Day 10 : Writing As A Tool For Building and Developing Your Freelance Transcription Career

hand_writing

My first day as a certified member of the transcriptionist team at TranscribeMe has been one of fascination and information overload. Having now registered on the system I have been given access to several well-organized, yet dense, resources which form a comprehensive introduction and transition into the company. The internal social media network (which is essentially a customized, internal, Facebook-style social media platform where all members of the company can connect and share information) is run on the Yammer system. The revolution in workplace social media applications which Yammer exemplifies is in itself a very interesting subject to research. Here’s a very informative lecture by Adam Pisoni, the CEO of Yammer, where he explains how the evolving social media technology is revolutionizing communication and productivity levels in work organizations off all kinds and sizes :

A quick browse through the sections and topics shows a thriving social network of people from locations throughout the world sharing helpful information related to company operations, work issues, support for all kinds of potential issues which can arise, etc. It has all of the helpful features of any social media system, allowing you to connect with, follow, send messages, chat, etc. with other members of the company. Compare this with the essentially ABSENT communication provided by the other company I have been working with for the past month and the TranscribeMe system is a breath of fresh air. It is also a good opportunity to gain experience with this kind of productive communication system and the purposes it serves in the online transcription industry. Communication itself is a VITAL component to the entire online transcription operation, as it is often the only mechanism by which transcribers can collaborate and share important information related to the companies they work for, the projects they work on and the customers they serve. Considering that most online transcriptionists are home-based teleworkers who are dispersed throughout the world, the internet essentially provides the main means of communication between themselves, their coworkers, and their employers/clients.

I decide to take things nice and slowly as I work to get my bearings in this initial stage. I read a couple of posts whose topics catch my interest. These short posts are clear and provide quick and complete answers to very practical questions. I find a handful of these posts in the first hour of browsing, and each one provides an answer to an important question I have as a newbie which then allows me to proceed working through the system with more confidence and competence. I also “follow” a few of the people I know from the external forums who have already been working on TranscribeMe. These connections are valuable, especially in the beginning as I can ask some questions directly to these people instead of taking the risk of bothering other people in the network who I don’t know. As a newbie I am hesitant to make any posts as there is always the risk of breaking etiquette by asking a question which has already been addressed. So I decide to lurk for the first few days and take in as much info as I can without actually posting.

Speaking of etiquette, the company also provides a very helpful “Guide For New Transcribers” ebook (in pdf format). This handy little eight page book provides answers to the most important issues which arise as you get acquainted with the system (ex. the audio files system,  social network rules and etiquette, description of the entire transcription process, information on how to get help, etc.). I commit to reading one or two pages of this document per day to my training schedule.

I now have a healthy amount of information to go through in the days ahead. I will spend roughly an hour per day browsing through and interacting on the company’s internal social media network, reading a few pages of the style guide and beginner’s guide, take on some of the roughly one-minute transcription files to practice my skills and earn some income, and contine to read several blog posts (on the growing number of quality transcription-related blogs I am finding through my research) to continually expand my skills and knowledge related to the whole world of transcription. One such quality blog I have discovered recently through one of the transcription forums is :

http://www.alphabetsecretarial.co.uk/blog/

The Alphabet blog has several especially interesting posts which are worth the time, such as :

Twitter – Nonsensical Jibber Jabber or Transcribers on a Global Scale?

In addition to (and in extension of) all my research, I am finding that my blog writing is becoming more important as the amount of information I am working through increases. The writing process allows me to process and organize the experience. It allows a natural pacing which is healthy for someone like me whose brain works very fast and has a tendency to take on too much which overloads the circuitry and ultimately ends up becoming counter-productive. Knowing that my blog posts will be read by other people who are new to the transcription world in the future forces me to explain the whole experience clearly – both to them and myself (since as we all know the old saying “The best way to learn something is to teach it.”). The blog is also serving another important function of giving me something to focus on when there are no jobs available on either of the company’s available job boards, or when the jobs which are available for not appealing. It is easy to get stuck in the mode of checking the boards obsessively – especially when the workflow is thin – and this can become counterproductive in itself. It is better to focus on something which you focus on productively for several hours.

In general I have found writing to be an increasingly important tool in the expanding information age. The world as a whole, is continuing to be transformed into a more densely information-based entity. Think about how much more information we are faced with on a daily basis today compared with just a decade ago. More and more things in the world are becoming digitized. From the increasing digitization of photographic information enabled by the expansion of Smartphones with attached cameras which can directly upload images to various social media sites in mere seconds, to the more elaborate applications allowed by the collection, processing and presentation of data by “Big Data” applications such as Google Maps, which has now collected enough data to allow users to engage in a “virtual street-level visual tour” of any street in the developed (and even undeveloped world) IN ADDITION to locations underwater, on the Moon, Mars, etc. It really is amazing how much information is now being processed and utilized to enhance a growing number of practical (and some not-so-practical) everyday functions for people throughout the world.

Since information (a.k.a. : “content”) is essentially the new currency of the modern digital world it only makes sense that one way we can contribute to the development of this emerging paradigm is to contribute knowledge in various forms. Writing, of course, is a main mechanism by which we transfer information from inside our minds into the external world and thus to the minds of other individuals and the group-mind as a whole (the internet now serving as the physical embodiment of that aggregate, “global mind”. Therefore, I find that writing (especially with the application of that writing in the form of blogging) is an important component to my overall online activity (of which the transcription, editing, research, etc. are all a part). The writing functions as a thread which ties the other efforts together and makes the whole process more efficient and presentable.

Morgan Gist-MacDonald – academic editor, writing coach and owner of Paper Raven Editing company – explains the importance of building an online presence for the writer as a main tool for helping people, in her blog post :

How building your online presence could change your life and your readers’ 

Morgan’s blog is full of informative and practical blog articles which examine all of the important issues for writers in the digital age. It is well worth the time browsing through her posts.

So, my whole strategy in learning and navigating the transcription world is really taking on some good shape and efficiency. Combining the daily research tasks with practice on audio files within my capability and the blogging effort is really taking on the healthy qualities of creative flow which are turning the whole endeavor into an enlightening and somewhat enjoyable one. It should be interesting to see how much progress I will achieve after another month following this general strategy,

In the next post I will discuss how online transcription is a great way to be exposed to new kinds of interesting information and get paid to do a job which helps improve the quality of that information – a real win-win situation.

FrankyFreedom
freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

 

Day 7 : The Revolutionary Merger of Web and Transcription Technology

web transcription

Today started out on a very positive note as the first thing I did was read another one of the very interesting posts on the Transcribe me blog :

What Is Transcription
http://transcribeme.com/blog/what-is-transcription

The TranscribeMe blog has over 100 quality posts and the subjects cover many extensive  aspects of the transcription industry as a whole, and specifically how ongoing advances in the technologies of speech recognition and transcription software – fueled by the evolution of artificial intelligence and crowd sourcing – are serving the needs of a growing number of people, organizations and industries . The blog is, in itself, a decent education in the nature and history/future of the industry. Even if you don’t pass their application process the blog provides a girth of information to advance one’s research and so is well worth the time leisurely reading through. The specific post above describes the history and importance of transcription from as far back in history as the Egyptian empires, describing how the role of ancient scribe was a prestigious position within the social hierarchy, as the scribes did important work transcribing the words of the royal court into written form for public consumption. For a history/anthropology buff like myself this is very interesting information.

I also looked through the second page (out of 11 total pages) which list all of the blog posts with short description and I recorded the urls of the interesting ones on my general notepad file. I will then go back to one post per day and read through it completely. In this way I keep a steady stream of daily blog post information coming in, while at the same time prereading to get a quick idea of what subjects have been covered in the blog over time to get a better picture of the whole operation. This is an effective way to really get a feel for the company. Since I have decided to proceed with their transcription application this research will be helpful. In all of my years of research for various projects I have settled on this general strategy as being most effective for discovering, absorbing and retaining information while maintaining the highest interest level possible (as there is always something interesting waiting to be read in the future, and you prime yourself for the information before actually fully going through the process of consuming it).

My general impression of the whole TranscribeMe site has been so positive that I decide it is definitely worth taking a few minutes away from my time reading their blog posts to go through the application. For the sake of not putting unnecessary extra stress on my already overworked typing fingers I will direct the reader to the following good blog post which gives a good description of the TranscribeMe application process :

Transcription for Beginners at TranscribeMe

The only correction I will make to the above article is that TranscribeMe has now upgraded their application process so that after you pass the initial test you then enter into a well-designed training phase which has an additional “final” exam which you must pass before being cleared to start working on projects.

Before you actually attempt the initial test they give you a free (ebook format) copy of their up-to-date (to the current month) 31-page Style Guide. The style guide in and of itself is a valuable educational tool which is informative for ANY beginner to the transcription world. I strongly advise anyone to file this document with all of your other transcription career development resources. I have a special folder on my computer for this very purpose.

I did a quick browse of the table of contents of the Style Guide and a quick run through of all 31 pages. I then planned to do a full read of the Style Guide in the coming days and also refer to it during the test if necessary (which they suggest you do). The test itself was straight-forward, and considering my experience with transcribing and editing I was able to get through it fairly easily. They informed me immediately upon completion of the test that I had passed and that I was now allowed to move onto the training phase. It was very encouraging to have IMMEDIATE feedback and directions on how to immediately proceed.

Now this whole test experience was another good sign that TranscribeMe has designed their whole system professionally and with considerable planning. They provide you with the valuable, free in-house style guide (which you can use in the future even if you fail the initial exam), they make you feel comfortable during the testing process, and then they give you immediate feedback and directions on how to proceed through to their valuable, interacting training program. In other words, you feel like they are really making an effort to facilitate the process of bringing you into the operation, while at the same time looking out for your need to develop skills and transition most smoothly into the system. The company makes it clear in their overall presence and communications that they value their human capital and are always open to suggestions on ways to improve the operation. This kind of transparency and flexibility are key elements for success in the new virtual global economy.

The training program itself is very informative. It is organized into modules, and you can select “save” on any of the training pages and the system will record where you stopped so you can continue from that point the next time you log on. I personally like this save feature as I believe it is worth taking a day or two to go through the training modules at a comfortable pace, especially considering that even after you pass the training exam you still have to wait a few days for the administrators to clear your account to begin working on jobs. I also suggest simultaneous referring to the style guide as you proceed through the training.

The training starts with a hands-on, interactive module on how to navigate the TranscribeMe system as a transcriber. To give you a sense of the kind and quality of information in the training, here is an excellent introduction video available on the “Transcribe Me? Training Videos” YouTube channel :

Now that I have passed the application stage and have some resources to work through I can take my time to take it all in. As there is a girth of information related to the company and the various aspects related to the operation (ex. the technology, knowledge of the industry, the company culture, etc.) I think it is best to proceed slowly and steadily and to build a strong foundation in order to best utilize the resources available and thus obtain the most benefit in terms of my long-term transcription/editing career goals.

At this point, the resources I have to work on include : the blog posts, the individual company web site pages, the social media profiles (ex. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) of the key administrators and co-workers, the company’s internal social media platform (a vibrant Facebook-style communication platform hub for all workers in the company), the style guide and training program, and the numerous YouTube videos and articles throughout the web related to the company.

I will thus narrow down my research focus to the TranscribeMe resources for at least the next few days (perhaps weeks) and put off on evaluating new online transcription company web sites, as this will lead to the greatest gain in long-term productivity at this time.

In the next post I will explore my findings as I work through these resources, and discuss some interesting aspects of the new revolutionary technology being developed and used by the TranscribeMe company, and how that technology is aiding in the process of CREATING work opportunities in the new emerging global virtual economy.

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 :

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

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.

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

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.