New site

Just a quick note to tell anyone who might stumble across this blog that I’m not updating it anymore, because I’ve combined my blog and professional sites into one over at I’d love to have you check it out!

For those who did follow this blog while it was active, thank you so much! I re-read some of the comments that were left, and I remember that I really enjoyed writing these posts.

Sadie xoxo


Well hello again!

Yes, yes, I still exist, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at my online activity. One month and one day after my last blog post of January 16, 2015, our little James entered the world. And it’s been a wonderful, challenging, life-changing, heart-bursting rollercoaster ever since.

I’m still working, though I’m down to part-time hours. James is in daycare three days a week, and although it’s hard to have to turn down interesting projects because of deadline constraints, the schedule works for our growing family for now.

I’ve learned a lot in the past 18 months.

  • Proofreading while you’re still in the “not sleeping through the night” stage was, for me, impossible. I wasn’t sleeping enough to feel like I could maintain the level of quality my clients deserve. So I dropped proofreading but kept editing and translating.
  • Canadian maternity/parental leave benefits for self-employed workers are fantastic. Sure, it’s not as much as in-house employees would get (at least not based on what I’ve heard from friends), but the fact that ANY self-employed benefits program exists is phenomenal. It’s been pointed out to me that I will probably end up paying more into the program over the course of my career than I end up claiming in benefits… but that’s how these things work, isn’t it? (See my last post for more on this program.)
  • This isn’t translation-related but I feel I need to say it: Babies are WAY easier than toddlers. Don’t get me wrong, toddlers are hilarious and way more entertaining. But let’s just say there’s a reason sites like this abound:

Doing freelance translation and editing, combined with having a partner who also works from home (for now), has allowed me so much freedom in terms of work-life balance. It’s true, I have had to pass up on opportunities. But I haven’t had to leave the field completely, and I still have time to enjoy these precious early years of James’ life. I feel so privileged, so lucky. I have big dreams for my career as a translator and editor, and big dreams for my family. We’re in a good place right now and I couldn’t be happier.

Thanks for reading after such a long break!


Well hello again!

It’s an older photo of James, but one of my favourites. Is this the cool face of a future language professional? Or a physicist like Daddy? Or something entirely different? So many wonderful opportunities await him!


Freelance translation and… maternity leave!

It’s true: this translator is about to add “diaper changer” and “baby sustainer” to her list of skills! It’s been quite the experience, getting ready for becoming a parent, especially in terms of researching maternity benefits, what to tell my clients and trying to decide how much (and how soon) I can continue working after baby is born.

I have to say that, as usual, I found the most reassuring and helpful starting-point advice on Corinne’s McKay’s blog. She wrote a post on taking leaves of absence, and her tips were a great source of comfort to me. In particular, she started out by acknowledging how daunting it can be to envision taking time off. That rang especially true for me, because I’m in my third year of freelancing and I’ve finally reached the (AMAZING) point of having a regular rotation of fantastic clients and, sometimes, more work than I can handle.

(Wow. That’s the first time I’ve actually stopped to think about how incredibly lucky I am. Forgive me a moment while I do a crazy happy dance.)

So the thought of taking time off now is definitely nerve-wracking. What if my clients forget me? Move on? I know we’re pretty tight but I can’t expect them to just wait. (Maybe I’ll write a post on how, in the end, I decided to handle this dilemma.)

Corinne also suggests being upfront about why you’re taking leave, but a little vague on how long you’ll be gone. This gives you flexibility if you need more time—or, I guess, if you get lucky and have a baby who just sleeps like an angel and you can take on a bit of work. There’s lots more in Corinne’s post and I highly recommend checking it out if this is something you’re wondering about:

Some thoughts on leaves of absence (maternity and otherwise) by Corinne McKay

After that, I started doing some research into possible maternity benefits in Canada. It turns out, Canada has what seems to me to be a pretty great special benefits program for self-employed people. I couldn’t believe it. I can take real “maternity leave” as a freelancer? Yes, yes I can.

“Under the Employment Insurance Act, self-employed Canadians and permanent residents—those who work for themselves—are able to apply for EI special benefits if they are registered for access to the EI program.” (Program website)

“Maternity benefits are for mothers who give birth. These benefits cover the period surrounding the child’s birth (up to 15 weeks).

Parental benefits are for any parent (mother or father) to care for their newborn or newly adopted child or children. Either parent can receive benefits, or they can share benefits between them (up to 35 weeks).”(Program website)

But it takes LOTS of forethought. Here’s how it works:

If you’re eligible (I am), you sign up for the program:

“If you are eligible for EI special benefits, you can expect to receive 55% of your average weekly earnings up to a defined annual limit.” (Program website)

But (VERY important), you have to do it AT LEAST 12 MONTHS IN ADVANCE:

“You have to wait 12 months after the day you register before you will be able to apply for EI special benefits.” (Program website)

Registering for the program means paying into it:

“As with any insurance program, you will need to pay premiums. In 2014, for every $100 you earn, you will need to contribute $1.88 in EI premiums up to a defined maximum—the same amount that employees pay. This means the most you will pay in EI premiums for 2014 is $913.68.” (Program website)

And yes, you can take on work while claiming benefits:

“If you are claiming sickness or maternity benefits, we will deduct any part-time earnings from your benefits on a dollar-for-dollar basis.” (Program website)

So far so good. I signed up for the program on February 16, 2014, which means the earliest I can apply for benefits is this coming February 16. With Baby due on the 21st of February, I confess that it’s a bit close for comfort (there’s also a two-week waiting period after you apply to claim your benefits), but we’ll make it work.

There are still some question marks for me that I need to research, all to do with working while claiming. Obviously, having earnings deducted dollar-for-dollar means that, financially, there’s no incentive to work during the “maternity benefits” period, but with freelancing the benefits of keeping your foot in the door outweigh, I think, the deduction factor. (Assuming it’s possible to work while still taking all the time I can to snuggle that little bundle of baby boy joy!)

The website’s explanation of working during the “parental benefits” period is more complicated, at least to me:

“If you are claiming parental, compassionate care or parents of critically ill children benefits, you normally can earn either a maximum of 25% of your weekly benefit (if your weekly benefit amount is $200 or more) or a maximum of $50 (if your weekly benefit amount is less than $200) without changing the amount of EI benefits you receive for that week. We will deduct any money you earn above that amount from your benefits on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

However, effective August 5, 2012 until August 1, 2015, a pilot project is in place which changes the way earnings are deducted.

Under the Working While on Claim (WWC) pilot project, once you have served your waiting period, your benefits will be reduced by a rate of 50% of your earnings each week if the earnings are equal to or less than 90% of your weekly earnings that were used to calculate your benefit rate. Any earnings that exceed the 90% threshold will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits.” (Program website)

This is the part that I need to research further. Will I be part of the pilot project even though my leave may extend beyond that? I suppose this is kind of a problem for down the road, once I know how much I actually can work while balancing baby-snuggling.

The other odd thing is that, since you pay your premiums in April of the year AFTER you register, I’ll actually be claiming benefits before I’ve even paid my premiums. That seems odd to me.

In any case, I feel so relieved that I had the luxury of planning to enter the program a year in advance, and I’m very grateful that our government provides these sorts of benefits. It really is the best of both worlds: living the freelancing dream without sacrificing much-needed family benefits.

I wonder how this program compares to what’s available in other countries. Anyone?

And on a more personal note: I’m so excited to become a mom. My husband and I are eagerly awaiting Baby’s arrival. The nursery is ready, even though the rest of the house is in a state of chaos as we’ve had to reshuffle everything to fit in all the baby gear!

I’ll be at 35 weeks tomorrow, and his due date is February 21. My prediction is that he’ll be early. But apparently lots of first-timers think that, I’m told.

Here’s a photo from back at 28 weeks!

I did feel glowy back then! Now... Excited and proud and amazed with my body, but less glowy and more... puffy.

I did feel glowy back then! Now… I feel excited and proud and amazed with my body, but less glowy and more… puffy. 😉

What questions should you ask when you’re working on a big translation project?

Big is a relative term, of course. For me, a project is “big” if it’s several thousand words long and spans over more than a few weeks. Based on that general definition, I’m happy to report that I worked on a few big translation projects over the summer, mostly academic articles.

Through this process, I learned a few handy lessons that I’ll keep in mind the next time a similar project comes along. The lessons came to me in the form of questions I either should have asked at the start, or did ask but only just in time. Here they are!

1. Will I have direct access to the authors of the French (source) paper?
The answer was yes in all cases. I probably wouldn’t have taken on the projects otherwise, because having access to the person who wrote the original document is key. I’ve taken on smaller projects through agencies without having access to the writers, and that’s been okay (though a little more challenging sometimes). But with a high-profile project like an academic article intended for publication, I just wouldn’t have been willing to take the risk of misunderstanding a confusing term or passage as a result of not having contact with the author.

2. What’s the big picture?
For these translations, my role as freelance translator was just one step in the publication process. I wanted (needed) to know the other steps. Was the paper edited in the source language before being sent to me? Will my translation be sent to internal editing after I’m done? Should I expect revisions, and if so, who would they come from?

3. Is this the final version of the paper?
In one case, I translated the whole paper and submitted it, only to find out I hadn’t been given the most recent version and therefore needed to go back and retranslate certain passages. This ties into question #2.

4. Are further modifications allowed or expected?
Again, this ties in with #2. Once I submit my translation, where does it go? Back to the author for approval and modification, and then back to me? Straight to press? In one case, the client liked my translation but wanted major editing and rewriting done in English. So after I had translated the French, I was asked to put the source text aside and treat the English document as the new original (a real first for me). This separate contract involved developmental editing and rewriting (with the author’s consent and approval). The document then went to the faculty (my client), where a research assistant was handling the references. Finally, it went to the publication for proofreading.

5. What are your phone numbers?
I love emailing. It’s really my thing. I like having a written record of conversations, for one thing. I also like having time to think about what someone has written, to weigh my options and to plan an articulate response. On the phone, I get flustered and scatterbrained. But oh boy, did I ever learn the value of picking up the phone. After several emails on one issue I was trying to resolve, the client finally called me (yep, I’m a little ashamed to admit that the client called me before I clued in that a phone call might be in order… it would have been much more professional for me to call them first). We sorted everything out in about three minutes. Done. I still don’t like talking on the phone, but I will make a concerted effort to use it when needed. Also, I think it’s probably a good idea to introduce yourself to clients this way before getting started on a project.

So those are five lessons I learned over my busy summer. What lessons did you learn?

Ten questions for translators

I’m always interested in learning more about other translators. So how about a fun little 10-question survey to help us get to know each other? Write your own answers — to some or all of the questions — in the comments! [Update: Herman had the brilliant idea of reposting the questions and his answers on his own blog, with a link back here. Feel free to do the same, and make sure to put your own link in the comments below so we can find you!]

See further down for my answers, and scroll to the bottom of the post for links to others who have answered the survey!

  1. Four-parter: Where do you live? What are your language pairs? How did you learn those languages? What types of documents do you translate?
  2. Do you do other language-related work?
  3. What do you like most about translating? least?
  4. What are your future dreams or goals, professionally speaking?
  5. What do you think: do all translators need to specialize?
  6. What is your #1 tip for new translators? 
  7. What is a translation-related lesson you’ve learned on the job?
  8. What book(s) are you reading right now?
  9. Do you have a blog or other online presence where we can learn more about you? Any favourite links or tips to share?
  10. What’s one non-work-related tidbit your virtual colleagues might like to know about you?


  1. Four-parter: Where do you live? What are your language pairs? How did you learn those languages? What types of documents do you translate? For now I live in Hamilton, a city near Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I moved here from the National Capital Region. I translate from French to English. I grew up bilingually – French at school, English at home. Then later (and still), French at work, English at home. What I translate: Mostly documents that fall into the “general business” category. Press releases, annual reports, academic articles, newspaper articles, informational brochures, that sort of thing.
  2. Do you do other language-related work? Yes. A good part of my day is editing (the same types of documents as above). I also occasionally have the opportunity to work with fiction, but only for editing.
  3. What do you like most about translating? least? Most: I love working in two languages, I enjoy interacting with my clients and colleagues, I take pride in my work, and I love learning more and more about the French language. Least: It gets a little lonely working from home.
  4. What are your future dreams or goals, professionally speaking? Goals: Continue providing the best service I can to my current clients, and build relationships with new ones as time goes on. Dream: I’d love to try my hand at literary translation someday. I took a bunch of literature courses in university, and they’ve been helpful for my fiction editing. I’d love to add fiction translation to the mix.
  5. What do you think: do all translators need to specialize? Not all translators, no. I consider myself a “general business” translator, at least for now. Even though a lot of my work falls into the communications and education fields, I still come across many new terms in almost every translation. I wouldn’t attempt to translate a journal article in the field of medicine, for example, but I may come across a few medical terms if I’m translating a press release related to medicine – so I think we do have to know our limits, but still be prepared to do lots of research as needed to deliver a good product when the source text is a little outside our comfort zone. That said, it was recently suggested to me that I consider specializing in linguistics and psychology, which I studied in university. I need to research what type of work is being published in French in those disciplines, and find out if there’s a demand for that content in English. I’ve also got a strong background in language teaching — but I haven’t figured out a way to work that into my business yet. (I’m very open to suggestions on any of the above!)
  6. What is your #1 tip for new translators? Never stop learning your source language. You’ll always come across new words and expressions, and the language will always have the ability to stump you. That’s normal.
  7. What is a translation-related lesson you’ve learned on the job? Asking questions doesn’t make you look bad or stupid — it makes you look professional.
  8. What book(s) are you reading right now? Gregory Rabassa’s If This Be Treason, a Christmas present from my boyfriend. I’m also reading (and loving!) the Spécial Anglos issue of Urbania magazine.
  9. Do you have a blog or other online presence where we can learn more about you? Any favourite links or tips to share? Well, if you’re reading this, you know I have a blog. Moving on. Check out my “Must-reads” page for a list of some of my favourite bloggers. Also, there’s a great video on YouTube called The 10 Myths of Entrepreneurship. What struck me most about this video was the recommendation that entrepreneurs focus on the means they currently possess (their current skills, resources, etc.) and set their goals based on those means. Basically, work with what you’ve got.
  10. What’s one non-work-related tidbit your virtual colleagues might like to know about you? I recently discovered a passion for snorkelling!
Not me.

Not me.

photo credit: Daniel R Thompson via photopin cc

Here are some links to others who have reposted and answered the questions. They’ve also been quite actively Tweeting about the questionnaire. You guys rock! 🙂

  • Herman Boel (the first to repost the questions on his blog)
  • Catharine Cellier-Smart (complete with photos!)
  • Dwain Richardson (Dwain added an adapted version of the questions to his blog. Now it works for all sorts of language professionals, not just translators. Thanks Dwain!)
  • Patricia Barthélémy (Patricia translated the questions into French. J’adore!)
  • Moira Monney (this singing translator is passionate about helping fellow linguists)

Fit to Translate, Part II

I think it’s really important for us to put our health first as often as we can. In Fit to Translate, I talked about how staying active can help us be better translators (or editors, freelancers, anything-ers). In today’s post, I must reluctantly admit that, sometimes, the best way to stay fit is to do nothing at all. That’s right. No sports, no networking. Nothing. Just taking it easy and recovering…

On Monday night, April 15, I was giving it my all at Muay Thai, working up a sweat practicing my jabs, crosses, hooks and kicks. I was pumped, because one of my favourite translation events was coming up on Friday in Ottawa: the annual general assembly/workshop of the Réseau des traducteurs et traductrices en éducation (RTE). The RTE is one of the closest-knit, friendliest, most welcoming translators’ associations I’ve ever had the pleasure of joining.

So there I was:

One-two-kick! One-two-kick! I’m a translator, hear me roar! Bilingually! I will network my FACE off on Friday!

The S stands for Supertranslator. Obviously.

The S stands for Supertranslator. Obviously.

Photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

And then? I started feeling funny later on Monday night. And when I woke up Tuesday morning…

Bam. Viral pharyngitis. (I know. Charming, right?)

My throat had morphed into a tunnel of fiery pain. Not only did I end up missing a bunch of work over the next few days, but I also faced the prospect of missing the long-awaited (and once-a-year) RTE event that had me so pumped and kicky. After much over-thinking, I finally decided that, as much as I wanted to travel to Ottawa and attend the event even though I was sick, I really couldn’t go. Here’s why:

No matter how valuable a networking and professional development event might be, you’ve got to put your health first.

This might sound obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me. It was really hard for me to commit to staying home. The missed opportunity! The stunted development! People will forget me!

Yeah, well… I don’t really want them to remember me as the person who gave them a throat infection, either.

So, in the end, instead of networking with a bunch of respected colleagues, I networked with a box of President’s Choice fruit popsicles. Instead of sitting in on a probably-more-interesting-than-you’d-expect-from-a-board-meeting board meeting, I had a board (correction: bored) meeting with a six-pack of JELL-O pudding. I also watched the second half of Dragons’ Den Canada, season 6, which was admittedly excellent.

Sometimes, doing nothing can be really hard—even harder than doing something. For me, the worst feeling is fear—fear of not doing “enough,” fear of missing opportunities. Plus some guilt thrown in for good measure.

So here’s my gentle reminder to us all, just in case you need to hear it as much as I do:

Be kind to your body. Give yourself permission to take it easy.

I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that none of us are very effective networkers when we can barely get out of bed.

I kinda wish this was my dog. He clearly gets me.

I kind of wish this was my dog. He clearly gets me.

Photo credit: Usonian via photopin cc

Have you had to miss out on long-awaited events because you’ve been sick?

Do you regret your decision to stay home?

Freelancing lesson learned: Don’t rely on one big client

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I managed to get through my first freelancing famine. (In a nutshell, it all came down to being proactive.)

You guys gave great positive feedback on that post (thank you!), and it seems like many of you have been through the same periods of worklessness—which is great, from a “We’re all in this together” point of view, but not so great because it means you’ve all been through tough times too, and I feel for you. But let’s stay positive, and go with great.

Anyway, today I thought I’d share one big thing that I think may have contributed to my dry spell. The feast and famine cycle is pretty much guaranteed to hit you at some point, I think, so it’s probably not possible to avoid it completely, but I definitely could have done things a little differently during my first six months.

Here it is:

Don’t rely on a small number of big clients, no matter how busy they’re keeping you right now.

I was unbelievably lucky during my start-up phase, because two of my former employers ended up being very supportive of my freelancing dreams, and they kept me sleep-deficiently busy for about six straight months.

And then? Well…

One client hired someone in-house, and the other just stopped needing freelancers to keep up with demand.

And I turned into this:

And obviously spending too much time in Paint.

And also turned to Paint as a coping mechanism.

I’ll admit it: During my freelancing famine, I had a few freak-out moments—usually while trying to fall asleep at night—even though I was being proactive. It happens.

But I digress.

Starting out with two big clients whose work, combined, kept me busy full time was fantastic and uncommon, and I’m very grateful for everything they sent my way. That said, in retrospect I see that I really should have made time to send out my CV to agencies and pitch to potential direct clients.

It’s a balancing act when you’re really busy. I was worried that even if I did manage to secure a few other clients, I would be too busy to actually take on work from them without turning work away from my current clients, which would kind of make pitching to potential clients pointless.

Or would it?

I’ve decided that, no, it would not be pointless at all. Having to turn work away would be a good problem to have. Also, let’s be realistic here: it is unlikely that I would actually have to turn work away. It hasn’t happened yet. There’s always a way to make it work, even if the solution is bringing in a trusted and supremely talented fellow freelancer to help take on part of the project (thanks, Liz!).

So, to sum it all up:

No matter how busy you are, ALWAYS BE LOOKING FOR MORE WORK.

It’s like when you’re learning to drive (which I am, after a ten-year break), and they tell you not to look at the road right in front of you, but rather to look off in the distance, at least as far as the next car. Looking far enough ahead lets you anticipate what you’ll need to do next. Like stopping in time for that red light, or avoiding a turtle that has a death wish.



Photo credit: matley0 via photopin cc

But there’s an incredibly important catch:

You’ve got to find a way of doing all this without taking your current clients for granted.

After all, your current clients are the ones who were awesome enough to send you work in the first place, and you definitely want to keep them coming back.

See what I mean? Balancing act.

Over to you:

How do you balance your current workload with finding your next project?

Does it get easier after a few years of freelancing?

6 things I learned after translation school

Translation school is great for developing the technical skills needed to not make a mess of it while going from one language to another. As far as actually surviving as a freelance translator, though, I got most of my education from the School of Hard Knocks (Yes! I’ve been itching to use that expression for months. I keep reading it in places. I don’t even like it that much. But I still REALLY wanted to use it.)*

Anyway, here are some things I learned in the real world [of freelance translation]:

1. There’s an active, supportive community of translators online.

And they Tweet and write blogs and make videos and have Facebook pages and draw comics and basically make the translation world a much friendlier and less daunting place.

Also, on Twitter, #xl8 means “translation.” First time I saw that, I nearly gave up on social media altogether. But it works. And using it makes me feel very “in.”

2. The business side of freelance translation is incredibly important.

In school, I took a great course on the commercial aspects of translation, but none of it became real for me until I set myself up as a freelancer. Luckily, the aforementioned active, supportive community of online translators has a wealth of training, books and advice to offer. (See Go you! A thank-you to some great translators for some of my favourites.)

3. Having a specialization matters, but it doesn’t have to come in the form of a previous degree.

Before my degree in translation, I did a degree in linguistics (a minor) with a combination of English literature and psychology courses. Not exactly what you’d call a hard specialization. Luckily, I also spent six years as an ESL instructor and two years as an educational advisor, then landed a fantastic internship position as a translator and editor at the University of Ottawa. So while I don’t have a previous degree in science, engineering, law or medicine (I’m thinking of traditional “hard skills” here), I do have a lot of professional experience in education, particularly higher education. And my English lit and linguistics courses have been tremendously helpful for my editing work. So, yes, a specialization/focus does matter, but I don’t think there’s One Right Way of getting it or One Right Field to target. (Corinne McKay’s blog Thoughts on Translation has a great collection of posts on specializations.)

4. Software that reads your translation back to you is a great way to proofread.

After I finish a draft, before my final proof, I save my Word file as a PDF and then open Adobe Acrobat X Pro and activate Read Out Loud mode. It is incredibly helpful to hear your translation read by a computer. Also sometimes it’s funny. Like for some reason, it always reads CO-OP (as in co-operative education) as “Co-opus.” Or it reads a long horizontal line as “underscore-underscore-underscore-underscore-underscore-underscore-underscore-underscore.” (Yes, I’m using Acrobat to proof this post, and yes, I included that long line of underscores purely for my own amusement.) Tip: Buy this software while you’re still a student. It’s [even more] expensive otherwise.

5. Get an accountant (if you feel as overwhelmed and paranoid as I do about mucking up your taxes).

I’m based in Ontario, and the advice I got was this: Have a separate account for the HST you collect (if you’re registered for HST). Also have a separate account to put money aside for tax time. And if you’re not sure how taxes and invoicing work, find someone who lives in the same province (territory/state/etc.) as you and ask them for advice. (If you live in Ontario, I can give you a few tips based on personal experience.) For invoicing, I love FreshBooks.

6. In your first year (ish), you will feast, and you will famine, but you will (hopefully, with lots of preparation + the right opportunities) survive.

At least that’s what happened to me.

*I just Googled “School of Hard Knocks.” According to Wikipedia, it involves learning life lessons through mostly negative experiences. So I guess I haven’t totally used the expression properly. School of… Mini Knocks? School of Confused Bumps. School of… Stub-your-virtual-toe-while-trying-to-find-your-way-in-the-dark-world-of-virtual-business-building. Knocks. Okay I’ll stop.


January and February were so quiet (in terms of paid work) that I started to wonder if my initial success as a freelancer was simply a fluke.

I didn’t take it lying down though. I came up with a game plan, treated finding contracts as my full-time job, and worked myself hard for two months. I’m happy to report that things have significantly picked up now! I wanted to share some strategies from my “surviving the first famine” game plan. (If you’re in a rut, don’t despair. The work IS out there, and you CAN find it. But it will be hard work.)


I took courses and seminars:


I read lots and lots of blogs by other translators, editors, writers and freelancers, and worked on my own (mostly brainstorming topics for future posts).


I worked on my website, which mostly meant struggling with its mobile version and unsuccessfully talking to tech support about setting up my site navigation so that I can add my French content. Still working on that.


 I agonized over these questions:

In terms of future professional development and business growth, should I aim to specialize in ONE field, but offer a bunch of services (translation, editing, writing, etc.) in that field? Or should I offer only one service (translation), but build specializations in a few fields?

In other words, go deep or go wide, and in what way?


I worked on my self- and service descriptions, so that they would work across all my accounts and networks (website, LinkedIn, Twitter, ProZ, IAPTI, Editors’ Association, Linguaquote, Monster, Workopolis… am I forgetting any?). This helps me keep an organized and consistent professional image online.


I went on a much-needed trip that I had been invited on by a very generous girlfriend. Getting a complete break from my computer was just what I needed. It let me sort out some answers to Number 7.

Not a faux-ami in sight.

Not a faux-ami in sight.


I fiddled with translation tools, and ultimately decided to spend some time learning Across and AnyLexic.


I signed up for FreshBooks, the best and most user-friendly invoicing option I’ve ever seen. (Here’s a referral link if you’d like to sign up through me!)


I pitched to potential direct clients and applied to over 100 agencies in two weeks.


I made sure to tell my partner how much I appreciate his support during these lean, stressful times in a freelancer’s career. (Seriously, this is Number 1 for me. My partner can’t do my work for me, of course, and he can’t make the clients come to me, but he deserves credit for being supportive and giving endless pep talks when the going got tough. Freelancers need a good support system to keep the crazy at bay — at least I do!)

And then, as though there’d never been a famine at all, the month of March came along and exploded into a feast of job offers, contracts, translation tests and new opportunities. I’ve got stuff lined up all the way into May (although not full-time stuff all the way to May, not by any stretch), and I’m confident that I’ll be able to fill the remaining gaps.

Here’s my big takeaway from my first famine:

The feast and famine cycle is real, and how we handle the famine part of the cycle is in our control. We play a big role in determining how long our famine will last, and what sort of feast we can expect on the other side of it. We can’t control everything, but at the same time, we’re not defenseless, and we can’t just wait for things to come to us.

Market yourself, pitch your services, network your little heart out. Your feast will be delicious if you put the right ingredients together.

What are your thoughts on the feast and famine cycle?

Have you ever struggled with the types of uncertainties I described in Number 7?

Note: There’s a glitch in the Twitter sharing button below. It should say “via @cibliste.” I don’t actually know who @sadiescap is! I’m talking to WordPress about how to fix this. Thanks, and sorry for the confusion!

Wordsmiths! What’s on your bookshelf?

I’d love to compare reference collections with you. I’m curious about what books fill the shelves of other translators, editors and writers. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf (which is organized and labelled— I’m a labeller!—by section):

Shelf 1: Editing books

Shelf 1. Editing books

What’s here:

  • Some coursebooks from uOttawa
  • Meeting Editorial Standards (Self-Tests + Solutions and Discussion)
  • Editing Canadian English
  • Developmental Editing
  • The Subversive Copy Editor
  • Copyediting and Proofreading For Dummies (I love For Dummies books!)
  • The Elements of Editing
  • Over on the right: Some past projects

Shelf 2: Translation books

Shelf 2. Translation books

What’s here:

  • More uOttawa coursebooks
  • Le grand Robert & Collins CD
  • Comparative Stylistics of French and English
  • The Beginning Translator’s Workbook
  • Translation and Translating
  • The Translator’s Handbook
  • Initiation à la traductique
  • La traduction raisonnée
  • La terminologie : principes et techniques
  • Le complexe d’Hermès (this book wins the award for longest time sitting on my bookshelf unread… I keep meaning to read it!)
  • Found in Translation
  • If This Be Treason
  • Over on the right: Application to the Centre français Hamilton + Language Update by the Translation Bureau

Shelf 3: Business books

Shelf 3. Business books

What’s here:

  • The Entrepreneurial Linguist
  • Mox and Mox II (not too sure why I put these under “Business,” but there they sit!)
  • How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator
  • Powerful Teamwork Tips for Employees
  • Outliers
  • Over on the right: List of agencies applied to (112 this month!) and my business binder (rates, plans, prospects, etc.)

Shelf 4: Education-related books and articles

Shelf 4. Education books

What’s here:

  • A growing collection of education references, such as Ed Speak and various articles

Shelf 5: Books on areas of interest and potential specialization

Shelf 5. Other interests

What’s here:

  • Info on sex ed and contraception (e.g. The Scientific American’s Book of Love, Sex, and the Brain)
  • Info on Canadian culture (e.g. What is a Canadian?)*

*There are some fantastic sites out there to teach you all about Canadian culture and politics! Check these out: Discover Canada and How Canadians Govern Themselves

Shelf 6: Language reference books

Shelf 5. Language reference books

What’s here:

My bursting-at-the-seams (-shelves?) collection of language reference books.

  • Le Robert & Collins dictionary
  • Le nouveau Petit Robert 2010
  • The Canadian Style
  • The Concise Canadian Writer’s Handbook
  • A Canadian Writer’s Guide
  • Oxford Canadian Thesaurus
  • The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English
  • Oxford Collocations Dictionary
  • Canadian Press Stylebook
  • Glossary of Misused Words and Phrases
  • Grammatically Correct
  • Common Errors in English
  • A Practical English Grammar
  • Rhetorical Grammar
  • Practical Grammar
  • Caps and Spelling (super out-of-date — 1998 — but very interesting in a blast-from-the-past kind of way)
  • Larousse French-English Dictionary
  • Bescherelle

And some other books sitting on my desk:

  • Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  • Guide to Canadian English Usage
  • The 5 Minute Linguist
  • The Big Enough Company

Alright! So now, what’s on your bookshelf? What’s your top must-have book?