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Five Tips for Long, Boring Transcripts

by Joanna Norman

Sometimes, as a general transcriptionist, you end up working on a file that’s really long and really boring. Of course “boring” is totally subjective and if you are lucky, you’re able to select your clients and subcontracts so that you almost always are working on material that you find interesting. Once in a while though, I still end up transcribing a 60+ minute audio file that just about bores me to tears. These types of files can be hard for me to get done efficiently because I am more inclined to get distracted when working on a file that I don’t find very interesting.

Below are five tips, in no particular order, to help you get those occasional boring files done quickly — so you can move on to more interesting work. 

  1. Use the 52/17 rule. Set a timer for 52 minutes. Work on transcribing the troublemaker file exclusively for the entire 52 minutes. As soon as your timers goes off, you get 17 minutes to do something fun. So, set your timer for 17 minutes, walk away from your computer, and do something really fun. Then repeat the 52/17 time blocks until that awful file is done. Check out this previous blog post for more details on the 52/17 rule.
  2. Break up the work on the awful file by transcribing other fun things in between. I have a client that provides work that I LOVE working on, often short marketing videos that make me smile. If I have a really boring file that I am also working on, I will work on the less interesting file for a couple hours, then take a break and work on a happy little video for a hour, and then go back to the tough file.
  3. Make new auto correct features. Sometimes, if I’m having a hard time getting through a file, I will use it as an opportunity to create new autocorrect shortcuts and practice using them. This means that even though the file is not particularly interesting to me, I’m using it as an opportunity to create and master typing shortcuts that will ultimately speed up my work.  
  4. Jot down distracting thoughts and keep going. If a file really doesn’t interest me, my mind wants to wander to other things that I’d rather be doing or that are more interesting. I keep a reusable Rocket Notebook by my computer at all times. If something pops into my mind, such as “I’d like to look up campgrounds on the peak to peak highway,” I jot it in my notebook and go right back to transcribing. Then I can use that other thing I wanted to do as a reward for reaching a particular time point in the audio file. For example, I set the goal of reaching the 30 minute mark, and reward myself by taking a break to look up the peak to peak highway.
  5. Take short, frequent breaks to do tasks that you have been putting off, for example, making the phone call to make the dentist appointment. Your boring transcript may not seem so awful if you don’t want to do the task that you said you would do on your break. Reverse psychology?

What tricks do you use to help you get done with a tough or boring transcript? Please share your tips in the comments below.

Wireless Earbuds Review for Transcription

by Joanna Norman

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.

These Tribit Wireless Earbuds, pictured to the right, are the third set of headphones that I have purchased to use while transcribing. I will review them below, but let me first remind you of the other headsets I have used.

My first headset was the classic transcription headset, a Spectra Transcription headset. It connects to the audio port on my laptop with a cord and it sits over the top of my head with the small, padded earpieces on the outside of my ears. This headset has great sound, but after several hours of transcribing, my ears start to hurt. I rarely use this anymore, but I keep it around as a backup, just in case.

Next, I got some wired earbuds, the ECS WordSleuth Headset. You can read my review of them here. I found these earbuds to be more comfortable than the headphones that sit over my ears, but I got tired of having to take them out of my ears anytime I wanted to get up from my computer to take a break or tend to something (like a Labrador puppy who needs to go outside every 30 minutes).

So I decided to try wireless earbuds. After reading many reviews with my budget in mind, I selected the Tribit wireless earbuds shown at the left. I’m very happy with these, and they were relatively inexpensive.

Here’s what I like about my new wireless earbuds for transcription work:

Pros

  • They block out noises very well, better than the other headsets I have used, so well in fact that I can’t hear other people people in the house when they are trying to get my attention. This is great for focus and not so great for family communication.
  • They are very comfortable. These particular earbuds came with several different sizes of the little pads that go in your ears as well as several different sizes of the little wings that help them stay in your ears, so I was able to really customize the fit.
  • They are wireless. I really like it that I am not attached to my laptop by a wire, so I can get up and take a break without having to take off my headset.
  • They hold a charge for a long time. I have yet to run out of charge when transcribing for a whole day.

Cons

I’ve only noticed one potential negative, which doesn’t bother me, but might bother some folks. When transcribing using transcription software, you typically pause the audio by taking your foot off the foot pedal. I have mine set up so it automatically rewinds for about a second. I have noticed with my Tribits that sometimes when I restart the audio, the sound is only in one ear for a second or so. Like I said, this doesn’t bug me, but I imagine it might drive some folks a little crazy.

Do you use wireless earbuds? How do you like them? Do you have a favorite brand that you would recommend for transcription? Please share your thoughts by commenting using the link below.

My 2022 Life Logo

by Joanna Norman

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.

Happy New Year! I want to show you my Life Logo for 2022.

In a previous blog post I shared the Life Logo that I created as my own personal logo to serve as a touchstone to help me create a better life. Why not harness the power of marketing tools for ourselves, right? For over a year, my logo has served me well, helping me to make decisions with intentionality. This little tool helped me reach a place where I feel safe, loved, and content.

As I was resetting my Rocketbook planner for the new year, I revisited my logo and discovered that it was time for a change. My focus has shifted and my goals have changed as I’ve achieved the ones I set when I first designed my logo.

Inspired by Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge, I choose the word MOVE as my focus this year. And more specifically I want to move toward wellness, toward kindness, and toward exploration. (By the way, I highly recommend this yoga challenge. I did it for the first time last January and LOVED it and am doing it again this year.)

I am confident my Life Logo will inspire me and guide me in both small, daily decisions and in larger, more longterm decisions. Will this action move me towards kindness? Will this social activity help me to explore? Will this food choice move me towards wellness?

What do you think? Do you have a word of the year or a Life Logo to help you make intentional choices? What is your word this year? What are your intentions? Let me know by commenting below.

And if you want to make a nice looking logo graphic ( I love mine), I used canva.com.

my first Life Logo, now retired

Office Buddies Update

by Joanna Norman

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.

Who are your work-at-home office buddies? In a very early blog post I introduced you to my non-human co-workers who are the best office mates ever. Having my animals at work with me all day has got to be one of the best perks of working at home, but there have been some changes in my non-human office staff, so I need to update you on who has left and make some introductions.

Meet Our Newest Staf Members:

I have two new office buddies to introduce to you. First, meet Noodle.

Noodle is a young Kenyan Sand Boa. I have always loved snakes and had several pet snakes throughout my life. Noodle is a new species to me, and I think he is absolutely amazing. It is wonderful to get him out and interact with him when I need to give my eyes, hands, and shoulders a break from the computer. He is a great addition to my workplace.

Next, I’d like to introduce my 9th Guide Dog Puppy in Training and newest staff member, Miss Frankie. Frankie is an 10-week-old yellow lab who came to Colorado just last week. Right now, she’s still learning how to be a good officemate, but I’m sure she will master the basics in no time. I’ve already fallen head over heels in love with her. Just look at that face!

Close up photo of a black and white, rounded snake head.
Noodle is a Kenyan Sand Boa.
Close up of a small yellow lab puppy with a very wrinkly, droopy face.
Frank is a yellow lab Guide Dog puppy in training.

Patty, my yellow lab, and Arlo, my rescue mini poodle came to Colorado with me and are still part of my staff, and they keep me company every day.

Patty, of course, is an excellent mentor and makes sure Frankie knows her place in the office hierarchy.

No Longer on Staff at Norman Transcription:

You may remember Mr. Cat, my lovely red betta fish, who lived on my desk. He is no longer on our staff. When I moved to Colorado from Arizona, I didn’t think he would enjoy or perhaps even survive the long drive, so he went to live with my daughter. I miss watching him swim around and look handsome when my eyes need a break from the screen.

Fate and Tera were the two Guide Dog puppies I was raising when I last blogged about my officemates. Fate was not meant to be a guide and was “career changed”. She is now a beloved pet, training to be a therapy dog. She was adopted by my co-raiser and stayed in Arizona. Tera became a Guide! She and her partner live in British Columbia. I miss both of these beautiful, special dogs.

Are you non-human office buddies an important part of your workday? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Five Traits of a Toxic Workplace

by Joanna Norman

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.

For years, I worked in toxic work places, and I didn’t even realize that was what was going on. I just knew that I dreaded going to work much of the time or I had terrible anxiety every morning when I woke up. Now that I work as an independent contractor, I do not dread going to work, and I rarely wake up with anxiety. (When I do, it is not work related.)

As I was reflecting on this, I did some reading and learned about toxic work environments. I realized, in retrospect, that I experienced all of these in one job or another. Do I have to even say that I DON’T MISS any of these things, AT ALL? If you are someone I worked with in the past, please don’t take this personally. What was a toxic environment for me may not have been or may not be a toxic environment for you, and that is okay. Everyone’s needs and experiences are different, right?

If you are experiencing any of these things in your current job, maybe it will be helpful to at least understand that these things can be indicators of a toxic workplace, a place that is not healthy for you to work in.

  1. Low morale.
    When the entire staff of a workplace has low morale, this is a bad sign. I may have days where I feel less motivated to work, but I don’t have low moral. I no longer spend any of my precious time complaining about my workplace or listening to others complain about it. In fact, I often find myself talking about something interesting I learned because of a transcript I’m working on.
  1. Lack of communication.
    In an workplace with an unhealthy or toxic culture, there may be a lack of communication, confusing or conflicting communication from leadership, or passive-aggressive communication between employees. Often employee input is not sought out or valued in a toxic workplace. As an independent contractor running my own transcription business, I am 100% in control of communication with my clients and the contractors I work for. It is awesome! 
  2. Fear of failure.
    I have been doing transcription successfully for over year. Because I am well-trained and can control what jobs I take on, I never have to worry about a project failing because of scope creep or lack of support from managers or … you get the idea. Nor am I surrounded by others who are working from a place of fear. I’ve been there. I don’t want that in my life anymore.
  3. High turnover.
    At one school I were I taught, I was the teacher with the longest tenure – at only five years! Most teachers stayed there 1-2 years. Such high turnover clearly indicates that it was not a place where people wanted to work. Now that I have my own business, I don’t ever have to worry about my work being affected negatively by high staff turnover.
  4. Cliques.
    The presence of cliques is a sure indication of a toxic workplace. I hated cliques when I was in school as a kid and continue to hate them in the workplace.  Somehow, I was always the one who was not mainstream enough and not in the clique. While this didn’t bother me much because I didn’t want to be in the clique, I was fascinated to learn that this is a trait of toxic work environments. Since I’m the sole proprietor of my transcription business, so this is a total non-issue as a transcriptionist. 

If you are reading through the  list of traits of a toxic workplace and recognize that you are dealing with some of all of these issues in your current job, I hope that you can find your way out. I am so much happier and healthier now that I have left all of that behind.

If you are interested in learning more about being a transcriptionist, I recommend the free course that I took at transcribeanywhere.com. If you are ready to take the leap and become a transcriptionist, I think the best training you can get is the General Transcription Course from transcribeanywhere.com.

How Transcription Freed Me from Workplace Culture

by Joanna Norman

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.

I’ve been reflecting lately on workplace culture and feeling like the “other”. Since starting my own transcription business I have been free from all of that, and it is so much healthier for me.

Being the “Other”

Recently I was thinking back to my graduate school experience as a young woman getting a PhD in science 30 years ago. (Interestingly, what prompted this reflection was an interview I transcribed. I’m always getting to learn and think about new things because of my work as a general transcriptionist.) With a few exceptions, I did not deal with overt discrimination or harassment, but I felt like the “other” much of the time I was there. I could not have identified that feeling as such at the time, and I only recently have come to understand that the issue was not me. The problem was that the program as a whole was not a good fit for women. 

My PhD advisor was a kind man and very supportive of me. As far as I can remember, there were no women on the faculty in my department when I started grad school. There were quite a few women who were the spouses of faculty members, who had PhDs and their own research programs, but they were not full-fledged faculty members. I didn’t see any women who were successfully pursuing a faculty career and a marriage or children. It seemed to me that I could either do science or get married and have a family, but not both. I truly felt it was either oe or the other for me. While I was in graduate school, I figured it was science that I would end up dong. None of the male graduate students seemed to be worried about these things. All of that made me feel like I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t smart enough or driven enough or whatever enough.  I was an “other” in that place, and I ultimately chose a teaching-focused career rather than a research-focused career, in part because there were women role-models for me in the more teaching-oriented types of positions. I now wonder if I would or could have pursued a career in research if I had felt more like I belonged or if I had had women role models. At the time, all I knew was that I didn’t feel comfortable, happy, or successful in that academic environment, in that workplace culture.

Workplace Culture

Fast forward 20 years — when my children reached middle school, I decided to return to work full time, as a middle school science and math teacher. In education, where a vast majority of the employees are women, wouldn’t you expect the workplace culture to be friendly for women? Sadly, that was not my experience. Teaching, particularly at the elementary and middle school level, is dominated by women, but when you get to the administrative level — principals, superintendents, school boards — it is still male-dominated. This was certainly the case in both public school districts I worked in. Upper level administration was and is dominated by men, White men. So guess what? I was still the other. I still worked in an environment where as a woman taking care of yourself, setting appropriate boundaries, asking for a fair wage for your work was not supported. Again, it wasn’t until I left teaching that I came to understand that the problem wasn’t me. It was the culture of the whole system. 

My New Workplace Culture

Working for myself, as a general transcriptionist, has freed me from feeling like I am the other. Any workplace culture that exists is of my own creation. I can’t even begin to tell you how healthy this is for me! 

How about you?  

If any of this has resonated with you, I offer my empathy and support. I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with workplace culture. Please share your story in the comments below.

If you are interested in learning more about being a transcriptionist, I recommend the free course that I took at transcribeanywhere.com. If you are ready to take the leap and become a transcriptionist, I think the best training you can get is the General Transcription Course from transcribeanywhere.com.

Norman Transcription Featured on Side Hustle Nation

by Joanna Norman

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Nick of Side Hustle Nation about general transcription. If you’d like to know more about how you can earn money transcribing audio, check out the video on Nick’s YouTube channel:

If you have questions about how to start your career as a transcriptionist, I’m happy to answer them and help in any way I can. Just send me an email. To learn more about the course I took to get started, visit Janet’s Transcribe Anywhere website. I highly recommend both the General Transcription and the Legal Transcription courses.

Seven Questions To Ask Your Transcription Client

by Joanna Norman

Great transcriptionists have happy clients. One of the best and easiest ways to have a happy client is to make sure expectations are clearly communicated up front. These seven questions will help you to set clear expectations so your client knows exactly what they are and are not getting in their transcript. Some of them will likely affect how much you charge for the transcript as well. In my experience, sometimes my clients will know exactly what they want and need, and in other cases, they want input from me.

  1. What format/style do you want for the transcription document?
    I suggest that you offer your standard format (whatever that is) and point out the key features, a header, page numbers, single-spaced, font, font size, etc. Then if your client needs something changed, you can easily accommodate their wishes. If they would like the transcript in a specific format, ask them if they can provide a template or sample.
  2. How do you want speakers identified?
    Some possibilities are by first name (Joanna) or title and last name (Dr. Hunter), Interviewer and Interviewee, Q and A (for question and answer), Q and M/F (male and female). If your client wants speakers identified by name, ask them if they can provide the names with correct spellings.
  3. How do you want me to transcribe false starts and filler words?
    Generally, I explain the difference between standard verbatim and strict verbatim. I suggest that the client allows me to use my judgement about omitting false starts and filler words. Another option is to have a guideline such as false starts of 3 or fewer words will be omitted, 4 words or more will be transcribed. Again, if you and your client both know ahead of time what is wanted and expected, then you can provide them with exactly what they want. If you charge a higher rate for strict verbatim, be sure to let your client know that up front.
  4. Do you want timestamps?
    For most of my general transcription work, timestamps are not needed. If your client is unfamiliar with them, you may need to explain what timestamps are and give an example or two of when they might opt to use them, for example, if they are using the transcript to edit a video/documentary. Again, be sure to let the client know if there is an additional charge for timestamps.
  5. In what file format would you like your transcript?
    I let my clients know that transcripts will be delivered in MS Word format unless they specify something different.
  6. In what file format is the audio/video file?
    This may seem obvious, but you’ll need to make sure you can open and use the type of file your client will be sending to you. 
  7. How will you deliver the audio/video file to me?
    This is one of those things I learned the hard way. Sometimes clients know how to share large files, and sometimes they don’t. My email cannot handle files above a certain size, so clients need know how to use some other file sharing system that we both can access.

I have a template that I use when I’m emailing a new client that helps me gather this information. If you’d like to see my template, let me know in a comment, and I will share it with you.

Six Questions To Ask To Get The Transcript You Want

by Joanna Norman

A professional transcriptionist will want to work with you to make sure you get the transcript you need and want. Here are six questions you should ask a transcriptionist before you contract with him/her to transcribe your audio or video recording:

  1. What format will the transcript be in?
    Find out if your transcriptionist has a standard format they use and ask to see it. Ask if you can request a different format. Do you want headers and page numbers? Double-spaced or single-spaced? Right-justified or not? Most transcriptionists can offer a standard template if you don’t have any preferences and then you don’t have to decide about all those details.

  2. How do you identify speakers?
    The transcriptionist will need to know how you want her to identify the speakers in the document.

    For example:
    Q: What influenced your decision the most?
    A: It was my family’s input that helped me to decide to move ahead with the testing.


    Some common options are Q and A, Interviewer/Interviewee, Male/Female. If you want your transcriptionist to use names, provide the correctly spelled names to the transcriptionist if you can.

  3. How do you handle false starts and filler words?
    This is really about if you want strict verbatim or standard transcription. For most general transcription, standard verbatim is appropriate and allows the transcriber to leave out filler words such as like, you know, um, and omit short false starts. It makes the transcript much easier to read without losing the meaning. If you want the transcript to include every word and sound spoken (strict verbatim transcription), transcribers change more for this service because it is more difficult to do. Strict verbatim is often used in legal transcription work.

    For example a strict verbatim transcription would read like this:
    My friend told — both of my friends thought that, um, I should probably wait at least, well, three or maybe like four days before, um, um, before I called — sorry — before I returned the call.

    Here is the same transcription using standard transcription:
    Both of my friends thought that I should probably wait at least three or maybe four days before I returned the call.

  4. Do you want timestamps?
    Transcriptionists charge more for transcripts with time stamps because it is quite a bit more work. A transcript with timestamps has the running time of the audio or video recording inserted in the written transcript at specific time intervals (every 30 seconds or every 2 minutes, etc.). Most general transcriptions don’t need time stamps, but I would recommend that you ask for time stamps in some situations. For example, if you are having video interviews transcribed that will be edited into a documentary, time stamps will allow you to quickly locate segments that you want to use in the final product.

  5. In what file format will the final transcript be delivered?
    Many general transcriptionists use MS Word for transcript files. If you want your transcript document in a different format (.txt, .rtf, etc.), you’ll want to make sure your transcriptionist can provide it in the format you need.

  6. What audio/video file formats do you accept?
    It is a good idea to know ahead of time that your transcriptionist will be able to open and use the files you send him/her.

I hope this helps you to know what questions to ask your transcriptionist so that your transcript is just what you want and need.

Silicon Keyboard Cover Review

by Joanna Norman

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.

For Mother’s day my kids gave me a nifty silicone keyboard cover for my MacBook Air.  Would I recommend this to transcriptionists?  Yes and no. Please read on.

Pros

I can see at a glance all the keyboard shortcuts available on my laptop.  Some are ones I already used all the time such as “command c” for copy and “command v” for paste. It has also helped me learn many keyboard shortcuts that were new to me. This can really speed up your editing and formatting.  So if you aren’t very familiar with keyboard shortcuts, this is a great tool to learn them. I found it easier to learn keyboard shortcuts from this cover than from a list. I also like that it keeps my keyboard clean and is washable if it were to get dirty.

So yes, I recommend this silicone keyboard cover as a very helpful tool for transcriptionists who want to learn keyboard shortcuts.

MOSISO Keyboard Cover

Close up view of one section of keyboard cover.

Cons

Unfortunately, the keyboard cover significantly slows down my typing. If I am checking email or typing up invoices, I don’t notice it. But when I am working away on a transcript, I don’t use it. I found that with the keyboard cover on my laptop, I have to press the keys slightly harder and my fingers didn’t slide over them as quickly, so it noticeably slowed down my typing and caused hand fatigue. 

Fortunately, it is easy to take on and off, so I just remove the keyboard cover when I’m transcribing and put it back on when I’m using my laptop for other things. I assume that eventually I will have learned all the shortcuts and probably won’t use it much at all.

I don’t recommend that you use this cover when you are actively typing a transcript because it may slow you down and could lead to hand fatigue.