Welcome to the next post in the Great Productivity Project series, part of the Looking-Glass Translations productivity programme! Contact me today if you’d like to be featured in the series.

This week, I speak to the inimitable Marta Stelmaszak of Wantwords! Let’s go!


1. How did you enter the industry and what do you remember most about your first year in business?

I started working as a court interpreter in the UK first, having obtained all necessary qualifications. I was still a student at my BA in Applied Translation back then, so all I remember was hard work! Sleeping little, juggling urgent assignments with uni, and no social life. But this was just for about a year and it definitely paid off!


2. Are you a morning lark or a night owl?

Definitely a morning person. I get up between 5 am and 5.30 am and I just love the peaceful early hours. Getting up later than 7 am even on weekends makes me feel slightly anxious, and my productivity dies out after 7 pm.


3. On average, how many hours do you work a week?

It’s really hard for me to draw a clear division between professional and personal life. Is going out for coffee with translator friends work or life? Is writing a blog post and enjoying the process work or life? Finally, is translating a really interesting text work or pure fun? If I counted every hour I’m doing something in any way related to my business as work, I’d have to conclude I’m a workaholic! But we know it’s never just work…


4. Do you stick to a set routine or do you prefer to go with the flow?

I’m all about routines. I live a very routinized life and any exemption is not really welcomed. I wake up same time, I eat same time, I take breaks always the same time, and so on. It’s either very boring or very effective. I still can’t decide for myself.


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 enjoy the fact that I can work during my most productive hours (between 6 and 10 am) uninterrupted, while other workers or professionals haven’t made it to their offices yet. Based in London, I’m really glad I don’t have to commute and that my area provides me with all amenities. I also like taking breaks between 11 am and 1 pm every day to go to the gym, and I’m pretty sure it would be impossible in standard employment. Finally, I’m really loving the flexibility I have to combine all my passions in my business, not being restricted by a job description or what my director tells me.


6. What does work-life balance mean to you? Do you think it’s important?

I think it’s an excellent question! I don’t believe in work-life balance. I think that this distinction is very harmful especially for people who’re running their own businesses. If you see work and life as two opposites that need to be balanced, you’re suggesting that work is no-life, a chore, something you have to suffer through to get back to your life. This of course impacts how you feel while working: you’re treating it as a sacrifice. I believe that work and life should be considered together, as one complete whole.


7. What’s the biggest productivity challenge you’ve faced running your own business?

Because I travel quite often, I need to be productive on the go. This is tricky because I have a strong preference for working in my office, in my environment and most importantly, in silence. My challenge for 2015 was to learn how to work in other environments with people around, while in 2016 I’m learning how to work in smaller chunks.


8. How did you overcome it / what are you doing to make things better?

First, I started working with others in my office every now and then, getting used to the idea that there’s another person in the room working while I’m working. Then I started going to local cafes in less busy times to learn how to work from there. Finally, I started doing some work from airports. My 2015 goal was to work 1 hour for every 2 hours spent travelling.


9. What’s the one productivity tip or tool you couldn’t live without?

Write all your plans, ideas and goals down. This has an enormous power and if you want to achieve your goals, start writing everything down.


10. If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you’d tell yourself when you were just starting out?

“There’s no need to be so scared and stressed. The future is great!”


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?

I took up weightlifting a while back and now I can’t imagine my life without it. Apart from obvious benefits such as strengthening my muscles, reducing back and wrist pain, as well as improving my fitness, I feel much more relaxed and focused. I also did a masters degree last year, but I doubt whether you’re going to count it as downtime!


Thank you so much for taking part in the series!


Three heads are better than one

Feeling inspired by Marta? Then you might like these articles:


Would you like to be involved in the Great Productivity Project? I’d love to hear from you! Contact me today at marie@lookingglasstranslations.com to be part of it.


  • Marta Stelmaszak

  • Wantwords

Marta Stelmaszak is a Polish – English translator and interpreter helping SMEs in Poland and the UK grow their businesses through better online communication. She graduated in Management, Information Systems and Innovation from the LSE. She’s one of top 15 freelancers in the UK as selected by IPSE. Marta runs the Business School for Translators, recently turned into an online course and book.

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