Today, you are officially invited behind the scenes of our office and we’re going to let you take a sneak peak of our everyday translation work. And life, too. It’s hard to say for sure where and when one ends and the other begins.
It’s safe to say, though, that no day in the life of a translator is like any other. There is no such thing as a typical day and a typical translator. What’s more, we can bet that other people who work in this industry have different customs and habits, starting simply from where they work – from home, in a coworking space, in their own office, or for a larger company.
Even though it is so difficult to define a typical translator’s day or even week, there are some recurring elements, in various configurations and with varying frequency.
There were two reasons why we wanted to write this text: firstly, to show you the life of the curious translator creatures from the inside; and secondly, to stress it out that both of us – or actually, all of us – have our own individual ways of working, differing methods and techniques, and distinct peak productivity times. We believe that variety and flexibility are crucial in all walks of life.
To the point, then! Continue reading to see our two perspectives on how it is to be a Translatorion translator and what our workdays are like.
A day in the life of a translator – no. 1
I turn my PC on at 8 a.m. and check my inbox. Sometimes we receive first orders at this time, at other times we get and read the clients’ responses to our questions related to the translated texts. Mornings are also a good time to send the completed translations to the clients, if their deadlines are before noon.
Next, I prepare my breakfast and eat it while working. In the morning, I try to perform less intensive and complicated tasks, as my body and brain are not fully awake yet. This is usually a good moment to take care of order management, email organisation (this can take a great deal of time!), issuing urgent invoices, making wire transfers, checking the payments, and other minor administrative tasks.
When my mind is wide awake, I move on to more complex work, namely, translation verification. I proofread not only my own translations but also texts translated by other people. Depending on the length of the texts, this task can take up to a couple of hours. Of course, if there is nothing to proofread, I go ahead with the next stage.
The next stage is translation itself – the most engaging and demanding job. During the main hours of my workday, I translate or do post-editing of texts – the latter is based on ready-made machine translations which some translation agencies send on to be verified by human translators. I’m going to talk more about this topic in the future, and I’ve already mentioned it in one of the previous articles. This part of my work takes place in a CAT programme; it also involves terminology and knowledge research online, in dictionaries, and in other sources. When I finish a translation and still have some working hours at my disposal, I return to text reviewing and verification. When a text is completely translated, thoroughly edited, and carefully proofread, I can send it to the client right away.
Obviously, some things must be dealt with at any time of the day. I systematically and continuously respond to clients’ messages and accept or refuse new texts (the latter happens when I am not able to translate something due to a deadline clash or a subject which is outside of my field of expertise). As soon as I receive a new translation job, I create a new folder for it and enter it into an Excel spreadsheet to have control over the current and upcoming tasks.
At the end of the day, I deal with the tasks which are not directly related to translation but they constitute a part of our job. This is the time to write new blog entries, read about some topics which come up during the translation, or do other minor organisational tasks.
On some days, the schedule does not stick to this pattern. At the end of the month, I issue most of the invoices, enter them into Excel spreadsheets, and register our revenues and expenses. This is when we sum up the previous month together and discuss our plans for the following one. At the beginning of the month, I have an appointment with our accountant to deliver all the necessary documents and talk to her about some ongoing issues connected with taxes or social insurance.
A day in the life of a translator – no. 2
I usually get up at 8 a.m. – oh, I can already hear your surprised voices, and some indignant snorts too. You certainly know that some people call themselves ‘early birds’ or ‘night owls’ – these are not just idioms but solidly grounded terms referring to what has been recently thoroughly analysed and studied, and dubbed as ‘chronotypes’. I am going to write a separate text about these, but for now, let’s just say that is about a person’s sleeping time preference, depending on one’s biological clock, or in more fancy words, on his or her circadian rhythms. It’s not only your habits but also your genes that determine what time of the day (or night) you are most efficient – and alive. For me, the peak productivity times are afternoons and evenings – I can literally feel my brain working at full steam then, super-active and capable of meeting any challenge, especially some complicated translations. In the mornings, however, I am better at less demanding activities. I usually begin with checking my inbox and responding to emails and proceed to plan the rest of the day and the week – administration, organisation, and logistics.
Before the noon comes, I do another thing that I like and find accessible – research! Searching for relevant information and analysing it to prepare for a project is something I really love – and it turns out it is possible to do that before both my cerebral hemispheres are warmed up. I read a lot to find out more about the subject of the translations that await me, I look up necessary details, and I educate myself with respect to other disciplines as well, not always directly related to translation as such – these include blogging, running a website, and managing a company.
Apart from translation, I teach from time to time. I give classes of English, Spanish, and Polish for foreigners – the schedule is, again, flexible and irregular, and the lessons normally take part in our office, depending on the needs of my students. What’s more, a translator must leave the office from time to time too. Another advantage of flexitime is that you can go to the town centre, run errands, and visit some public institutions within their opening hours, to deal with the inevitable red tape. At times, I also go out to meet our accountant, a client, a consultant, or a student.
Afternoons are my prime time. This is when I usually handle the most serious and important tasks and I know that I can do them reliably, aptly, accurately, effectively, efficiently, and – above all – creatively. I get down to my translation projects, proofreading and verification, text editing, blog writing, and improving my own linguistic skills – both in relation to the languages I translate and those I am beginning to learn. When I translate a long, demanding text, I am in full flow and I don’t really notice the passing of time. Letters, words, sentences, and meaning float around my head and I weave them into a different language – and I’m loving this!
In the evening – early or late, depending on my choice or on some external factors – I finish my work and allow myself some free time, which, as you can guess, often involves reading books and doing other things that we’ve mentioned in the text about what translators like. We often go for a walk around the town, too.
And then, the next day comes, which can be completely different, both in terms of working hours and types of tasks to be done. This changeability, instability, and unpredictability can be bothering, but mostly, they are something to enjoy, something that offers plenty of opportunities and makes you forget what boredom means.
Which of these daily routines is Martyna’s, and which is Paweł’s? You know us a little bit, so we’re sure you can guess easily!
As you can see, even people who know each other so well and work together every day have a number of different habits and preferences when it comes to how they work. Our working schedule is absolutely not standardised – each day is different and this is actually one of the reasons why we like this profession.
What about you? How do you work?
Martyna and Paweł