Day 11 : Online Transcription Is A Paid Joy Ride Down The Information Superhigway

rugged road sign

As the late, great Terrance McKenna opined : “The world is made of words.” Throughout history this theme has consistently reemerged in various forms including : the concept of the fundamental universal “Aum” vibration underlying reality in the ancient Indian philosophical system, or “the Word” which was spoken into existence as the primal act of creation being a main tenet of monotheism. The reality is that we are, have always been and will always be swimming in a sea of electromagnetic radiation – a significant portion of which vibrates within the frequency range of  “mouth noises” which have traditionally been categorized as “words” – which in themselves can be broken down into subcomponents (ex. phonemes, morphemes, etc.). And although that percentage of this electromagnetic spectrum which falls within the realm of words and their related counterparts seems to be on the decrease (competing more and more with visual information in the modern age) the bottom line is that the spoken word has always been and will always occupy a primary place in the human experience.

Here is an interesting lecture by mathematician and social scientist Dr. Courtney Browne, founder of the Farsight Institute and researcher into the phenomenon of remote viewing and the link between consciousness and multiple dimensions. In this lecture Dr. Brown explains the theory that thoughts are vibratory physical entities which have mass and energy, like all other entities in the material universe. I find this concept intriguing, as it reinforcement by intuitive sense that all of the information we receive through the senses – and in the case of transcription, through the process of listening to audio or watching video and then transcribing the information contained in it – has a tangible effect on our mind and physical body.

As I continuing evaluating and working through the various audio and video files which come to me through my transcription efforts I find myself taking some time to pause and reflect on the variety of “sound bites” which I subjected to in the process, and the effect that they may be having on me. Sometimes I will work through a file which is especially interesting and has an immediate (often positive) effect on my mental life. These include the many podcasts I have edited or transcribed which deal with interesting issues of technology (ex. internet privacy, social media marketing, the newest startup businesses, etc.), economics, education and other humanitarian issues – some of which I hadn’t even known about before listening to the file. Other times, I find myself deeply entrenched in a serious dialogue between two people sharing quite intimate feelings, thoughts, concepts, and beliefs which can require quite a bit of energy to process. In more demanding instances, I find myself in a bit too deep – working through feelings of discomfort and even turmoil as the speakers in the audio or video files battle their interpersonal and/or intrapersonal demons.

One thing it may be good to share at this point is that I actually have extensive experience exploring the realms of metaphysics and meditation techniques in various world traditions. I’ve spent week-long periods living in Buddhist temples in remote mountainous regions of Asia (ex. Thailand), spending hours each day in walking and sitting meditation. I’ve extensively read some excellent books on mindfulness meditation, such as “The Teachings of Achan Chah” (<- free ebook), the transcendental sciences of Yoga and Pranayama (the Yogic method of attaining higher awareness through advanced breathing exercises) and the energy-centered science of Chi Kung (and various other disciplines) from the Chinese system. In addition, I have some knowledge and competence in the languages on which these systems are based, in addition to a serious interest in the sciences of linguistics and information technology.

Each of the philosophical traditions mentioned above is based on the fundamental concept of observing the flow of the nature as is moves around us according to its own logic. And so it is of no surprise that I find transcription to be a spiritually stimulating and often enlightening process. In fact, in my extensive experience with various endeavors in the digital and physics realms it seems to me that the emerging digital world is essentially becoming MORE quantum-like, and in line with the less linear,  higher-dimensional nature of reality. Each day we are bombarded from all directions by an increasing barrage of sound bites, visual flashes, and information which is connected in increasingly intricate ways. The term “surfing” is becoming only more accurate in terms of the mode by which we move through a cyberspace whose boundaries are also becoming progressively thinner as the information that we process and the method by which we process it becomes more integrated. For example, the Smartphone is processing more information about us in ways which effect our experience and productivity in deeper ways than ever before. There are now apps which can measure and track our behavior (ex. exercise apps which track distance/time of running and then produce a customer exercise program from that data) and even help organize ourselves better (ex. apps which provide detailed scheduling and reminders for people who struggle with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)).

Ultimately, this advancing technology holds great potential to improve our lives in many ways. However, it also holds potential for us to get caught up in all of the gadgets and applications, which can lead us to become LESS in touch with reality and the needs and pleasures of everyday living. While I am enjoying the process of learning about and utilizing the various technologies which are being developed and applied specifically to the transcription process, I am also being careful to keep my personal goals in mind and to focus on the more practical elements of the process and the technology. My main goals at this time include : developing my transcription skills and knowledge, applying my transcription skills in order to earn income to survive, making more connections in the industry to further the first two goals, developing my blog through writing about the experience for the benefit of future beginners, and discovering some new and interesting topics (through the transcription effort) to integrate into my other research/writing efforts. I believe these goals are grounded enough in the real world to prevent me from getting too sucked in by the technology while producing benefits to my physical, mental and spiritual existence at the same time.

The best thing about transcription work is that you are exposed to new ideas (some of which haven’t yet even been revealed to the general public) related to often interesting topics (ex. latest technologies, scientific theories, academic lectures, etc.) and in the process you are actually PAID for your efforts. It is similar, in many ways, to being a movie or restaurant reviewer, but also goes a bit deeper in that you are often working with audio and video files which tackle more serious and important subject matter (ex. confidential interviews, undercover audio/video footage, etc.). In addition, as transcriber you are required to implement a number of techniques and skills which are learned through experience (and some formal and informal education). It is NOT an easy job when you consider all of the factors involved (ex. audio/video quality, deadlines, demands on physical and mental stamina). In the end, however, your horizons will be widened as you listen to all of the different people from various walks of life doing various interesting (and not-so-interesting) things, and to be paid for your effort in the process. Plus, the better you get at transcribing, the more money you can make and the more interesting audio/video files you can choose from as you connect with more and more professional organizations (ex. film/television production companies, law firms, podcast producers, educational institutions, etc.)

As part of the process of familiarizing myself with the TranscribeMe system I spent around two hours today browsing through the posts and groups of the Yammer forum, reading through several more pages of the style guide, and working on two of the approximately one-minute transcription files on the “jobs” page. Transcribing the short audio files is quite different from the long files I have been working on the other company, which are often over 30 minutes long, have deadlines of several hours and require roughly one hour of listening and typing for 10-15 minutes of audio in the file. Although these short files are generally easier and quicker to complete, they do introduce some problems. One thing is that you have little context by which to help decipher some of the less decipherable words in these short files compared to the longer ones, where formal nouns and words specific to the audio in the file are repeated multiple times and in multiple ways. This makes the research skill more necessary, but also more difficult as you have less context to even apply the research task to.

Overall, however, these short files are good for practice. There is less pressure and stress to complete a long file. You don’t need to worry about scheduling breaks to rest your mind, fingers, etc. You also don’t have to worry about something unexpected coming up (ex. sudden obligation such as having to pick up a sick kid from school) before the deadline and thus having to forfeit hours of work and income. Especially during this period where I am new to the whole transcription process I think these shorter files provided by TranscribeMe are a good complement to the longer files provided by the other company. In addition, the training and communication elements provided by the company are valuable to improving my skills and making connections. These will benefit me in the long term and so it is worth the time utilizing what TranscribeMe has to offer, while getting paid in the process.

In the next post we’ll examine the importance of pacing in the process of developing and implementing the skills of transcription.

Feel free to direct any questions or project proposals to:

freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

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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 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 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 5 : Evaluating Online Transcription Companies”

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It has been roughly a week and with a little ambition I have managed to connect with an online transcription company which is feeding me a slow but steady trickle of projects to practice on and make enough income to keep afloat while I utilize some of the many free online resources to build more work and increase my skill level. I have also connected with the wider global online transcription community which is providing some excellent leads and reviews on the numerous online transcription companies and links to their web site and other contact information. While I continue to evaluate the new projects as they appear on the “available jobs” board of the company’s online system, the reality is that many of the jobs tend to be boring and/or above my skills level. Luckily, some of them are adequate and interesting (roughly one per day or two), but I am thinking that it would be ideal to add another online company or two to the mix to increase potential work. In addition, in the current system, once you accept a job you can only work on one at a time. So, for instance, if you take on a transcribing  job which has a 15 hour deadline you will not be able within that time to accept any other projects – for instance, a shorter editing job which you could complete in two hours while you are working on the transcription project. Ideally, you want to be in a situation where you have the most options open, especially considering that the jobs come onto the board and are swooped up by other transcribers rather quickly.

So I begin the process of assessing some of the other online transcription sites throughout the internet. I figure that it will take some time to go through each site (as different sites will have different designs, functionality and amount of content). To save valuable time and effort, it seems that the most efficient way to proceed is to go through the web pages, group and forum posts which have reviews of the various companies which have been written by transcribers who have had experience working for them. The reviews usually contain some valuable information which helps you narrow down which companies are more appropriate for your needs and goals. For instance, some companies specialize in different kinds of transcription (ex. podcast, academic, interview, focus group, etc.). Some companies have a more polished user interface which is highly automated (including the application test) while other are less so (having you submit your application and correspondence via email).

Since I am a big fan of automation and communication I decide to seek out those companies whose system is most automated AND who have a strong web presence (including quality blog) and significant communication resources with the general public, customers and the transcribers who work for the operation. I believe that in the modern digital age these are ESSENTIALS to the progress of any business (especially an online-based one) and the bottom line is that if you work for dysfunctional companies it only ends up limiting you in the grand scheme of things. The operating costs of running a business in the digital age are low enough that skimping on quality is no longer an option. You also lose out on gaining the more quality and positive experience of working with a better organization, and this builds a better resume into the future.

There are numerous transcription-related sites which have compiled very helpful lists (often with reviews) of the plethora of companies out there. Different lists focus on different criteria (ex. lists for : newbie, general/legal/medical transcription, overseas companies, etc.). The following list is a good one to get you started. Just go down the list and click through to the ones which resonate best with you :

List of 30 Stunning Transcription Companies Hiring Now

Since there are many sites which have already listed and reviewed the various transcription companies based on their experience applying and actually working for those companies AND since I am a specifically experience onlined and social media marketing guru-of-sorts, I think it would be most helpful for me to focus on analyzing the web presentation, site functionality and interactivity qualities of some of the companies I have evaluated. I believe that this is most helpful to newbies (and even some veterans) as it doesn’t depend on actually being ACCEPTED into the companies. That is, I am focusing my analysis on the features of these companies which anyone is able to see at the point of arriving at the company’s web site and through the application process (whether or not you actually pass the transcription test and are accepted). In this way, we are looking at the overall operation itself AND focusing on the free content provided by the company to the general public (in addition to merely the prospective transcribers). It’s like when you evaluate a company when you are decided whether or or not to buy shares of its stock. You have to look at the fundamentals. That is, the big picture of how the operation presents itself and operates in both the short and long term senses.

Since I have found that evaluating two or three of the company sites per day is a most ideal workload I will give my analysis of two of these companies in this post and then follow up with two more per future posts as we work through this process. I am adding this regular analysis of the companies because I believe this is an important part of the process of being a transcriptionist for several main reasons. Firstly, companies are constantly coming and going, so it is beneficial to stay on top of changes in the industry. Secondly, the technology is constantly evolving and so new companies are arriving on the scene which are much more functional and thus can more efficiently help you achieve your goals. Thirdly, the good companies often have blogs where they regularly post quality posts packed with information which can be a valuable addition to your overall research effort. We will thus look specifically at some of these posts as we proceed.

Going down the list of 30 companies (above) I started with the Tigerfish company, which was recommended by one of my new contacts in the LinkedIn group. My first impression of their web site was positive. The design is funky and simple. The “about us” page lists the six key people in the company (but without any bio information). They have a blog but it only consists of two posts and those are simply “about the company” type – that is, not geared towards providing information which is valuable to the visitor to the site, ESPECIALLY not the prospective transcriber who is thinking about applying to the company in addition to building their transcription skills and connections. Finally, the employment section link is hard to find (the link is a simple text one and buried way down at the bottom of the main page). When you finally do make it to their employment page they give you a basic rundown of their transcript employment opportunities (focusing on the fact that they are generally overloaded with applications) and then guide you through their rather tedious (compared to the more automated companies) process of downloading their style guide and audio test file and submitting your test via email.

Now, while I am sure that people over Tigerfish are very nice, San Franciscan hipsters who are fun to work with, from my perspective as prospective transcriber they are just not giving me much to chew on. I feel like I have arrived at the site and they have “given me the hand” in the sense of not giving me much of a desire/reason to connect – other than to look at the funky pictures on their Facebook page or the non-interactive info (which doesn’t even have links to the profiles of the key members of the company who are listed on their “about us” page) on their LinkedIn company page.

After evaluating all of the handful of pages of the site I just didn’t feel the love and decided NOT to proceed with the application process. Perhaps if their blog had some informative and regular posts I would at least connect there and/or sign up for an email newletter, but this is just not currently the case. Maybe TigerFish just simply doesn’t put much focus on the online transcriber recruiting effort. Maybe they have more than enough business through their offline operation. For someone like me, however, who is looking to build connections and work with companies who are utilizing the power of the internet to its fullest potential, it is just better to move on to the next company on the list.

*** I hope that anyone reading this post understands that my motive for writing these critiques is purely constructive. I am not taking a “cheap shot” at the above company, but merely providing marketing feedback from a person who has engaged with their web presence based on my own personal goals and needs. Different people will react differently. I also hope that my specific suggestions may be taken as constructive criticism, and that people who evaluate these companies use their own judgement.***

With one evaluation complete for the day I move down the list in search of another. Since I don’t want to spend more of my valuable research time today on another potentially incongruent company AND since the above list only provides one-sentence descriptions of the companies (as opposed to more informative review) I decide to follow up on a lead given to me by a member of the LinkedIn group for the Rev company. A quick Google search pulled up an informative review by someone who actually passed the application process and worked for them :  Rev.Com For Transcribers – A Detailed Review . After reading the review I was motivated to follow through to the company web site to find out more and do an evaluation.

The Rev.com web site is top-notch. It has visually stimulating yet clear and organized layout of information and some snazzy imagery (both static and animated) which is very user-friendly. They give you the lowdown on all the information you need to know and do it in a quick matter (which is very important for busy people online in this modern age, whoe time and general attention span is limited). Their recruitment section for freelancer transcribers is thorough, well automated and presents a very inviting image with raving reviews by current employees (along with their names and faces) to create a very nice feeling of connection. From a marketing perspective, these guys/gals are pros.

By the time you are finished reading the comprehensive yet concise information about their opportunity (ex. pay rate, job perks, testimonials, list of “Fortune 500” companies they do work for, etc.) you are all pumped up to hit that shiny rad “Apply Now” button, strategically positioned smack in the middle of the screen.

The fun is only beginning, however, as you proceed through the well executed application process. They state that the application process requires 60 minutes, but when I hit the rather heavy writing section I decided it would be best to take my time alternating for several hours (or perhaps a whole day) between producing a proper piece of ~6,000 word writing and reading through their other web site pages and blog posts. It is better not to rush through this, as you want to present your skills as best as possible – especially as a newbie trying to enter the field.

While the company’s blog has a decent number of articles, the topics are a bit random and disorganized, and the main blog page itself is not only misleadingly titled “Article Archives” (which likely prevents it from being listed properly in the search engines as a legitimate blog), but also, in my opinion, fails to provide content on issues of MOST importance to its target market :

http://blog.rev.com/articles

For instance, while they have some well-written posts related to the subject of TRANSLATION, such as:

5 Tips for Freelance Translators

They don’t have EVEN ONE section or article directly related to the subject of transcription, out of the 100+ posts up on the main “archived articles” page. This means that all of the freelance transcriptionists who go through the application process and want to read more about the company’s activities related to transcription while they wait (likely several days or more) to receive their email of acceptance or rejection are not able to continue spending some time reading through informative blog posts which will give them a head start in becoming more familiar with the company, its operations, and transcription in general. As one of the fundamentally important elements of online marketing is to keep your market ENGAGED and CONNECTED this seems to be one specific thing that Rev has neglected. I hope they will address this in the future for the benefit of the transcriptionists AND the marketing success of their company.

It ultimately took me a full 24 hours to properly complete the application. It was a bit of hard work to write the essay and transcribe the two audio files, but I was convinced that my performance on both was up to par (especially for the writing component, as I am an experienced and published photojournalist and blogger). I submitted the application and continued trying to find articles on their blog which could keep me busy while I waited for their response.

At the end of the day I had made good progress. I had done a thorough analysis of two prospective online transcription companies (a process which I will continue to incorporate into my research process) and I completed one full application to one which fulfilled my criteria. After submitting the Rev application I spent a few hours researching and blogging and then went to sleep feeling quite confident that my application to Rev would impress them, and that I would likely be granted acceptance into their team of transcriptionists. However, in the worst case scenario that I am NOT accepted there are plenty of other online transcription companies operating now, so it will just be a matter of continuing to find, research, evaluate and apply to others in the future.