An Interview About Living The Life Of A Solopreneur

Interview with Jamie Lingwood - Solopreneur

We had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Lingwood, a copywriter, translator and the founder of wordsmith.nl. Starting with an engineering degree and loving languages and writing, Jamie Lingwood finished setting up his own business to help companies translate from Dutch to English in a proper way. Mailbutler had the chance to chat with him about his career, his secret to stay productive and about how Corona has changed the way he’s working.


Hello Jamie! First of all I would like to thank you for having the interview with us. For those who don’t know wordsmith.nl, your company, could you tell us something about it and your position?

I’m a sole proprietor, working as a copywriter and translator. English is my mother language, so I write in English and translate from Dutch to English. I started working for myself in about 2001. My market is mainly B2B. So translating or writing marketing materials, websites, etc. But my academic background is technical, which means I do a fair amount of technical translation work, too.

Check out this link for a bit more flesh on the bones: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ikigai-jamie-lingwood

Wow, so you’ve been working for yourself almost 20 years now. Congrats! How did you know when you had the right idea?

Well, I didn’t at first. It was a bit of trial and error. The link above tells the full story. But in a nutshell, after the dot-com crash in 2000/2001, I was left unemployed. I was CTO of a dot-com. I decided to build websites. To differentiate myself, I offered bilingual Dutch-English websites. It turned out I wasn’t all that great at the design side. But I loved the language side. So slowly I shifted into just the writing and translation.

It is comforting to see how you could rise from such a situation and get the courage to start your own business! Which aspect of being your own boss do you enjoy most?

No boss, no employees, no co-workers! I’ve always been a bit of an Einzelganger. Working wherever and whenever I want to. Or DON’T want to! And even though it took a while, picking and choosing which projects I wanted to take on or not. Although I don’t think I can be as picky any more with the coronavirus.

That’s very true. The crisis is changing the situation of all of us. Besides dealing with Corona, what is the main challenge of being a “solopreneur”?

The major challenge is that as a ‘solopreneur’ I have to wear so many hats simultaneously … marketing, sales, tech/IT, administration, legal, you name it … and that doesn’t even include the core business: translating and writing.

So how do you manage to do several things at the same time? I imagine it’s not an easy thing.

In reality, I don’t think anyone really, really multitasks. We do things serially. If you flit from one thing to another fast enough in series it just looks like multitasking or doing stuff simultaneously. 

But a very focused and disciplined approach is how I tackle things. I have a background in engineering and this forces a very methodical approach to anything. So it boils down to project management. Recently (in the past four or five years), I’ve been honing the art of GTD: Getting Things Done (David Allen) and this helped me up my game still further in terms of juggling several balls at the same time.

Regarding the GTD system you talk about, we did a really interesting interview with David Allen about it. But for those who are not familiar with it, could you explain the GTD system a little bit?

Sure. Nowadays we are bombarded with so many “inputs”. Email, WhatsApp, LinkedIn messages, phone calls, texts and so on.

The first step of GTD is ‘dealing with’ (NOT acting on) all these inputs. The majority can go to trash. Do not require my brainpower!

The next stage is getting everything to my “Inbox” (Email) so that I don’t have to deal with multiple sources. And from my inbox to “Inbox Zero” which I’ve primarily achieved with Daylite, a software from Marketcircle, as this links directly to Apple Mail. Daylite is CRM, project management, calender, etc. all in one. So I’m nearly always “Inbox Zero” because all the inputs are in the right place assigned to a project, added to a task list, scheduled as an appointment, whatever, you name it.

As I understand, you regularly use emails for the communication of your company, right? If so, how do you boost your email productivity, besides using Daylite?

I’m 101% email based. My whole business is built on email communications. I can conduct every part of my business by email from quotation to invoicing to exchange of files and documents, you name it.

This is where Mailbutler came in. I found Mailbutler because I hated the way Apple Mail dealt with email signatures. Or should I say, how Apple Mail really doesn’t deal with email signatures particularly effectively. They’re pretty amateurish actually!

So, I found Mailbutler answered my immediate need for more professional email signatures, but I was in for a bonus because Mailbutler did so much more besides!

As a translator/copywriter, I work on lots of small projects simultaneously. This means a constant stream of quotations for jobs ranging from 30-minute projects to 2-week projects. I love the template feature in Mailbutler. It saves me so much time creating quotations with my standard Dutch-language and English-language quotation templates. All I have to do then is fill in the job-specific blanks.

Then I discovered the postponing and tracking options! Wow. Perhaps not so obvious as the signatures and templates, but great nonetheless. 

Because I can work when and where I want to, I often end up working at odd hours. The postponed mail feature is great, because I schedule emails I write at 1 a.m. or in the weekend for 9:30 or 10 am the next day (or after the weekend) because I don’t want to create an image that I’m working at stupid times and set expectations for my clients. 

I also use my email signature for promotional purposes and include links in these and my templates. I like to be able to see which if any of these get clicked and when. Also read/delivery times of my emails.

Wow! We are so glad that Mailbutler helps you boost your email productivity so that you can focus on your work and stay more productive. We are really pleased that you enjoy Mailbutler. Thanks!

Let’s continue talking about your job a little bit. How would you describe your daily work?

I’ve implemented my GTD system in Daylite. So I start each day with a review of:

  • Potential opportunities
  • Current projects
  • Tasks

And then I ask myself what the next steps I need to take today are to advance each of these to the next step/stage.

Then I will work on what needs doing. I also schedule in fitness in my work day. I work from a coworking space where there’s a gym and kitchen. So I’ve created a very nicely balanced work-life routine at my workspace.

As a solopreneur, I dictate my hours and I free to do a lot of the childcare duties. So I often then pick my kid (9) up from school and do all the after-school activity things with him.

You have the freedom to choose when and where you want to work, that’s great! But, as you are working remotely and in a coworking space, how do you manage to avoid distractions and focus on your work?

Interesting question. I’ve been working remotely for nearly 20 years. And lovin’ it! But it’s an interesting question, because you refer to ‘distractions’. I don’t really experience any, or I’ve learned to filter out anything you’d think of as a distraction. 

I actually need ambient noise around me … such as the sound of an espresso machine and the clink of coffee cups … mmmmmmm. Absolute silence (library silence) would be a huge distraction for me, oddly enough!

Interesting answer! I didn’t expect it. Of course these days, there is no interview without a question on Corona. I imagine the crisis has a big impact on your routine… How has the situation affected your daily work? And how have you adapted to it?

I’ve lost a several projects that were about to start or were in the pipeline. A pattern is beginning to emerge, though. It is primarily other sole-proprietors/freelancers who have cancelled their projects with me because they themselves now have no work. They cancelled the projects out of uncertainty over their own income/turnover.

My larger clients and prospects seem to be moving forward albeit at a slower pace and with delays. Understandably. So I’m going to concentrate my marketing efforts on slightly larger clients than usual.

As for routine, I have a lot of free time suddenly. Until this morning, I haven’t had any current project on the go for about a week. Got some work in from a medium-sized client this morning. 

In the mornings, I homeschool my son. Afternoons, I do odd jobs around the house. Get some fresh air (we’re not on total lockdown yet in the Netherlands). 

Thinking a lot about ways I can adapt my recent ideas for writing workshops for non-native English speakers to online workshops. 

Drinking way too much coffee and working out how to work out at home. Home gym equipment is sold out throughout the Netherlands!

It is a hard situation for everyone and trying to adapt to it is probably the best thing we can do! Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to chat with you today and for all the insights you gave us! We wish you all the best for your career not only during the crisis, but also for the after-Corona time.

Thanks Jamie!


Do you want to boost your email productivity like Jamie does? Download Mailbutler for Apple Mail, Gmail or Outlook and stay more productive!


This interview belongs to #mailbutlerstories. For the whole Mailbutler team our clients are at the center of everything we do. This is why we love getting to know our Mailbutler users, their daily work, and the challenges they face.


Would you like to learn more about which tools and services an entrepreneur should use? Keep reading this interesting article “10 Most Useful Tools and Services for Entrepreneurs” from our guest contributor Leona Henryson.

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