Welcome to the first 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.

Today I speak to Nicole Y. Adams of NYA Communications! Let’s go!


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

I entered the translation profession by chance back in 2003. I came across an ad in the paper by a local agency in the UK looking for someone to translate a German business letter. I thought ‘I can do that’, got a cheque in the post soon after, and was hooked immediately.

I went on to do a lot of research on how to set up as a freelance translator and translated part time for a couple of years before taking the plunge to full time. What I remember most about my first year in the business is total overwhelm. There were so many things I didn’t know – what to charge, what a CAT tool is, how to negotiate, that it’s important to specialise and so forth.

I noticed that there wasn’t much help for beginners at the time, which is what prompted me to design The A to Z of Freelance Translation online course this year to help new colleagues combat the overwhelm of their first year in the business, which I remember all too well.


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

I used to be a night owl, but having young kids means I now have to be a morning lark, whether I like it or not. I still work late nights though, so I suppose I’m both!


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

Including all non-translation activities such as admin, marketing, mentoring or article writing, around 50 hours a week.


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

In general, I like to go with the flow and I take a very flexible approach. However, I do have to follow at least a rough schedule based on my kids’ schedules. I usually work from 9am to 4pm and then again in the evening from 8pm to whenever. As almost all of my clients are in Europe, I often take Mondays off because Europe hasn’t returned from their weekend yet. I also take time off to attend social events or appointments as necessary.


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 think that’s the greatest advantage of being self-employed: you can schedule your working hours around your other commitments and vice versa. This flexibility is priceless. I don’t have to miss any of my children’s school events, I can choose to work Sunday and take Monday off instead, and I can take an afternoon nap in between projects. I think we are incredibly fortunate, and I’d never want to give up this ‘freelance lifestyle’ now. Naturally though, we need to be disciplined, and admittedly this freedom is not for everyone.


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

A healthy work-life balance is not only important but essential. Life is too short to not enjoy it, and I don’t believe we’re designed to just work all the time. People often ask me ‘Where do you find the time to do all these (work-related) things and still take your kids to their activities or be out and about all the time?’ I think when you do what you love, time stops becoming an issue and you just blend your professional and personal spheres to create a symbiosis that works for you.


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

The biggest productivity challenge is getting sucked into things you don’t really enjoy, whether that be certain business activities or particular types of project. This makes you so much less productive and slows you down. People will often approach you with requests for collaboration, and if you feel obliged to accept although deep down you’d rather do something else, your productivity and overall well-being will suffer.


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

I sat down and evaluated in detail what I enjoy doing in my business and came up with translating in the areas of PR, marketing and corporate communications, and helping new colleagues with my online course. I eliminated all the activities that I don’t enjoy and therefore have a very clear understanding of my positioning and what business activities I want to engage in. That means, for example, that I will never present a webinar or speak at conferences, because I don’t enjoy that line of business. Some colleagues are happy to diversify into speaking at events or presenting webinars, and that’s fantastic if that’s truly their calling. In my case, I am focused solely on what I feel is my passion, i.e. translating and creating online content, and this makes me so much more productive, as I don’t have to spend time struggling through tasks or assignments I don’t enjoy.


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

Outlook reminders and my daily caffeine dose in the morning. I’ve also found RescueTime a very useful tool to track how much time I spend on ‘productive’ tasks and how much time I waste looking at funny cat videos on YouTube (Marie: check out this post for a review of this and other time-tracking tools). 😉


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

It’s going to be one heck of a ride, but truly worth it if you see it through! 😉 Seriously though, I’d tell myself to invest heavily in brushing up my business skills right from the outset, as translation skills alone are not enough to make it as a professional translator.


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 used to be a figure skater and then taught figure skating for a while.


Thank you so much for taking part in the series!


Three heads are better than one

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


  • Nicole Y. Adams

  • NYA Communications

Nicole is a certified German-English marketing, corporate communications and PR translator with over 11 years’ experience in translating, editing, and project and quality management. She holds a Masters in Contemporary English Language and Linguistics from the University of Reading, UK, and is the author of Diversification in the Language Industry and The A to Z of Freelance Translation online course. An AUSIT Senior Practitioner and a member of ATA, BDÜ, CIOL and DVÜD, Nicole lives with her family in sunny Brisbane, Australia.

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