• Laura Vuillemin

A Day in My Life as an English to French Freelance Translator

Updated: Apr 20

Today, I am going to talk to you about how I work and how I handle the projects my clients trust me with. There is no typical day per se, since my job always involves different content and tasks, but there are still some points that won’t change from one day to another.

My work day usually starts between 8 and 8:30 a.m. French time. I check the emails I receive during the night (my clients are based in different time zones) and I reply to confirm my availability if new projects have been offered to me. I might also need to negotiate deadlines: because I already have other projects on my plate, but also, more importantly, because I need more time to do a proper and conscientious job. I need to factor in both translation and proofreading. I will never blindly accept a proposal if it means rushing through the job to meet the deadline, particularly when the content requires extensive research or creativity.

Once I’ve accepted new requests, I update my project tracker, an Excel file that lists all the projects I’ve worked on in the past, and those that are underway. It looks like this:

I will then conduct the following tasks, depending on my schedule and workload for the day (i.e., I might not have anything to proofread on a given day, but only new translations to start with):

  • Translate projects I possibly received during the night and which are due for delivery within the same day (that can happen from time to time)

  • Proofread the translations I worked on the days before and which are also due for delivery this day

  • Conduct final Quality Assurance (QA) checks in a tool called Xbench to look for inconsistencies and issues like extra spaces

  • Deliver the requested files to my client

In general, I like to have enough time to be able to go back to my first draft with fresh eyes. The ideal scenario is proofreading my work one day later. This doesn’t mean at all that I can’t meet tight deadlines (I would, of course, if a client needs my help urgently, and I would do it properly), but going back to your translation several hours later, if not after a whole night, is ideal. It gives you a completely new perspective on your translation and helps more easily spot sentences that require polishing, or minor punctuation errors.

On busy days, I would work until around 6 p.m., all the while keeping an eye on my emails as new requests can come in at any time (in my opinion, it is important to be responsive enough and not have your clients wait hours before going back to them to confirm your possible availability). On some week days, I might only work a few hours, and choose to do more during the weekend. I can organize my time the way I like it.

Although this flexibility is indeed enjoyable (I would find it hard, if not impossible, to go back to a full-time job in a company), I don’t know how many times I was told the following:

"You are lucky, because you can work wearing your pajamas, or right from your bed!"

"You are lucky, because you can work anywhere in the world, whether it be on a beach or in a bar!"

Let’s debunk all this for good:

👉🏻 No, I don’t work wearing my pajamas and I would never work from my bed. Translation is a real job, not some kind of hobby, and if you I want to do it properly and professionally, you need to work in good conditions, e.g., at a desk.

👉🏻True, I can travel with my laptop anywhere if I want to. However, here again, if producing quality translations is what matters to me, I would not do it offhandedly from a deckchair with a fresh coconut at hand. Just like I would not do it in a noisy coffee shop.

Translation is a fascinating area to which I love dedicating my days. Projects, clients, content, working hours: all of them change more or less frequently, and this is what spices it all up. That being said, it requires dedication and thoroughness, and I hope you enjoyed having a quick look at what a translator’s professional life can look like.

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