Successfully editing the 90 minute interview transcript yesterday has put some confidence under my belt. I now know that it is at least possible to complete transcription/editing jobs as long as I choose ones which are within my capabilities. However, this process of evaluating the prospective project in relation to one’s skill level is a complex one. There are multiple factors which affect this assessment on both ends. As a result, it only seems prudent and logical to take some time developing your skill of evaluation.
At this point there are three types of evaluation which seem important to work on. Firstly, there is the process of evaluating the prospective project made available to you. With the online transcription systems these files are usually all laid out in the “available jobs” section as they are made available by the company. Generally, the audio/video files are displayed along with information about the length of the file, instructions on the type of edit (ex. verbatim, clarity, with timecode, without timecode”, etc.) supplied by the company, special instructions given by the customer related to the project, the TAT (turn around time, or “deadline”) within which time you need to have the transcript submitted, and the amount of payment upon completion of the project. You are able to listen to the file via the inline audio/video player so that you can evaluate the it before accepting the project. Some companies allow you to evaluate the ENTIRE file, while others allow you to evaluate PART of the file (for instance, one minute of a six minute file). This limitation is actually beneficial to the workflow of the company, as it minimizes people choosing only the easiest files, and leaving the more challenging ones undone. The companies are under a deadline with the customers, and this is a mechanism of protection for the whole business.
As I have already outlined the basic factors which determine the difficulty level of an audio project in the last post (Day 2 : Editing As A Gradual Step Towards Transcription) here I want to discuss the other main component of the evaluation process which involves factoring your skill level into the equation. That is, the difficulty level of something is somewhat relative to the skill level of the person doing the evaluation. While there are surely down-right abysmally bad audio files (ex. high background noise level, multiple people speaking over each other (a.k.a. “crosstalk”), muddled speech due to bad recording set up, etc.) the reality is that the more skill you have the the more likely you will be able to mitigate these issues. For instance, an experienced transcriber who is skilled with digital audio editing software can easily transform a “bad” file into something manageable. Another thing to consider is that a decent company will automatically filter out such bad files, or if dealing directly with a private client you will have discussed the problems and prepared for what will be done in the worst case scenario (in other words, the ability to get out of the agreement without penalty).
So, since the evaluation of the difficulty level of a prospective file is dependent on the capabilities of the person who evaluates it then it only makes sense that developing your general skills (related to transcribing and its associated skills set (ex. audio editing, typing, grammar skills, etc.)) enables you to expand and improve your ability to evaluate prospective projects more accurately. This then leads to accepting and completing suitable projects, which creates a positive spiral of progress, instead of descending into the abyss of frustration, minimal enjoyment of the work, and friction with a client.
I decided that the most practical and efficient strategy during this beginning phase would be to spend some time each day on two major tasks. First, I would read the descriptions on, and listen to, as many of the files on the “available jobs” boards as possible as they came in throughout the day and night. This allowed me to have a steady flow of input and get a good feel for the types and characteristics of the general projects offered. At the same time I would spend an hour or two a day searching for, collecting and absorbing all of the best quality free resources available online related to transcription and the numerous related subjects. Luckily, I was going to be pleasantly surprised to find that there is more than enough high-quality and free (and even some paid, if you are so inclined) resources to completely self-train yourself into a certified, working and successful freelance transcriptionist. So let me give you the positive assurance that if you put in the time and effort you CAN methodically and steadily build PAID experience in the online transcription industry, while earning money to further self-education yourself, and gradually gain the experience to move up the ranks to have more choice in the types of content you transcribe, the quality of audio/video, and the amount of compensation. Just keep motivational statement in mind as you proceed through this diary blog.
Since anyone with basic online research skills will be able to get started finding information to get the ball rolling immediately (ex. via a Google search for “general transcription job training course free”) I think it is most appropriate to focus here on my own personal research process so that you can see my strategy, progression of topics and how I put the puzzle pieces together over time. So, I will attempt to document as precisely as possible just exactly which resources I found and studied and when in the process I did so. Since I had the idea of writing this blog from the very beginning (as a result of my years of experience as a blogger and social media marketer) I made the wise decision to keep notes throughout the research process. Using these notes I am laying out the progression of research as it actually unfolded. I will also explain the REASONS why I made certain decisions throughout the process, so that you can get a deeper understanding of my method, and hopefully incorporate the components of that method which resonate best with you, personally, in order to maximize your progress while minimizing wasted time and energy.
One of the very first resources I found was the :
site. This is a very informative site with blog. The blog posts include entries for essentially ALL of the basic topics which a person new to the transcription world could have. Since I had a very low budget at the time I decided to work through the free blog posts (one or two per day) while at the same time I read through ALL of the pages of the site in order to get an idea of the kinds of products they offered (in case those paid products might become feasible options in the future). As an experienced internet marketer I operate under the philosophy that if someone puts out high quality free information online I will AT LEAST evaluate everything they have on offer and seriously consider paying for their content if it becomes feasible in the future INSTEAD of from someone else who did NOT provide such valuable info. The bottom line is that in the digital age “content is king”. Or maybe, more accurately, “content is currency”. This is a major reason why I put always try to put as much free and valuable information onto the internet as I possibly can. After all, if my success has been built significantly on the free information provided by other people, then it is simply good karma to give something back to the universe, in my opinion. This is in line with my general philosophy on life, which is to help people who need it – NOT for personal gain or expectation of reciprocation, but because it is just the right thing to do, plain and simple.
In the process of working through the blog posts on the above site I also kept a running note file. I use a simple notepad file onto which I copy and paste words, terms, sentences, urls for web pages and YouTube videos, and any other important text information which I encounter through the research process. I then follow up with as I have time and/or as each becomes appropriate. For instance, for videos I will often click on the link through to the video on the YouTube site and then click the “watch later” button to add the video for watching). In this way I can most efficiently flow through the research without distracting myself by going off in all different tangential directions, in a disorganized and unfocused manner, and/or being slowed down waiting for too many web pages or video/audio files to load. If a page/audio/video looks ESPECIALLY interesting when I encounter it I will take a few seconds or a minute to download it for future reference, and if it is a relatively short file I will take a minute to watch it before saving it, and then return to the research task. The key to ANY research is to stay focused, and proceed in a methodical, and controlled manner.
In fact, here is a You Tube playlist I have created with links to many of the high-quality videos I found and watched throughout the research process (and which continues to be updated) :
Now that I had found and committed to consuming the content of a decent quality blog whose posts would keep me busy for several weeks of daily reading, I started spending around an hour a day following up on the subtopics which resonated most powerfully and immediately with my situation. The first concept which came up was the fact that there are three main types of transcription – medical, legal and general – and that general transcription was the one which anyone with basic skills can do without needing to invest a lot of money on education, equipment, or obtaining a rather costly and time-consuming official specialized certification. It seemed that with general transcription the only real investment you need to make is that of your time in educating yourself and practicing your skills. In addition, there ARE several important industry standard programs which you can make use of, but the good news is that they all have free versions which are adequate while you are starting. You can then decide to upgrade in the future as you earn transcription income and as/if you find value in the professional versions of these programs. You can find reviews of (and links to) some of these free programs in the “Transcription Powertools” section of this blog :
Therefore, I began focusing my research using the keywords “general transcription” and quickly found some informative pages like the concise Do-It-Yourself Transcription Training page.
At this point I believe the reader has enough research leads and information to conclude this post and let you assimilate and work the ideas into your own research. Ultimately, the goal is to SIMULTANEOUSLY build your knowledge about transcription and related topics so that you will be more competent in evaluating prospective projects (whether they come in through the automated system of an online transcription company or through a freelance client) WHILE you gain experience (and some income) by working on files. In other words, “on the job self-education”.
In the next post I will discuss the vast virtual community of people working in the global transcription world, and how you can connect with them to significantly accelerate your efforts (through information sharing and networking) towards becoming an income-generating master freelance transcriptionist.