Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Welcome Winter Solstice, Happy Festivus for the rest of us! Happy Holidays! I have been very fortunate lately in that business has been extremely busy for the last quarter of the year. This is a year which has certainly had its ups and downs, and I am always very thankful when things are going smoothly. I have been mainly working six days a week for the past three months, so I am taking some time off for the holiday season. I will be closing on Christmas eve and reopening on January 6th. Please get in touch if you require any transcribing from Jan 13th onward. I wish you much happiness and health in 2020! A new decade! I feel quite excited and optimistic about this and I hope that you do too.
All of my best wishes,
*This year's featured decoration is my Native Canadian West Coast Christmas bauble.
When transcribing interviews, I highly recommend using decent headphones. These truly make all the difference in the quality of the transcript you can produce and the speed at which you can do it. I prefer the type that goes over the ear and have some noise-cancelling properties. The headphones pictured are the style I have been using for the past three years. While wearing these headphones, I am still able to hear the doorbell. I am also aware if somebody speaks to me from another room. Cheekily, I have been known to conveniently 'not hear' somebody talking to me when I am transcribing. Sometimes I prefer not to interrupt the flow, especially when I'm producing verbatim transcripts. Being able to concentrate on the task at hand is the same reason that 90% of the time, I do not have my mobile phone in my office with me. It is a distraction I do not need. I keep it in another room and allow myself to look at it several times a day. I find this vastly helps with productivity. I recommend it.
When I first started my transcription business, I used the headphones that came with the foot pedal and software I purchased. These were decent, but the sound quality of the headphones I currently use is vastly better. If I have difficulty hearing a recording, I can be confident it is due to the recording quality. The positioning of the speaking person in proximity to the recording device microphone dramatically impacts on recording quality. I often receive recordings with background noise, and these headphones certainly help me produce the best quality transcript possible in those situations. I do, however, prefer recordings without background noise if possible. Many years ago, when I worked for the police, I worked on a surveillance project for three months. These audio recordings had excessive white noise, and it took its toll on my ears. Extreme white noise recordings are something I now try to avoid. Loud background noise, such as those interviews that take place in public places, do not make pleasurable listening. It takes much longer to transcribe as you are perpetually rewinding the recording to pick everything up, even with super-duper headphones it is not a joy. The time factor is the reason professional transcription companies charge more for these types of interviews. Of course, I do accept projects with background noise. If I listen to the recording and the background sound is excessive, I will evaluate whether it is worth it for my client to have the interview transcribed. If I do not think I will produce a suitable transcript from it, I generally give it a miss.
Of course, a decent set of headphones comes at a price. The ones I use cost me £55. They are the second pair I have had to purchase in the past three years. The first ones had an annoyingly long cord that kept getting run over by my office chair. Wheeling over the headphone cable happened so many times that it was a miracle that they lasted as long as they did. One day, they finally had enough of my abuse, and the sound quality dropped dramatically. I immediately found myself ordering the same set of headphones once more. The sound quality was so brilliant that I could not contemplate ever going back to a lesser model. Happily, when they arrived, the cord was much shorter. I guess other transcriptionists had the same issues! It is now not possible for me to run over the cable, which is a massive bonus. With luck, they will last me for years.
I don't suggest that if you are transcribing one or two interviews that you go out and purchase expensive headphones. However, if you are transcribing many recorded interviews, it is certainly something to consider. I would also highly recommend getting a foot pedal. I don't know how anybody produces a timely transcript without one. It must take them such a long time and be extremely frustrating. At a minimum, you would expect a professional transcriptionist to be using a foot pedal to transcribe interviews. Again, if you are doing a one-off project, obviously this is not an investment you would make. Of course, the best bet is to have a professional transcribe your interviews for you. Not exactly a shocking conclusion, considering the author offers a transcription service! Please see my reasonable rates if this is a service you require.
I wish you all the best with your transcribing, whether you decide to go on your own or hire a professional. As a final comment, I am currently taking a proofreading and editing course. I have now completed 40% of the course workload. Proofreading and editing is a service I will be offering in the new year.
Best wishes and happy interviewing,
I was thankful when I turned the calendar this month to reveal May, aside from disliking the cat's hat in the April's picture from my 'Cats in Hats' calendar (an annual Christmas present from my cat Ledley) I felt a change in month represented a new beginning. I always find May to be a nice month in England, the days are much brighter and people seem much more optimistic as summer is around the corner. There are also two bank holiday weekends to look forward to which makes life seem a whole lot better.
I feel like I've come through quite a struggle in March and April. My mother-in-law passed away from an aggressive terminal cancer early March after only being diagnosed as terminal a few weeks previous. We are so lucky in England to have hospices that we have, the staff that work there are truly incredible people. But after an experience like this, you really just chug along and move from one day to the next in a bit of a fog, trying to find a little bit of joy in each day to erase some of the bleakness. I have great wisdom points in experiencing the death of somebody close, but have found it very difficult to watch somebody I love so much having to grieve the loss of his mother.
Perhaps that would have been enough to contend with for the past few months, but you know how it works, if one thing goes wrong...many go wrong. And business was very slow for March and April. I was beginning to worry that maybe I would have to move onto something else. This is the curse of the freelancer, this anxiety, and this train of thought is very common when things go quiet for many of us. We all know from past experience, things tend to come good again and we ought to just take advantage and get things done we've been putting off when for once, we have the time. But we generally find ourselves obsessing over how much money is or is not going to come in and we end up spending most of our time just freaking out!
I had to be proactive about things and so decided to spend a big whack of money on advertising. This can be a crap shoot, am I throwing good money after bad? But thankfully it did pay off. One client referred me to three others (Thank you! These were small projects but they gave me something to get up for every day) And then I generated four other clients which took away the worry. A book project I had signed for had been stalled for months, and that suddenly is back on track. It also looks like I will be working on another large book project for a new ghostwriter client which is quite exciting. And happily, many of my academic clients are coming out of the woodwork again this month. I have had seven enquiries in the first two days of the month, I truly don't even think I met this number for the whole of April! I have spoken with other freelancers and they all say it has been quiet for them too. I speculate, Year End, Uncertainty of Brexit, and Easter Holidays...
Aside from worrying about my future and what I was or wasn't doing with my life, I did manage to get a few things done that I never would have had the time for, this is a bonus for sure. I thought my website was looking a bit dated, so I did a total overhaul. Wow, that was a project and a half in the end! I think it ended up taking me ten hours in total, I kept making stupid mistakes. And Google wasn't happy with the way it displayed on some mobile phones, so I ended having to redesign from scratch. But I'm so happy with it now that it's finished. I added some new pages that I'd had on a 'To Do' post-it note for about a year, a page specifically dedicated to podcasts and a page to sign up to the Trusty Transcriptionists newsletter (be still your beating heart, huh?)
I also managed to get some writing done, like properly. I half finished a short story which combines Artificial Intelligence (something I've been obsessively reading about lately) and love (something I try to avoid reading about entirely!) I even entered a couple of poetry competitions, which I'd been meaning to do for ages but just never took the time to do so. And finally, I think I've figured out a direction I'd like my business to branch off into which ties in to the service I provide (or at least provides a service required by many of the clients I already have) The happy news, it is something that 'Will a Robot Take Over my Job' claims is only at a 6% risk. (Have you checked out this website? It is interesting if not very disconcerting!) So I'm looking forward to taking a course in the summer, getting skilled up, hopefully passing and then launching a new branch to the business in the autumn/winter time.
I'm feeling quite optimistic about things in general, which I think is the crux of this message. Sometimes life can seem quite daunting, scary, lonely and even hopeless but we must try to remember that a new day will eventually come. And sometimes it takes weeks or even months to feel like that 'new day' has dawned, but it eventually does. And it's important to talk to a few people you trust when you're going through the down times, or there are organisations that you can speak to. We all need to feel supported and to feel loved. We are social creatures, we really are not meant to be just existing alone or virtually. Although I am extremely lucky to have a really good network of proper close friends, and a husband who has unwaveringly supported me for close to 25 years now, I find that when things get rough, it's difficult to reach out. But these are the times when you have to bare your soul a little and seek a bit of emotional support. It's also about learning who can and cannot be present for you emotionally when you're going through a tough time. Some people are overloaded in their own lives and simply don't have the capacity to take anything else on. This is a very painful life lesson and a lot of time can be wasted wondering what you did wrong. There's that classic Seinfeld episode with George Constanza and the 'It's not you, it's me' routine. But do you know what? Sometimes it really isn't you.
I close with a photo from last week, of a peony flower in my garden. I planted these two years ago (I am very new to this whole gardening lark)and I am astounded each year when something actually blooms, and the beauty of these flowers truly does take my breath away. It really is the little things that bring the greatest joy.
Trusty Transcriptionists is celebrating 5 years in business! I feel huge gratitude to all of my clients that have accompanied me on this journey. When I started this business (admittedly on a bit of a whim) I really did not expect it to be this successful. Of course, success is defined by the person, for me success is making enough money to live on, having the freedom to travel from time to time, remaining busy and producing a product the client is happy with. Throughout my time running the business, several people were gently nudging me to expand and grow the business. I did so for a short time but found it was not very lucrative from a financial perspective. It is very time consuming and often draining once you start bringing other people into the equation and I wanted people to be paid fairly for their work. I remember when I first started out freelancing, I was being paid by a large well known British company to do their transcribing at 35p per audio minute! This is truly exploitative. This company charges a significantly higher rate per minute than I charge, so what they are paying their subcontractors is shameful. It also drove me to quickly move away from working for any third parties, and start my own business. I valued myself much more than that.
Over the past five years, for the most part, times have been good. I initially invested heavily in advertising when I started the business. After a couple of years, I found I rarely had to advertise (thankfully because it is expensive!) I was busy all of the time and never without work. Referrals and repeat business kept me ticking along. I felt very lucky but I knew that it was my hard work and initial marketing that had set things up for me. This is not an easy game, not knowing when your next paycheque is coming from. There is no guarantee that I am going to make any money at all from month to month. This can be stressful and I don't think it's for everybody. In reality, if I'd not had a large chunk of savings, I could have easily been put out of business many times. Often the large companies are the slowest to pay and sometimes the amounts owed are significant. I have been so fortunate, in all of my five years I have only had one person who refused to engage with me on payment. She just ghosted me when I tried to communicate about the overdue invoices. This went on for months and I eventually sent the debt to a collection agency who recouped the loss for me immediately. This sort of confrontation is really not my style and I lost a lot of sleep over this issue. This was of course in my first year of business when I was very green to the whole thing. But I felt justified and completely entitled to claim my money and I've never regretted doing that. One other person who was studying law asked me to do some copy typing for him. Again, I was quite new to the business and agreed to do it (I hate copy typing, it is not a service I offer) I charged him a very minimal amount for the document, it was not even worth my time. He never paid me. I chased a couple of times but just let it go in the end as it was such a small sum it simply was not worth my time or energy (I'm sure he's made a wonderful solicitor ;-) But overall, I've been very lucky on that front.
Typing for a living is certainly not what I envisaged as my life plan, but I am very happy running my own business and with the lifestyle I've managed to eke out during the process. My only regret is my mother had passed away several years before I started the business. I would have loved for her to have seen what I've accomplished, all of it is really thanks to her. My mother was a very proficient executive secretary/administrator all of her life. She mainly worked for different departments of the government and for law firms (the later, she hated). I recall the home office in my house growing up, it had two desks in it, one for my father (who worked in politics) and one for my mother who acted as secretary for my father evenings and weekends. In my mind, I can still hear the voice of my father dictating letters to my mother, and that clacking sound of the keys on the typewriter as my mother typed away, letter after letter, usually with carbon paper in-between to make those much-coveted copies.
I recall vividly the summer of 1983, when I was 13 years old, my mother insisted that I do typing lessons at home several times a week. In the summer holidays? You've got to be kidding me. No, no she was not. She had bought me a book which contained introductory lessons. I had to work my way through one lesson a week. She promised me that typing was a skill that I could always fall back on if need be. My mother was fiercely independent and worked full-time for all of her life. These were good values to instil into me of course. And she was wise because life throws one so many curve-balls, little did she know that she would become a widow at the age of 42, and be solely responsible for me, her 14-year-old daughter and only child. That certainly was not the life plan. And so on those beautiful July and August days, Ottawa summers were fabulously hot and sunny, there I sat in the home office typing away (it was still typewriters in those days folks, I am that old!) I started by learning the home row, FFF space, JJJ space, F space J space, FJF space. You get the picture, anybody who has had touch typing lessons knows the score.
Now, don't feel too sorry for me, these lessons perhaps took up three hours a week of my holiday time, the rest of the time I was with friends and swimming in our back garden and having endless sleepover parties. These were good times. The sad part of this story is several years later when I was 16 years old and in high school, I took typing as one of my elective classes (at mother's insistence naturally) You would think that I would have passed with flying colours, after all, I had a head start on everybody else, I actually knew the keyboard by touch. But nope, I failed typing miserably, a big fat F (and I'm not talking FFF space) This of course was mainly because I was in the billiards hall playing pool, eating fries, flirting with boys and smoking cigarettes instead of showing up to typing class. Without practice and diligence in touch typing, you will fail, that's guaranteed. The end result is only what I deserved, I had to go to summer school to retake typing and I spent yet another fine summer in front of a typewriter!
With luck, next year I will be celebrating 6 years in business. It has come clear to me that I am going to have to diversify my services a little bit over the next few years if I want to stay in business. My intention is to start offering some virtual services in addition to transcription service over the next six months or so. It has always perplexed me greatly how many people do not know how to touch type in this country (like why in the world are you not offering this as a class in all schools? Our whole world is based around a computer keyboard now!) But technology, of course, is eventually going to bypass the need for any of this, as artificial intelligence begins to develop further and people can just command with their voices. And these are exciting times ahead, admittedly I'm a little worried but I am willing to embrace it. However, voice recognition is not up to standard yet when it comes to more than one voice, let me assure you (I tested it out several times to put my mind at ease, the results produced by software were dire!) But not before long the machines will be taking over... yes time stops for no one, not even for a transcriptionist who spent several of her hot and sunny summer holidays typing away under mother's orders.
Photograph- my mother and father 1972- Did they have a premonition to toast Trusty Transcriptionists celebrating 5 years in business?
When GDPR came in, I read what it entailed to ensure my business practices complied. I have never sent my data outside of the UK, my business only deals with UK clients, so this was one aspect I did not research or worry about. However, a client of mine has asked me to inform other students of the potential issues with sending data outside of the EU. She was working on her dissertation and this involved approximately 20 different interviews. I transcribed a large proportion of these interviews. The remaining interviews were done in her language with respondents also speaking that language. I was not able to transcribe these interviews for her (I'm good but I'm not that good! ;-)So she sent the interviews to a country in Asia, as she could not find anybody to transcribe these interviews for her in England in her native language. Unfortunately she then got in trouble with the ethics committee of her university as she did not anonymise the data prior to sending them outside of the EU.
Under GDPR data cannot be sent outside of the EU unless it is totally anonymous. If you must send your data outside of the EU there are steps you must take or you are breaching GDPR. GDPR applies to anybody handling data, individuals and companies. It is your responsibility to ensure that breaches do not take place. If you must send data outside of the EU it is my understanding that the following precautions must be taken- anonymise the data. So if the sound file you are sending is the name of the person interviewed, change that file name to Interview X, Interview 1, etcetera, never have the file name match with the name of any person actually interviewed. If the interview contains information within it that can identify that person (their name, where they work, where they live etcetera) edit this out of the recording prior to sending it. If the person is in the public eye and could therefore be identified by their voice or whatever they are talking about in interview, you MUST get the respondent to agree to allow you to send their data outside of the EU (I would get this in writing) This applies only to data you wish to send outside of the EU, and sometimes you may not have a choice but to send your data outside of the EU as with the case I cited, but if there is not a specific reason to send your data outside of the EU then it is more sensible is to keep your data within the EU. It really is a no-brainer and will save you a lot of stress.
Other sensible precautions to take- how are you sending your files? Is it through a free file sharer? You get what you pay for, be careful with your data. Ensure that the data you are sending is encrypted. I pay for a service which encrypts your sound data and automatically deletes it after 10 ten days. Your university may also have ways to safely send data. Emailing sound files (especially from free email accounts) is not wise nor is it recommended.
Do not send your data to just some random person that does not even have a website just to save a bit of money. The data you have worked so hard to get is important and is confidential. It is simply unwise to send your data to somebody that you do not know that does not have an internet presence.
I am not an expert on GDPR and sending data outside of Europe. I have gleaned the following by Googling 'sending data outside of the EU' Please Google this and do your own research, I provide the above as a guide only at the request of a previous client. This information obviously applies not only to students but to anybody that deals with recorded data. If any readers have updates on any of the information contained above or there are any inaccuracies please email me and I will update this blog entry.
Best wishes and happy researching!
As the sun sets on 2018 we look forward to 2019 and whatever new adventures may be on the horizon. It gives us a chance to change some things in our lives or have some new challenges, to grow as people and to learn new lessons. 2018 comes to a close as being a decent year with some painful lessons learned along the way. The year was coming to a very joyous ending during the festive period and then bang a few days after Christmas we received some very bad news, a close family member has cancer. We as a family are trying to remain positive because really it seems the only logical thing to do but I am sure 2019 has some difficult times ahead. Difficult times, however, make us appreciate the good times and this is a lesson I learned many years ago. I am always thankful when things are ticking along smoothly as I am very aware from life experience everything can change so quickly. But that is life, there is no immunity for any of us, good things and bad things are going to occur and we just have to be appreciative of the good times and resilient during the bad times, and eventually it all evens out (I like to hope so anyway!) I hope 2019 is a wonderful year for you. I will close with one of my favourite Irish proverbs 'May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future'.
With my Best Wishes,
Kim Whyte- Trusty Transcriptionists
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from Trusty Transcriptionists. The photo is of an ornament from my very non designer tree, an ornament that goes back to my childhood in the early 1970s (my tree has many of these old ornaments!) I know that this time of year can be bittersweet as we reflect upon and greatly miss all of the people that are no longer with us. I always feel a great sadness interspersed with very happy moments during this season and I am sure it is the same for many of you. I do try to remind myself of all of the positive things and be grateful for the gifts the year has given me such as good health and wonderful people in my life. It is also a perfect time of year to renew relationships, make amends and give to charity. Happily we can often have a great feeling of hope as we begin to anticipate the following year with a sense of optimism and renewed enthusiasm. I hope that whatever you are doing over the holidays that you have a wonderful time filled with happiness, good health and peace. I wish you all the best for the festive season.
With warmest wishes, Kim
Photo- Halloween 1980 (I'm the first devil ;-)
Happy Halloween from Trusty Transcriptionists! This time of year always makes me a little bit nostalgic as this is a very popular day in Canada where I am originally from. My childhood was full of so many happy Halloweens. My mother absolutely loved Halloween as well. As a child she would always let me have a little Halloween sleepover party. Five or six of my girlfriends and I would dress in our costumes, do the rounds, come home and examine the 'loot' which was candy galore inside of pillow sacks. Let me tell you, we got the good stuff in our neighbourhood! Many people would even take the time to make little bags stuffed full of a myriad of candies and chocolate bars. We would then begin the 'trade negotiations' which would entail ditching our least favourites for the stuff we liked. My mother would then serve us dinner, usually pizza or fried chicken. The table was always set with all kinds of spooky decorations. She would then treat us to one of her amazing homemade cakes, my favourite was always the chocolate mint one. The rest of the evening involved scary movies!
When I was about six years old I got sick with a bad flu and could not go out trick or treating. My father got one of the older local kids to bring an extra bag with her and she trick or treated on my behalf. I remember the delight I felt when my father presented me with a bag full of all sorts of Halloween candy! The most perplexing treat being these red wax lips, I remember them well. The urban legend said that if you ate them they would turn into gum, but really they just tasted like and had the consistency of wax.
When my mother died and I had to clean out her apartment in Vancouver there of course was a box full of Halloween decorations amongst all of her stuff. I had them shipped back to England and have enjoy going through them and putting them out each year. They are a taste of home for me and a nice reminder of my mother and all of the fun times we had. I know that we should not attach too much sentimentality to objects but sometimes 'things' can make you happy if they evoke fond memories of a person now lost to us. I'd like to think that my mom is somehow celebrating Halloween of 2018!
If this is an enjoyable time of year for you, I hope that you have a wonderful Halloween!
Trusty Transcriptionists is set to celebrate being in business for four years now and heading into year number five! Where that time has gone is anybody's guess. 2017/2018 has been a year of real growth thanks to the help of a small group of fantastic freelancers that work with me on some of the larger projects, so now rather than having to turn large projects away due to lack of capacity, I can generally take these on and get them completed in a much faster turnaround time than years previously. I also continue to do a lot of work myself, especially if the project is small or of a highly confidential nature such as transcription jobs for HR related issues, counsellor interviews, as well as work I regularly do for several different writers, or if the client simply requests that they only want me to listen to the recordings for whatever reason (There is a box to request this on the booking form).
This last quarter has been busy and interesting work-wise. I've transcribed a variety of projects from academic interviews about music, film making, healthcare, business information services, women's equality, sports science, early childhood education and the list goes on. Lately a very large bulk of my work seems to be research projects for students completing their PhDs. This quarter I also worked on a large oral history project. Corporate history transcripts are keeping me busy, as well as sports interviews that range from boxing to football and every sport in-between.
I still feel very lucky to be doing a job that I enjoy and having the pleasure to work for so many nice clients. I hope that year five in business continues to be as exciting as the previous four, wish me luck!
I hope your year is going well. Once again there has been a lapse in this blog, business just gets too busy and I simply end up neglecting it.
In my last entry I promised I would give an overview on the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) on my website and whether or not I thought it worth the price. First off I found it difficult to find a company that I could trust, there is black hat and white hat tactics used amongst those in the biz. Black hat apparently gets you lots of hits but if the powers that be find out i.e. Google, they penalise you. White hat is ethical and creates good links to your site, so they say, who knows? I know very little. I tried to research this but found it difficult to wrap my head around it to be honest. I'm not a techie. I try to stay somewhat in the loop but I find the whole thing quite convoluted.
I contacted three different companies to compare prices. I was hoping to use a Swindon company if at all possible just because I thought it would be nice to have somebody I could approach locally if all went wrong. Sadly the Swindon company I found did not return my email. I had a lovely conversation with somebody who was an ex cop now working in the field, I can't recall where in the country he was based but the price was out of this world and way beyond what a small business like mine could contemplate forking over. I finally went with a company in Wiltshire, the original emails and telephone contacts were really personable, I liked the guy who did the selling and let's face it, we tend to buy from people we like. The price wasn't too bad, it was in the region of £250 for a one off service that lasted a month.
I specifically stated I only wanted white hat and that I wanted my website to be looked at for any broken links, errors etcetera as I built it myself and quite frankly really had no idea what I was doing. I asked for some specific keywords to generate my site in search results and explained that my site didn't seem to appear at all when I searched transcription services (or so low down the ranks I could never find it). The freaky part is handing over the site to these people with all of your passwords etcetera. Of course I changed all of the passwords to temporary passwords and then changed them again when the SEO work was complete. It still makes me uncomfortable, silly I know. I could see where they were working from on my metrics and noticed that a lot of the work was being done in India. I have no problem in theory with this but I certainly was not happy to have a company purporting to be in Wiltshire to be outsourcing to India without my consent (I mean I could have sought out SEO in India myself for a lot cheaper price I believe).
Long and short the work was done, my site certainly rose in the ranks and suddenly I was getting requests from several local companies who were looking to have their interviews transcribed. I had never been on their radar before so obviously the SEO people did their job. I got a couple of largish clients within weeks of the SEO being done so it certainly paid for itself and much more. The only problem and to be fair they do tell you this, if you don't have the SEO consistently maintained, you will start to slip down the ranks again. Unfortunately this is too large an expense for me to take on. The final issue I had was I signed the contract with the company for a one off service only and the following month they debited me for another £250. To say I was unhappy is an understatement. I immediately contacted them and they reversed the charge. If I were a larger company with lots of different expenses coming out of my account, I could see how that could easily be missed. Next time I would certainly try to get referrals from people I know who have used SEO companies as I found the experience on the whole not quite as stress- free as I would have hoped.
Until next time (if you haven't fallen asleep reading such a dry topic, dear reader)