Book review: The Subversive Copyeditor

I first became aware of the work Carol Fisher Saller does when she spoke at the American Copy Editors Society conference in Portland, Oregon, and presented on her book, The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago.

I finally read her book in January of 2018. I should have done so sooner. There are so many things we can learn from this book as translators. I am combining what I learned from her book with my own experience in the real world in this post. This post covers the highlights. I hope to give you a taste for more!

In the inside jacket, she is very straightforward about the purpose of this book. It is not for us to learn how to copy edit, but to give us some ideas as we negotiate good relationships with those we work with and ourselves. Many of the tips she gives apply to translators just as much as they do to copy editors.

Part One: Relationships with those who hire us.

Being correct about a particular turn of phrase is not worth a big argument. Instead of focusing on who is right, it is better to see what will reach the readers of the document most effectively. However, inaccuracies and inconsistencies are distracting and reflect poorly on the author. We should take care of those.

We should follow three guiding principles: carefulness, transparency, and flexibility. These remind me of the interpreting guidelines of transparency and accuracy. Interpreters convey everything that is said accurately, ask for clarifications and repetitions as needed, and are transparent so both parties know everything that is happening in the room. In the same way, as translators we should approach the text with utmost carefulness. We should also be very transparent when we make editorial decisions regarding the text by putting comments in so the requester can understand our choices. To be flexible with a translation, of course, we need to know exactly what the text is going to be used for, so it is important to ask questions.

Editing is a gift. Our translations should be edited, since most published material is edited. We should treat our editors with kindness, and learn from the comments our editor colleagues make.

Part Two: Practical issues.

Delegate or automate repetitive tasks, so we can focus on what we do best. For example, someone else might be able to set up a table in Word, check all the numbers in a set of tables, or do other repetitive chores that don’t require translation skills. That person can also check that the references are properly numbered, that the citation reference numbers match, etc. Delegating frees us up to do what we do best.

Though we may work with translation environment tools, our word processor is still our primary translation tool. It is where we do many of our final edits, write letters to clients, and do much of our work. We need to know our word processor inside and out. We should explore every feature it has, because they can help to automate certain tasks and improve our writing in many ways. Carol says having word processors and electronic tools for editing has not changed editing schedules in the last 25 years. It still takes just as long to edit a 10 page text as it did before. These tools do not make us deliver sooner. Instead, they enable us to do many things we were not able to do before, such as verifying consistency, checking for acronym use, checking double spaces, and searching for overuse of the term ‘that’.

We have to plan in order to keep our deadlines. We must organize our day, set aside distractions, set pad in our schedules, set priorities. When we have to slip a deadline, just say “something outside my control came up and I will be one day late.” It is much better to take the initiative instead of receiving an email from the client asking about it.

Sometimes we have to work quickly to meet a difficult deadline. However, that also means we will not be able to follow through with all of our quality assurance steps and we don’t produce very good quality when we are sleepy. I always let my clients know about these compromises and they are usually willing to extend the deadline or accept lower quality work knowingly. This happens in every profession. We shouldn’t make a habit of it.

We have to keep track of our income and send reminders to people who haven’t paid. In my experience, the accounting department is often missing some piece of information and they have forgotten to tell me. Other times, they had not realized the bill was due, and the check comes the next day! In all the years I have worked as a translator, I have had very few non-payers. How to sniff those out is a subject for another post.

Don’t forget to have a life away from work. Without a life, we won’t be able to give our work the best we could bring to it. We will be exhausted.

Carol Fisher Saller. The Subversive Copy Editor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Linguist in the Spotlight: An Interview with David Rumsey

Following our most recent “Linguist in the Spotlight” interview (with current ATA President Corinne McKay), we could not be happier to have had the opportunity to speak to immediate past president of ATA, David Rumsey. A Swedish-, Danish-, and Norwegian-to-English translator for nearly 30 years, David has a wealth of knowledge about the profession (which, by the way, he fell into by accident!) that he graciously shares with us. Read on to hear his perspective on what it was like to translate pre-Google, why translators should invest in their education, what he has gained from his involvement in professional associations, and the value of venturing out from behind our computer screens. He also reveals some underutilized CAT and Outlook features for organization and productivity.

His “accidental” introduction to a nearly 30-year career

 Like many translators my age, I actually got started by accident. I was a graduate student working in Scandinavian history, and a translation agency contacted the department looking for somebody who could translate a document on a Danish garbage-disposal system. I found the translation projects fun and challenging, and ultimately more financially profitable than pursuing my PhD. Since that point in 1990, I never looked back.

Vodka and heavy-metal music: Some of his most memorable projects over the years

 In the mid-1990s, when single-malt whiskey became a fad in the US, I translated documents from a large alcohol company that had a strategic plan to create a line of premium vodkas, even though they knew that there was actually no difference in terms of the distillation process. Sure enough, a few years later, a whole host of “premium vodkas” arrived on the shelves. Another interesting project was the history of Swedish heavy-metal music. Not that I’m a fan, but it was a very interesting project!

A few of his favorite things about a career in translation

The flexibility cannot be beat. However, the fact that each project is unique and the profession provides ongoing learning opportunities. I love learning about new developments in the field of energy and technology.

A piece of advice for new translators: Never stop learning

Invest in your education and continue to learn about subjects that interest you so that you can write clearly about them as a translator. Being a translator or interpreter is a lifelong learning practice.

What it was like to translate before Google, and a lesson learned

I learned early on, within the first year of my career, not to accept projects that I did not feel comfortable translating. At the time, I felt pressure to accept any and all projects, even in fields that I was not conversant in. There was a lot of “guessing” in terms of the terminology in that case. But this was long before there was even Google. The results were, shall we say, less than satisfying for the customer. I was very grateful that the project manager provided the feedback and was understanding. A lesson learned: if you don’t feel like you have a good understanding of the document, don’t accept it.

Visibility: The value of networking and association databases

At this point, most people either find me through referrals or through various association databases. I still get lots of projects from the ATA database.

Getting out from behind the screen: The benefit of meeting colleagues in person

Being involved with the ATA has helped me to network with people who can provide support and augment my own skills. Even before I became part of the ATA Board of Directors, I attended the ATA Conference and Nordic Division activities regularly. I learn so much from other translators about how they run their business, how they approach translation challenges, and tips for terminology and technology resources. Meeting your colleagues in person is so much more valuable than online, behind the screen. I always come away from the ATA Conference so energized about my profession.

Unexpected lessons learned through membership and participation in professional associations

Obviously I have been involved with the American Translators Association the most. In addition to being a board member and president from 2015 to 2017, I was also involved in the certification program and the Nordic Division, and was a regular conference attendee. Besides the contacts and professional development opportunities in terms of translation, my volunteering at ATA also fostered new skills unrelated to translation that I still use. These can include leadership skills, conflict resolution skills, interpersonal communication skills, time management skills, and even website skills, etc.

I am also a member of the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ). I enjoy attending their events because it helps keep me up to date in terms of my Swedish language skills.

Oft-overlooked tools: The power of term management, plus some Outlook hacks

In terms of CAT tools, I think that terminology software is severely underutilized. Although we might not benefit from a high level of repetition between projects from various clients, we might benefit enormously from a detailed terminology program that we can use with regular word-processing programs and not just translation programs.  My MultiTerm database is quite large and I can keep it open separately when working on all kinds of projects. At the very minimum, it’s important for translators to start to collect and manage terminology.

In addition, I really enjoy working with Microsoft Outlook, which allows me to flag messages in different colors to indicate whether they are in the bidding stage, confirmed, or overdue. I can schedule them on a calendar with reminders.  Outlook also allows you to create specific autoreplies and to move messages with specific keywords or from specific people and place them in specific folders or perform specific actions on them. Outlook is an incredibly powerful tool if you work with it as a mail client, and even as an online webmail program.

David Rumsey is the immediate past president of the American Translators Association (2015-2017). Since entering the profession in 1990, David has worked on all sides of the language industry: on the agency side as a project manager at two US-based agencies, on the client side as a project manager in the localization department at a large software firm, and always as a freelance Scandinavian>English translator in the fields of energy, technology and medicine. He works from his home on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada. He can be reached through

Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know After the Phone Rings

As a new translator, you have prepared yourself long and hard to take on clients, and now the phone is ringing—metaphorically speaking. So, how do you answer?

This post is part two of a five-part series on how to assess your readiness to become a successful translator, inspired by the ATA’s Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators.

If you have not already, check out the first post on what all translators should know before the phone rings. We also encourage you to explore the ATA questionnaire itself—you can fill it out on the computer to determine which areas you are already strong in and which you might consider working on.

In each post in this series, we delve into several questions from the questionnaire and offer additional insights. In today’s post, we explore section 2: “Professional Product and Services (What I need to know after the phone rings).”

This section includes several cardinal rules for independent contractors, no matter the profession: Honor deadlines without fail (or notify the client as soon as possible of your inability to do so), confirm receipt of materials, follow instructions, know how to collect overdue payments, and invest time, effort, and funds to broaden your knowledge and skillset.

In this post, we will focus on some of the meatier questions the questionnaire encourages new translators to consider:

Do I discuss fees and terms with potential clients confidently, without hesitation or cumbersome excuses and apologies?

Confidence is key for independent contractors, who exist in a sea of other options. Being confident can be as simple as having the conviction that your work and time are valuable, and making this apparent to clients by how you communicate with them.

So, when exactly does confidence come into play for a translator? When it comes to negotiating fees or contracts, sending a simple and factual message without beating around the bush or sounding apologetic will make you stand out as a professional who recognizes his or her abilities and worth.

Of course, there are times when being apologetic is appropriate (e.g., a deadline completely slips your mind until the client notifies you the project is overdue), but beware of behaving sheepishly when you have nothing to be sorry for.

If you do not know where to start, pay attention to examples of tasteful confidence in others and take a cue. As one of my professors used to say, “Fake it ’til you become it.” If you demonstrate confidence, soon enough you will not only be showing it; you will start to truly feel it, especially when others begin to respond.

Do I secure a written agreement for the work before I start the job? (If not, am I aware of the risks? Which risks am I willing to accept?)

If you do not use a contract when offering translation services, you are not alone. Half of the translators surveyed by lawyer-linguist Paula Arturo do not use one at all, and 64.1% do not use their own, leaving both groups vulnerable to disputes involving issues such as project scope and nonpayment. The absence of a contract—or the use of a poor one—can even result in litigation.

Not only will having a contract help protect your business and set expectations for the work to be done, which means peace of mind for both you and the client, but, as Paula writes in her recent post on translation contracts, it can also help cover potential attorney’s fees and combat deprofessionalization.

A great resource when drafting your own contract is the ATA Translation Job Model Contract. This template is a helpful starting point, but keep in mind that it may need customization. When you are ready, consider seeking legal advice to maximize the effectiveness of your contract. Personally, I have used a local university’s legal clinic that offers discounted services to small businesses when I have needed to consult with an attorney, including to draft service agreements. Research resources that may be available in your area.

Am I aware of my limitations? (Do I decline projects which I cannot do well?)

Especially when you are just starting out, you may feel pressured to accept any work that comes your way. It can be tempting, but taking work beyond your limits is not only ethically dubious; it is also likely to cause anxiety and cost you more time and effort. You may hear from the client after the fact if they have been embarrassed by a poor translation. In a worst-case scenario, a poor translation could even cause real harm to a company or an individual.

In the end, it is not worth risking your reputation and your pride to accept work beyond your current skillset. The wisest course of action is to review the source document as thoroughly as possible before accepting the assignment and to turn it down if you are in doubt. Do not feel guilty—the client will thank you, and you can rest easy knowing you did the right thing.

So, what should you do when you see yourself obliged to turn down a job? Clients will appreciate a referral to a better suited translator, if you happen to know one. If you are asking yourself, “Well, how do I find work suited to me?”, Corinne McKay offers some helpful tips in this post.

Do I have convenient access to translation tools, state-of-the-art software, and high-speed Internet service?

Let me begin with an example of inconvenient access: Until recently, my favorite CAT tool was only installed on my desktop computer. Most of my translation memories (TMs) and glossaries were also stored only on that one immobile machine, limiting my ability to work efficiently on projects when traveling. I decided this had to change before the recent holidays, when I had travel plans, and lo and behold—not only was migrating all of my data and software easier than I had imagined, I was able to accept work over the holidays without thinking twice.

It can be hard to ditch old habits, but taking stock of areas where you could benefit from convenience, a better tool (whether a faster computer, a second screen, a higher-end CAT tool, or a CAT tool, period), you may be surprised at how much more productive you will be once you break out of your comfort zone. So, reconsider that tiny screen, the ergonomics of your current equipment, and the repetitive research you may be doing instead of using a TM or glossary. Have no idea where to begin when it comes to CAT tools? Check out this digest that explains the ABCs of CAT tools and tips for investing in one.

Do I keep an electronic copy for potential future corrections, revisions, or additions? For how long? (Do I inquire about returning background materials to the client upon completion of the job?)

When possible, most translators maintain copies of their work. There are a variety of reasons for this: You may be asked to make changes after the fact, or come across a similar translation in the future that would benefit from past work. If you do choose to reference previous translations, just be certain that your contract allows you to store them, and avoid including any confidential or proprietary information in the new translation if it is for a different end client.

In another scenario altogether, you may find that the client has introduced errors into your translation after the fact, in which case you could be faced with having to confirm that the errors were not your own—another good reason to have old work on hand.

Now it is your turn to try out some of these tips on how to “answer the phone” before the next post, where we will discuss how to nurture existing professional relationships and “keep the phone ringing.” Let me know how it goes in a comment below!

Image source: Pixabay

Tech Talk: Software and Tools for Translators

Tech Talk: Software and Tools for TranslatorsIn 2014, I made two life-changing decisions: I committed to working as a freelance translator, and I purchased a PC after years of Apple use. I bought a cheap Lenovo, and told myself that, if I wanted to make money (which I wasn’t, then), I needed to spend it. Simple enough.

Then I tried opening a Microsoft Word file, only to learn that MS Office shipped separately from the computer itself. It might as well have come without a screen. What good was a laptop if I couldn’t even write something on it? On top of which, I’d have to pay a subscription for the privilege of downloading MS Office?

You cannot be a good, efficient, professional translator without the right technology, but professional-level software can be expensive, presenting a challenge for some first-time translators.

If you are looking to cut costs in at least one area, take heart: the web is full of free and open-source software that translators can use. Here are five programs I’ve found invaluable, not only because they literally have no price tag.


OmegaT is a free, open-source computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool in the same model as such proprietary CAT tools as memoQ or Trados. It takes up comparatively little space on your hard drive and is easy to learn to use: it comes with a preinstalled guide for getting started, making it ideal for new translators. OmegaT lets you create, manage, and import translation memories and glossaries, breaks text into easily translatable segments, and allows for easy insertion of previously translated terms, which will reduce your translation time enormously. A perk of its being open-source is that independent developers have written scripts and plug-ins, making it more customizable than other tools on the market. Speaking of which, you may wonder why, if there’s a free, customizable CAT tool available, a market for paid ones exists at all. First, OmegaT is not the industry standard. Most translation companies and freelancers use a proprietary CAT tool. For compatibility reasons, especially if you access the company’s TMs through the cloud, you may have to use the company’s CAT tool.  Second, open-source software is not known for its polish. OmegaT’s interface looks like it was designed by someone with Windows 95 nostalgia; personally, I’ve found its layout confusing, especially when looking for other segments. Nevertheless, it’s the quickest, cheapest way to introduce yourself to an essential translation tool.

Google Drive and Google Docs

You generate a lot of files when you translate, and they take up space. They’re also troublesome to search through. Enter Google Drive, a cloud-based (read: not on your computer) storage system for nearly anything with a file extension. Google Drive lets you create as many folders as you need to organize your materials and gives you 15 GB of storage for free. For $1.99 a month, you can increase that to 100 GB. You can use Drive to create any kind of document or file you might create using Microsoft Office with the benefit of instant saving and the ability to revert to previous versions very easily. It’s also portable: files can be converted to Drive format easily, meaning you can take an MS Word file and edit it from anywhere with an Internet connection. Searching for files on drive is also easier than on your computer, for the simple fact that you’re using Google’s search function, and not Microsoft Explorer’s. When was the last time you Binged something?

Drive isn’t the only cloud-based storage system: Dropbox is also free, and you can use Apple’s iCloud or Microsoft’s OneDrive. Still, Google Drive integrates directly with other Google software, notably Gmail. You can add Drive to your desktop as well, making it easyto transfer materials from your computer to the web. As more and more companies move toward cloud-based storage systems, using and understanding Drive will make it easier to collaborate with potential employers.

However, it’s important to realize that the cloud is not completely secure, and someclient contracts stipulate that translators not store any files associated with the translation on cloud-based servers. Nevertheless,many translators still use Google Drive or one of its competitors for collaboration with other freelancers or to have personal documents within easy access, and not all clients are as sensitive to the cloud


For all its convenience, Google Drive is useless without an Internet connection. OpenOffice, a free version of word processing tools similar to the Microsoft Office suite, works offline like any regular piece of software, and isn’t subject to the connectivity hiccups that can slow down Google Drive. LibreOffice is another free word processing alternative to Microsoft Office many people use. For my purposes, the best thing about OpenOffice is that it’s intuitive: if you can use Microsoft Word, you can use OpenOffice Writer.

OpenOffice’s great shortcoming, which it shares with Google Docs, is that it doesn’t create the same type of files as Microsoft Word. This can lead to compatibility issues and inconsistent formatting. A Word document won’t necessarily retain all its features when you open it in OpenOffice, and vice-versa, meaning you must be ruthless in checking that you send a properly formatted document to clients. The consequence is that many translators do purchase Microsoft Office by the time they work with paying clients.


Evernote is a sort of notepad that syncs across devices. It allows you to create checklists, take notes, and collaborate with other users. You can also use it to bundle notes together, making it a great tool for tracking clients and keeping client-specific information within easy reach. Instead of, say, keeping one spreadsheet for client contacts and a separate text file for notes taken at conferences, you can create and link two notebooks in Evernote, making useful information much more easily obtainable. And unlike Drive, it runs without an Internet connection.


I’d had no idea I might need to use a file-renaming device until Jost Zetzsche’s most recent Translator’s Tool Box came out and featured ReNamer at the top. (Are subscribed to the Tool Box? It’s a stream of tech information specifically for translators from one of the most successful translators in the industry, and there’s a free version.) It only takes a few email exchanges with a client to learn just how quickly different versions of documents can accumulate, all of them with the inevitable _proofread_edited_re-edited attached to the end. Say you have a naming system for your files that your client is disregarding, and you want to keep your records consistent: ReNamer allows you to rename files without opening them or using any of the clunky techniques you’d have to use in Windows Explorer, and it can do it in bulk. Ten different files that you’ve translated and want to label as such? ReNamerinserts_translated to all of them with one click of a button.

A good rule for anything software-related is that if a proprietary version of something exists, a free version does too. It takes very little searching and tenacity to derive as much utility from free software as from paid, which can make a big difference if you’re a first-time freelancer looking to move up from living on cheese sandwiches. And these are only five examples; what do you get for free that the rest of us pay for?

Header image credit: Picjumbo
Header image edited with Canva

Author bio

Dan McCartney

Dan McCartney is a freelance French and Spanish to English translator based in Chicago. Before translating, he worked as a consultant, instructor, and freelance math problem writer.

15 FREE Tools for Translators (and Not Only) that You Might Not Know You Need

By Flo Bejgu
Reblogged from Inbox Translation blog with permission from the author (including the images)

15 FREE Tools for Translators (and Not Only) that You Might Not Know You NeedThe advancements in technology have made it possible for people of different languages, traditions and customs to come into contact. As was expected, translators and interpreters quickly became essential for society, because they are the only ones who can make conversations between foreign individuals possible. Every translator in the twenty-first century will tell you that it is impossible to get the job done without appropriate tools for time management, productivity, organisation and even translation. Nevertheless, it is not enough to simply purchase an overly-priced product.

One must invest wisely in the right tools, because as any good craftsman can tell you, owning the best one doesn’t mean that you will get the job done: you must also know where to start. After scouring the Internet far and wide, we have found the best tools for managing time, increasing productivity, tracking efforts and all in all, reducing workload. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to purchase proprietary software at obscene prices, because the Internet is teeming with free, open-source software (FOSS) and reasonably priced tools which can be used to make translating easier.

FOSS is very useful, especially since most translators are self-employed. If you are translator struggling with an unstable budget, or simply trying channel work efforts in a positive direction, you will want to know all about these 15 tools, organised in four handy categories: Productivity & Collaboration, Blogging and Social Media, Design, and Security.

productivity collaboration for translators

 1. Google Drive

google drive translationsGoogle Drive is one of those tools that freelancers and entrepreneurs simply cannot live without. It’s like Google Docs on steroids, because it provides a hefty 15GB space, for free. In addition to this, it has a plethora of features which are extremely useful for business. This cloud storage service can be used for different purposes, especially since it integrates so well with other Google products (such as Google Apps).

Why it is useful for translators:

Besides its organisational and management capabilities, Google Drive can also be used as a collaboration tool. Several people can work on the same document, at the same time, without having the file crash (useful if you have a project with a tight deadline and need to work with someone else). This can significantly speed up the work, and make tracking tasks easier (each action performed by a collaborator is tracked by the software). There is also a handy chat function integrated.

But this is not all, probably the best way is to use it as a very inexpensive (free for up to 15GB) and simple backup tool, you do backup, don’t you? To take advantage of this, all you need is to install it and put your most precious files inside the folder that it creates and you are good to go. This way, those files are also copied in the cloud creating a backup. Pretty neat, I’d say! Last but not least, Google Drive is an invaluable tool in a translator’s toolbox because it makes sending large attachments (over 25 MB) a breeze, organising data easy, and accessing documents from any location with internet access, possible.

Pricing and plans:google drive pricingOut of all the cloud storage units out there, Google Drive is arguably the best. Recently, prices for the tool dropped dramatically. This basically means that you can get ten times the storage that you would get from a competitor, for the same price.

Where to start

First, you will have to register an account with Google, unless you already have an account with YouTube, Google+, Gmail or any other Google services, in which case you already have one.

There are no payments included, and you will gain instant access to all the Google services. Once you have signed in, you can download the desktop version of the app.

Recommended read: Get started with Google Drive: Overview

2. Evernote

evernote for translatorsEvernote has the power to give you your life back, if you only let it. There is no questioning its usefulness as a note taking and productivity tool, but most people don’t use it at its full potential. Evernote is so much more than a simple note-taker: it is an overall superb tool, and the more you add to it, the smarter it becomes.

Why it is useful for translators:

The volume of information that translators must remember on a daily basis will eventually become overwhelming. Luckily for us, Evernote can store all of it, have it indexed and searchable across a single platform. A word of advice would be to use all of its features, not only the ones that you feel comfortable with, to become even more organised.

Interesting features you may not know about:

–          Presentation mode –  you can turn your notes into a presentation
–          Handwriting supported (for Android)

Pricing and plans:

There are three price plans available for Evernote.

  1. Evernote Free: with limited features
  2. Evernote Premium (approx. 4.99$/month):offline notebooks, passcode lock, note presentation, smarter search, more storage.
  3. Evernote Business (approx. 13.75$/month/user):4GB of storage, better collaboration, centralised administration and billing, business and personal note-books etc.

Where to start:

Simply download the app on your smart-phone, PC or tablet and register a free account with your e-mail.

Recommended reads: Getting started with Evernote & How to Use Evernote Correctly

 3. Podio

podio logo translationsPodio is a superb tool that every freelancer/small team should be using. Two years ago it received 9/10 stars from Web.Appstorm. Today, their words still stand, and for good reason. Its key features include customisable project management for teams, content sharing and feedback workflows for clients, email and webforms integration, simple CRM and sales tracking, 24 hour personal support(paid version only), file-sharing integrated with DropBox and Google Drive, mobile capabilities and automated progress reporting and calculations.

podio screenshot

Why it is useful for translators

Podio is the ultimate tool for managing time and organising stuff. It is the workspace app-market that makes it shine. Each website or project has its own workspace. In it you can download apps, keep track of ideas and collaborate. As far as the built-in app market is concerned, it has a tool for absolutely everything. If you are working for home, but have to share data with different people, it is very convenient to have all of it in one place.

One thing we use Podio for in our team is to keep all the ideas in one place and share them with team members. Sure, there’s email, but eventually they will get buried in a pile somewhere and will be forgotten. Sure, you can use spreadsheets, but can you share them? You can via Google (see above), but in Podio you can easily share and organise them, you can label them and approve/dismiss them accordingly, add a date to review them, you and your collaborators (or just you) can write comments, add pictures etc. It’s brilliant.

Pricing and plans

You can opt for the free version (up to 5 users) or, if you have a larger team, Podio for teams is available for $9 per month/user.

Where to start

Sign up and you are good to go.

Recommended read: Podio basics

4. Explain and Send Screenshots Extension for Chrome

explain send screenshotsThe most effective way of building authority online is by sharing secrets of your trade valuable information via blog posts or social media networks. Lots of people do this by taking screenshots and saving them via Paint. Not anymore! Hailing from the world of literally-named-extensions, Explain and Send Screenshots Extension for Chrome is a simple tool that will help you grab and share screenshots directly from your Chrome browser.explain send

Why it is useful for translators

As I have already mentioned, you can make your life a whole lot easier by saving screenshots via the Explain and Send Screenshots Extension for Chrome. You can also share them on Twitter or Facebook directly. There is an editing feature that enables you to add arrows, circles, text and lines to the screenshot. When translating websites this tool will help you quickly show your client various issues that you encounter while testing the translation and this will save you a loooooot of time.

Pricing and plans

The tool is completely free.

Where to start

Download it from the Google store, install and start using it.

5. Gmail

gmail translatorsGmail was released as a beta service back in 2004. Since then, it has revolutionised the concept of webmail through a small, compact interface, aggressive spam reduction tools, extensive mail storage space and fast operation. At the moment, it is the service of choice for tech enthusiasts. Although Yahoo and Hotmail also offer interesting features, many people prefer Gmail. This is mainly because it offers some handy features that freelancers need.

Why it is useful for translators

One of the best things about Gmail is the fact that it offers continuously growing storage, POP access and free IMAP. The advertisements were cut to the minimum and the interface is rich and fast. Nevertheless, it is the integration with other Google tools that really gives it the edge. First of all you can connect to Google Hangouts to chat with clients or colleagues (up to 10 people).google hangouts

You can also use Google Calendar to create events or send invitations. If you are active on Google+ you can even follow other people’s comments and check for updates. Lastly, an offline version which uses HTML5 was released. This will enable freelancers or translators to send emails while offline.

Pricing and plans

The service is free.

Where to start

Register and verify an account on Gmail.

Recommended read: 10 Ways to Use Gmail Like a Pro

6. Skype

skypeSkype is one of the most popular Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) web services available and it couldn’t simply be off this list. I’m sure many of you use it on a regular basis, but I added it for the few not yet familiar with it. It enables people, thousands of miles from each other, to communicate effectively using voice or video calls. There is a reason why Skype dominates the world of VoIP and holds the largest user base of its kind: it offers the best voice and image quality (except for that of Apple’s Face Time). But how exactly can it help freelancers and translators?

Why it is useful for translators

Skype is an excellent tool for communicating with clients and other freelancers. There are several ways to maximise its use, especially as a translator. First of all, you could offer free consultations for prospects. All you have to do is engage in a voice/video call, and share a small part of your knowledge. Another idea would be to schedule consultations/meetings with your clients. You could also use it to make the collaboration between team members easier. You can organise your contacts into groups (translators, Twitterers, agencies, clients etc.). Another nice feature is that you can have several people invited for a call to organise a conference.

The Share screen option is quite handy to either help someone or get help – a lot easier to explain the issue without having to describe it. Sending documents is easy: you can either drag and drop them into the chat box or use the Send file option.

You can also record a 3-minute video to send.

Skype has lots of features, but most people use just a handful of them. You should play with it a little and see all it has to offer.

Pricing and plans

You can use the basic version of Skype for free, or you can choose a premium plan (which starts at £0.69/month). Connecting landlines with Skype also costs. Additionally, you could purchase Skype Credit.

Where to start

Download the kit from the official page, install and use.

One more tip: if you love using emoticons, Skype has plenty. But you can access even more here.

blogging social media for translators


wordpress blogging is without a doubt the go-to free blogging service for the vast majority of writers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, business people and freelancers. The service was inspired from the, which requested an easy to use, hosted blog service. With the help of, one can create a website (even without HTML knowledge) and monitor traffic. It has an intuitive dashboard and lots of plugins available (Akismet is a great one to use to avoid spam comments).wordpress dashboard translators blogging

Why it is useful for translators

Blogging should be part of any freelancer’s online marketing strategy, no matter his or her specialisation. It is the only reliable way of creating a solid voice. will give freelancers and translators deep control over their websites even if they do not grasp the basics of web design.

Pricing and Plans

–          Free (for a blog hosted on
–          Paid (various plans available)

Where to start

Simply sign up for a free account, and create a website. If it has the extension ‘’ at the end, it will be free, but you can also purchase your own domain (‘.com’, ‘.org’, ‘.net’ etc.).

Side note ( vs There is also which enables you to download the WordPress software (for free) and host it with your chosen hosting provider (instead of using hosting from

Recommended reads: WordPress How-To For Beginners & Over 200 WordPress Tutorials

8. HootSuite

hootsuiteHootSuite is the ultimate social media dashboard, and the ideal Twitter client. Its major selling points are the extremely simple and intuitive interface, speed, mobile capabilities and support. The concept of HootSuite is extremely simple: you add your social accounts to it, and monitor their activity in different tabs, at the same time. You can also share links, photos and statuses via Hootsuite.

Why it is useful for translators

Freelancers, translators, business people, interpreters, and pretty much anyone who has an online presence will love HootSuite. You have no idea how much time you can save by correctly monitoring feeds from it. Additionally, you can share files supported by Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), Adobe Suite and RTF, TXT, ODF and MP3 extensions.hootsuite social media management system

Although Hootsuite does a brilliant job on Facebook and LinkedIn, it truly shines with Twitter. You can open up to 10 streams at the same time, manage retweets, schedule new tweets and even repost content on all your other social networks. Of course, you should not rely solely on its automation capability, you are human after all and this needs to come across.

One downside: it does not yet support Google+ profile (it does support business pages however, which is great).

Pricing plans

hootsuite pricing

Where to start

Hootsuite is extremely convenient because you can log in with one of your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter or Google+). You don’t even need to install it. Simply go to the homepage after you have logged in, and customise your dashboard.

Recommended read: HootSuite Quick Start Guide

design tools for translators

9. Canva

canva logo design translation blogsMost graphic design tools overwhelm the user with a plethora of options that he or she probably does not understand. Canva is amazing for the clueless because it makes designing extremely simple, without compromising on performance. The software is tightly integrated with stock photo image banks, ideal for beginners, and extremely intuitive.


Why it is useful for translators

If you are thinking of promoting yourself online, with the help of a blog, but have no idea how the design process works, you will probably need some help. Canva is a simple design service which will enable translators (and not only, of course) to create beautiful presentations, invitations and website graphics in the blink of an eye. It is the perfect shortcut for those who are not graphically inclined because it mostly operates with the help of drag and drop tools and user-friendly controls.

Pricing and plans

Canva is free if you use your own photos or choose from the multitude of free backgrounds, layouts, stickers and images. Stock images must be purchased, but they only cost $1 each.

Where to start

Simply register your account and enjoy!

Recommended read: Else Gellinek’s post on this tool.

10. Pixabay

10 pixabayNot a tool per se, but useful nonetheless. Designers and bloggers are always on the hunt for good pictures, free of copyright. There are certainly many repositories available online, but most of them are not very affordable. Pixabay is a fresh new resource, with a growing selection of excellent imagery (over 40,000 intuitively organised photos and a handy search function). The great thing about it is that all photos are free, and no licence conditions apply to them as the pictures are bound to Creative Commons Deed CC0.  

Why it is useful for translators

WordPress bloggers will be thrilled to hear that Pixabay Images is also available as a WordPress plugin which enables them to pick public domain pictures with only one click. So if you want to enhance the overall appearance of your blog and pages, you can use Pixabay images, without paying attribution or linking back to the source.

pixabay translation search

Pricing and plans

Pixabay is free.

Where to start

Download and install the WordPress plugin or visit the official website.

11. Piktochart

11 piktochart blogHere’s another FOSS that freelancers should consider using: Piktochart. It is basically free, online infographic creator software which can be used to add a little pizzazz to a boring-looking website. It combines graphs, text, and charts which can be easily assembled using a drag-and-drop interface. This innovating service can be used by students who are learning the basics of visually representing pieces of information, teachers who want to make their lesson more exciting, and professionals who are trying to make information easier to understand.

piktochart theme

Why it is useful for translators

While it is essential to promote yourself online, doing so through written content will not get you very far. According to recent statistics, platforms and websites which rely heavily on imagery and videos are more successful. This is why you should consider alternative content to spruce up your blog. If you wish to explain the secrets of translation and interpretation in a more visually appealing manner, we advise you to use Piktochart.

Pricing and Plans

You can use the free version (limited themes) or you can opt for one of the payment plans available:

piktochart pricing

Where to start

Register your account and create your infographics.

Recommended read: Getting started

12. translators may have begun as a Microsoft-sponsored replacement for Windows’s built-in image editor, but it has grown to become one of the best free photo editing packages available. Granted, it may not be able to hold a candle to Photoshop, which is clearly more advanced, but considering that it is an open-source freeware editor, it will definitely not disappoint.

Why it is useful for translators

The question remains: should freelancers and translators use it? Absolutely! is incredibly easy to use, and it will enhance the overall appearance of your blog, articles or presentations in no-time. The software can rotate, crop, resize images, create collages and adjust colours. It also supports TIFF, GIF, PNG and JPEG formats. For the most part the interface is extremely straightforward, but it also has some sophisticated selection and retouching tools.

Here is an example of what you can easily do in

picmonkey collage

Pricing and plans is a free photo-editing program.

Where to start

Download from the official website, install and use. Check out the plugins while you’re there.

Video Tutorial:

13. PicMonkey

13 picmonkeyYou should know from the start that PicMonkey is the first photo editor of its kind. The interface is extremely easy to use and very intuitive. With this tool you can tweak your photos, add banners, symbols, text etc. The great thing about it is that the free version offers enough tools for the clueless, while the Royale subscription offers enough bling.

Look what we did with the logo with just a few clicks:

picmonkey in use

Why it is useful for translators

Just like the previously mentioned tools in this category, it will help you spruce up your blog with its editing capabilities. . Here are some of PicMonkey’s main features:
–          Cropping and resizing
–          Filters and effects
–          Text tools (sizing, transparency, colouring)
–          Frames and textures
–          Editing (including airbrushing, wrinkle removing, teeth whitening etc.)
–          Collages (chose from various layouts)

Pricing and plans

The software is free but you can upgrade your account to Royale, for an additional 2.75$/month or 33$/year. This will give you access to primo effects, overlays, fonts and textures.

Where to start

Sign up for the free version (you can still use it without having to create an account if you want to test it first) and watch a few tutorials to get your creative juices flowing.

security for translators

14. TrueCrypt

14 truecrypt toolTrueCrypt is one of the most powerful encryption programs which enables you to encrypt your information in virtual ’safes‘. It is also an open source program (free/donationware) which can create hidden volumes, or hide an entire operating system. TrueCrypt will render your data unreadable, unless the user has the proper key.



Why it is useful for translators

It keeps your data safe, enough said. Here are some of its main features:
–          Creates virtual encrypted disks within a file, which can be mounted as real disks
–          Can encrypt an entire partition or storage device (the recommended way of using it)
–          Encrypt is automatic, real-time and transparent
–          Uses pipelining and parallelization to read data as if it were not encrypted

Pricing and plans

The software is free.

Where to start

Download the software from the official page, install, and use.

Recommended read: Guide to Getting started with TrueCrypt

UPDATE: Thanks to Shai for pointing this out, a day after this post went live the development of TrueCrypt ended. For those interested to read more about the subject, a good read can be found at

15. LastPass

lastpass logo shadowAs a freelance translator or interpreter you most certainly have dozens of passwords from your emails, PayPal, blogs, and other tools. Wouldn’t it be swell if you didn’t have to memorise all of them? The LastPass password manager was designed for this exact purpose. You can use this tool to generate and store passwords and automatically log into any site once you have saved your details.

lastpass features strong password

Why it is useful for translators

If you are having trouble remembering all your passwords, LastPass is definitely a tool you will want to have in your toolbar. Besides its obvious use, it can also be integrated with Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer. You can install it with the universal kit, or use a specific one, according to your browser. The interface is extremely intuitive and user-friendly, which makes storing, managing, generating strong passwords and accessing log-ins a breeze. In this way you don’t have to remember 8 characters and a capital :).

Pricing and plans

There are three plans available at the moment:
–          Lastpass for free: protect, manage and optimise your passwords
–          Lastpass Premium (12$/year): unlimited use of LastPass mobile apps, multifactor authentication options, no ads, tools for locked computers
–          Lastpass Enterprise ($18-24$/year/user): a convenient package which can be used by all employees

Where to start:

Create a new account during installation, and think about your master password (it should be really strong). Import your passwords and you are all set.

Recommended read: Getting started

What about you? What’s your favourite tool that should be on the list? Or are there any features of the featured (the love for language plays is contagious, as you can see) tools we have missed? Let us know in a comment below (you have noticed the rhyme, right?).