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 Rose Newell of English Rose Berlin! Let’s go!


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

I got my first translation job through a friend. Long story short, I did a lot of research to make sure the job turned out well (I had an ace up my sleeve: it related closely to my dad’s field of work). I enjoyed it, all told, so started freelancing. What do I remember most about that first year? ProZ. Bidding for jobs. Test translations to get my foot in the door without any qualifications to my name. This is NOT a path I’d recommend, especially today! I was a gifted newbie, so it worked ‘well enough’, and yes, I took advantage of some great contacts made in Bonn. But rates at the bottom have fallen far in the past nine or ten years.


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

By choice, I am a complete night owl. If I have any say in the matter, my day doesn’t start until midday at the earliest, although that’s had to change in recent years. I’ve always found it easier to concentrate at night as there are fewer distractions, and I’m the type of person who’d rather stay up late to finish something than go to bed a bit earlier to finish something the next morning. I tend to get up around the start of the working day, usually around 8.00, sometimes 9.00, and sometimes as late as 10.00 or 11.00, although it’s very unusual for the phone not to ring before then. I am most productive in the evenings and at night, though. Mornings are always a bit unfocused and distracted for me. I wonder if I’d be better off doing my fun things in the morning so I am in a good mood and more productive for the afternoon – I might try that!


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

Very hard to say. Marketing, client chats and so on all have to count, so I probably would say around 35 on average. Sometimes more, sometimes less. There are weeks when that will go down to 15, and others where it will easily go up to 50. It does balance out in the end.


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

Go with the flow. But I still have things I like to do every day, and I’m trying to add a bit more routine in my life. I bought a coffee machine, for one thing! I could use more routine. Without enough structure in our lives we can easily let things fall apart, like our mental and physical health.


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 choose my own hours pretty much, so I can spend time with my partner while he is around, do other things during the day if I so choose, and work in the evening when I am the most productive. In theory, at least. As I’ve got busier, I’ve had less and less flexibility. That said, one benefit of working with direct clients is they tend to understand when you just can’t do something right away. They came to me because they want me, so they’ll usually wait for me without complaining. Of course, there’s a bit of give and take there, too – I’m also ready to drop everything when they really need me, it’s just about making sure all sides are honest about how busy they are or how urgently they need something.

Another way I take advantage of this is through travel – both on business and for pleasure. I take advantage of the fact I can work anywhere during the day and still do my own thing in the evening, or vice versa. I do this particularly on my long and frequent trips to the UK – taking time off for a morning walk before a translation, or working very hard one day so I can have the next day off, and so on.


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

It does not mean all that much really. I know it’s something I should look at, but I would not say I have mastered it. I do make sure I have enough time for myself, my hobbies, and to cook good food.


7. You rebranded as English Rose Berlin a while back. Has this challenged your time management skills?

That’s a funny one. English Rose Berlin was about refocusing, repositioning. As a result, I waved goodbye to agency clients as my rates went up, and welcomed new and interesting direct clients. These clients are demanding, too, just in a different way. There are fewer stages in the process and the interaction is more personal, so deadlines tend to be more reasonable and negotiable. On the other hand, these clients love to talk. I like that, too, but it does pose a time management challenge. For example, you might be getting into one job, and a new client calls to discuss a new potential job and get to know each other. Or you might allow two hours for a meeting, and walk out six hours later… It can all happen. On the other hand, the repositioning really worked. That produced a new problem: increased workload. That is something that poses its own challenges, but ultimately I’ve just done what I always do and tell others to do if they get too busy: I raised my rates and always recommend others for things I am not the best fit for.


8.What’s the biggest productivity challenge you’ve faced as a business owner?

That is tough. I really don’t know. I guess the issue with a small number of clients expecting long, free consultations and many in-person meetings.

More recently, I found myself very distracted by global events. One day in particular, I just couldn’t work, and the day after I was trying to write copy and had to give up and go for a walk. The problem with creative work is it can be very difficult to do if you’re not in a good mood. That is a massive drain on productivity. I am thankful the client I was doing some work for was so understanding, though.


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

I’ve not totally overcome either problem! In most cases, you have to look at the in-person meetings as an investment. Sometimes it just ends up taking a lot longer, or they want many of these meetings, which can end up a bit like free coaching sessions. Fine if you’re charging for that, but I use project fees for the project itself, so this is tough. I’ve got around this by being blunt and joking about the fact I have to go earn some money, saying that I can only spare an hour, or suggesting we speak on the phone. In some cases I’ve said I can offer that but for a fee. This has either led to them paying the fee or reassessing whether they really need to meet in person. These strategies have generally worked.

Where the lack of focus is concerned, I think the best thing is to realise you’re not able to focus and then go off and do something to distract yourself. Going for a walk or playing a computer game, or even just going to bed – that’s helped.


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

My iPad Air is both my greatest distraction and greatest productivity tool. It enables me to keep strictly things related to current jobs on the monitor while I am working. It alerts me when I have a new email, which I can then read without the mental engagement of switching windows. I think that helps. Some people use dual screens in this way, which has the same effect. I have Dragon, too, but I use it more for a change than anything else, as I’m a super-fast typist.


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

“Think about where you want to be in twenty years, not in one year. Gain clients for tomorrow, not just right now.”

Specialise, and think deeply about what your strengths are. Build on those strengths. Don’t waste time with those bottom-feeding agencies because you won’t learn anything, except how to be screwed over. Okay, that was more than one thing, but the same essential piece of advice: look ahead.


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’m really geeky. A lot of people probably already know I’m into computer games, though. What they might not know is that I’m very into computer hardware, gadgets and the real nerdy side of geekery. I host my own websites on a Linux system, built my own computer, and own a Raspberry Pi and multiple Arduino kits. So yes, I spend time playing around with amateur robotics. It’s really fun! I also like aromatherapy and occasionally make my own mixes of essential oils for different purposes.


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 marie@lookingglasstranslations.com to be part of it.


  • Rose Newell

  • English Rose Berlin

Rose is a Berlin-based, British-born copywriter and German-to-English translator specialising in marketing, high tech and investments. Readers might know Rose’s blog, which tackles issues like common language errors and whether translation really is getting cheaper (it isn’t).





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