It’s been a while…

I was thinking of writing an introductory post to the next post on my blog that would explain my absence and all that’s been going on in my sabbatical. Then I realised it’s been far too much to squeeze into a paragraph there, especially when people are clicking on that link because they want to read that post, not my life story. However, to really put everything into context, a bit of my ‘life story’ is indeed needed – at least the part covering the past couple of years.

Please don’t feel the need to read everything: I’m using headings so you can just skip ahead to the parts that interest you. I’m writing this as much for me as for any of my readers.

I’m not going to edit this post as thoroughly as most of my posts, simply because I want it to still sound natural. Upcoming posts will show my typical incisive style and artistic side. This is a brain dump.

Let’s start with my professional journey over the last few years.

My professional journey

A confession

Shall I be honest with you guys for a moment? If you got this far, you probably deserve it.

I’ve not always been as successful as I feel and objectively am today. When I started this blog, I was pretty much as clueless as everyone else, if not more so. The fact I gave advice to others (albeit limited in scope) makes me cringe today, but I guess it’s part of the journey. Looking back, I guess those old articles still contain good advice, and that is the sort of advice I followed on my path upwards. I just cringe a bit at having published advice so comparatively early on in my journey, and it’s odd that it made me well-known among my colleagues. On the plus side, it brought me into contact with people who were instrumental in my journey upwards. It also brought me in contact with many lovely colleagues who I consider good friends. Some of them even ARE good friends. 😉

The truth is that at some point around 2010/2011 I realised the hopeless position I was in. See, I’m no economist and I’ll try not to pretend to be, but it does not take an economist to realise that working for agencies is not a long-term viable option in a globalising world with increasing downward pressure in the bulk market. I had convinced myself I was in a good upper-middle ground, working for agencies at low double-digit word rates, but some of my agency clients were starting to “go bad” – asking for rates lower than what I’d started on back in 2006 (€0.06 and €0.07 per word). I love to spot patterns and make predictions about what might happen next. I then try to make that prediction work to my advantage.

Many people will try to tell you the world is not black and white, but shades of grey. They’re often right. But sometimes you have to realise that charcoal is turning black and light grey is turning white. In an increasingly globalised world, translation at the bottom end is getting cheaper. At the other end, however, it’s getting more expensive. And that’s where I wanted to be. I realised I needed to change something to succeed. Hell, I needed to change something to survive. Everything since that realisation has been about getting me where I am now.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Finding safer ground

(Edit: section added for clarification in 2017)

I had to reposition myself. I knew that I wasn’t getting taken seriously when I presented myself as an IT specialist without a shred of paper to back that up. I also had a huge chip on my shoulder about never having done IT at university after a bad teacher messed things up for me by making me spend more time teaching than doing my own coursework. Whatever the result, going back to university for a degree in an IT-related field, in my case, human aspects of information technology, should put me in a much better position. Maybe I would even go into IT after the degree – at that point, I didn’t really know. I hoped would be enough to ensure I received more of that better paying work from agencies, or maybe, in the long run, I might win some nice direct clients who would appreciate my expertise.

During that time at university, I cut down my workload. That meant eliminating the lowest payers, and being picky about which new clients I’d accept. I earned plenty to pay for my studies, and of course, the excellence scholarship helped, but I was naturally earning less than before. I enjoyed the time to relax, unwind, and reflect on the translation industry and my place in it.  When I finished, it was time to aim higher.

Aiming higher

At first, I simply increased my agency-focused advertising, improving my website, and charging what I felt were professional rates. By 2012, however, I realised that I needed to be acquire direct clients if I wanted to ensure my long-term financial stability. With that in mind, starting in 2012/2013, I began working on going out to meet clients, learning a lot more about marketing, increasing my writing and copywriting skills, reading journals, listening to podcasts, networking, and more besides. I made a lot of mistakes, I embarrassed myself a few times, I charmed the pants off people at trade shows then never had the guts to follow up … and of course, and I learned a lot. I also took an income hit most people would never be prepared to make – down to three figures in at least one month.

Fast forward to the end of 2013 and I decided it was time to rebrand. I was being held back by everything I’d built under this terribly cliché brand name – lingocode – so rebranded as English Rose Berlin. I designed and wrote the copy for that website based on everything I’d learned in my MA in Human Aspects of Information Technology, independent research and academic reading, other research and personal extrapolations. Again, I took a massive income hit to work on it. I engaged further in networking and did a much better job than in 2013. It appears I’d been learning all along.

I hate that I have to say this, so I apologise in advance: I’ve been plagiarised a lot, often by people I know personally and who I’ve actively tried to help. English Rose Berlin is very personal to me (i.e. it won’t even have the same results for you). If anyone plagiarises me again I will shame them on social media and set a scary German lawyer on them. Also note that rephrasing the same idea still counts as plagiarism – even in a court of law.


The payoff

By March 2013 something had clicked and the rebranding was paying off. Suddenly I was experiencing high demand, even at my much higher rates. It felt like something amazing was happening nearly every day. Everyday fireworks. This has continued to today and I’m still increasing my rates and figuring out other ways how to deal with the demand. That’s actually the inspiration behind my upcoming presentation at BP15: Work those (supply and demand) curves!

The upshot of that is that I kept experiencing high demand and expecting a slow period to follow shortly, during which I could catch up on my blog. That slow period never came. I’ve barely had a quiet moment since March 2014 and have been working too much since about June.

In the last few months of 2014 I earned as much as I’d earned in the whole of 2013 (the year with a big income hit) or what I would have earned full-time as a freelancer had I stayed on in that in-house position back in Nottingham. Demand (and income) continues to increase.

Side-effects and ‘preventative therapy’

A dramatic change in income leads to a change in perspective. My subconscious seemed bothered by this, I guess because I’d somewhere got the impression that high-earners were evil. I had a couple of disturbing dreams. It passed, but that’s what told me it was time to take a break. The good thing is I had stability now and could see the light through the trees.

My mind just needed time to adjust. I was experiencing some kind of minor shock, albeit positive. It is strange to suddenly have the means to do what I want.

On the plus side, this pushed me to take some of that money and spend it on making my working life more comfortable. ‘Preventative therapy’ has included:

  • a freezer (for freezing pre-prepared healthy vegan ready meals to heat up in busy periods)
  • a sitting/standing desk (just the Bekant one from Ikea – it’s good!)
  • a 27” monitor (biggest improvement of the lot! I could not imagine going back…)
  • an office sofa (lovely for a change and relaxing while doing research and reading)
  • an ergonomic keyboard (quite an obvious one…)
  • occasional cider (my tipple of choice)
  • occasional orders from that amazing new vegan sushi place in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, that delivers within an hour (



Reasons I’ve not been posting…


lifeHeavy workload

As hinted at in the part about my career over the past few years, I was initially spending a lot of time on my own marketing efforts and after (as a consequence of) that I’ve experienced an ever increasing workload. There isn’t really much to say about this, just that I’ve been busy and something has to give. Given the other additional real or perceived commitments, I’ve found my free time and blogging time put under substantial pressure. My project for this year is to increase my productivity, focus, and quality of life. I’ll attempt to stop pressuring myself to meet stupidly high targets, too.

Social media and networking

I guess people knew this one was going to come up. This is the major reason.

The positive

In early 2014 a conflict on one Facebook group lead to the co-founding of another, The League of Extraordinary Translators, and that one has come to take up a lot of my time. That’s a good thing, though. I share my thoughts there, and I like the fact it’s so interactive and egalitarian. We are strongly against censorship in that group, given the reasons for its foundation, and this makes it quite a stimulating environment to “hang out” in. I’ve made some wonderful friends there, in Things Translators Never Say and on Twitter, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’ve formed and strengthened some amazing friendships. I’m awful at forgetting people at important moments so it’s best I don’t mention anyone, because I’ll forget the people who are most special. Suffice to say that my best friends are nearly all translators whom I originally met online, or in person, but via mutual friends whom one or both of us originally met online.

I’ve also met some amazing colleagues in person at various conferences and translation meet-ups.


The negative

On the other hand, I’ve been brutally attacked, slandered, betrayed and lied about on social media. I’ll not bother going into it too deeply here. In short, I’ve had people lie about my professional practices, accuse me of lying, make jokes about what might appear on my gravestone, and most recently, spread it around that my parents are both bankers and financially supporting me (not true on either count!). It’s hard to keep up and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of people I’ve tried to help going crazy on me and start publishing lies and casting aspersions. I’m tired of blame games and point-scoring, and this is why I’m not going to name names or make any counter-accusations here. Just suffice that it has got me down, especially when it’s involved some kind of backstabbing and caught me by surprise.

On top of this, I’ve been plagiarised more than once by two relative newbies I’ve called friends. One I guess I would still call a friend, as I really don’t think she knows what she did or how serious it is. I’ve got no idea how to talk about it with her, especially as she’s done it before and then of her own volition admitted it and changed it. It’s too awkward. Too heart-breaking. The other one was so rude about it initially he ruined not just the possibility of my referring work to him or us becoming friends, but also, for some time, my faith in helping colleagues at all. These examples are of course in addition to the many more subtle examples I’ve seen, which bother me decidedly less. You put all your heart and soul into your marketing efforts, spending considerable time and money on getting things just right, and then someone you tried to help comes along and copies you in one hour or something? It’s so hurtful. I’ll be covering plagiarism among colleagues in an upcoming post.

Then we have the psycho colleague who reacted badly to my blocking him after he made racist comments on Facebook. He told my best friends and boyfriend to dump me (carefully looking them up on Facebook in order to do so) and sent multiple abusive emails, including claims that he’d reported me for bogus offences to tax authorities in two countries. (Edit, 2017: Then there are the things that happened after this. OMG. Life lesson learned: trust your gut, avoid narcissists, and always be suspicious when someone’s ‘success’ doesn’t match up to their apparent skills.)

These negative situations have at times made me very stressed, very distracted and almost unwell. It’s put me off sharing things on my blog or elsewhere. It’s put me off trying to help out newbies. Why should I put myself out there, trying to advise, analyse, defend and inspire if that’s the crap I get? I expect you see where I’m coming from now, after hearing the negative. In spite of this, the positives have been amazing, and I really owe it to the good people to not give up just because of the nasty folk.


I was happy with my own life – and short of time. Helping others and sharing advice only seemed to bring me trouble, or even invite plagiarism, which could directly damage my business. I didn’t want that. I don’t want that.

…and that’s about it.

Those are the reasons I have not posted anything on this blog for a while. I’m open to some feedback and advice I guess, just please do consider how monumentally shit some of these situations have been. I don’t feel sorry for myself, though; my life is good.

I feel guilty for not having posted for a while, especially since a couple of you messaged me asking me to post. I feel people like that, or indeed any people interested and caring enough to read to this part of the blog, deserve an honest and complete explanation. Maybe you can even learn from some of my mistakes and ensure you don’t repeat them.

I’m sorry.

It will probably still be sporadic, but I promise that I’ll try better from now on. I can at least do better than one post a year… 😉

Enjoyed this post? Found it useful? Share away!

About the Author:

Rose Newell is a British-born, Berlin-based copywriter and translator specialising in high end and high tech. Rose works exclusively with direct clients, mostly located in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. This blog is a labour of love for colleagues, not a sales funnel for paid membership groups, webinars, seminars, courses or coaching services. As one of those who has consistently spoken out against instagurus, readers can trust this blog will never be monetised. Truly successful translators have no need for the pittance generated by such activities.


  1. Eileen Laurie 13/09/2016 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Dear Rose,
    I just wanted to thank you for your intelligent and helpful blog. I don’t translate so much any more, since I realised it was time for me to do something else. But I don’t think I will ever stop completely. So sorry to hear you have attacked on social media, and plagiarised. How horrible. I hope you can just ignore the haters and get on with your life and your work.
    All best

  2. Peter Leeflang 10/01/2016 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Rose, I read your blog for the first time today and think it has a lot of valuable knowledge for me, even if I am an old hand of sorts.
    So I hope you continue to share your experiences when feeling like it.
    Remember the bad guys are not important. Try not to make them significant. They only get their claws in you if you let them.
    Your work is only for your own pleasure not theirs nor anyone else’s.
    I know it requires being very tough on oneself, but it is worth it. Keeping on rotten apples in one’s basket will otherwise also affect the good apples.
    Before and while being this business I learn each day again to be selective about friends, partners and customers. Those who add to my life I keep on and maintain actively, those who do not or even damage my life I cut out rigorously. My life is too valuable and (potentially) short to waste one minute on them and the ones who add to my life should not be shortchanged from my time by wasting it on the undeserving.

    • Rose Newell 01/04/2016 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Peter. I’ll reply to you soon by email. That was really touching, and brought my spirits up again after seeing abuse left on my blog. Thanks again.

  3. […] newbie translators fall into (Part 2/3) ­ iframe { visibility: hidden; opacity: 0; } Previous […]

  4. […] previously wrote a post in which I detailed some particularly nasty effects of helping people, experienced mostly in the […]

  5. Nick Block 19/04/2015 at 3:43 am - Reply

    Hi Rose, thank you for this post! I started this freelance translator thing last summer and found your website. Came back after a few months to see what’s up.

    In the summer, I corresponded with you a couple times and I was/am thankful for your advice there and in the blog. I’m glad to hear things are going well for you–just ignore all the rest. You got yourself a nice sofa! (just like Janosch’s Tiger und Bär get at the end of their trip to Panama. What else do you need!)

    I’m still starting out part-time, and have taken the translation gig into what I thought was a side language pair (yiddish>english !), but I’ll get back to de>en eventually. All the best in Berlin. Hope to meet you one day.

  6. Susannah Chadwick 05/03/2015 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the advice – that’s a very good point. I didn’t bother to read that bit because my first thought was ‘well, I’m not going to work for them anyway’. But it definitely doesn’t say much about the course as a whole. Might as well go and work in Aldi with those rates 😀 It’s a shame that there is such a lack of accredited copywriting courses.

    And it’s great to know that I don’t necessarily need a specific qualification to offer copywriting. I guess I’ll just keep reading and writing… One of the reasons I started blogging was to get back into writing again 🙂

  7. Laurence Rapaille 24/02/2015 at 2:02 am - Reply

    Hi Rose!

    Thank you for part 1 and 2 of your post. I can’t wait to read part 3. You give really great advice for us newbies and not so newbies. I still have to find my way, increasing my rates is one of the steps, but I hope that with your advice, Marta’s, Corinne’s and Tess’s books to finish, and a bit of time and hard work, it will do the trick 😉

    And please, cheer up! You know that there will always be people trying to put you down, especially now that you are pretty well-known here around. But, hey, you seem to have a strong personality, so it will just make you stronger, I am sure of that. Just enjoy your new and comfy work environment (I am craving for these standing desks!) and the new vegan restaurant you have recently discovered! Take care of yourself, this is more important than anything else.

    Have a great week.
    Mach’s gut!


    Ps: sorry for my English or any typos at this time of the night…

  8. John Moran 24/02/2015 at 12:09 am - Reply


    This was a touching post. I must confess this is my first visit to your website, except that one time I was on a fishing trip looking for de>en translators for a project in our language pair / specialism. The rate you stated on your website put me off. I think we are both ok with that. It saved your time and mine.

    Your candour is appreciated and don’t feel guilty about your earlier posts. On the whole, I take the advice offered from translator to translators with a pinch of salt. First hand experience has shown me that not everyone practices what they preach. This stems from an experience at a Stammtisch (a regular meeting of translators over informal dinner for zee non-German speakers) in Cologne in the early noughties. A rather loud French translator bragged about her rates and clearly communicated that anyone offering lower rates was undercutting the competition. She was unaware that she had done work for my own small agency on a longish project at a fraction of the word rate stated. I kept this information to myself, but it taught me to be wary of the advice of more senior colleagues. Most of it was good, but there is a certain kind of person who would rather give advice than follow it themselves.

    Having read through Parts 1 and 2 of this series I can honestly say, as both a sometimes buyer of translation services and as the ultimate producer (for longish periods), all the advice you have taken the time to put in writing is sound. You clearly do not fall into that category. In fact I would go as far as to say it should be required reading for anyone entering the field (even if they won’t be able to apply all of the advice at the same time from day 1).

    In my time I have encountered a couple of nutcase translators. However, my interactions have been (just about) in the hundreds and not in the thousands. I am sorry to say it, but as the membership counter increases for League*, so too do the odds of a nutcase encounter. It is not a translator thing, though I suspect working in a room on your own does not reduce the incidence. My dad was a local family doctor. One of his patients had a website that showed he was the devil by means of some complex arithmetic involving his birthday and his car reg. It upset him. You have every right to be upset too, but the depressing logic is the same. Fuckwits abound.

    At least in our language pair the premium market is real but it can be elusive, timing (and hence luck) are part of it and it can be temporary. I do not swim in that sea at the moment because I exited stage left a few years ago only to return relatively recently but I have done. I even had the honour of working for another translator who knew how to provision for it. I have consulted a bit with agencies, and I can tell you – agency owners (as opposed to agents with no or low fixed costs) are under very real pressure to make sure the employees they care about have work. Blaming an agency for low rates is mostly a waste of time. The *only* solution is to find your own direct clients. Yes, that can be hard as agencies offer more services at a lower price in some language pairs but it is possible. I have found that success with good direct clients is hard to replicate. My best word rate client was in my graduate year (over €.30 and decent enough volume). Frankly, neither of us knew what we were doing and I lost them before they closed down in the 90’s. However, they taught me how to outsource and review for quality ‘cos I sure-as-shootin’ couldn’t translate. Little did those initial reviewers know, the crappy translator they were blind reviewing was me.

    But less about me. Here’s the rub. Translators can whinge as much as they want and post that “Global-vox-world” from has posted a job at Moon-dollar cent. What you advise is a far better use of their time. Market yourself locally and/or in your specialism. If you win a big job outsource away and don’t feel guilty about your margin (with reason). Nobody will hold it against you as long as you are straight and don’t take unnecessary risks. With a bit of common sense, a modicum of courage, a dash of technological know-how (or even just a relationship with someone who has it) and a decent word price you can even manage multi-lingual projects with DTP et cetera. In short, network!

    I’ll end this thank you with a final remark on PEMT. I suspect the vast majority of PE requests come from intermediaries who are trying it on. That is to say I agree they are applying the same trick with MT as they do with novice translators, albeit at a higher margin. This is unfortunate because on certain types of technical work, given the right circumstances, MT can be useful and it can even lead to higher hourly earnings (though nothing like those achievable from a direct client). This can be because the client accepts poor style in return for a reasonably accurate rawMT++ or not-quite-pseudo translation, because effort was invested to improve the MT (usually only economic on high volume work) or because the client or agency got lucky (which normally means that translator would have too if they knew where to look). I have my own selfish reasons for mentioning this, but it is a topic for another occasion.

    I look forward to reading Part 3 and, please – don’t let the bastards get you down.

  9. Ben 22/02/2015 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    Hi Rose,

    Just a few words about this:

    “The problem with talking about the premium market or having entered it is essentially jealousy, a condition I don’t really understand very well thanks to my own psychological quirks. That’s largely what’s prompted the bullying behaviour of certain colleagues. Some also just don’t want to or can’t believe it, which is probably sadder still.”

    Some translators – no, make that a lot of translators indeed – have a self-worth problem. They don’t understand that what they do has real value for the client and tend to get all bashful when talking about prices. They let clients make changes to their work (even if the translator is the native speaker and the client isn’t) and worst of all, they let clients dictate prices.

    Now there are some translators who don’t stand for that – the ones that have positioned themselves in the premium market or who are experts in their particular niche. These premium translators won’t back down when the client gets stroppy – because they know their stuff at a very competent level indeed and are prepared to fight their case, and because they know the value of their work. These individuals have worked incredibly hard to reach that position and they deserve a great deal of respect.

    That’s why it is so disheartening (I’m getting to my point now!) when these pioneers, as you might call them – the Chris Durbans of this world, let’s say – not only face headwinds from their clients but also fall victim to cheap potshots from those behind them – the masses of translators I mentioned earlier on.

    It seems to me that these people shooting the premium folks in the back (to put it rather harshly) are thinking “how dare he/she get out of her little box and actually do something different?”. Thing is, premium folks are rocking the boat, and the others don’t like that. The boat-rocking holds a mirror up to these people and shows them just how inert they are, how happy they are to play the victim card.

    Really, they should be greatful that there are pioneers out there who do that kind of legwork. Another point is that it’s not as if the premium folk are beavering away purely for ego reasons. I mean, just think of ppl like Chris D and Kevin H and the number of conferences they attend every year. They go around the world sharing their insights with anyone who’s willing to turn up and listen. Free. Advice.

    I haven’t really got much of a conclusion to make – all I can say is: follow the premium folks (if you don’t like ’em personally, fine, but at least listen in to the valuable guidance and advice they’re handing out for free) and try to stay away from the negativity/sense of victimhood/pure envy that surrounds many people working in our line of business.

    Apologies for any typos (the font in this box is very unclear on my PC)


  10. Susannah Chadwick 22/02/2015 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Hi Rose!
    Thank you for sharing everything that’s happened. Sorry to hear that you had such awful experiences…

    It was really interesting to see that you realised that there was a different segment where prices were at a totally different level. Over the last year or so I’ve been thinking that this must be the case – you just have to think of the amount of money that people allocate to their advertising agency budget! Was interesting to see that thought confirmed in your post.

    And the improvements to your office/working environment sound great! Sofas are very important!

    LG aus Graz 😉

    • Rose Newell 22/02/2015 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Susannah!

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      Yes, exactly. When you are providing a service that is critical to the organisation’s success, people’s budgets are higher. I guess you just have to show why you are worth what you charge ten times over in terms of what you’ll bring in.

      In translation business theory, this is commonly referred to as the premium market. I think Kevin Hendzel recently defined this as anyone whose standard prices are at 0.30 USD per word and up while inevitably charging (a lot) more for high-value and urgent services.

      Kevin Hendzel writes a lot more about the premium market here:
      I also write a bit about the split in the market here:

      The problem with talking about the premium market or having entered it is essentially jealousy, a condition I don’t really understand very well thanks to my own psychological quirks. That’s largely what’s prompted the bullying behaviour of certain colleagues. Some also just don’t want to or can’t believe it, which is probably sadder still. We’re not lying, though, and I know I have barely scratched the surface.

      Thanks again for your kind and thoughtful comment. 🙂


      • Susannah Chadwick 28/02/2015 at 6:13 pm - Reply

        Hi Rose!

        Thank you for the links!

        I think it’s great that you’re sharing what you’ve learnt – otherwise we just all make the same mistakes. And if people don’t realise that there are other options to badly paid agency work, the profession will shrink and shrink because the work will just not be viable any more. I think we need to offer something that a machine could never do – and you can’t do that if the prices put you under so much pressure, time-wise.

        I have another quick question (hope I’m not being too annoying!) – I’ve been on the look out for a UK based distance learning course on copywriting and have recently found one at the College of Media and Publishing. I was wondered if you had heard of it and knew whether it was any good. Or if you knew of any others.

        Thanks! 🙂


        • Susannah Chadwick 01/03/2015 at 9:24 am - Reply

          P.S. If you happen to have any questions about Austria, I’d be more than happy to answer them 🙂

        • Rose Newell 01/03/2015 at 12:40 pm - Reply

          Hi Susannah!

          I never took a copywriting course, although I’ve always done writing for different projects or as part of other jobs for a long time. I did read a lot of books and blogs on the subject, though.

          My opinion on that course can be summed up here:

          I’m not impressed at their offering people the guaranteed paid work at 6 pounds an hour. They may as well offer people that as a discount on the course if it is just a gimmick. If they are not going to use the work, it’s just a fraudulent way of getting people something for their CV (what copywriter relies on a CV, anyway?). If they are going to use it, I’m stunned that they are paying so little. There is no way in a month of Sundays anyone is getting my work for a rate that would be illegal if I were employed. Whatever the reasons behind it, at best it is poorly thought out, and at worst it’s exploitation of the vulnerable. That makes me wonder what value the course itself can be, since business-savvy (both for yourself and your clients) is a vital, intrinsic part of good copywriting… Colour me sceptical. 😉


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