Day 6 : Dealing With Rejection in the Online Transcription Industry

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

crowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 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.