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.

=========================================================

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 6 : Dealing With Rejection in the Online Transcription Industry

no entry

In the past six days I’ve made some good progress towards the longer term goal of building a steady flow of online transcription work while simultaneously building my competency and skills so that I can accept and complete files audio files with confidence and efficiency, and ultimately make an adequate amount of income to survive, maintain this self-training, and eventually build a progressively larger amount of work (both in terms of quantity AND quality) and income. Actually, I don’t really need that much income during this beginning period, as I live a relatively spartan lifestyle, and so my living expenses are basic due to my current living location.

Although I haven’t written so much about my personal life up to this point, I think it is now a good time to reveal that I have lived in the “developing world” for the past decade. In my specific situation, trying to survive in the United States (the country where I was born) became too difficult. Many of the young people in my generation graduated university only to find themselves hopelessly drowning in student loan debt, with dwindling prospects for attaining any sort of long term, gainful employment in the field they had attained their degree in. The economies of the “developed” countries have taken a significant turn for the worse in the past two decades, and I was smart (and lucky) enough to realize that things were only going to get worse. Although my predictions have now been vindicated, there is a silver lining here. The development of the internet has created two major forces which are counterbalancing the implosion of the traditional economy. These are telecommuting and freelancing, in combination with various others.  We are now in an age where it is possible to work in a location independent manner (a.k.a. “digital nomadism”) if you are able to attain an adequate number of, and degree of, work skills which can be performed with a proper laptop computer and internet (especially including wifi) connection. I will discuss this issue in much more detail into the future.

Getting back to my personal story, over several years during my 20s, after drifting around the Unites States both to explore and try to find a place to settle and build a business, I began gradually exploring several developing countries in Asia. I started as a traveler, then made the transition into English teaching for several month periods, and when that got to be too stressful I transitioned into freelance photojournalism, then web journalism/blogging, editing, and am now finally ready to take the next step into the exciting field of transcription. I will write more about myself in future posts, but for now this is good, and relevant, information to know in relation to the topic being discussed at this point. The most important point is that my living costs are quite low (it is currently possible to survive on~$600 USD per month) and so I have the flexibility to work for cheap for a while as I spend the time and energy gaining transcribing experience and building a network of fellow transcriptionists and prospective clientele. This is an advantage that many newbies in the “developed world” do NOT generally have, primarily due to the high, and increasing, cost of living. I therefore want to take full advantage of my situation to get up and running as quickly (yet methodically) as possible. It took a LOT of sacrifice to leave my country of origin, and I intend to be successful at achieving the ability to make a proper living which I was not able to in the US. The alternative is to return there, where the situation is now drastically WORSE, for a multitude of reasons, and so I am taking this effort very seriously, and have created this blog to assist future newbies to the industry to minimize the time and energy they need to spend to attain steady progress in a short time.

At this point, I have now built a daily workflow consisting of : evaluating various audio files as they appear on the “available jobs” board of the online system of the company I work for. By evaluating different audio files I get a better sense of the characteristics of the different kinds of projects that are out there. In addition, since I am also actively working on some files at the same time, I am getting to know what I am capable of through experience. Plus, I am building my skills through self-study using various free resources (ex. blogs, forums, etc.). Finally, yesterday I began adding another major component to the mix. That is, evaluating new prospective online transcription companies (one or two per day) and applying to those which fit my desired criteria. I completed one application yesterday (to the Rev.com company) and hope to find and apply to another quality company today.

Now, at this point let me say that I have some bad news and some good news. I’ll start with the bad news, which isn’t really SUPER-bad, but just a bit frustrating – another “speed bump” on the road of life – but at the same time, a situation with which I will attempt to turn “lemons into lemonade”.

I indeed received a sooner-than-expected response email from Rev.com this morning. The email said exactly this :

Dear Mr. X,

Thank you for applying for the transcriptionist position with Rev. We have rigorous minimum standards and unfortunately your application did not meet those.

Please do not contact Rev regarding this decision, as we are unable to further elaborate on our reasons.

Again, thank you for your interest in working with Rev. You may re-apply in six months.

Regards,

Rev Recruiting

Now, it wasn’t so much the fact that I had invested quite a bit of time and energy in completing the application (including the significant writing component and the two transcriptions) – and thought that I did both quite well – that frustrated me upon receiving this email. It wasn’t even so much the fact that they didn’t give a reason for rejecting my application.

What WAS most frustrating about this rejection was the fact that they made ZERO effort to attempt to provide me with any sort of constructive information, or anything which would indicate that they valued my existence in any way (for example, as a potential FUTURE transcriber, a potential future CUSTOMER, etc.). They basically just slammed the virtual door shut in my face and said “Good luck.”

Now, as an experienced online marketer I would say that this is a significant loss on the part of the Rev company, in the sense that they are not taking advantage of the potential benefits of their online presence. So as not to sound like I’m being cynical simply because my application was rejected, let me elaborate on what I am talking about AND suggest some constructive alternatives to the strategy by which the Rev company currently rejects applicants.

First, we need to consider that many of the people who complete Rev’s transcriptionist application are inexperienced “newbies” who are in search of opportunities to build their skills and obtain new information about the industry. In addition, they have just spent an hour (or MORE) of their valuable time and effort writing and transcribing only to get a curt email saying “No thanks. Good luck”. If these applications have some errors (assuming that some applicants’ errors are more or less severe than others) can you really make such firm judgement of them based on an essay and two short transcriptions? After all, they are probably nervous, it may be their first transcription test, etc. Plus, if you don’t give them any kind of feedback on the reasons why their application was rejected then they won’t be able to address and work on those issues so that they can perform better on future transcription application tests, ESPECIALLY in the early phase where they may not be aware of some of the quality self-study resources available online. The last thing a “lost” newbie needs is to spend valuable time on an application, and end up feeling inadequate and confused.

The issue is actually broader than this, because it is well known in the online marketing industry that “Content Is King”. That is, information which HELPS people and is given away FREELY is the CURRENCY of the online world. It is for this very reason that I have (and WILL) spend COUNTLESS hours developing this blog. It is NOT an effort driven by the desire for self gain, but for the purpose of HELPING people, by providing them with free and actionable information. THIS is the true nature of proper human relations, and one which has been SADLY corrupted for far too long. The internet has now provided a platform for the REVIVAL of this more evolved form of human evolution.

By Rev leaving rejected applicants “hanging” the company is missing out on opportunities to contribute their expertise to the wider web community and raise the bar for the whole industry. I will elaborate on this by going back to my original review of the company, which I wrote about in the last post (Day 5 : Evaluating Online Transcription Companies).

In that post I talked about how Rev’s blog was not really designed to its fullest potential. The main blog page is merely a text link page, the categories are oddly/erratically organized, the blog post subjects are random in topic and they a very small handful of posts related to transcription. Now think about the potential of the Rev bloggers writing up some high-quality and regular posts about different aspects of the transcription industry (ex. future trends, the role of a company like Rev in the context of the whole industry, analysis of different aspects of the transcription industry, resources for aspiring transcriptionists, etc.). This kind of content is something that rejected applicants (like myself) could really benefit from. Especially since they stated very clearly that I can re-apply in six months, then having some blog articles to read over the next few weeks and months would allow me to get to know more about the company, keep them on my radar, and thus be in a better, more informed position if/when I re-apply. To illustrate this clearly I will compare Rev’s approach to another company (later in this post) which DOES implement this kind of proper web site interaction with the general public, and as you will see the result of this is VERY beneficial to the company, the industry, AND the general online (and offline) public.

For now, I will just say that by Rev making no effort to stay connected with the rejected applicant OR give them a quick little push forward they are breaking a cardinal rule of the new information age – in which “CONTENT (and CONNECTIONS) is king.” – and actually missing out on potential opportunities which will benefit their company’s reputation and profit margin, while at the same time creating a group of disgruntled rejected applicants who have naturally gone right on ahead and voiced this resentment on various popular transcription industry forums. This, of course, is bad publicity – but of the kind which could easily be AVOIDED. My point here is that by a simple change in marketing strategy (with some basic DIPLOMACY thrown in) Rev could easily provide their rejected applicants with some helpful guidance (perhaps directing them to their blog, or some other helpful, free resources for beginning transcriptionists) instead of just issuing a cold email which tends to make the applicant feel inadequate and bitter for wasting their valuable time and energy,  likely during a period of unemployment, where are overly stressed and struggling financially.

*** Disclaimer : As I stated previously on this blog, any critique I make of the online transcription companies is intended ONLY as CONSTRUCTIVE criticism based on my own personal experience, both in dealing with these companies AND as an experienced online marketer. My comments are intended to HELP and offer constructive suggestions. In addition, if any representatives of these companies wish to contact me and discuss the issue further I am MORE than happy to offer additional constructive suggestions/consultation free of charge. My main goal is always to make the internet a BETTER place for everyone, as I believe that this technology is the most powerful innovation in recorded history, and which has the power to dramatically transform the world and the quality of life of the majority of the people who inhabit this planet (and perhaps other planets) into the future – ESPECIALLY the vast number of those people who live in abject poverty throughout the less developed countries of the world.

I welcome your feedback, and can be reached for further discussion at any time via email at :

TranscriptJunky@gmail.com

or

https://twitter.com/TranscriptJunky

Okay. That being said, even though the application to Rev was not successful in the sense of actually being accepted into their system and thus being able to benefit from their alleged high-quality training program and member support system, the process HAS been beneficial in that I was able to leanr some valuable information by analyzing their web presence and see a good example of how one of the more tech-savvy companies is utilizing the power of internet technology to streamline their operation and make the application process straightforward for applicants.

Being now a bit battle-hardened – and thus even more determined to succeed – I decided to turn my research again to the online community for a good lead on the next online transcription company I should evaluate and possible apply to. This is another major benefit of the transcription forums. They provide you with the REAL information you need (through consensus) to minimize wasted time and energy on the lower quality companies). A few members of the Transcription Haven forum had given positive reviews of the TranscribeMe company. At first, I was hesitant to follow up on this company primarily because the reviews generally described that the audio transcription files are very short (a maximum of one minute for the transcription audio files). I couldn’t understand how this would be feasible to most people. In my opinion, this eliminates one of the most important motivating factors in transcription, which is to learn some information from the files you are transcribing. This, of course, would be difficult if the files are only one-minute long. However, it turns out that my confusing (while PARTIALLY valid) was due mainly to the fact that I did not more fully understand the system by which this company operated. That is, it uses global CROWDSOURCING to break the longer files into multiple one-minute sections, which enables the small sections to be transcribed faster, and then reassembles them. You can also work your way up the “QA” (Quality Assurance) level, at which point you are then able to work on the full audio files (resulting from to reassembled collection of one-minute segments).

In addition, I was discovering that the few cautious attempts I had made at transcribing the rather long (usually over 30 minutes) audio files made available by the first (current) transcription company I am freelancing for were quite a bit overwhelming in general. I was able to get them done, but felt that I just didn’t have the skill level necessary to do so in a relatively comfortable, or timely manner. Therefore, I had been working mainly on the editing projects at the current company and only taking on the shortest and easiest transcriptions. I was starting to think that being able to work on smaller files of only a few minutes in maximum length may be just what I needed as a stepping stone to more advanced work. It was also brought to my attention through the forums that TranscribeMe provides a well designed training program that you progress through as PART OF the application process. In other words, they are providing you with some VALUABLE free training, which helps you build confidence and experience, EVEN IF, you are rejected for some reason. I went on my intuition and the information in the reviews, and it turns out that deciding to pursue TranscribeMe was INDEED a good decision, at least for a next few months, and as the intended stepping stone.

In accordance with the research and evaluation strategy I have developed and documented on this blog so far, I will proceed through the standard steps of : (1) evaluating the web presence of the company, and then (2) proceeding through the application process if the evaluation proves appropriate.

As soon as you arrive at the main page of TranscribeMe.com you can tell that this company is not messing around. The design of the web site is top-notch, including an inviting color scheme, scrolling graphic article links, a clear link to their blog right at the top and bottom of the page, testimonials, accessible link to the section for transcribers, clear information to their star transcription app product, and more). You get the sense that they have put a lot of time and effort in presenting as much information of value to ALL of the many and different kinds of visitors who arrive at the site, and doing so in a manner which is easy for the visitor to find the information they need.

At this point I am quite a bit overwhelmed by the sheer AMOUNT of information on this site and so I decide to follow my visual instinct and click on the scrolling article with the pretty picture of their free mobile transcription app. The app page opens to reveal an excellent, comprehensive run-down on their very valuable (especially for the price – FREE) mobile app which allows the user to record audio, upload it to the TranscribeMe site and order a transcription right through their smartphone. On the page they have a few good static pictures of the app and description on how to use it. The level of streamlining (both in terms of technology and marketing) which they have achieved is quite commendable.

After being highly impressed by their mobile transcription app I decided to head over to the blog to see what other kind of valuable information the savvy marketing people at TranscribeMe were putting out. I figured that before even attempting to focus on their transcription work opportunities I would first evaluate the quantity and quality of free information they have put out for the benefit of the web community. In this way we can make a decent assessment of where their business philosophy and mission are at, and do so by evaluating the ACTUAL actions they have taken in putting content out for public consumption. After all, as the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”

So I head right over to the TranscribeMe blog which is clearly and easily accessible via the “blog” menu link clearly positioned right at the top of the page. Upon opening the main blog page I am grateful see a proper and very professionally executed blog (with all of the standard blog formatting that people are accustomed to (as opposed to the less polished/functional “text-only” main blog page at the Rev site). They also have on display their email newsletter sign-up form and Twitter and Facebook profile links clearly and immediately on the right side of the page. In other words they have taken great effort to make be user-friendly and attempt to connect with people who constitute their various target markets (transcription customers, transcribers, etc.)

With just a quick browse through the ten blog posts on the first page it is clear that the people at TranscribeMe are making a SERIOUS effort to cater to the information needs of EVERY segment of their overall market. A few of the posts on that first page which immediately catch my interest are :

1. TranscribeMe : Creating Jobs For Unlikely Candidates

2. How is TranscribeMe Different From Other Freelance Job Sites?

and

3. TranscribeMe Represents A Work Platform For The Future

While the post titles are interesting enough, I decide to click through to read the third article and get a feel for the quality of information they are putting out. As expected, the article is very well executed. In a clearly written and concise 412-word article they describe how TranscribeMe’s revolutionary, high tech micro-tasking system allows transcription jobs to be most efficiently completed through breaking each job up into manageable sections and distributing them to a massive global “crowd” (a.k.a. “crowdsourcing”) of experienced transcriptionists. In the end, this process produces the most time and cost effective solution to transcription and benefits all parties involved – the customer, the transcribers and the company itself. The post also talks about the multitude of work and continuing education training opportunities available to transcribers who work for the company, as well as their very helpful Yammer internal social media communication platform which provides highly efficient means of communicating and collaborating with the thousands of other workers in the organization, who are distributed throughout the world.

By the time I finish reading this article I feel like I have gained some excellent and practical knowledge about the company, the whole industry, the overall opportunity which TranscribeMe can offer me as a “newbie” transcriptionist, and the sense that collaborating with this company will provide significant benefits for personal growth and career development into the future, for however long it is feasible.

This is an excellent example of what a high quality blog presence look like. They provide valuable information to their target reader. After reading this article I am highly motivated to read MORE of there articles, and I will do exactly that (likely one post per day) in the coming days. In addition, if I decide to follow through with their online freelance transcription application I will have more than enough of their blog content to work through BOTH while I wait for the results of the test AND/OR if I my application should be rejected I will still be able to continue benefiting from the information they put out regularly on the blog.

Also, considering that they have OTHER major products BESIDES their transcription service (for example, their mobile app) it would only make sense that TranscribeMe would have it in their interest to maintain the connection with ANYONE who comes to the site (whether it be prospective transcribers, potential app/transcription customers, etc.) as – like in my personal case – many people likely first come to the TranscribeMe web site UNAWARE of the free mobile app they offer, and thus by discovering the information on the app they are transformed into potential transcribers AND customers. It’s a win-win situation. This is a good example of professional level marketing strategy, and even if I don’t get the chance to work as a transcriptionist for TranscribeMe they have already earned my respect for their professional online marketing savvy, and will certainly have me as a customer who will use their mobile transcription app into the future if that ever becomes necessary.

I think it is best to let the reader absorb the girth of information presented in this post by concluding here. In the next post I plan to continue my evaluation of the TranscribeMe site, focusing on the freelance transcription section of the site and (likely) moving through the application process. For now I suggest the reader have a look around their site, browse the blog and read a few posts to get a feel for their operation.

Day 2 : Editing As A Gradual Step Towards Transcription

Soundwave

In the morning I checked both the “transcription jobs” and “editing jobs” boards and each had a few listings. The company provides their own in-house style guide to enable you to build towards producing a clear final transcript which minimizes time and maximizes clarity for the end reader. I figured that being new to the system and having some editing/proofreading experience (in the forms of print and web copy editor, and ESL (English As A Second Language) writing course teacher in Asia) it would be more feasible to start by choosing some editing projects first in order to get a better sense of what the transcribers were putting out. This turned out to be a good decision for a few reasons.

Firstly, when you are new to transcription you have not yet learned the most fundamental elements of the process of evaluating potential projects in relation to your abilities. You need to work on many different audio/video files over time to develop of sense of how all of the elements of an audio or video recording interact to determine the complexity level of a project. These factors include : audio recording quality, degree of accents of speakers, speed of speaker’s speech, background noise, “crosstalk” (which is when more than one person speak simultaneously), repetition, filler language (the “ums”, “oh”, “you know”, etc.) and the list goes on and on. Here is a good blog post I found as I began researching and developing my transcription skills :

Transcription of a Recording – Factors that Influence How Long It Will Take

The blog of the above post is one of the first resources I found as I started my research this week into the transcription career. I found the site through a Google search for “transcription training course”. The free information which this blog offers covers all of the essential issues for someone starting out, and is an excellent springboard for further research. In addition, while there is plenty of free information available through the blog posts themselves, this site also offers a range of paid practice file packages. Practice files are good for anyone who is inexperienced and doesn’t have clients who can pay for their transcription work. In my case, and for the growing number of people who are able to connect with the growing number of companies who hire relatively inexperienced “newbie” transcribers, these practice files may be the most ideal way to build quality experience. You need to make a choice as to whether or not it would be valuable enough to actually pay money to access these practice files, or whether you could just as easily practice transcribing your favorite podcast. once you gain enough transcription and web experience you can transcribe some of your favorite podcasts (with permission, of course) and simply post them as blog posts, such as the “Free Transcript Project” transcripts on THIS blog :

https://diaryofafreelancetranscriptionist.com/category/free-transcript/

which I have gradually developed over time. I will explain this project in more detail in future posts.

With these kind of blogs, my strategy is to read one post per day so that I have time to integrate the knowledge into my routine and as to not overwhelm myself with information. In addition to this blog I have started spending an hour a day searching for additional online resources to begin building my transcription/editing skills as I now begin steadily working on projects for the new company – basically a self designed apprenticeship of sorts.

Getting back to the subject of the online system, I see an interesting 90 minute interview audio file and have a listen. It is a job interview for a social services organization and since my university education is in social science it piques my interest. I click play on the file and listen to several minutes of the recording to get the general idea of the content. This is one of the first and most important lessons to learn about transcription/editing. That is, if you can find audio/video files which you find interesting it makes a HUGE difference (in terms of motivation, learning interesting information, and making the transcription process less tedious) as opposed to those files which you do not resonate well with. Especially when you are dealing with longer files (for instance, this 90 minute file as opposed to a 30 minute file) this becomes ever more important. When you transcribe or edit a file you enter into the world of that content for however long the project lasts. In some cases the content even “gets into you” – like any other content you absorb in your daily life (through television, radio, books, etc.). Sometimes you will find yourself thinking about that content (for better or worse) long after you have completed and successfully submitted it. So, the sooner you realize the importance of carefully choosing projects (of course, depending on how much flexibility you have to do so, including for instance your income and time requirements and other factors) the better off you will be and the more efficiently you will complete the project in a professional manner. Choosing the wrong project can lead to frustration or ultimately the inability to finish the project properly or by the deadline. Finished a project late may very well cause you to have wasted time on that project (where you could have invested that time in an appropriate project that you could have completed) and/or surrendering some or all contracted payment. On the other hand, it CAN be a healthy challenge to occasionally work on less-than-ideal files, as it helps you train your endurance capacity,which is a valuable asset to transcription work in general. There WILL be times, EVEN if you are working on an ongoing project which resonates well with you, where some periods of this more challenging audio will arise. The more training you have in enduring this. and the more coping skills you develop, the easier it will be to get through these rough spots and continue enjoying the more rewarding content within the project.

So after listening to ten to twenty minutes of the recording I decided that the subject was interesting, the speech was clear enough to manage, and that I would likely be able to make it through the 90 minutes of editing. I had the instinctive sense that I would not be able to transcribe such a long file at the time (and this was a prudent and accurate judgement), but editing it seemed to be feasible. Unfortunately, when the editing jobs are listed on the board before you accept them you don’t have access to the actual text transcription which, of course, would enable you to see the quality of the transcription. If the transcriber has done a decent job then your editing work will be relatively easy. However, since many of the transcribers who work freelance for these entry-level operations are relatively inexperienced (or possibly non-native English speakers from overseas) you can never be truly sure what to expect. I decided to give it a shot. Luckily, the system allows you to “unassign” a project any time after you’ve accepted and started on it. Although you lose any possible compensation if you abort the mission, you are at least able to get out of it without subjecting yourself to too much agony. It is also good for the company as it allows another freelancer to take on the project and ultimately get it done before the deadline set with the customer.

So, I finally follow through and accept the project. Once you accept a project you are unable to select other simultaneous ones, which is actually good because it allows you to focus and get it done properly. Once accepted, you move on to the individual project page where the file is available for play online and download, and the transcription is posted in an in-line editor on the page. At this point if you have transcription software (like “Express Scribe”) you can download the audio file and copy/paste the transcription text into the text editor of the software or other word processor. I find it ideal to download both the audio file and transcription text and work on them in Express Scribe Pro, since the software has many special, helpful features, and if the internet connection is lost for some reason there is no problem.

Once the file is imported into Express Scribe I decide to have a full listen through the entire 90 minute recording. I have learned this important technique through my print editing experience. It is essentially a way of “priming” yourself to work on the recording. Often you need to hear the context of speech before it makes sense. There are also times when it may help to hear something which is said later in the speech in order to understand something said earlier. Although the deadline of the edit is nine hours away I feel it is worth having a full listen – especially since this is the first formal attempt at audio editing for this company. This first listen is ESPECIALLY enjoyable if the content is interesting, since you are not distracted by simultaneously looking at the text as you listen.

Luckily the content of the recording was interesting and after the full listen I had a good general idea of what is said in the interview. It WAS therefore a good investment of time to spend 90 minutes on the full listen. As I was listening I was also taking quick, sporadic looks at the transcription text to get a feel for the quality of the transcription. In this case the transcriber had done a very good job. When I finished listening I felt confident that I would be able to complete the project and submit an adequate final product within the deadline.

I was now ready to begin the proper task of working through the edit of the transcript. I had learned through previous freelance work that it is very important to time your activities. Using a timer allows you to judge your capabilities and progress and pace yourself so that you can complete the project in a timely and minimally stressful manner. So the first thing I did was open the (excellent and free) Toggle time tracking software program on my desktop, enter “edit transcription” as a “new task” and click “start”. I was now up and running with the editing task.

The edit process was straightforward. The transcriber had transcribed most words correctly and since this was a “for clarity” and “without time codes” type of edit my main role was to make sure that the transcription text was accurate enough in reference to the audio speech so that the end consumer (the reader of the transcript) would get the key information which had originally been expressed through the speech during the interview. In other words, the goal is to clean everything up so that it is most easily digestible (yet accurate) to the end user.

More importantly is that fact that by being able to compare the audio speech with the text I was able to get some hands-on experience as to how the transcriptionist applies the company’s style guide elements to the audio. This is something which would not have been possible if I had started by choosing transcription jobs first. As you work through edits on different projects done by different transcribers you develop a better sense of the range of ways of dealing with the common issues which arise in the process, and so it is highly advisable to include editing work as a fundamental element of your overall work as a transcriber. In fact, after completing this edit I decided it would be best to focus on the editing primarily for a while and then take on some of the easier (shorter and less complicated) transcription jobs in an effort to ease into things as I simultaneously educated myself through various transcription resources and communities available widely and freely throughout the internet.

I submitted the edited file well before deadline, ultimately enjoyed listening to the audio interview, got some quality experience and information, and made ~ $20 USD of much-need money in the process. Another productive day to add to the record.