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)
Well, as I shelled out the money to the SEO people, I figured I'd better take their advice and do the monthly update to this blog.
This month the topic is loneliness when working from home. If you Google this phrase you will find a myriad of articles, blogs, websites that deal with this very issue. Please do a bit of research if this is a problem in your life, you will find a lot of helpful advice. This is an extremely common problem and one that afflicts many of us self-employed at home workers. As many more of us are now working from home, loneliness is having a greater impact on a larger proportion of society, which thankfully means there is a lot of meaningful advice to be found on this topic.
In a way I'm lucky because transcribing interviews means that I get to listen to people speaking all day which can satisfy the need to hear others and tend to make one feel a bit less lonely but let's face it, it's not the same as having a conversation with somebody, no matter how inane some of those office conversations could be.
The advantages of working from home are plentiful, no office politics, no commuting and getting stuck in traffic or dealing with public transport nightmares. Much higher productivity. The ability to construct your day the way you wish. Flexible hours. Reaping the rewards for your own hard work. Greater job satisfaction. And the list goes on. I don't like to harp on too much about how much I actually love working from home and for myself as I don't want to make others feel envious. I always downplay this aspect of my life when speaking to friends that are still doing the office grind.
When I began this venture of starting my audio transcription service, I had my own reservations. Many of my old colleagues and friends felt home working would not suit me due to my friendly nature. I am ultimately a pretty social person and one of my strengths is definitely my people skills. However, I am also an only child and so do not have massive issues with spending long stretches of time by myself, generally am happy in my own company and like to get things done in my own way.
But occasionally I find myself facing one of the two main reasons more people don't work for themselves from home (Uncertainty being the first, will I have enough clients, will they pay me on time etc, but this is a whole other blog topic) The second, loneliness. And when it hits, sometimes you find yourself unaware until suddenly you are actually feeling quite withdrawn and depressed. To combat this I have implemented a number of strategies. These are strategies that work for me, however, as I recently discovered it is really easy to let these slip and find yourself meandering all alone with your self confidence shot as you stumble down Lonely Avenue.
1) Get some exercise. Be it fitness classes, going to the gym, swimming, going for a walk, whatever gets you out of the house for an hour several times a week. It gets the positive endorphins going, it gives you some sort of social contact and helps the mind and body. I found it was easy to neglect this when I was busy but for the last six months I have been scheduling in my diary a time and what exercise I intend to do several days a week. This is a promise to yourself. Yes you can juggle it around if needs must but try to stick to it like you would with any other appointment. You will thank yourself.
2) Make time to meet with friends for a coffee or lunch at least once a week during your working day. Again, this is something I neglected and still do from time to time when I'm feeling the pressure of deadlines. But it is imperative to get out and see people, talk about normal things like books, television, films and be away from your home. I often felt guilty and frivolous making these plans but I now schedule them in as a matter of necessity. You are not good to anyone if you are grumpy, down and burnt out.
3) Do not use self-service check-outs. If I'm at the grocery store, I always check my stuff out with a human. It gives me a good excuse to talk about things like the weather and if provides that needed human contact. Well...also I hate those self-service check-outs, they stress me out to the max. So this might be a tip that only serves me well but give it a try.
4) Give yourself a working schedule, stick to it and finish work on time so that you can spend meaningful time with friends or family. I always try to be at my desk by 8am at the latest so that I can get a good chunk of my work done before getting out of the house for that much-needed break. If you start work late, or you waste time during your working day on social media etc, the day will drag on far too long and you will pay the price by working too late and feeling resentful.
5) Schedule yourself a fun weekday off every month or two, write it in your diary, stick to it. Enjoy your life. This is the ultimate bonus of working for yourself. You can do this. Take a Friday off, hop on a train, be with people, see new things, laugh.
6) Communicate with others. Clients may be helpful here if you need to communicate with them throughout the day, instead of just being totally businesslike you can talk about the weather, holidays or some current event going on (have I mentioned the WEATHER again?! Clearly I've acclimatised to life in England). You do not have to totally be shut down within yourself. I will admit this area can be a bit fraught with danger if you have the tendency to over share. This happens (Okay I'm North American, so this happens to me A LOT!) And admittedly I have ruminated on many a 'Over Share Moment' and palmed my face, but ultimately we all need real life connection to feel happy , alive and less lonely. As one of my clients who is older, wiser, and has been in this working at home lark for many years said to me, 'Just be yourself'. The most simplistic advice, but advice that applies to every facet of our lives if we are to live an authentic fulfilled life. So I'm going with it.
Now who wants to hear my opinion on the state of the world at the moment?
Next month...SEO and splashing the cash was it worth it?
Trusty Transcriptionists is now into its fourth year of business. As usual a blog post has been a long time coming but I gleaned some advice today from somebody in SEO, keep the blog current. But who has the time? Well, this week I have more time than I did last week, so no time like the present I guess. I am finding it staggering how much time has gone by since I first started this enterprise. It has me reflecting back on how it all started and where I am headed. When I first started Trusty Transcriptionists it was on a bit of a whim, as a way to use a skill that I had so that I could work for myself and also to have flexibility to attend voiceover jobs. Voiceover jobs? Yup. I cut myself a shiny voiceover demo in London after I got made redundant from my job with the police. I peddled it out to some agencies and I got a few bites! It was all very exciting. I did some paid voiceover work (corporate stuff) but you know what? I found it terrifying, I got super stage fright. A dream I had turned into a bit of a nightmare and I found it just wasn't for me. In addition, the cost to get to London for jobs with relatively no notice was quite expensive during the week.
So instead I concentrated on running Trusty Transcriptionists and doing a bit of writing (the writing has been on hold for six months now, umm yes, that old chestnut). I feel I got very lucky in my first two years of trading as I had some wonderful clients and many of those clients gave me referrals to others which in turn generated more fantastic clients. Last year, I did not have to spend as much money advertising as I was actually booked up with work for the whole year, this surprised and delighted me. This year however, has seen me having to turn a lot of work away because I have been so booked up and just have not had the capacity to take on the work. I've been lucky because all of the clients I have had to turn away, have always come back to me again (I guess I'm doing something right!) But I always feel bad having to let people down by not accepting their work.
Family and friends encouraged me to take on some self-employed freelance people. Originally I dreamed of hiring some part-time people, getting an office and actually having people to talk to! This was just not feasible, my work comes in ebbs and flows which means I never know how busy I'm actually going to be. The expense of staff and running an office in addition to my other expenses would have probably pushed me out of business. I was also nervous about the decision because my unique selling point was the confidentiality I offer, as in, I am the only one that ever listens to the recordings. I decided a solution to this problem was to offer clients on the Booking Form the choice to have the work done solely by myself or allow some of it to be done by carefully chosen people who have signed a confidentiality agreement, this seemed the most practical solution. And so far this seems to be working out well!
Until next time...
Trusty Transcriptionists has celebrated being in business for two years! What started off as a dream has now become a reality! I am so thankful to all of my wonderful clients that have used my services over the past two years. Just a few weeks ago, my first ever client contacted me to do some work, it was lovely to hear from her again. I am always delighted to have contact from my repeat clients, it's like hearing from an old friend sometimes. This last year has been a very interesting one. I was lucky enough to provide transcripts for several clients who were working on their PhDs. I transcribed in depth and focus group interviews for four different market research companies. I transcribed countless interviews for students doing their dissertations. I was involved in working on some very interesting human resource interview transcripts for various companies. And I also transcribed quite a few interviews for counselling students. Plus many other ad hoc projects in-between! I am looking forward to seeing what happens during my third year in business (three is my lucky number, so fingers crossed!) It took a while to get used to not chatting in the office, having to solely rely on myself to bring in the work and not have holiday pay (That's what I miss the most!) but I feel I have now adjusted to this new reality and I honestly could not be happier. I hope all is well in your lives, dear reader. Best wishes, Kim.