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 Suzanne of Recital Translations! Let’s go!


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

I took an MA in translation studies at the University of Surrey and after that my tutor there sort of took me under her wing and outsourced jobs to me, so I worked for her and a few agencies initially. The main thing I remember about year 1 was working from my bedroom and being quite naive about how to run my business. The first ever “agency” that I contacted turned out to be a guy who wanted me to send photographs of myself and asked if I had a boyfriend – CREEP!! My first tax bill was a shock too!


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

I really don’t like working in the evenings. I prefer to make an early start and then relax at the end of the day. I love the peace and quiet of the early hours and watching the sunrise from my office window in the winter – it’s such a calming feeling. Having said that, I fit my work around family commitments, so I do often have to work at both ends of the day!


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

I actually only translate part-time because I have a young daughter to look after and I also work as an opera singer. On average, it’s around 25 – 30 hours per week, but when I have a big project on it’s a lot more!


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

I do try to stick to a routine, mainly because I feel that it is unfair on my daughter otherwise, but I have to allow for a degree of flexibility – after all, it’s not my clients’ fault that I work part-time so, if I can be a bit flexible for them I will.


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?

Well, it’s a great way of fitting my work around my family. I consider myself very lucky to commit to my two passions in life – translation and singing. Not many people are able to do that! The flexibility can also be stressful though because you feel under pressure to be available all the time, particularly when you work from home. If you work from home then you live at work.


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

As a freelancer, it’s very easy to get sucked into working too much: “Oh, if I just take this one urgent job tonight I can make some extra cash”, “I’d better just check my emails again”, “I wonder if anybody replied to my Facebook post?”, etc. At the end of the day, though, I probably won’t remember the details of that urgent job or the content of that Facebook post in a few months’ time. What I will remember is my daughter learning to ride her bike and that amazing concert that I went to. You have to ask yourself what memories you want to look back on.


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

I think social media are a real double-edged sword. Facebook and Twitter are so useful for connecting with colleagues, getting help when you’re stuck, keeping up with the industry, finding potential clients and preventing feelings of isolation but there is such a huge amount out there, you could easily spend all day reading colleagues’ blog posts, articles, news and so on. And then, when you’ve finished reading all that, it will try to suck you into watching a funny prank video and checking out what your friends are up to.


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

I only use social media for professional purposes during the day and make sure I save any personal use for the evenings. I try and stick to just checking twice a day as well, unless there’s something that I really need to follow, and I usually save it for when my hands are busy eating lunch or drinking tea as I can’t type anything while I’m doing that anyway!


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

I think planning and organisation are key to productivity. When I did the Business Course for Translators with Marta Stelmaszak, she made me promise to put all my tasks on Google calendar and it really works. I have a clear idea every day of the tasks I need to do and when I need to do them. I just focus on one task at a time instead of trying to do three things at once and it’s so much easier that way. Besides, when Marta tells you to do something, you do it! 😉


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

That I still have a lot to learn! When I first started, I was well-prepared as a translator but I didn’t know much about running a business and all the other aspects that’s I’d need to master. I’d probably give myself a long list of business resources to read!


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?

Well, as I mentioned before, I lead something of a double life! Translator by day, opera singer by night 😉 I wouldn’t exactly call it “downtime” though; it’s really hard work! But I love being able to work as both a translator and a singer – it’s great to be able to do two things that are completely different and I really couldn’t live without either of them!


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.


  • Suzanne Smart

  • Recital Translations

Suzanne is a professional musician and translator working from Italian and French into English. Her UK-based translation business, Recital Translations, provides specialist translation, transcreation and editing services for the classical music industry. Her aim is to promote international classical music performance by removing cultural and linguistic barriers.










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