Anatomy of a translator’s office – let’s describe it together


exclam3This article is now closed. This other article now has the info you are probably looking for.

One of the great things about freelancing is that you are queen or king of your own office, can choose your own throne, can decorate according to your own tastes and, most importantly, you can give it the functionality YOU want.

My original intention was to come up with an article outlining what I think is essential to a translator’s office. As I started thinking about it, I realized it would be a pity to limit the article to what I find useful. So, I figured that if this article is going to REALLY be useful, it has to include some of the best ideas and practices out there. My plan is to expand the article with some of your most inspired suggestions. I will leave the discussion open for 15 days (until SEPT 25th), after which I will attempt to make a description that will include your input (credit will be given wherever possible) along with my own contribution. This should result in something like a community article.

So, are you up for the challenge? Then help me draw the anatomy of your ideal office.

Here’s a few categories to help you get started:

  • furniture & related
  • hardware
  • software
  • book stock
  • general good-to-keep-in-mind decoration tips
  • stationary
  • communication
  • other

P.S. If you wish to share a photo of your office, you are welcome to drop a link in the comments section.


Cristian Sălăjan

I am a freelance translator and blogger from multicultural Transylvania. Father of one, two three, husband of one, friend to few. Privately, I've also been interested in/fascinated by topics like web design, theology, probability theory, Christian apologetics, cosmology, quantum mechanics, entrepreneurship and parenting.

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15 responses to Anatomy of a translator’s office – let’s describe it together

  1. Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Gosh. I’ve had a whole shelf of books fall right on top of my chair. Had I been sitting at my desk at the moment, I don’t believe I’d be alive to tell the tale. My documents have a tendency to disappear when I need them, so do my dictionaries – Yeah, I still use the paper type.

    My current desk (4th incarnation) is U-shaped, which give me the flexibility of working on more than one project at a time. Above my computer is my library, to my right a window that allows me to rest my eyes during the day and get a glimpse of life. I have a keyboard tray that is fully flexible and retractable so I can move it out of the way when I am researching. I have a desktop and a laptop running Windows OS and a MacBook.

    My library is sectioned as BUSINESS-LEGAL-MEDICAL-TECHNICAL-LANGUAGE REFERENCE. That works well for me and saves me time when I have to look something up. I am glad I have space to keep the books I am using for research at hand.

    I work from home, so my commute is less than 2 minutes. When I get cabin fever, I go out to lunch with friends. Otherwise, I am “home” all day :o)

  2. Colditz-Translation September 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm

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    My desk is right in front of a window and when I look outside I can see the garden. I love to see something green and blooming flowers to have a break from the computer screen. Next to my desk is a large bookshelf for books and folders. I work on a laptop but intend to buy a desktop soon. I work with the latest translation software (not to mention any brand names). My husband also works “from home”. He is a pastor and has his office downstairs in the vicarage. Most days we have lunch together and enjoy this time very much.

    • Cristian Sălăjan September 13, 2012 at 8:04 am

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      Windows in sight gets two mentions. it’s great you can have lunch with your family. Not to mention the savings. I wonder who’s cooking :-)

  3. Cristian Sălăjan September 13, 2012 at 8:00 am

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    Speaking of professional hazard… Thank God the shelf missed you. Having hard-copy books around seems like an unnecessary risk in the age of e-books, right? :-) U-shaped desk, good thinking.

  4. hklein translations September 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm

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    In the US, I had my own room as my office. I was sitting in front of my PC table with a big screen and still had a large desk next to me to spread out. My window was out to the backyard with beautiful old trees and squirrels and chipmunks as “eye candy”.
    Six weeks ago, my husband and I moved back to Germany. We are looking for a nice apartment and for the time being are living in a small furnished flat. I have a tiny computer desk in one corner of the bedroom, work exclusively on my laptop (but bought a big screen to attach to it). My PC is in storage. And I realize that I am as productive in this surrounding as before in my “real” office. The only thing that I really needed aside from my laptop (and brought along in my two suitcases) was my keyboard from the PC as I am really used to typing on that one and my mouse and mouse-pad. All the other “essentials” and important necessities turned out to be just dead weight. I will seriously cut down on that “stuff” when we finally move into our own apartment.

    • Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      Hm, that’s interesting. A fellow translator wrote an article about her newly redecorated office and how it actually increased her productivity. All the stuff I mentioned in my first comment are things I would like having around. But actually I only need a larger desk. It would really increase my productivity, because, when working with dictionaries or both with the laptop and desktop, I feel very frustrated, putting things I use wherever there is some place left and then having to search them all over again.

      I’d say the basics are: large desk, big screen(s), ergonomic chair, good light, enough space for the rest of the things you need, like books, dictionaries, folders, etc. If you just can afford do add some favorite design and colors, then it is even better.

      Oh, an a cozy place for my dog :)

    • Cristian Sălăjan September 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

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      So, you’re saying we should think twice before getting our offices crowded with stuff. Could you perhaps name a few, for the sake of the discussion? Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Comments finally working :)

    I actually wanted to comment on this post, because my home office looks nothing like my dream office. I need a bigger desk, bigger shelves, a special place for the printer (now it is on my already small desk). I also don’t like the colors in my office room. Time to redesign. But I love the view to the garden as well :)

    My dream office would be:

    * Big U-shaped or L-shaped desk (enough space for both desktop, laptop + all the rest, including the never missing cup of coffee)
    * Big shelves
    * Some white wooden office cabinets
    * I have a nice couch already for when I feel like working while sitting on the couch, so nothing to change there
    * Some more space overall, to fit a small coffee table for times when clients visit
    * White & grey walls

    Mmm, dreaming already.

    Nice blog, btw.

  6. Colditz-Translation (Ricarda Colditz) September 17, 2012 at 7:33 am

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    I am actually just looking for a larger desk at the moment. But I already ordered flexible, self-adhesive magnetic strips which can be fixed to a wall or to the side of a bookshelf. I like to put up important information at eye-level but it is also nice just for a calendar.

  7. Cristian Sălăjan September 18, 2012 at 8:22 am

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    Thanks for finally commenting, Veronica :-)
    I too like to work from a couch from time to time. It helps relax my back.
    And yeah, I’d also like some more space so I can move around – it helps me think.
    Not sure about the dog thing though… :-)

  8. Cristian Sălăjan September 18, 2012 at 8:28 am

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    Question for everyone: how large would you like your office to be?

  9. Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    A few remarks from my experience:

    1. The workstation should be large enough so that you can rest your forearms comfortably on the desk surface.
    2. The PC/laptop screen should sit at a reasonable height and distance from the eyes. I kept my laptop on my printer and used a wireless keyboard and mouse. This way, the screen was at an optimal distance.
    3. I’d definitely recommend against setting up your office in a studio apartment. Working, sleeping and eating in the same room soon turn out to be quite depressing.

    The rest, I think, are details. :)

  10. Cristian Sălăjan September 21, 2012 at 8:36 am

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    Mersi, Suzana. Great input. Completely agree with your third point.

  11. Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    My home office started out in the spare bedroom, which is now being used by a lodger. I’ve therefore had to relocate to a corner of the conservatory, which primarily serves as the dining room. As I am typing this it is pouring with rain and I can hardly hear myself think!

    So were I able to create my ideal office space, it would be sound proofed against the rain, would not be tucked into a corner of an already busy space, I would have a large, L-shaped desk to enable me to spread out and use my paper dictionaries (yes, I do still use them!), better lighting, and I would steal the idea of having a couch in there too!

    I have personal photos to inspire/motivate me, good speakers for the music I have to have in the background, and a wireless mouse so the cable doesn’t get caught up in the paper, mugs, dictionaries and other clutter that seems to accumulate on my desk as the day goes by!

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