Expatski: Day of freelancers in Moscow

Expatski: Day of freelancers in Moscow

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Blogger Jennifer Eremeeva honours 14 May with an article that describes Moscow as a city of opportunities for native English speakers who are motivated to keep to deadlines.

The spouse who has the freelance gig is always the one who picks up the dry-cleaning.

- Nora Fitzgerald

Finally a holiday made for me! The day of the freelancers is one of those relatively new holidays, and takes its cue from the founding of one of the “oldest” freelance websites, which, like every “innovation” in Russia in the past 15 years, is a direct lift from a pre-existing site in the West (they even tried to copy The New Yorker, can you imagine?).

In any case, Free-lance.ru was founded on 14 May 2005. They act as a cyber-exchange primarily for web designers, and something called an “optimiser” which The Oxford Russian Dictionary does not recognise.

In addition to major public holidays, like New Year, International Women's Day, and Victory Day, Russia honours almost 200 different professions, specialities, branches of the military, and government service throughout the calendar year. Some, like "day of the internet" are relatively new, whereas others, like "day of the firefighters" are hundreds of years old. 

I’ve been a freelancer for about the same time Free-lance.ru has been around, though, of course, a number of the “full time positions of responsibility” I had in Russia were, in fact, technically freelancing gigs, since no one had the time, knowledge, or inclination to do the paperwork needed to make it official.

I have to say, freelancing is harder than the pyjama-clad Nirvana HRH seems to think it is. It takes a lot of motivation to stop alphabetising your DVD collection, or perfecting your sorrel soup recipe, and get down to work without the stimulus of a boss or snarky colleagues surrounding you.

Deadlines help, as does a faux office such as Starbucks to “go to” each day, which you realise early on is the only way to get anything done. At least, I’ve found it so. Home, for me, is way too distracting.

I don’t want to reveal any secrets of the guild, but the fact of the matter is that Russia is a freelancer's Klondike. If you are a native English speaker, you have opportunities. If you are a native English speaker with a passing knowledge of the rudiments of English grammar, you can live very comfortably.

If you are a native English speaker who knows Russian, and therefore can interpret what Russians are trying to say and express it better than Google Translate, avoiding mistakes like the opening salutation of a letter reading “Expensive Mr. Smith,” then you can start planning for a second home.

And if, like me, you can do all those things AND you worked at A Bank and know how to use words like “synergy,” “expedite,” and “galvanize” (concepts which do not really exist in Russian and thus are often used erroneously by thrusting Russian bankers and lawyers), then you can allow yourself the delicious luxury of having this kind of conversation with Olga Quelque Chose, who calls you up on a Friday afternoon from Minigarch Trust in desperate need to have her annual report translated from English by Google Translate, into English by me:

Me: Well…my schedule is pretty tight at the moment. How many pages is it?

Olga Quelque Chose: it’s 50 pages double-spaced, but there are a lot of charts.

Me: You know, I don’t take any responsibility for the content of your charts.

Olga Quelque Chose: Well, we can have our lawyers do that.

Me: Hmm…that never really works well, does it? And I hope Dee Dee told you that I don’t do second drafts to incorporate non-native English-speaking lawyers’ comments.

Olga Quelque Chose: Yes, she did. We’re okay with that. How much would you want to be paid?

Me: Twenty-five thousand…

Olga Quelque Chose: [a sharp intake of breath]

Me: Euros.

Olga Quelque Chose: That seems a lot. We’ve had other bids of ten.

Me: [sigh] Yes…I’m sure you have. I’ve had a number of contracts to clean up work in that price range lately…but it’s up to you.

This halcyon period of my life in Russia was incredibly satisfying, not to mention obscenely lucrative. Come to think of it, I can’t think why I gave this up to write my own stuff.


Congratulations to all those who toil between school runs, manage to perfect sorrel soup, and don’t forget to pick up the dry-cleaning!

Jennifer Eremeeeva / Expatica

Writer, humour columnist, photographer, cook and veteran American expatriate, Jennifer Eremeeva has called Moscow home for almost two decades. She blogs at www.dividingmytime.typepad.com about the funnier side of life in Moscow, “HRH” her “Horrible Russian Husband,” and her horse-crazed daughter, Velvet.


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