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About Rose Newell

Rose Newell is a copywriter and German-to-English translator based in Berlin. Also interested and trained in online marketing, SEO, UX, content design, intercultural communications, and brand strategy, she provides all-round English language marketing and strategic support to her mostly German-speaking clients.

Interview with Rose Newell in issue 14 of translation journal Cultus

Interview with Rose Newell in issue 14 of translation journal Cultus

You can find an interview with me in the current issue (no. 14) of the peer-reviewed translation journal Cultus: The Journal of Intercultural Mediation and Communication. This was conducted a little while back with the British co-editor and Professor of Language and Translation David Katan, based at the University of Salento (Lecce), in Italy.

I was invited to take part in this fascinating issue alongside a number of respected colleagues, to offer the value of my own insights, experiences and perspectives on what defines premium-market translation, how and where we thrive, and what makes the way we work so different to the practices found in what is otherwise defined as the “bulk” market.

Among many gems in this issue of Cultus, you will find an interview with the familiar fellow premium-market advocate David Jemielity. There is also an excellent article on how hybridisation adds value in translation and interpreting by my friend and stock referral for German and English to Italian marketing translation and transcreation, Claudia Benetello; I think it’s clear we are singing from the same hymn sheet – despite neither of us being aware of the other’s participation in this issue.

You can view the issue online and download the individual PDFs by clicking on the image below:

Screenshot of the Cultus journal website

The theme of this issue is Translation plus and the added value of the translator. You can read more about why this topic was chosen in the introduction by co-editor Cinzia Spinzi. To summarise, I believe it was inspired by how the general use of machine translation continues to increase not just among translators, but in the world of international business. This means translators must distinguish themselves by doing what machines cannot if they wish to continue their profitable existence. The issue delves into experiences, examples, observations and general advice on how to not merely survive in translation, but thrive through mentally, emotionally, and financially rewarding work. These nuggets apply to everyone, regardless of the market served or prices charged.

My interview details my own perspectives and experiences within this mystical (not mythical) premium market. In particular, I discuss client relationships and communication, while also sharing my own thoughts on terms like “premium translator” (spoiler: I don’t like it).

In some ways, my interview might be controversial. There are things I’ve said here that I haven’t seen stated openly by a premium-market advocate before, but I felt them to be well overdue. While I have long felt uncomfortable with its broad coveting without understanding of the work involved, I have equally long felt uncomfortable with how some translators in less fortunate situations have come away feeling somehow inferior. Low earnings do not represent some lasting and irreparable failure, nor do high earnings reflect that person’s worth as an individual. If people feel intimidated rather than inspired by what we premium-market advocates say, we are doing it wrong.

I’ll leave you with three of my favourite excerpts, but I would encourage you to try to read the whole thing – not just my interview, but the issue in general. It’s perhaps the most relevant collection of articles that relates to translation as a profession I have ever seen.

I think the biggest issue is translators not asking questions and clarifying things. A lot of translators are working within agencies, and those agencies discourage translators from such interactions. Agencies are largely to blame for the impression that Google and DeepL can produce perfect translations. They are the ones giving their clients the idea that they can just insert the text somewhere, send it to the agency, and the translation will appear just like magic. The reason these agencies are struggling and lowering rates, and struggling to get their own clients, is because they’re marketing and presenting themselves in exactly the same way as Google and DeepL.

My hourly rate reflects what I actually earn in an hour, so reviewing just doesn’t work out cheaper than a new translation very often.

DK: What I mean is the collocation [premium translator], because you don’t find a premium electrician, for example.

RN: No, you do find them. They just won’t be the ones fixing your dodgy light switch.

DK: Ok! I didn’t think of it that way.

Relevant blog posts

On collaboration:
Good translators don’t translate alone

On aiming higher:
Successful stagnation

On pricing:
Free price calculation spreadsheets for translators

On the journey upmarket:
The long break – my journey, my reasons, my promise

On agency claims translation is getting (universally) cheaper:
Translation isn’t getting cheaper

Brexit between the lines: copywriting, translating, and fighting Brexit

Brexit between the lines:
Copywriting, translating, and fighting Brexit from Berlin (deutsche Version)

33 days since Brexit

Germans always seem to be asking me what I think of Brexit. I think the picture says it quite well, but as a copywriter, I know words can fill in a few blanks.

Unfortunately, on 31st January 2020, Brexit happened. In spite of all our efforts – mine, many Brits and EU citizens both back in the UK and right here in Germany and the rest of the EU, it happened. That includes the efforts of specific citizen rights groups, such as British in Europe, British in Germany, and our sister organisation for EU citizens in the UK: the3million.

As I told Berlin and Brandenburg broadcaster rbb on Brexit Day, I’m a strong believer in the EU. I’ve lived, studied, and been self-employed in three EU countries (if you include the UK, and as it was a member when I lived there, I do). I didn’t want the UK to leave. I also didn’t want that younger generations of Brits on that large and lonely island would no longer benefit from the same opportunities I did – opportunities that were critical to my success as a translator and copywriter. It’s a travesty.

Boris in Number 10

Early in the morning of 14th December, 2019, I had a nasty shock: Boris and his Conservatives had won a strong majority in the national elections. But what many outside the UK don’t always understand is this: he achieved it with just 46% of the votes. As we Brits well know, only 53% voted for parties who wanted to give us, the people, a second chance to vote on our future. The informed people’s vote that was robbed of us first time around. But it wasn’t so. And even stats like this don’t tell the full story – every Brit knows that first-past-the-post makes your vote meaningless in many areas, so didn’t bother to cast a vote at all.

Memories of 2016

This shattering shock followed by deep mourning was something familiar to me. It wasn’t unlike how I felt in 2016, as it became clear on the day after the referendum, 24th June 2016, what the British people had done to themselves. I was in the UK at the time – in Brighton. After all, I spend a minimum of six weeks every year in my country of birth, and 2016 was no exception. I still remember the horror, fear, and worry that overwhelmed me on my train journey to my parents’ home in Cornwall, how I had struggled to conceal my tears on the platform at Reading and Exeter St Davids. Sometimes others were crying, too. Others were completely cold. Did they vote for Brexit? Did they do this to me? And that’s how the ongoing political divisions that have torn up the UK began.

British in Germany & The 3 Million - Brexit Demo


Battling Brexit

After our narrow defeat, I mourned with my fellow remainers, the 48%. But we also joined forces, and began our fight against Brexit. More online at first, I quickly found like-minded souls on Twitter or in various Facebook groups. With stars in our profile photos, #FBPE (follow back, pro Europe) hashtags, or the simple word “European” – however we wished to identify ourselves, we found each other.

The first demos started shortly after the referendum, but I was in Cornwall at the time. There were many large demos against Brexit before it finally came to pass. For my part, I attended the Unite for Europe march on 25th March 2017, The People’s Vote March for the Future on 20th October 2018, the Put It to the People March on 23rd March 2019, and finally the Let Us Be Heard march on 19th October 2019.

Brits in Germany together

I got to know many of my fellow remainers over this time period, ultimately making many new friends and contacts. One of the more notable groups I became involved with is British in Germany e.V., based in Berlin. We still hold regular meetups, mostly organised by my friends Rachel and Sara, but also supported by Aaron, Daniel, myself, and other regulars. These meetups, known as “Stammtische” in German, provide a welcoming environment to discuss the latest goings on, let off steam, and support each other on both an emotional and practical level.

As Boris Johnson was proroguing Parliament back in the UK, I joined forces with others in Berlin to organise Berlin’s own Stop the Coup demo at the Brandenburg Gate on 7 September 2019. It was the biggest demo against Brexit and the British Prime Minister’s undemocratic behaviour outside of the UK. Many people got involved, including many members of British in Germany e.V., but also various people found on Facebook and Twitter.

British in Germany & The 3 Million - Brexit Demo

If you’d like to read more about the Stop the Coup demo in Berlin, click on the yellow button below:

Stop the Coup Berlin: a group effort


It was a crazy week, which I was only able to manage at all by virtue of being self-employed. The week that followed was equally busy. After that, I was completely exhausted, and briefly came down with something. My clients were incredibly understanding, but everything has to get done eventually.

Getting married …

Like any good love story, this romantic event had a stressful and serious side. As some of you may know, I married my German then-boyfriend René back in September 2016. Now just to clarify something from the start: It wasn’t a sham wedding by any means! We’d been speaking about getting married even before the Brexit referendum. We’d been together four years even before the referendum, and were already living together. But we did indeed have to hurry along the wedding, as at that point, it didn’t look like I’d lived long enough in Germany to get German citizenship before Brexit Day without it.

… Becoming a German citizen

And prior to the introduction of special German legislation to provide some certainty during the transition period (Brexitübergangsgesetz), it wasn’t clear whether I’d be able to become a German citizen before Brexit, and therefore become a dual citizen of both countries. The problem is that if you want to become German, Germany normally only allows dual citizenship if your other citizenship is of an EU country, or of countries where it’s very difficult to give up your other citizenship. The latter doesn’t apply in the case of the UK. Had I not got married to a German citizen, I would have needed to have been living in Germany for six years. That time would have come in Autumn 2018. But back then, nobody could promise me that I’d be able to exercise this ‘privileged’ route to becoming a German citizen with just six years’ residency. I’d have to prove an ‘exceptional’ level of integration into German society, and I had no idea if my achievements would be enough. In reality, this route was in fact later offered to me based on my German language skills, or maybe just sympathy. But by then, we’d prepared everything for the other route: becoming a German citizen via marriage to a German spouse.

I’m German!

After years of stress, worry, fear, and unbelievable amounts of paperwork, we’d finally done it. Our patience had paid off. In February 2019, I finally became a German citizen! And I managed to hold onto my British passport, too! However, I’m somewhat sad that I didn’t manage an entire year as a double EU citizen. Because that really would reflect my strength of feeling…

And how do I feel now?

Brexit Day was a few weeks ago now. But on a personal level, I think and feel the same way I did back in 2016, just with one not-so-minor difference: I’ve become a German citizen, which means my future in Germany is secure, whatever happens next. But Brexit is still causing me stress as I worry about my future. I’m still British, after all.

How about just moving back to the UK?

I’m an only child. My parents and husband have different passports. How about simply moving back and forth between Germany and the UK for six months at a time? For me, that’s not a problem. I can visit or move over for as long as I like, for however long I like. But the same doesn’t apply to them. So what happens if my parents suddenly need care? There’ll be lots of paperwork and considerable costs, for a start. We’ll have some trouble getting a visa in the first place. According to experts, self-employed income is barely taken into consideration – if at all – and especially not when generated in Germany. This also affects low-earners, as you have to provide evidence of income of at least £18,500, and not just for the new job, but also for the past 12 months you spent in Germany.

It’s not very easy …

According to the latest information, I’ll need to keep around £62,500 in my account at all times. And I can’t touch it, either – at least, not if I might want to move to Cornwall to be with my parents at any time in the next six months – and take my husband with me. This applies even in cases of emergencies, so if my parents should suddenly require long-term care, for example. This is a burden I will have to carry until the current UK immigration law is changed, both my parents have died, or whenever the UK rejoins the EU.

But there’s another approach: I can, of course, accept my situation. This is what a German-British friend who works in another sector has had to do. She earns less, and she and her German husband have less in savings, so she knows she doesn’t have many options. She already knows that at some point she will have to deal with one of the most stressful and traumatic events of anyone’s life alone, without her husband.

Shit happens. Brexit happened.

But life goes on. I will retain my close connections to my country of birth, however hard it may be sometimes. In the past, I used to talk about my husband and I moving over as a matter of “when”. It’s since become a matter of “if”. IF my husband is welcome. IF the Brits can elect better, more tolerant government with just a modicum of empathy and basic morality.

Right now, all that’s up in the air. Right now, I am just happy to be living in Berlin as a German citizen. Together with my German husband, my good friends, and wonderful clients, I look forward to enjoying a more optimistic future – somewhat further removed from Brexit.


1 February 2020
Video interview with rbb24 (German)
Brexit ist “done”: Zum Abschied die Europahymne (Brexit is done: Signing off with the European Anthem)

31 January 2020
Video interview with The Local
Watch: How do Brits in the EU feel about Brexit actually happening?

31 January 2020
Video interview with rbb24 (German)
Der Countdown läuft, Brexit – Briten in Berlin (The countdown has started, Brexit – Brits in Berlin)

31 January 2020
Interview with rbb Abendschau (German)
Countdown läuft, Brexit – Briten in Berlin (The countdown has started, Brexit – Brits in Berlin)

31 January 2020
Radio interview with Deutschlandradio Kultur (German)
Zweifel an Zeitplan für Handelsabkommen (Doubts surround the proposed trade deal timetable)

31 January 2020

Interview with The Local Germany
‘I’m giving up my UK passport’: Brits in Germany share their heartbreak over Brexit day

13 December 2019
Interview with The Local Germany
‘Brexit is happening… I feel surprisingly calm’: Brits in Germany react to UK election result

1 December 2019
Contributed to: Tactical Voting Guide
Jon Worth’s 2019 UK General Election Tactical Voting Guide

26 November 2019
Plea from a Brit in the EU for Forward Democracy
Plea from a Brit in the EU

20 November 2019
Twitter video: “VOTE!”
Twitter: @RoseWroteThis

16 September 2019
Spanish media poll reveals 75 per cent of Brit expats favour cancelling Brexit

14 September 2019
Quoted: The Olive Press
To leave or remain, British expats in Spain have their say on Brexit as B-Day looms

7 September 2019
Created: Press release and letter to the Ambassador
Stop the Coup Berlin: Press Release and Letter

7 September 2019
Created: Stop the Coup Berlin website
Stop the Coup Berlin

7 September 2019
Interview with The Local Germany
‘Anxious and enraged’: Brits in Germany speak out as Brexit chaos continues

20 March 2020
BBC News: Shortened version of the video interview with BBC Scotland: “The Nine”
Brexit: The choice facing British citizens living in Germany

20 March 2019 (Upload 19 March 2020)
Interview with BBC Scotland: “The Nine”
Brits in Germany talk to BBC Scotland about the impact of Brexit on their lives

29 March 2017
The Herts Advertiser
St Albans Remainers join national Brexit protest march in London

4 July 2016
Interview with The Local Germany, quoted in The Independent
British expats marrying continental Europeans to remain EU citizens

4 July 2016
Interview with The Local Germany, quoted in a second article
Vice-Chancellor calls to offer young Brits dual citizenship

1 July 2016
Interview with The Local Germany
‘It won’t be romantic. But I need an EU passport’

8 June 2016
Interview with DPA, published on EBL News
Auf Wiedersehen, pet? Britons in Berlin mull a post-Brexit future

Bait and switch in the translation profession

Most translators are familiar with the main forms of bait-and-switch that are commonplace in the translation profession. Most are usually a variation on the following:

1. Impress them with the starter

The client hires a translation agency for the first time, or perhaps the agency is responding to a call for tenders. Whenever they know the client is looking, or whenever the client complains, the agency hires a more competent translator than they will hire to do the rest of the work.

2. The CV-switch-a-roo

The translation agency is asked to submit an assortment of translator profiles or CVs, and guarantees that these are the translators who do the work. In reality, the agency requests or even takes the CVs of more qualified translators, wins the work on this basis, but all work goes to cheaper, less-qualified translators.

But there is a third form (with two sub-classes) that we don’t see discussed quite so often:

3. Window-dressing

a) The translation agency hires a competent native editor to edit their website and marketing materials. Not really unethical, just perhaps slightly misleading – as most clients may well expect work to be of a similar standard.

b) The translation agency hires – or, I should say, attempts to hire – a more expensive, perhaps even ‘premium’ translator for the translation or adaptation of their website. This translator is out of their normal price range. They, like many real-world clients, may be willing to delve a little deeper into their pockets for such a special investment. In turn, the translator may also be offered the fee they ask for… But to accept would be tantamount to participating in fraud, misleading unwitting clients that the work purchased from this company would be of a similar standard. Worse, when these agencies are charging less than the translator, any translator helping such an agency to win clients with their work would essentially result in that translator undercutting themselves.

How else do agencies get their own websites translated?

I have in fact translated a couple of translation agencies’ websites in my time, before I stopped working with agencies altogether. In each case, these were small, colleague-run agencies who treated me and other translators fairly, paying comparatively well and on time. I also had confidence in their abilities as translators, and since I genuinely did work for them at the time, there was no risk of misrepresentation.

However, I have not worked with translation agencies for some time now, having dumped them all around 2012-2013. Despite this, and the many warnings against the woes of hiring or working with translation agencies both here and on my professional website, I’ve still been approached by translation agencies to translate their websites or marketing materials on occasion. Sometimes they have either not been upfront about what they do, or at best, not totally understood that they, too, are a translation agency.

You don’t translate FOR us, but we want you to translate our website!

This happened again today. The client originally approached me in December, describing themselves solely as a writing agency at the time. Following a call back then and again last week, everything all sounded good to go – they just had to finalise their website first.

Then early this morning, the texts arrived for me to provide a quote. But there was a problem: the texts revealed that they not only operate as a translation agency on the side, but their rates are substantially lower than my own…

With this obvious conflict of interest, it was clear I had to turn the job down. But then I had to consider how.

Thanks, but no thanks.

A high-end professional political strategy consultant once shared a piece of wisdom I try to live by:

“Before attempting to educate someone, consider whether they are capable of learning.
If they are not, neither of you will walk away any happier.”

As friends will agree, I could do with considering this more closely. But in general, I believe it is important to attempt to explain my reasoning to people, especially those who have been polite and courteous in their interactions with me, and are by no means out to intentionally exploit or attack me or my colleagues. This was the case here.

These pleasant people were apparently working with a different understanding of our profession. They were perhaps, even in Switzerland, unaware of the existence of (and considerable demand for!) a ‘premium’ market. They appeared to be similarly unaware of Switzerland’s leading translation association’s recommended rates, or perhaps they had dismissed these as merely pie-in-the-sky aspirational rather than a comfortable reality enjoyed by some.

Explaining my decision

Either way, I believed this not-so-much-potential client to have both earned an honest explanation and to be capable of learning from my take on things, so this is how I responded after failing to reach them by telephone (translated from German with confidential details omitted):

Many thanks for sending over the texts. I have now had a brief look over them.

While reading, I noticed that you also operate as a translation agency. That was unclear to me in the beginning, otherwise I would have clarified that point sooner. I don’t work with translation agencies as a matter of principle. The reason being that they tend to stand in the way of quality and good cooperation with customers, while expecting a financial reward in return. Of course, this is not always the case, and I wouldn’t mind if a translation agency were to pay my normal rates to compensate my work and that of my excellent editor.

But you also quoted your rates on the new website, which are much lower than my own (approx. 35%), as well as the rates recommended by the Swiss ASTTI [translation association in their country]. This makes any long-term collaboration unlikely. For that reason, I naturally hold some reservations regarding translating your website. As we both know from our experience in the industry, our websites are the equivalent to shop windows, where we exhibit the best of our writing and translation skills to lure clients in. It would therefore be more than questionable to translate for a company that will rarely (if ever) hire me and my editor in real life. I would essentially be undercutting myself.

On the phone you explicitly stated that you would like to work with translators who translate more than just words. Such translators are very rare, but more and more clients are noticing the difference. That’s why we are in such high demand. Our services are also more expensive as a result of this strong demand, our collaboration with competent colleagues, the time required to do good work, and the cost of ongoing investment in our own skills.

Nevertheless, I was very pleased to get to know you by telephone. I wish you every success with your project.

As you can see, I was both blunt and polite. I genuinely do wish them the best, and I do believe them to be honest in intent – we have all seen far more exploitative rates in our time. But I can’t help but be a little bemused that they did not peg at any time that the rates of someone they were ‘so happy to have found’ may have been somewhat higher. Or worse, they anticipated my rates or inferred as much from my FAQs, and were going in with their eyes wide open. I fear the latter, because I am almost certain I revealed my hourly rate to them on the telephone back in December.

How widespread is this problem?

I am curious to hear other people’s thoughts on this and similar ethical quandaries, especially in relation to bait-and-switch tactics and ‘window dressing’ as described above.

Do you have a similar policy? Does it extend beyond translation and copywriting?

Good translators don’t translate alone

After much pushing and prodding from various colleagues (thank you, I needed it), I decided to get back to blogging. I’ve been periodically sharing thoughts as they occur to me in Standing Up on Facebook, but I realise this is a somewhat limited audience for ideas I’d like to spread. Seeing as I’ve gone to the trouble of ensuring this site is completely GDPR-compliant (did you like the cookie notice?), I should at least deign to write here a little more often.

This particular blog post is an expansion of something I shared earlier in Standing Up. Do take a closer look if you’re in the group (or willing to join), as the discussion below was very fruitful. Today I was in a writing mood, so decided to expand it and turn it into a blog post.

No reviewer = no referral

A few weeks ago, I was considering referring a very talented translator, but decided against it because I know they don’t have a regular reviewer.

The problem is, this is not especially unusual. In fact, the lack of a trusted reviewer as part of the colleague’s standard workflow is frequently a reason I find it hard to refer colleagues. And yes, this comes up quite often – not just because I am in high demand as a translator in my own language combination, and people often come to me regarding fields I don’t cover, but also because I work both into English and as a copywriter, and my work is often used as a basis for translation into other languages.

Why do translators not use reviewers?

Don’t get me wrong: I know why people don’t use reviewers, because I didn’t when I obtained my first direct clients. Instead, I preferred to set longer deadlines and review my own work after a few days, enlisting the support of German- and English-native colleagues on certain sections. I’d also enlist a monolingual native English speaker to review the text.

Part of my problem was that I had not found a good reviewer. With the right reviewer, you’ll have different but compatible skills, styles, and approaches. You’ll also have a certain amount of interpersonal chemistry, too – you have to be happy with them seeing you without your makeup on – or, er, with your trousers down, in the case of those who don’t wear make-up.

For a long time, I resisted using a reviewer, because I found the people I’d worked with would miss obvious mistakes and insert others. This is partly because I took the misguided agency approach of assuming a reviewer doesn’t need to be as qualified, skilled, or experienced as the original translator. But for truly effective revision, your reviewer should instead be equally or even more experienced and skilled than you.

Kevin Hendzel (do read his valuable post on collaboration) in particular pushed me to keep exploring collaboration and keep searching for the right person. Part of my fear, I admit, was the risk of paying more for a job I could do better myself.

A fortuitous pairing

Then a client paired me with the person who has since become my regular reviewer, and I’ve never really looked back.

For the first time, I saw genuine improvements every time something came back from review:

  • Intelligent comments in the margin.
  • Stylistic adjustments to improve the flow.
  • Ideas or considerations I’d not had.
  • Thoughts on what the client might also have meant.
  • Just better work.

After that fortuitous matchmaking on the part of our client, I began regularly hiring this same colleague for all my client work.

Over time, we became more and more comfortable, learning from each other, and becoming more open about other ideas on the texts. We became less concerned with being (or appearing) perfect in our individual roles and more concerned with producing optimal results. Neither of us is afraid of a sea of red, nor of expressing our uncertainty. For the collaboration to work, we have to put our sensitivities to one side. Ego does nothing for the quality of a translation.

We take more time when needed. We discuss issues openly. I then discuss things that really can’t be resolved between us (or with the insights of German-native colleagues and my German husband) with the client.

Contrary to some rather misguided advice you may see from a number of translators serving the bulk market, quality-driven translation buyers appreciate well-founded questions – and this process ensures none of these queries or comments are a waste of time. The result is clients who are reassured rather than worried by the questions I ask, and who consistently praise the rare quality of my (our) work. And my (our) diligence, of course.

Real revision means real interaction

These wonderful outcomes described above are hard (impossible?) to achieve when you’re both freelancers hired by an agency, or a colleague acting as a one-man-band agency. That is also why many of us (however harshly) emphasise how much we prefer working with direct clients, in the hope of pushing others to do the same.

Working for direct clients but not charging enough to afford to take your time and hire very competent reviewers (or any at all) has the same effect. That is why many of us (however harshly) emphasise the importance of charging professional rates, in the hope of pushing others to do the same.

Unfortunately, the reality is that most translations delivered to clients fall into one of the following categories:

  • Translator translates, reviewer reviews, translation is delivered.
  • Translator translates, translation is delivered.

Of course, sometimes there are some small but ineffective steps in between. For example, a non-native PM might have a quick look for obvious mistakes (or insert some of their own). But the key point here is that there is little or no dialogue.

To produce our best work, even the best translators require the support of other excellent or even better translators.

They also require the source language skills and tact to be able to properly articulate any queries they may have to their client, and ensure the translation and/or source text are adapted accordingly.

Real revision is collaborative. If you’re doing it alone, or not engaging in twenty-minute discussions on anything from syntax to an ambiguous idiom, you’re not doing it right.

It worked for me

I will try put this in concrete terms for those who work with (or intend to work with) direct clients and are in a position to implement best practices to secure their long-term success right now.

I already spoke about my reticence to hire a reviewer, and the reasons for this. I was also pretty clueless when I first went after direct clients, and started off charging around 14 cents per word. For relatively demanding work, that was far too little – even without external revision. As my confidence, skills, and client base grew, I soon started charging closer to 20-25 cents per word. Many people would say that was good, but that would involve extensive internal or native English revision, albeit no external German-English revision.

The first few times I experimented with quality revision by this skilled colleague, I gulped a bit at the cost. But I felt so humbled by what came back – mistakes I could never have spotted or improvements I could never have made without the help of the reviewer – that I felt I had to continue working this way, even if it cost me more…

I upped my rates to compensate, and found most clients were fine with closer to 30-33 cents, which is where my rates also stayed for a long time.

Nowadays, I’m at around 40-47 cents per word on average, and I don’t think I’d have got there without the reviewer – or the engaged approach to discussing all potential issues with the reviewer, my husband (the German-native), colleagues (English-natives, German-natives, and translators in both directions), educated non-linguist users of English who are based in the target country (my parents and certain friends – not all!), and – naturally – the client.

My work at 14 cents was good. My work at 20-25 cents was a bit better. But my work today, at around 40-47 cents per word, is the best it’s ever been. The key difference? I stopped translating alone.


Long story short, someone would have received a referral. They didn’t, because I couldn’t be sure that the translation they’d deliver would be properly reviewed. They are a very good translator, but still charging rates to direct clients that are too low to afford a good reviewer. Without that, they may never realise their full and impressive potential.

  1. Charge more.
  2. Hire a reviewer with complementary skills, who is just as good as you or better.
  3. Profit.

Post previously published on the original Translator’s Teacup at

Successful stagnation

I have been thinking about this a bit recently, particularly in connection with certain talented individuals I’ve come to know and admire, often with promising language combinations and talents, who seem to end up stagnating and getting overworked at the top end of the bulk market.

To give an example, that could be people working between German and English (either direction) who are charging 12 to 16 cents a word to the better agencies, working their arses off because they are stuck in the mentality that they are ‘rich’ and doing well.

… And, well, they are.

A lot of people in this profession would be over the moon to be earning that sort of money. I get that. That’s also why this post is called “successful” stagnation, as it’s not directed at those who for whatever reasons are struggling to make ends meet. It’s directed at those who are already among the apparent ‘winners’ of our profession when you look how far they’ve already come along the bell curve.

These people ARE doing very well. Skilled and in demand, they’ll be working with the sort of appreciative agencies who will stretch budgets and bend deadlines to ensure these translators can do their work, and yeah, it does feel pretty nice. Cushy, even.

Combine that with good productivity, solidly knocking out 4,000 or more words a day, and you can get to a nice average of €500 or so a day, or €2,500 a week if you can keep it up. Which you probably can if you’re solidly booked … Soon you’re at €10,000 a month, and €120,000 a year, assuming you can keep it up and don’t take any time off.

What’s wrong with successful stagnation?

Yeah, about that time off …

It’s easy to get comfortable when the sun’s shining on your balcony, while the whole world seems to be complaining about the rain. It’s also easy to forget that other things, from negotiating jobs to invoicing, can take time. But you aren’t looking at that: you’re too busy enjoying that sun, never quite secure enough to know if tomorrow will be a bit more overcast. If you’re not careful, you can easily end up working very long days. And nights. But it never feels like it, because you’re happy, and you’re pushing yourself because OMG LOOK AT THAT MONEY.

Working like that … it’s not sustainable. And while it might not look like it, certainly not if your bank balance is anything to go by, you’re (successfully) stagnating. Because really, life as a translator does get (even?) better than working ten-hour days for upper-tier bulk market agency rates. Better as in significantly less stressful, significantly more fulfilling, and significantly more financially rewarding.

Perhaps a reminder is needed, so here it comes.

It’s worth taking the next step, because …

You’ll be less stressed

  • Charging more to direct clients means you can create generous financial buffers, meaning there will always be room in the budget for a review by a second expert translator, giving you peace of mind. (My reviewer is going on holiday for a couple of weeks, and yes, I’m nervous – but it’ll give me a good shove to further explore some other successful collaborations. ? )
  • You’re in charge of negotiations, so you can negotiate better deadlines.
  • You can contact the client to ask questions – and the client will appreciate you asking and assist you.

Your work will give you greater fulfilment

  • You’ll be able to learn more from everyone involved in the project, from the client to the people you collaborate with.
  • You’ll get to hear the praise from happy clients every day, giving you more of an ego boost than you’d ever get working for agencies or in-house.
  • You are in direct control of your future, without middlemen setting limits on what you can and can’t do, and what you can and can’t earn.

You’ll have greater financial freedom

  • This doesn’t have to mean more money. It can also mean more time to spend with loved ones as you earn more in less time, or simply the freedom to turn down work or clients you don’t want.

… But I just got comfy here.

As if Kevin Hendzel’s post about the creative destruction set to engulf the industry or the various other related posts about the apparent bulk industry crisis was not enough, the rise of PEMT and ‘good enough’ machine translation should be giving you the hint that it is time you started moving upmarket, because things are unlikely to stay as cosy as they are right now – even for you.

But the problems go deeper than that. I feel certain people, particularly friends of mine, are hesitant to change what may right now feel like a winning recipe. I recognise it, because that’s where I used to be. I know that there there’s a little voice inside you that’s telling you that you aren’t quite ready to move on up, and you don’t yet feel the pressing need. You feel you will naturally move on up over time. Right.

But how’s that going to happen if you’re working ten-hour days, maybe even weekends and public holidays, for all these agencies? By this point, you know there aren’t going to be that many agencies who’ll consistently pay more than 20 cents a word. Hell, you’ve done well to get the ones paying the rates you’re already getting. Those 12-16 cents may sound like a lot, but how does 60-80 sound?


To move on up, you need to actively CREATE spare capacity. You need to actively REFUSE work so you have time to work on your translation skills, your writing skills, your specialisation, your website, your network, your marketing materials. Then you also have a convenient buffer that you can take a chunk out of when a truly promising piece of work for a new client comes up.

More than that, though, you might even need to go back to university. I did. I wrote about that here (recently updated).

It’s an old post, and I never publicised it at the time, but I realise in retrospect it was probably my most useful – I’ve been told as much. It’s useful because it details something you won’t see many people speaking much about, mostly because the smart souls taking these extreme measures are too busy and introverted to stick their heads above the parapet (and risk getting shot). It talks about SACRIFICE.

Sacrifice and rebirth

When I talk about sacrifice, I’m referring to the complete “reboot” I did on my career: going back to university, creating capacity, filling that capacity with learning and market observation and then, over time, better clients.

… It is so very easy to look at people who made it and assume that if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll eventually get there, too, because you’re doing quite well right now, after all.

Sorry, but that’s not how it works. It takes sacrifice. It takes conscious decisions like mine that will send your income plummeting down to the levels of a recent graduate, before you see that same income double multiple years in a row. It takes studying. It takes hard work. But first of all, it takes TURNING DOWN WORK.*

So, dear successfully stagnating friends, consider this a sharp poke in your ribs. You know, that funny bit where it hurts and the pain lingers for a couple of minutes. Start turning down work if you really want to release your full potential. Take that leap of faith. **


* I get that sometimes people have commitments, but even if there’s something preventing you from doing that right now, keep an eye out for ways you can adapt this advice to your circumstances. Make a mental note in red and indelible pen, and when you find yourself truly successfully stagnating, look for a way that you can safely take a couple of steps back in preparation for your next sprint …

** ‘leap of faith’ is a reference to a very popular post I wrote in the League a couple of years after things had started to take off for me. Rather than summarising, it’s best that you read it for yourself. Here’s a screenshot:
Leap of Faith Rose Newell

The Germglish problem

There is a disease that seems to slowly infect native speakers of English after settling in Germany. This disease is not always evident to every onlooker, especially since the Germans the infected surround themselves with are immune to the disease itself, just not its symptoms. Infection with this disease is, however, very obvious to any healthy, uninfected native speaker of English who happens to to observe the infected party’s most unusual behaviour.

This is not some kind of sexually transmitted disease.


Nor is it a painful addiction to substandard comedy and entertainment shows like “Schlag den Raab” or “Goodbye Deutschland”. No. I’m talking about something much more serious, much more widespread, and much more damaging to the sufferer and all who come into close contact with them.

I’m talking about Germglish.

That’s right: this silent killer of dreams is known as Germglish.


Germglish is an affliction that starts slowly. Unusual word selection is usually the first symptom. Uncomfortable syntax, might be seen next. German-oriented language is also already fundamental within the framework of this illness, as are those additional words. By this stage, the hyphenation-problem is usually getting much more serious. These people may still have very-useful informations to share, but by this stage it is hard to follow the thread already, because their mother language word order is so destroyed by German-oriented-grammar by now.


Germglish sufferers are commonly said to have “gone native”. This is to say, they have spent so much time immersed in the German language, culture, and society, that they have forgotten their origins and any associated skills. These people have gone so much further than learning to mark the days you can go shopping on a Sunday on a dedicated calendar. They have gone so much further than knowing to not even bother queuing for the bus.

Such people no longer know the difference between Currywurst mit Klöße and bangers and mash! Their English has turned into some strange modern English-German mix that you would normally expect to resemble Flemish. But it doesn’t. Not even Flanders’s finest forensic linguists can make sense of the foreign-sounding mess produced by the dreaded Germglish sufferers.

Why am I so concerned about Germglish?

And why am I so disdainful of its sufferers?

I’ll tell you why. Germglish is a disease not every sufferer knows they have. Everyone knows how to prevent getting it, but they can’t be bothered to use protection and figure they’ll just keep going until they hit a problem. I consider this behaviour rather irresponsible – it’s your choice if you don’t want to use protection and get infected with Germglish. But it isn’t fair to spread your disease.

Infected expats often work in high-contact environments. Think educators, translators, even copywriters. Through their work, their infection spreads and mutates. It morphs as it infects young German children, dooming them to never learn proper English (and never learn better, either, because their teacher is “native”). It morphs as it infects websites, now translated into unappealing Germglish no uninfected English speaker wants to read or buy from. It morphs into advertising slogans that confuse more than they compel!

Germglish is a leech on the German economy – a silent infection spread by vampiric Germglish-infected bats in the night, feasting on the blood and ambition of innocent German businesses as they attempt to stretch their virgin wings into new markets… Oh, the innocence lost. The blood spilled. The ambitions broken. It breaks my heart.

What can be done?