Transcription Power Tool #3 : WorkRave Pacing Program

 

workrave_screenshot

WorkRave Work Pacing and Repetitive Strain Illness (RSI) Management Tool

 

Workrave ( http://www.workrave.org ) is an EXCELLENT, totally FREE and little open source freeware software application which provides some highly valuable computer work pacing features, as well as regularly timed short, and longer, work break reminders, along with some helpful exercises to do during those breaks to counteract the risk of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). Workrave is available as a TOTALLY free download at :

 

http://www.workrave.org/download/

 

The program is easy to use, and works on Windows, Mac AND LINUX operating systems. Please feel free to go ahead and download, install, and play around with the program as soon as you can, to reap the benefits immediately. I ASSURE you that you will see a noticeable increase in your productivity just in your first few hours of integrating this excellent tool into your daily workflow.

 

For such an essentially simple program this tool provides some highly valuable time and effort management functions, so that your overall productivity will increase NOTICEABLY, while simultaneously decreasing the productivity obstacles presented by repetitive, monotonous bodily and mental activities which create stress – and even potential long term illness- if not managed  over extended periods of time. Although the standard definition of Repetitve Strain Illness focuses mainly on PHYSICALLY strainful, repetitive activity, any worker who heavily uses their computer for several hours per day in order to do important tasks knows that the MENTALLY strenuous and/or menial activities are EQUALLY taxing on the whole mind-body system – especially because the mind and body are so interconnected – and so for the purposes of this analysis as it relates primarily to computer teleworkers (and transcriptionists/proofeaders specifically), Repetitive Strain Injuries in this discussion will include mental activities as well physical ones.

 

For teleworkers, some significant physical repetitive strain producing activities include : eye strain resulting from staring at the computer screen for long periods of time, back pain resulting from sitting up for long periods, and joint pain commonly in the fingers, wrists, arms, neck and/or back areas, resulting primarily from long periods of stationary sitting, posture-maintaining, and typing and mouse activities. Some of the major mentally straining activities include: difficulty concentrating, anxiety resulting from mental exhaustion, noticeable decrease in cognitive ability, and hyper-aroused nervous system states (including moodiness, agitation, insomnia, etc.). These often result from enduring long periods of sustained, focused mental attention on more single, narrowed subject matter, fine textual details, and repetitive tasks. These mental ailments develop primarily due to a failure to take adequate rest breaks away from the computer to let the mind rest and recuperate. Just as a body builder experiences the maximum physical gains by integrating adequate rest periods into their training routine, so the teleworker gains similar benefits from achieving a proper balance of activity and rest.

 

Some of the more technical names for of the most common Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI’s) include : Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Information Overload, Pressure/Stress Headaches, hyper-arousal induced insomnia, etc. More detailed information and examples of these conditions and their causes can be found here :

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repetitive_strain_injury

 

And a more in-depth analysis of the occupational risk factors for teleworkers is well examined here :

 

Working From Home Can Sabotage Your Health

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/121097/20160104/working-from-home-can-sabotage-your-health-ways-telecommuting-can-make-you-ill.htm

 

Luckily, Workrave addresses many of the most significant telecommuter health issue by providing some valuable core features which are simple to execute, yet highly effective in helping to manage and minimize the manifestation and development of these Repetitive Strain Injuries. Plus, it does so in a way which, when properly used, is quite non-intrusive, and highly customizable based on the unique physical and mental needs of the individual worker.

 

The most useful features of the program can probably be best understood through actual case study examples of the typical daily workflow of the teleworker (in this case, the transcriber/proofreader). To best achieve this I will use my own, personal daily workflow as an example here, and show how the Workrave tool is integrated so easily and effectively with the most common workflow tasks of teleworkers (and even computer workers) in general.

 

Let’s say on a typical day I end up doing eight full hours of computer work on various tasks. Upon waking in the morning I usually start working on one of my private client transcription/proofreading projects. I will load my transcription software, continue from where I left off last on the transcription or proofread. I have found that working in 15 minutes chunks is ideal for the specific nature and needs of my body and mind. That is, I will usually transcribe or proofread for 15 minutes, and then either switch things up significantly to consuming some work-related (or non-work related) audio, video or textual resources (ex. YouTube videos, podcasts, web articles, etc.) If my energy levels are further down I can choose the third alternative option of completely disengaging from physical and mental work activity, and instead spend the next 15 minute chunk of time doing some menial daily chores (ex. cleaning, meditating, walking around the room or yard, etc.) So, the three 15 time slots include : 15 minutes of work-related computer work, 15 minutes of less  (or non) – computer related content consumption, or 15 minutes of physical activity which does not involved intense mental activity. The more you understand the ideal mixtures of task sessions which are unique to YOU, the sooner you can most appropriately customize the WorkRave program scheduling features to most effectively assist you in sticking to the specific organization of activity program you choose.

 

So, continuing to build upon the above example, I go into the WorkRave settings area and set the micro-break intervals to 15 minutes. This means that every 15 minutes a “break screen” pops up and stops any activity on the machine (ex. Keyboard and mouse input, etc.) I also program the DURATION of these microbreaks to be 30 seconds. In this way, after every 15 chuck of my work the program forces me to AT LEAST take 30 seconds to stop what I am doing, take a deep breath, rest, and clear my mind in order to best plan for the next 15 minutes activity chunk. After this first microbreak I move into the first alternative task (let’s say watching an interesting YouTube tutorial video on one of the new software programs I am learning and planning to integrate into my arsenal of work tools). The MORE INTERESTING you make this second task (specially relating the task to the first (and also) third task session), the more productivity benefits you will get from switching and pacing the tasks. IDEALLY, the most effective mix of tasks includes a logical component to this transition. For instance, if you are specifically focusing on improving your use of punctuation during your proofreading tasks then switching to watching an interesting YouTube video related to some aspect of proofreading will provide a nice repetition and reinforcement component to your activities (and self-training) schedule. The key is to try and consume resources which are interesting, motivating, and applicable as quickly as possible into your workflow. By doing this you are able to apply (and build) the knowledge and skills you are absorbing during the different task sessions, in real-time, and the continuous, tangible improvement in your productivity which results from this will further motivate you to pace and organize your efforts properly, using SEVERAL tools, including WorkRave.

 

After the second 15 minute task, the next micro-break box pops up and I can then rest for 30 seconds while I also decide if it is most appropriate to switch back to the first (active project work) activity session, or if I feel that my body and mind are becoming more drained of energy and focus I can choose to switch to the third task session, which involves some physical activity without mental activity. In this case I may spend the third 15 minute activity session doing some silent meditation, or giving the kitchen or bathroom a routine 15 minute clean, I may prepare some food (which, in my specific case, general consists of a light, liquid and raw fruits and vegetables based diet. I could, for instance, brew a pot of one of my favorite, and most appropriate types of Chinese tea which I drink daily. While this is another subject worth elaborating on elsewhere (when I talk about proper nutrition for the teleworker), I find that taking a 15 minute break to drink a pot of high quality tea (specifically a black or Puerh category tea if I need more energy, and a green, white, or herbal tea in the evening when I am in the process of “coming down”) is a HUGE boon to my productivity AND the overall health of my body. Once the 15 minute tea drinking activity session finishes, the third micro-break box pops up on the screen. Actually, after the third session it is really best to schedule one of the longer breaks (which include the guided exercise activities). So, in this example I will program one of the long breaks every 45 minutes – that is, after I complete the full round of the three main 15 minute activity sessions.

 

Aside from time the interval (45 minutes in this case) between breaks you can also customize the DURATION of the longer breaks. Again, this proper duration will be unique to your body and mind. I find that after the three 15 minute microbreaks, a good 5 to 10 minute long break is appropriate to really properly recuperate from the past hour of heavy activity. For a few minutes at the beginning of the longer break the program provides you with some guided examples of some common, and effective, basic exercises that you can perform along with the program’s timer. These exercises are focuses on addressing the most common physical Repetitive Strain Injuries, and range from eye exercises to stretching exercises for various high use body parts. The nice thing is that you have the option to follow the exercises provided, and/or replace or add some of your own preferred exercises. I like to try to AT LEAST follow the provided exercises, and then in the remaining non-activity time, where the program stops providing exercises and simply let’s the break timer run, I add a few of my own good ones – mainly consisting of some powerful yoga and Chi Gong stretching, and movement exercises. I may also take some of this remaining time to cease all physical and mental activity by lying on my bed with eyes closed..

 

Once the longer break is completed you will usually feel well rested, and ready to run through the cycle again – depending, of course, on how many cycles you have already completed. With this specific routine you can get quite a lot of work done in an eight hour daily work session. The program also has a customizable “daily limit” timer. This box will pop up to remind you that you have reached your self-estimated overall time-work threshold for the day. If you have more accurately customized the time interval on this feature you may find this a refreshing notification and conclusion of your workday, and you will likely be happy to shut down your work activities and computer for the remainder of the day. However, if you decide (for a variety of possible reasons, including approaching deadlines, glut of work, compulsive tendencies, etc.) to do some additional work, you have the option to “cancel” this daily work reminder. If you do this, however, it IS recommended that in the additional work time you perform for the day you extend the frequency and duration of micro and longer breaks. As some friendly advice from someone who suffers from SEVERE insomnia, plus internet addiction, and other goodies – which is only exacerbated by the constant hyper-arousal induced by above the eight hour threshold of daily computer work, often even reaching up into the double-digits —) yikes – I can tell you from experience that as you endure more hours it become increasingly important to include a pacing mechanism which gradually slows down your physical and mental activity so that when you finally conclude the day’s work your body and mind will be in as an ideal of a state as possible to facilitate sleep and recovery. Ultimately, you want to customize your pacing schedule so that, with the help of the WorkRave program features, you are able to slowly wind down to a soft conclusion of activity which will make it easier for you body and mind to transition to the lower level of brainwave  activity to allow you to get the proper amount and quality of sleep required to maintain consistent productivity over days, weeks, and months. Pacing is a VITAL component to computer-based telework and non-telework. If you can achieve a high level of control over your energy exertion you will be able to maximize the overall results of your effort. If you CAN’T achieve this control then you will tend to experience a progressively increasing level of physical and mental exhaustion which can very likely develop into more serious,  longer term injuries over your extended work periods of days, weeks, months, and beyond.

 

Developing good pacing habits is therefore a vital component to telework, and one which ultimately translates into better health, higher productivity and income earning potential. People who are able to properly pace themselves are able to get more work done with less effort, and experience less health issues which have a tendency to have a detrimental effects on productivity in the short and the long term. This is why I STRONGLY suggest using a simple, yet powerful – and FREE – program like WorkRave as a fundamental tool in your teleworker tool kit.

 

One of the challenges people face when using a program like WorkRave is that you may sometimes find that both the micro and longer breaks feel like they are a bit intrusive, and distracting, to your efforts. However, I find that if in the times when I have those feelings it is very helpful to force myself to take the break, and then practice some meditation on those negative feelings which the rest break alerts trigger in me. I sit or lie down on my floor or the bed, and with my eyes closed allow the feelings to arise naturally and without trying to stop them. Then I examine and reflect on the feelings and sensations to try and figure out the deeper force driving them.. For instance, I ask myself WHY I feel frustrated by the break? Is it simply because I want to get more work done, but by doing so I would overextend myself? I ponder whether or not the break is actually HELPING to increase my productivity and comfort level, Even though at the time of the break I may have negative feelings what I have found is that, looking back in hindsight, it is most often the case that even though I had to endure some frustration due to the interruptive nature of the breaks, they did INDEED successfully serve the purpose of increasing my productivity. In addition, the program forces me, in a healthy way, to confront my own mental processed (and neuroses, or maybe more accurately, demons) which cause me to put up the resistance. A major benefit of this analysis  is that it helps you to begin to gain a better understanding of the destructive ways in which your impulses, compulsions, and counterproductive thought patterns contribute to improper pacing. So in the end this program also has the potential to help you change your pacing routine by changing the underlying destructive psychological mechanisms which have a tendency to force you to push body and mind beyond their limits, and ultimately sabotage your potential maximum productivity.

 

On a more practical level, one of the first things you can do if you find, through analysis, yourself feeling justifiably frustrated at the pacing of the breaks is to simply increase the time interval between them. You do this in the setting section of the program. Since everyone has unique physical and mental needs, once you figure out and customize your own proper individual pacing schedule you actually will be more welcoming of the breaks, accepting them as a necessary – albeit somewhat frustrating – tool, which helps you bypass your own self-destructive tendencies, and just start accepting that the breaks are indeed ultimately necessary for, and effective at, producing a significant increase to your productivity. Plus, the various metrics you can apply to judge this increase in productivity (for example, the number of total increase in transcription/proofreading output time ( based on a word count), an increase in income due to the increase in productivity), etc. will highly motivate you to appreciate and take full advantage of such a valuable tool as WorkRave. You will naturally accept the automated pacing schedule provided by the program.and gain maximum benefits from the breaks, and experience a general  diminishing need to cancel or postpone them. Once you reach this milestone, you KNOW that you are making real progress, and ultimately the improvement in pacing ability that you develop from regular use of this program will naturally transfer into the pacing of activities in other areas of your life (ex. Better organizing and pacing plans to achieve dietary goals, serious exercise routines, general career and life planning, etc. Ultimately, pacing is a valuable life skill to master.

 

Well, quite a lot has been said in this post about a nifty freeware program which may APPEAR on first glance to be quite simple and insignificant. However,us free-thinking, smart people know that the most profound,  influential – and often revolutionary – philosophers and innovators in history have expressed the common important opinion along the lines that the best ideas and inventions are those which are the simplest. Taking the wise words of one such great thinker, Albert Einstein, “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

So it is on this enlightening final note that will I put some closure on this rather comprehensive, and hopefully helpful, reviews of the WorkRave productivity enhancement application. It is my sincere hope that any reader of this post will experience the significant benefits of integrating this tool into their work routine, and as a result experience an increase in productivity, income – and most importantly – the most valuable gift of increased self-awareness.

 

If you do try out the program please feel free to send your comments (both positive and negative) so that all readers of this blog can benefit, as well as sharing this post with anyone who you believe will benefit from the information.

 

Happy Transcribing,

@TranscriptJunky

https://twitter.com/TranscriptJunky

 

 

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Transcription Powertool #1 : Wordweb Dictionary/Thesaurus

Wordweb Pro - English Dictionary Thesaurus screenshot

WordWeb Pro screenshot

I believe there is an old saying with something to the effect of  “the best things in life are simple”. Or is it “free”? Or both? A common example of such elegant simplicity is Einstein’s famous equation : E =mc2 (the “2” here is, of course, in superscript format). This simple equation has gone down in the history books as one of the most revolutionary creations of theoretical and applied physics which has had such a wide range of effects – from the development of nuclear weapons, to the concept of black holes, computers and other bizarre phenomenon in the universe.

As we move deeper into this new age of accelerating information creation and exchange it is only becoming ever more vital to find and apply SIMPLE tools and solutions to the numerous tasks and obstacles which we must deal with on an everyday basis. The good news is that as the amount of information increases SO TO does the power of computing, and so we find ourselves in a feedback situation in which the technology creates new problems, amplifies old problems, and provides the potential to also solve these issues.

So, you can imaging how pleased I was as a writer, researcher, transcriptionist/editor, web designer and offline/online marketer (that is, a person whose main work in life revolves around words), to come across a funky, yet amazingly powerful little program which is extremely simple to use, and aids you in dealing with most of the common, significant issues you face in relation to the creation, manipulation, and transmission of words in all of the various applications in which words are a vehicle of exchange.

The program is called Wordweb, a comprehensive, multipurpose English language dictionary and thesaurus application whose features range from one-click look up of words, synonym and antonym word web, audio word pronunciation (in numerous accents), extendable dictionaries and so much more. As space in this post is limited, and since the Wordweb web site describes all of the features in detail, and since the software is free, quick to install and use, etc. I think the best thing to do is advise you refer to their site for more information. I also suggest you take a minute to download the free version of program (the licensing agreement basically states that if you are not wealthy enough to afford more than one round-trip international plane flight per year then you are free to use the full features of the software). I used the free version of the program for five years, until recently when I decided that I wanted access to some of the more advanced features which come with the registered Wordweb Pro version. I will say that this was one of the best $19.00 I’ve spent on business tools in a while). As with most other software programs (especially freeware) I recommend using the free version for a while to get a feel for it, experiment with the features as you read through the help tutorials and do apply the application to your word work. I assure you that this program will make immediate and significant improvements in your entire work process, and thus free up some of your energy to focus on the more creative aspects of your job.

The most practical and frequently-used feature of Wordweb is the one click “word look-up” function which works in essentially ANY program – both offline and online – that displays words. Some examples include : word processors, transcription software, web sites user interfaces of most programs, etc. Basically, any word can be looked up in the Wordweb dictionary by simply clicking [CTRL + right click], and then displayed with as many definitions are in the database (and you can extend the database with various dictionary upgrades) and numerous other helpful information for dealing with the word (ex. list of synonyms, audio pronunciation from within the program by simply clicking a speaker icon, links to the word in various online dictionaries and other sources, and many more very useful processes dealing with the meaning and use of words in their wide range of applications.

To illustrate the immediate usefulness of the program – if you have installed it and have it running – go ahead and take a second to [CTRL + (right click)] any word in this post and then click around from the definition page to explore the various additional information which is provided by the program related to that word. Since the function of this blog is to introduce budding transcriptionists to the skills and tools of the trade, I will detail some of the features which will be most helpful and quickly applicable, and then let you play around with it as you explore the web site, tutorials, and other resources to become more proficient in using the application. Once you see how easy it is to use, and how helpful in minimizing the effort of the most routine tasks you perform everyday as a wordsmith, I can guarantee you you will be hooked.

One of the most basic uses of the program in the transcription process is the ability to spell check words with one click and from right inside the transcription program (such as ExpressScribe). The program has good quality artificial intelligence programmed into it which allows you to type in a rough estimate of and/or [CTRL + (right click)] the word you need to spell check and the program will display a list of numerous words which are either the exact word correctly spelled (along with the definition and other info) or the closest estimates of the word you are looking for. For instance, if you [CTRL + (right click)] the word “mispelled” (go ahead, [CTRL + (right click) it!) the program will display “try misspelled” with a link to the correct definition,  along with a list of numerous other rough matched of the misspelled word, which you can single click on to go to the definition page for that word. In addition, when the definition page comes up for the word the word itself is selected, and so you can simply hit [CTRL-C] to copy the properly spelled word and paste it right into the transcription text in your transcription software by pressing [CTRL + V]. Going even further into the functions, you have the option (through various tabs within the definition display page) to click through to synonyms and antonyms of the word (and other related categories) and then [CTRL-C] any of those and paste them [CTRL + V] right into the transcription text. So, the program is essentially a “quick-click” thesaurus, spell check, and linguistic database of sorts. All of these features are smoothly integrated into every step of your word workflow and are implemented in one or two clicks (for most operations).

These few basic features of the program are well worth the ZERO dollars you pay for the (freeware version of the) program and you can start using them immediately to increase the efficiency of your writing, editing and transcription work.

Another nice feature is the built-in audio pronunciation, which can come in handy when you are having trouble deciphering a word used by a speaker in the audio file you are transcribing. You will be surprised how many words we believe we know the correct pronunciation for, which turn out to have a dramatically different actual sound (including syllabic accent, intonation, etc.) especially when you account for the various accents of the language which the word is spoken in. For instance, quite a number of English words are barely recognizable when you compare the pronunciation between American English, British English, Australian English, etc. Not to mention the even more numerous tertiary English dialects (ex. Filipino-English, Chinese-English, Indian-English, etc.). The audio pronunciation database can also be upgraded to increase the number of audio pronunciations available and to add additional accent and specialized databases. It’s very helpful to have the proper pronunciation of a new word you have encountered so that you learn the correct pronunciation from the very beginning, instead of learning an improper sounding from the start and then having to unlearn your mistake. This is an important concept in the study of language (linguistics – especially the subtopic of second language acquisition (SLA) – of which a massive amount of research has been done in academia and the field). The reality is that it is much easier to struggle a little to learn the word (and pronunciation) correctly upon first exposure, than it is to go because and undo the improper definition/pronunciation after it has been reinforced over time through use. Try typing a rough estimate pronunciation of an unknown word from an audio file and you may very likely be surprised to find the correct word show up in the “related words” list. You can then verify further if it is the correct word or not by clicking the speaker icon and have the program pronounce the related word (or words).

If you are to settle for the integration and application of just these four core features of the program (ex. dictionary, thesaurus, spell check, and audio pronunciation) you will see a dramatic improvement in the speed and accuracy of your word work, especially if you apply that work to your tasks of writing, editing and/or transcribing. You will experience a dramatic increase in the speed in which you discover and correct spelling mistakes in your text, the efficiency of deciphering words through the context provided by the thesaurus features, as well as the efficiency of deciphering unclear words in an audio file through the same contextual features in combination with the audio pronunciation feature which provides multiple accents – an important feature for transcriptionists who often work on files containing speech by speakers of different accents from around the world. This is only becoming more important and useful as computing technology makes cross-translation of language faster and more automated, and as the force of globalization increases the amount of audio and text data to be translated and transcribed by teleworkers of various accents working online. In addition, since saving time equates to getting more work done and thus earning more money, this program is an important tool to add to your transcription (and general word-work) toolbox.

So go ahead and play around with Wordweb, and if it is helpful leave a comment describing how you have used and benefited from it.

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Feel free to donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Day 4 : Plugging Into the Virtual Global Community : The Lifeline of the Freelance Transcriptionist

crowd

Following right along with the plan, I spent the day evaluating the trickle of new jobs which rolled onto the “available jobs” board of the online system. The experience of the past few days has shown that there seem to be batches of regular, ongoing projects which arrive in waves and then pass. The current regular project at this time is a “focus group” type of setup. Basically, it is 30 minute audio files recorded in a classroom setting. The problem is that the recording set up is far from ideal, there are many speakers who often speak over each other, and many of them are native Spanish speaking (second language English speakers) who often interject Spanish terms and sentences into their speech. This is in addition to the often heavy accents of BOTH the students AND (often) the teachers themselves (many of whom are immigrants from Asian countries). The bottom line is that these are NOT the ideal kind of files for the newbie to be working on to build confidence and motivation. Early success is key to progress in ANY endeavor.

I listened to several of the files, but just found them to be so boring and complicated that I decided it was not worth the aggravation to attempt to transcribe them. However, I did accept a few to edit. Although the editing was indeed tedious and boring (as expected) it was at least a chance to get a feel for how the other transcribers were handling the transcription of these audio files. The good thing about being able to choose to edit, instead of only transcribing, is that you take less risk of failing to do the job properly, yet you benefit from being able to follow along with the various methods and styles of the actual transcriber. While some are done well, and others terrible, you learn through example from each one.  By doing this you gain confidence by seeing what the transcriber has done right, wrong and the variations of correct and incorrect transcribing techniques that different transcribers use.

In addition, it is not like you are taking the easy way out by choosing to edit. Having a separate person edit/proofread the transcription is indeed a very valuable component to the overall process, and produces the highest quality end product for the client. The editor often catches subtle mistakes that the transcriber missed – especially in long transcription files where the transcriber grew tired over time and their accuracy level declined (especially towards the latter portion of the transcript. as they are using racing against a deadline). In addition, the editor may very well likely be able to decipher some of the words the original transcriber couldn’t. Thus, including this additional editing/proofreading step into the production process has a significant positive effect on the quality of the final product. This benefits everyone : the company, the transcribers/editors and the customer.

Since  there was a general shortage of new files coming on to the available job board which I judged to be interesting and easy enough to take on, I started feeling the desire to find out more information about what kinds of jobs I could expect from the company and the general frequency that I could expect new jobs to be posted to the available job board. As a result of this I looked around the site to find more information. Unfortunately, the only information available was that on the FAQs page and that information was quite slim. The only way to contact the company administration was through the inline email form on the “support” page or a direct email to support@xxxx.com.  In fact, I had already sent them an email with a few questions the day before and had gotten no response. I began to get concerned. This lack of adequate communication with the company was making me nervous (especially since I had done several hours of work up to this point and I was now concerned about potential payment problems).

As an experienced online marketer I am well aware of the value of proper communication between an online organization and its consumers. While I had been impressed by the professional design presentation of the company’s overall web site (including their polished recruiting and testing systems) I was now beginning to see that the equally important communication element was nowhere up to par with the former. In addition, there was no system set up to have communication with the other freelancers who were transcribing/editing for the company. The combination of my intuition and experience begins raising some red flags, calling into question the integrity of the company. I motivate myself with the fact that if this turns out to NOT be a legitimate opportunity I should AT LEAST take maximum advantage of the overall learning opportunity presented so far.

At this potential crisis point my experience in online marketing and social media kicked in and I immediately began to initiate what I like to call “the connection process”. Since I had already been a member of the “Freelance Editing Network” group on LinkedIn, and had made some excellent connections and gained great information there, my first impulse was to search the LinkedIn groups for something more specific to the “transcription” task at hand. Sure enough, LinkedIn has a fine “Transcription” group to fill the exact need for connection and information that I have at this point. This specific group is an “open” one, and so immediately upon request my membership was confirmed and I was able to begin reading through the posts and initiate the process of building connections.

On the LinkedIn groups and/or industry forums I always like to practice the proper etiquette of taking some time to read some posts before posting. Often the question(s) you have will already have been addressed and the older members of the group/board will prefer that new people make their presence known more gradually and subtly. What I usuallly do is read some posts, “like” some of the comments, and if one of the members really has something interesting to say I will click “reply privately” and send a polite and brief comment. Usually I introduce myself a little, inform them that I am new in the group, and open for information if they care to share any tips with a “newbie”. In general, if you approach members politely and strategically most are glad to offer some helpful tips, suggest some resources, and often refer you to some helpful connections in their personal network. Just try to avoid asking them for information which is already posted somewhere on the group board. Many groups have a special introduction section where new members can post their information, situation and needs. Be sure to take advantage of this.

As evidence of the power and effectiveness of the LinkedIn groups, I was able – within an hour of reading a few threads – to gather a few powerful leads to several more online transcription companies (similar to the current company I was connected with). It turns out that there are HUNDREDS of these online transcription companies, AND that they vary in the specific niches they serve, the type of work they offer to transcribers, and the quality of their operations and transcription file audio quality. Thus it only seemed logical to gather the names and web site addresses of some of these companies (specifically the most highly rated) and take some time each day to evaluate their sites and proceed through the application process if the quality was adequate. I spent a few minutes doing just that. This process is another important element of the research process. Through the groups and forums you are able to get reviews of these companies by the many people who have had actual experience working for them. Reading through the threads you can CLEARLY get a sense of which companies to court, and which ones to avoid like the plague.

The best lead I got on that first browse through the group was a post made by the owner and moderator of the top-notch Transcription Haven forum. Her post in the linked in group was very informative, so I decided to follow through to the forum and register. As it is a closed forum you need to pass a quick quality check. The moderator basically sends you an email shortly after you register asking you to answer a few questions to prove that you are serious about being a member (ex. using the forum information to legitimately develop your transcription skills and not being a troublemaker). They also ask how you found the forum. So I figured the best response would be to refer to the post I read in the LinkedIn group. I also mentioned clearly that I had “no intention of causing trouble”. I sent the email off and within a few minutes I got a verification email with username and password and was able to log in to the forum.

As if the LinkedIn “Transcription” group wasn’t helpful enough, the Transcription Haven forum is a VERY professional and user-friendly gold mine of information on essentially everything related to the transcription world. The forum is clean, welcoming, very well organized and a pleasant social venue above and beyond all of the quality information related to all things transcription. As the sheer amount of information is vast I proceeded as I always do with dense web resources – that is, one post at a time. Starting with the “Introductions” section I began reading a few posts per day to get a feel for the kind of people who are involved in the transcription world. For those who resonated specifically well with my situation I sent them a quick introductory PM (private message). Within hours I was already getting very valuable responses with advice and links. Over the next few days members were introducing me to additional online companies who I was able to connect with and get more work. Members often post leads for immediate projects and short term overload work. In the coming days I spend an hour or two per day getting familiar with the various sections of the forum (including : “Motivation and Moral Support”, “Tips, Tools and Tricks-Of-The-Trade”, “Vent Away” and more) and working through three or four threads per day.

The bottom line is that there are NUMEROUS resources which exist which are absolutely free, and which can get you moving along in the development of your transcription career if you have decent research skills and are willing to do the footwork. More importantly, you can see how my situation changed so quickly from working in frustrated isolation with a company which provided no sort of mechanism to connect with colleagues to one in which I had established a direct line of communication with a vast GLOBAL network of supportive and experienced people working in the field I was in the process of moving into. I can’t stress what a difference it makes to have this support. Especially in the digital age of social media, it is common knowledge that networking is the most powerful component for success in any endeavor.

In the next post we will look at the process of evaluating the various online transcription companies, and developing your research strategy for helping avoid some of the scams which manage to get past the radar of the online transcription community.

Day 1 : Initiation Into the World of Freelance Transcription

connected computer

gateway to a world of opportunity

I struck the jackpot today in response to a nice little ad in the “writing/editing” section of the Craig’s List site of a major U.S. city. The ad read as follows :

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Seeking Work at Home Transcriptionists (Home-based)
Compensation: $x.xx-$x.xx per audio minute

contract job
telecommuting okay

XXXXXXXX, a online only transcription company is seeking work at home general, legal, and medical transcriptionists. You can check out details here: http://www.xxxxxxxxx.com. No resumes please.

We need people who are extremely accurate, fast transcriptionists who are interested in doing regular work online for transcription and editing/reviewing of transcripts. We have a steady stream of transcription projects so there is always work available.

We pay $x.xx-$x.xx per audio minute depending on the quality of the work. We pay weekly via PayPal for all work that you’ve completed. We have a support team to help you out with any questions. We are trying to make it easy for anyone who is interested in transcribing and wants to work flexibly and from home.

So please feel free to apply if you are interested here: http://www.xxxxxxx.com.

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As an online marketing guru of sorts (amongst other things) I found the refreshing thing about this opportunity to be that, as opposed to many of the other ads you regularly encounter on Craig’s List, this company had streamlined the recruiting process so that it was very clear and easy for the prospect to move from the ad directly to their main site, through the well laid out informational pages, to the application page, and finally through the application. By the end of the process I felt confident that I had done everything necessary on my end, and that they had done everything on their end as well.

Their web site is clear and to the point. There is no unnecessary information, which in the modern internet marketing world is the key to success. That is, give people the information they need and guide them clearly through the action process so that they naturally end up performing the desired end action (i.e. converting) which is to the ultimate benefit of both parties.

After completing the application – which involved a short transcription test done right on the site and taking only 30 minutes – I took another hour to go through almost all of the remaining pages of the site. Not being sure as to if, or when, they might respond, I left a few pages to work through over the next day or two.

I did some more of my routine online work and upon rising in the morning there was, to my great surprise and pleasure, an email from one of their support representatives informing me that my application had been accepted. They provided a link to the page where I was to register for access to the online system. It took less than five minutes to register, and I was then in the system browsing through the current available jobs and ready to accept a project at any time.

I decided to proceed cautiously, as I didn’t want to take on a first project which I was not confident about completing properly. Luckily, these standard online database systems allow you to listen to the audio file of a prospective project before you accept, so that you can feel more confident about what will be involved in the work. The system also provides information on the total time (in minutes) of the file, the deadline (number of hours within which to complete the project), along with the pay and information about the type of transcription/edit required (ex. “edit for clarity” vs “verbatim” – with or without time code).

Since I already had some freelance editing work coming in from another company at the time (although only ~ 3-4 files to edit per week) it was not absolutely vital to start work immediately. So I decided to at least take a day or two to listen to the roughly 10 files which were currently available on the system to get a feel for the range of audio content that was on offer.

As the job posts were organized into two separate sections (“transcription jobs” and “editing jobs”) I decided that editing would be less challenging, and I would be more likely to complete the jobs properly (especially since I was already working as an editor). It just so happens that on that night there were no “editing jobs” available on the board. So, I settled for evaluating the several “transcribing jobs” which were up, but each of them were intimidating. They were all similar, and so it seemed like they were batch files from an ongoing project account. Each were roughly thirty minutes long and set in a classroom setting with multiple speaker, often unclear audio and Spanish language mixed in the the English. Any seasoned transcriber will agree that this is a difficult mix.

I decided to pass on those for the time being. Reflecting on it now, that was the first (and one of the most basic) learning experiences I had. That is, the process of judging a prospective project before you decide to accept it. With experience, and getting to know your skills and capabilities better – and developing them – this fundamental assessment process becomes easier. As a result you can pick more appropriate projects which will not overwhelm you, and which you will actually ENJOY work on.

More on this process later. For now, it was time to get some sleep and revel in a good day’s work, and my formal initiation into the transcription world.