1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
Hi! My name is Alda, and I am an English – Brazilian, Portuguese translator and interpreter. I was born in Rio de Janeiro, and I have been freelancing for over12 years (full-time for 8).
I love traveling and experiencing different places and cultures, something that working remotely allows me to do often. In 2019, I visited 8 countries and 31 cities, and I worked from most of them.
I also love animals and the animal-rights cause. I have rescued a few 4-legged friends, and am involved in some volunteering work related to that.
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
I grew up in the fashion industry because of my family’s business. So, I have loved fashion since I was little, and it’s what I chose to work with after graduating in Fine Arts. Thereon, I worked as a visual merchandiser and stylist for many years. In the last few years in that industry, I started translating as a side job to make some extra money.
I’ve always loved reading the English language. Also, I was invited to take a test, which I passed and then began translating books (coincidentally, my first book was a novel written by an 80s supermodel, and was all about the fashion industry). It paid off; I’ve just finished translating my 46th book ☺.
In the meantime, I was getting frustrated with the fashion business and its crazy routines, hours, egos, and not so great pay. I left a company I loved for another company’s invitation to make almost 3x as much and at a higher designation. It was a big mistake: things in the new company weren’t what they seemed. Who am I kidding? I’d go to work dreading it, and come back crying. The second my 3-month experience ended, I quit. That was when I decided to leave all that behind and take a chance with full-time translating, which I was starting to enjoy more and more.
I’ve always been a bit of a loner, so the working-by-myself thing never bothered me. Plus, being remote allows me to work from home or anywhere in the world, which is a big plus when you love traveling! It gave me more flexibility in every aspect of life. I just really enjoy having the freedom.
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
Although it was scary, in the first months, I already felt an improvement in life quality. But because of what I had worked with before, I never really missed being in a traditional office – I used to often be in photo studios, surrounded by clothes racks, dressing models up. So, I was used to working in a more informal environment anyway.
However, it did take me a while to get used to being 100% responsible for my schedule, for getting work, for getting clients, for managing my own finances, and for setting up a work environment at home or wherever I happened to be.
4. How did you find remote working roles?
At first, I continued working with the clients I already had as a part-time freelance translator: publishing houses, an oncology clinic’s website, and a few clients that acquaintances, friends, or my clients themselves would recommend me to.
Then I started reading, searching and finding more clients. I do that to this day.
I don’t think there is a single day when I don’t reach out to at least 3 possible new clients or opportunities. I still find roles through friends and colleagues, but also in places like Proz, LinkedIn, Upwork, or simply by looking up companies online and sending them emails.
I believe the more times you try and the more people you reach out to, the more chances you have of finding that great new client.
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
The best has definitely been the flexibility to work from anywhere, at my own pace and preferred times. This allows me to travel and to not have too many time restrictions when I need to schedule commitments I need to.
The good is not having to commute and being able to work in a focused fashion, requiring lot less time than I would in an office with all of its distractions. I also enjoy the alone time and the silence.
I’d say the kind of bad part (I wouldn’t say worst because I really do love being remote) is the uncertainty of never knowing how the next month is going to be, in my case, and finding a schedule that works to balance personal and professional life. It’s easy for all areas of life to overlap when you work remotely — personal life, recreation time, work, family, friends, errands, etc.
Also if you’re an introvert like I can be sometimes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being home for days working and not interacting with anyone in person. This is something I still struggle a lot with. Sometimes I feel I am always working and not taking enough time for recreation (or just feeling ok with not doing anything). I have been trying to structure my day into blocks and even scheduling time for daily entertainment (instead of leaving the fun only to when I travel).
Not having a routine can take a toll on you, as not having fun can too. Sometimes I find myself typing over and over “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”… Just kidding, haha! Or am I?
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
My main work tool is email, and I have glossaries and grammar tools that help me, like Grammarly. I also use Boomerang for Gmail to schedule emails for clients according to their time zones or mine. I use Trello and Slack with a couple of clients, and I’ve tried the Pomodoro tool, but I found 25 minutes is too little time for me to get in the zone. Also, since my work is very mentally intensive, when Pomodoro interrupted me, it got in the way more than it helped.
I’ve been experimenting with time zone apps & tools, since at times, I am working for clients in Australia, Russia, UK, Brazil, USA (both East and West coast), and Canada. Knowing who is in each time zone is a must.
And I love the good old pen and paper — I use a planner and am a believer in the power of writing things down. Finally, I own a wide assortment of cables and plug adapters for my computer and phone, which are very handy when I am traveling.
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
I can think of so many! One of my most exciting ones resulted from deciding to start working remotely as a freelance translator, but it actually made me non-remote for a while! That was living in New York City as an onsite translator and interpreter for a Brazilian company opening a unit there.
I’d been to NY several times before, and it is my favorite place in the world, where I truly feel at home and like I can be me, so that was a dream come true. Despite working 44 hours a week (though once again not in your regular office environment — it was a very informal place and routine), I would have time to catch up with my other clients on my days off. The thing is, I lived with 4 roommates, so working from home was definitely out of the question, lol! That allowed me to get to know almost every single co-working space in Manhattan, which was so much fun and crazy at the same time.
Another amazing experience was in my own town. I worked as an interpreter for 2 British Academy clients going to several of Rio’s favelas, visiting its urban gardens. Most of the work was in Complexo da Maré, where I’d never been due to its violent reputation. Still, it was such a delight to have gone and met the people there, and seen what they were doing to have access to organic food they planted themselves in those gardens. I even planted peppermint and rosemary in one, and participated in a ritual for the sun in another, run by an indigenous man from a native tribe. Those were inspiring days — even while interpreting simultaneously for hours straight in the 99% humidity, 50ºC summer only Rio can provide.
Another curious episode I can think of now was in a Flixbus going from Amsterdam to Ghent. I overheard the lady sitting in front of me talking on the phone. From the conversation, I gathered that she was a writer. So when the bus stopped at a gas station, I introduced myself and gave her my business card in case she ever needed a Portuguese translator. Like I said, it’s easy to always be on work-mode when you’re remote!
And a recent “funny” experience I laugh about now but didn’t at the time, happened from not backing work up. Stupid, I know. I was in Nice recently with a big project due in a few days, and my HD completely died. I lost over 2 weeks of work. Having to buy a new computer in France when your level of French is basic at best, and then finding out your emergency credit card has been cloned and maxed out by scammers somewhere across the globe is no fun while it’s happening, I’ll tell you that! Thankfully, I eventually managed to get a new computer and everything worked out. It wasn’t before finding out that French keyboards aren’t QWERTY, like in Brazil, and having to buy blank stickers to write letters on to stick on the brand new laptop’s keyboard. There was no way I could learn how to type again and catch up on 2 weeks of work in 5 days until my deadline. So no matter what, backup, people!
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
First of all, welcome it! And just give yourself time to feel if and how it works for you. Working remotely is an ongoing process of continually improving yourself and your time management skills. If you’re starting out as a remote freelancer (instead of going remote for a company), try finding volunteer work and track your times. I did this to understand how many words I could translate or proofread in an hour, for example, and it helped when it was time to give clients a quote.
Also, some of the most often repeated advice out there is often repeated for a reason: it helps to make your bed, shower, and look presentable enough as if you were going to work outside instead of just waking up and working in your pajamas all day (not that I’m not guilty of doing that occasionally). A minimum sense of “normalcy” can go a long way for productivity.
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
I always want to do better, so I am continuously studying and learning. Courses on my list this year are SEO, copywriting, and travel writing — I really want to go back to writing, which I did for a short time in the past. I have also been thinking of a Masters’ Degree in translation studies, interpreting, or creative writing – so I want to plan that too.
Another goal is learning CAT (computer-assisted translation) Tools. I do not use them because 95% of the material I work with (especially literary translation) doesn’t really require them. But I have experimented and seen how helpful they can be and how crucial it is to know how to work with them nowadays. I am all for new technology, and I think you just have to embrace it because that’s the future. I don’t think competent, human translators will ever be substituted for machines, but they do have to adapt. So far, the only CAT Tools I regularly work with are my two real cats, who enjoy the laptop’s warmth and sit on the (non-QWERTY) keyboard from time to time.
And of course, my major goal is always to take advantage of being remote and travel more. This year, I’d love to double the number of cities and countries I managed to visit last year!
Post-pandemic edit: Obviously Covid kind of ruined that for a while lol. Which actually got me thinking about – well, everything! I still want to travel a lot but have narrowed down my focus. Less quantity, more quality. More traveling to places I really want to get to know and that I’m sure are right up my alley. Also, even (gasp!) repeating a few places, and not aiming as much at places just to cross off a bucket list.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
I think it is going to be more and more common to have remote workers in companies, at least for a few days a week. I am happy to know this is already happening everywhere. It’s been proven that people can be a lot more productive in less time by working remotely than in an office, and employers also get to save money. It’s a win-win.
I also see lots of new tools and resources being created for remote workers all the time, so I hope this helps and improves things for us in big, innovative ways.
Post-pandemic edit: I guess Covid took good care of that in record time. I’m really interested in how this is going to evolve from now on.
11. Where can we follow you on?
Feel free to contact me on LinkedIn, Proz, or my website!
Since I want to start writing, possibly about traveling, I might pick a platform for this soon. But I don’t know if it will be an Instagram profile or blog or what yet (and I am open to suggestions). I am definitely going to add it to my LinkedIn when it’s ready though ☺