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 Tess Whitty of Swedish Translation Services! 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 industry after moving to the US with a toddler and pregnant with my second child. I did not want to work in marketing in the US (my previous job in Sweden), working at least 40 h per week and putting our children in day-care, plus have only two weeks of vacation. I’ve always been good at languages and writing, and was close to bilingual, so I started researching the translation industry. I started working as a freelance translator very gradually. As my children grew, so did my experience and my business. I’m now happy to say I’ve found my dream job and I’ve never looked back!


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

I’m physically a night owl, but my current life circumstances have forced me to become a morning person.


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

30–40 hours


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

I try to do the majority of work while my kids are in school and I have my own routine, which can be pretty flexible sometimes.


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?

That is one of the parts I like the most with being a freelancer. I can exercise or run errands in the middle of the day if I want, I’m available for school and doctor’s appointments, and I can take vacation whenever I want.


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

I think work-life balance is very important, but it can look very different for people, depending on their life situation. For me it is very important to have time to spend with family and friends, to travel and enjoy life, and not spend all day and all week working. If I end up working too much, with no time for other things, I tend to get grumpy and frustrated. On the other hand, after a few days off from work I feel refreshed and inspired to dig in on work tasks again.


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

Probably staying focused on tasks and not get distracted by social media and things to be done at home.


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

Sometimes I go to a café to work so that I’m not distracted by things to do at home. I’m also considering a co-working office, but have not yet found the perfect place, plus I’m hesitant giving up the flexible lifestyle I currently have. As for social media, I limit my time on it and try to stick to a schedule. I’ve also tried the Pomodoro technique, for example 50 minutes of focused work, 10 minute break and so on (Marie: More on this very soon on the blog!).


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

Having a synchronised calendar and to-do list between my desktop, laptop and iPhone. I also like the Pomodoro technique a lot; it’s easier to focus if you know it’s for a set time and after that you get to do other things. Exercise also gives me more energy and makes me more productive.


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

I would tell myself that I do not have to say ‘yes’ to all jobs coming in. Clients will contact you again even if you are fully booked, as long as you do a good job and deliver on time. It is worse to take on too much or the wrong jobs and not do a good job, than to say ‘no’ (Marie: Tess is right! If you’re not convinced, you may enjoy my blog post ‘The Power of No‘).


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 not sure how surprising this is, but I love yoga. I have practised Power Vinyasa Yoga regularly for 10 years now. Other things I love to do are reading, travelling and being active out in nature (skiing, skating, hiking, running, biking etc.). Something I do NOT like to do on my spare time is cooking. I am perfectly capable of cooking meals, even yummy ones, but I hate cooking, see it as a chore, and wish I had a chef at home!


Thank you so much for taking part in the series!


Three heads are better than one

Feeling inspired by Tess? 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.


  • Tess Whitty

  • Swedish Translation Services

Tess Whitty started working as an English–Swedish freelance translator in 2002, specialising in marketing, corporate communications and medical translations. She is also sharing her passion for the profession and expertise in marketing with other translators through presentations, training, coaching and mentoring. More info at: http://www.marketingtipsfortranslators.com.










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