bit too much work. Every few weeks I find myself working too much (usually after I hit the 14-hour mark in a day) and I feel guilty for ignoring my body’s requests for exercise and sleep. I would love to find a way to make sure I never have to work after 5 pm, but it’s not a certainty; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The other challenge I am facing at the moment is trying to do and learn too much at the same time. Running a freelance business is very different from running a company and it’s a very long process learning all the extra processes and changing your way of thinking in general.
8. How did you overcome it / what are you doing to make things better?
Trying to limit my work hours to 12 maximum is a daily struggle. I keep trying out hacks and productivity apps to help me with that. Some days I do manage to finish everything on my schedule and it’s still day out, so party time! 🙂
As for my second challenge, about learning to think and act as a business owner, I’m getting better at it too. I keep reading books and blogs and collecting resources so all I have to do now is organise everything and plan the time to brainstorm and put all my ideas into practice. This weekend is step one. We’ll see how it goes.
9. What’s the one productivity tip or tool you couldn’t live without?
My Outlook calendar with my daily schedule. If something happens to that (knock on wood), I wouldn’t know how to function. Evernote is another life-saver; that’s where I keep all the tweets to be shared, all the resources I find (which I try to apply to our business and also use as sources for my presentations and webinars). For work, there are two things that have saved me a lot of time: filters and canned responses. With filters, I only get translation projects in my Inbox and everything else automatically goes into folders where I can read them later. I use canned responses multiple times a day: one for confirming a project, one for delivering a project, one when a new agency client asks for CV/rates, and so on. Both are great time-savers.
10. If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you’d tell yourself when you were just starting out?
Two things: find a mentor and don’t stay up all night working! Being a mentor this past year, I realised how valuable such a relationship can be, especially back then when the Internet resources were scarce. As for the sleep, I didn’t get it back then that your productivity plummets when you are tired. At 23, you think sleep is a luxury, not a necessity. Dear newbie translator Catherine, please sleep more, you are a much better translator after a good night’s sleep!
JUST FOR FUN: Finally, we often only see each other professionally and I’d love to peek behind the business – can you name a hobby of yours that might surprise us? What do you do in your downtime?
Yoga, walks, cinema or movies on TV, and reading. Nothing relaxes the mind better than a good fiction book 🙂
Thank you so much for taking part in the series!
Three heads are better than one
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Would you like to be involved in the Great Productivity Project? I’d love to hear from you! Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org to be part of it.
Lingua Greca Translations
Catherine Christaki has been a full-time English-Greek translator since 2001 and co-owner of Lingua Greca Translations since 2012. She is active on social media, and especially Twitter (Top 25 Language Twitterers 2011-2014), writes the translation blog Adventures in Technical Translation and regularly talks about social media and blogging for translators in interviews & conferences.