Freelance Life: Behind the Scenes
An Interview with Nicole Fenwick (@coleytranslates)
One essential way to thrive as a freelancer is to establish a network of like-minded 'colleagues' with whom you can share ideas, regularly communicate, and even collaborate on projects. Nicole, for me, has been one of these 'colleagues' since the beginning of my freelance journey.
Through this interview, I was able to understand her journey a little better, and to learn what it is that she loves so much about our somewhat unique lifestyle. Read on to delve behind the scenes of Nicole's job as a freelance translator!
Hey, Nicole! Tell us a little about who you are.
Hola, I’m Nicole or Coley to my family and friends, hence "Coley Translates" - and, oh yes, she does! And she proofreads, and revises, and teaches, and occasionally sleeps. I’m ginger, which seems to have been a distinguishing feature throughout my life, so I thought I better mention it. As well as being the face of Coley Translates, I also have a fantastic Yorkshire accent (hopefully not in French) which seems to confuse people as a linguist. Yorkshire folk can speak languages too! I now live in Barcelona livin’ la vida loca. I have my own translation business and I specialise in legal and business translation. No, seriously, I do - I’m a nerd.
Where are you currently based? What made you choose this location?
I’m based in Barcelona, Spain and I live there mainly to keep people on their toes because it isn’t the typical destination for a French to English translator. Why does a French to English translator live in Barcelona, I hear you ask? I’ve never done anything by halves, so I decided to move to Spain to learn Spanish and make a better life for myself right before Brexit.
What first inspired you to pursue a remote working lifestyle?
I think it’s a dream for lots of people, isn’t it? I’m just lucky enough to have a job and a lifestyle which I love for many reasons, but mostly because it’s conducive to a remote working lifestyle. Travelling may be off the cards for now, but my lifestyle has allowed me to visit Yorkshire this summer after being away from my family for seven months. This is a prime example of why I do what I do; I can prioritise the things which matter the most, family being at the top of that list. For me, all I need is my trusty laptop, my favourite powder-pink mouse and wireless keyboard and a good old notebook and I’m ready for the next adventure. How many people can say that?! I’m far from a digital nomad (I’m not cool enough for that yet) but my work set-up and Ryanair certainly help me travel and work my way around the world.
What's your favourite part of your job?
This is a tricky one, and as much as I love working with words and helping break down language barriers, I mainly just love working with people. I’m a people person. Ask my friends: I’m always smiling and talking to people wherever I go. I had a recent revelation that I’m so privileged to be able to work with fantastic people. People being fantastic colleagues who form a great support network for fellow freelancers but also the people I work with. Being my own boss means that I get to choose who I work with. I get to work for lovely people every day…now that is the dream. I have fantastic relationships with my clients and colleagues who I thoroughly enjoy working with, and I’m confident they feel the same as they keep coming back for more. You don’t always find the right fit when you first start your career, but when you do, it’s so worth it. Particularly when you get to do what you love every day.
What's the most difficult part of your job?
I take everything personally. I don’t think I understood what that would really feel like until I became my own boss. However, when it’s your business, you do take everything personally because it reflects on you. Or at least you think it does! However, we aren’t all matches made in heaven and that applies to the world of work too. Sometimes a working relationship doesn’t quite click, and you have to go your separate ways because you’re no longer happy. I promise myself that I’ll only work with people who I enjoy working with and who enjoy working with me too, so I won’t push it if I don’t think we are a good match. But knowing me, I’ll point you in the right direction to find your professional soul mate.
What would your dream project be? Where do you envision your career taking you in the future?
After translating a UN report on the recruitment of child soldiers in the DRC back in 2018, I’ve been on the lookout for something similar ever since. It was an amazing project to work on, but the contents of that report will stay with me forever. The ability of some humans to carry out the most heinous acts on other human beings will always make me want to do more, and be a better person in whatever way I can. My dream project is probably translating material for the ICC in the Hague. If I was ever to focus on just one thing and move in-house, that would be it. That way, I could get up every morning and genuinely believe that I was making a difference. I would also love to translate some true crime, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. I’m a true-crime documentary buff, and although I claim it’s for research purposes and good practice for my legal mind, it’s mainly because I’m fascinated by human behaviour.
I envision my career taking me here, there, and everywhere. As far as I’m concerned, my career has no boundaries, borders, or restrictions, so I’m free to go wherever work, life and my wanderlust take me. As a fiercely independent and educated young woman, the world is my oyster (in theory). I’m excited for what the future holds because I’m definitely not ready to put down (permanent) roots just yet.
Do you prefer to base yourself in one place, or travel often?
I like to have a base: somewhere to call home, where I can store my abundant work wardrobe (read as comfy gym wear). However, my wanderlust is never-ending, and I never need an excuse to travel. In my master’s year alone, I managed to visit Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, back to Hungary and then Ireland. Standard me. I’m the friend who you want to unfollow on social media because I’m always jetting off somewhere, but let’s not mention where I’ve travelled in 2020.
Do you prefer to use a coworking space, or to work from home? Why?
I like my own space so that I can get in the zone and talk to myself or just read my work out loud when I’m proofreading (it works). However, I’m very much a pack animal, so I love to interact with other humans, just maybe not all the time. Back in February, I went on a hunt to find the perfect co-working spot in Barcelona, and I found it. It’s just a shame that it was two weeks before the world shut down. I’ve not been back yet, but whenever it’s safe to do so, I’ll be back. I was in fantastic company and I was welcomed with open arms. They were even patient enough to speak to me in Spanish but let me reply in English until I got my bearings.
What is the one app you couldn't live without?
I would have to say Toggl. It’s a time tracking app and it offers online time tracking and reporting services for free. I track my time for everything that I do - chargeable time, non-chargeable time (admin, marketing etc.) and even a cheeky PT session here and there. It allows me to assess exactly what I do with the hours in a day and how efficient I am. This is also hugely beneficial to my clients, because it allows me to provide more accurate quotes as I can now estimate my chargeable time using real data. Also, if you feel like you’ve had one of those days and you aren’t sure if you’ve achieved anything, log on to Toggl and I bet it proves you wrong. I couldn’t live without it now!
Any words of advice for those looking to begin a freelance career?
An old secondary school teacher once said to me that you are never too old to follow your dreams. So, whether it be at the beginning of your career or slap bang in the middle of it, freelancing is a career that means you can make it whatever you want it to be. FREElancing lets you work around all your other priorities in life, whatever those might be. Another thing I would say is to ask questions…constantly! I still ask questions, even silly ones. But is there such a thing as a silly question? If it helps you reach your final destination safely, I’d argue that there isn’t. I know I’ll always ask questions, because it means that I’m constantly growing; a really important feature of an entrepreneur who wants to survive in the ever-changing marketplace. Ask away, because someone, somewhere will know the answer and one day, you can pass on that wisdom to a new translator on the block.