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Transcription Services News, Issue #009
November 13, 2017

The Newsletter is Back!

Last year I tried something new – a transcription blog (Transcription Tales). And I learned something. I learned that I just do not have the extra time that is required to write a blog. My hat is off to those who blog regularly. It takes consistency and dedication. It is not that I do not have dedication or consistency, but I just need to direct my energies into running and growing my transcription business rather than spending a lot of time blogging about how I do it. Some of you may be a little sad that I’ve left the blog behind but a few of you took the time to write and ask me to keep the newsletter going. Since the newsletter can survive on a little less consistency, I will continue to put out occasional issues as I have that availability. So here I am with a new issue of the newsletter.

Transcription Tips and Tools

In this issue I want to tell you about a software I have recently been using that is quite handy. Do you ever get requests for YouTube videos to be transcribed? Or other random videos online that have no option to download them? Yeah, me too. In the past I have played them out in real time and recorded them to my hard drive using Total Recorder. I think I told you about that nifty software in a previous newsletter. Well, that worked pretty good, but since it had to be played out in real time it took a long time to record it. Also, it tied up my computer while I recorded it since I couldn’t have any other sound going or it would interfere with my recording session.

An even better option is Any Video Converter. This piece of software is amazing. You can simply add the URL of an online video or a DVD file into the software and it will analyze it and then convert it for you. I have been using the free version and it has helped me out in many, many instances. I absolutely love it and am very thankful to have been told about it.

Transcriptionist Spotlight:

Each issue we spotlight somebody who is working as a transcriptionist by conducting a short interview with them. This issue's interviewee is Jesse Levit of New York. This has been one of my favorite interviews so far. I hope you will enjoy it as well.

How long have you been a transcriptionist?

I have been a full-time transcriptionist on and off for about seven and a half years; however, prior to being a full-time transcriptionist, I did several freelance jobs. In fact, in fifth grade (circa 1991), I assisted many students with typing their final papers for a book our class put together about the water wars in Oakland, California, in the early twentieth century.

How did you get started as a transcriptionist?

I was always interested in English vocabulary, especially spelling, and often placed highly in elementary school competitions. Around third or fourth grade, I was introduced to typing games that were played on something that was, at the time, a brand-new concept: personal computers. Through playing those games, I honed my typing skills, and those skills began to naturally combine with my interest in the English language. When I began looking for work during college, I secured several freelance transcription jobs, one for an author and one for a medical doctor. What type of training did you get to become a transcriptionist?

I had been unofficially “training” to be a transcriptionist for many years before I actually completed my first professional transcription job. Then, in 2011, I started subcontracting for TechniType Transcripts, a company owned by Deborah Lattimore. Deborah guarantees her clients an extremely high degree of quality, and she was very generous in providing me with constructive feedback and tracked changes on nearly every transcript I sent her. Deborah was absolutely instrumental in my development as a transcriptionist, and I continue to learn from her on every new job. One of the interesting things about being a transcriptionist is that every job is different. Every person speaks differently, and there are never any rules in transcription that are always the same 100 percent of the time, so that usually keeps the work interesting. Because of this, I still encounter challenges on almost every job I complete.

Do you work for transcription companies, have your own clients or both?

I have had my own clients in the past, but currently I am a subcontractor for TechniType Transcripts and Pioneer Transcription Services.

What do you love about your job?

One thing I love about my job is the variety and range of experiences to which I have the opportunity of bearing witness. I have listened to and transcribed interviews spanning an incredibly wide range of topics. For example, some years ago, I transcribed an interview with several of the police officers who escorted Jack Ruby subsequent to his shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. Another time, I transcribed interviews with Andy Warhol and members of the Factory. I have also transcribed many government agency meetings, police interrogations, interviews with NASA astronauts and engineers, interviews on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution, and so many more. Through these transcriptions, I have had the privilege of being a fly on the wall for a multitude of anecdotes and a plethora of information to which I otherwise would not have had access.

What is your favorite piece of transcription equipment?

My favorite piece of transcription equipment is my foot pedal. I can’t imagine any transcriptionist not using one. If you’re out there reading this and know a different (or better?) way to control audio playback, please let me know! What is the best thing about your job?

Besides the variety, one of the best things about my job is the flexibility, which is essential for my lifestyle. I am a professional musician, and I am often performing until the wee hours of the morning in jazz clubs around New York City. There is no way I could get to a regular job that started at the usual time in the morning. Besides, for me personally, the idea of being confined to a cubicle, a desk, or even a specific office every day is unbearably monotonous. I am also a long-distance runner, and I generally run between thirty to forty miles a week. I also run two or three ultramarathons a year, which are what they sound like, races that are longer than a marathon. My favorite distance is fifty kilometers. Anyway, being a transcriptionist who works from home affords me the freedom of taking my daily runs. Usually, I work for three or four hours, take an hour or so for a run, and then resume working for another few hours. Sometimes, I will be composing or practicing music for an upcoming show, in which case I may take a break for that as well. There is an obvious similarity between transcribing music and transcribing people speaking, both of which I do regularly. Often, there are several ways one may interpret and notate a musical phrase, just as there are usually several “correct” ways one might transcribe a particular sentence or paragraph. And, on top of all that, how many people can go to work in their sweat pants with their cat on their lap? It’s marvelous, wonderful, fantastic, superlative!

What is the worst thing about your job?

I will describe several of the worst things about my job. First and foremost, transcribing audio files of poor quality is at the top of my “worst things” list (if I had one, of course). This can sometimes double or even triple the amount of time one job takes, which means my profit margin suffers. Secondly, something also in the same tedious vein is completing a verbatim transcription of someone who frequently changes their thoughts midsentence, repeatedly overuses utterances such as “you know,” “right,” and “like,” or constantly interrupts either the interviewer or the interviewee. Finally, transcribing meetings with multiple speakers is often quite challenging as well, though if the audio quality is good, I am usually able to identify whose voice is whose. If I am ultimately able to do that, I then begin the laborious task of retroactively changing all the speaker labels to the correct names. Again, this can eat away at my bottom line and hurt my efficiency.

What advice would you give to somebody trying to break into the transcription field?

One of the most important pieces of advice I would give somebody trying to break into the transcription field is probably the same piece of advice I would give somebody trying to break into the music business: practice, practice, practice! Having said that, there are many different ways to practice transcription and music. Obviously, transcribing in itself is of the utmost importance; however, reading up on the Chicago Manual of Style (or whatever style specifications are preferred in a given situation) is crucial as well. You might also find ways to expose yourself to new vocabulary as well as situate yourself so as to get exposure to a variety of people talking with different accents, colloquialisms, and dialects. If typing speed is an issue, find one of any number of free typing lessons and programs available. Finally—and this is perhaps the number-one most important piece of advice I could give anybody trying to break into virtually any field—find what works best for you as an individual. If, like me, you like to work alone, make sure you have a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and invest in some noise-cancelling headphones. If you prefer to be outside (and you own a laptop), find a serene place in a park near where you live and work there. If you are interested in a specific kind of transcription, take time to educate yourself on that particular field and who is doing the best work, then see if you can find a way to get close to them and learn their style. Ultimately, as with music, there are many ways to approach transcription, many transcription styles, and plenty of transcription work to be had! So if a person wants to do it badly enough and works their hardest, I am confident success is achievable for anyone.

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