Welcome to the next 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.

This week, I speak to Valentina Ambrogio of Rockstar Translations! 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 right after my BA. An agency – which later hired me – was looking for translators for a big (and well-paid) project. Of course, I said yes. Then the project manager took a liking to me and the way I worked. She started to send me more jobs: a small technical translation here, a screenplay there. One day, she told me that there was an open in-house position at her office and asked me whether I was interested. I was about to finish my Master’s Degree and, if I wanted to stay in Rome, I had to find a steady source of income. I accepted. Wrapping up, during my first year in this business I worked professionally and studied at the same time.


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

A morning lark, no doubt about it. A German proverb says: ‘Frisch gewagt ist halb gewonnen’ (well begun is half done). And I couldn’t agree more. I prefer waking up very early to staying up all night to finish a translation. It’s exhausting and only causes fatigue. Working late at night when you’re already tired after a long day is just the antonym of productivity. Nights are for TV shows and good dinner chats – if possible of course. We all know that deadlines don’t always make it possible to stick to our schedule, no matter how much time we spend organising and planning.


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

As I said before, I juggle freelancing and an in-house position. So, it depends… I have my 9-to-5 working hours, Monday to Friday, there’s no escaping from that. If need be, I work before going to the office, when I go back home, and during weekends.


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

Going with the flow is not really my thing and I have a hard time dealing with people who do. I need to be in control of everything, so I plan every little detail. I even plan when to plan things! I have no trouble working under pressure, but I always try to optimise my day to do a good job with no rush.


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?

Freelancing is just one side of my professional life for now. My goal is full-time freelancing and I’m working very hard to achieve it. I can tell you that working for an agency has its benefits (paid holidays, steady income), but once you taste the freedom of freelancing it’s hard to forget it. Working in-house clips your wings in many ways. For instance: you cannot attend translation events when you feel like; you have to work on everything your boss tells you to, even if it has nothing to do with your specialisations; you have to adapt to someone else’s working methods, even if you don’t agree with them.


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

I think it’s very important. I always do my best to finish all work before dinner, have a lunch break, or stop for a couple of minutes and eat something. Working non-stop does no good and is highly unproductive, at least for me. To me, it means having a fulfilled life both professionally and personally.


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

Finding a balance between my freelance activity and my in-house position; trying to save the necessary energy to finish my own translations after 5 pm is not always easy, and sometimes I have to decline job offers because I just wouldn’t have the time to deliver a good finished product.


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

I try to organise my working hours as best as possible. Sometimes I turn down work, or try to negotiate better deadlines, or just accept half the workload they ask for. I have learnt that saying ‘no’ does not necessarily harm my business.
(Marie: I agree, and you’ll find a post on this very topic here!)


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

To-do lists and my desk planner. They help me stay focused and allow me to have a clear picture of all the things I need to do both in the short and long term.


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

“Dear Valentina, you will feel uncomfortable walking in these shoes so many times that you will wonder whether this is the right path for you. It is. Trust your instinct, as always. Everybody needs to start somewhere.”


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 am a renowned TV addict, and some people might think it is the only way I spend my spare time. It’s not 🙂 I like playing guitar and video games (mainly RPGs). I also love sewing, especially cross-stitch! I’ve made felt bookmarks, key rings and magnets as Christmas gifts for some of my colleagues and friends.


Thank you so much for taking part in the series!

Thank you for having me!


Three heads are better than one

Feeling inspired by Valentina? 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.


  • Valentina Ambrogio

  • Rockstar Translations

Valentina Ambrogio is a professional English to Italian translator, localiser and subtitler, and director of Rockstar Translations. She is currently based in Rome, where she works as an in-house translator. Proud TV addict, Anglophile, Potterhead and Whovian. You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as on her blog, “The Translation Cauldron”.

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