3 things I love about my job

mara fraser transcription services

Working on your own at home can have its challenges, it is not all about endless cups of tea and just taking off on a day trip on a whim because the sun is out today.  As I write I am in my home office, the sun is streaming through the window and I would love nothing more than to hop in the car with the dog and take a trip to the sea.  But it can’t happen.  I have too much to do.  On the plus side though I do have it pretty easy compared to those enduring the 9-5, and here are my top 3 things (today) that I am loving about my job.

1:  My Clients

I have pretty great clients and they work in all sorts of fields and live all around the world.  One of my main stressors is making sure I get everything just so for a client so receiving feedback and positive communication really is the best part of the job.  Along side this is how it widens your world view quite a lot – getting to know some of the cultural differences is fascinating.  It is not as good as having a personal connection but the rapidity with which I can communicate with people who are, literally, on the other side of the planet is actually amazing.  The world seems pretty small to me now – working with someone in a different time zone has its challenges and it always amuses me to read an email that starts, ‘good morning’, when it arrives with me at 10pm, I’m sure they feel the same way.  It has made me feel a big part of a world wide community.

2:  New Learning

I am learning all the time in this job.  I left nursing over 10 years ago so I love the medical transcription especially being able to read new research and studies and all the new innovations that are coming in.  I get to hear all about law, hospitality, criminology, lots of different businesses and academic studies on a whole range of issues.  Although it probably all seems a bit run-of-the-mill to my clients I love it!  It is all new to me, so really interesting and it stops my brain falling asleep.

3:  I work from home

This is a double edged sword:  It can be lonely without any colleagues and it can be hard to motivate yourself.  That pile of laundry won’t do itself, or the hoovering, so you have to stay focused. That aside I can wake up without an alarm, get a tea, check my emails over breakfast and still be in ‘the office’ by 9am.  I can take an hour out to walk the dog, go to the gym, meet a friend for lunch, and reschedule that hour in later in the day.  I can be flexible within reason, although this often means having to work extra hours at the end of the day.

 

On balance I love working for myself, long may it continue!

6 tips for great audio that will save you money

Getting Great Quality Audio

quality audioMany people transcribe audio files for a variety of reasons; a record of meetings, presentations, and so on or to drive traffic to their website.

Audio quality is key when you need to transcribe your audio. Transcribers always quote based on clear audio, with additional fees if the quality is so low it leads to extra time being spent on deciphering the files.  Therefore, not only does good quality audio files make transcribing a lot easier, it ultimately saves money for your business, university or charity.

6 tips to help you get  great quality audio:

  1. Use Good Equipment – nowadays smartphones can provide an excellent quality audio file.  However, this quality can be affected by how you use your equipment which brings us to the next point.
  2. Set up properly – even with the best equipment if you don’t locate it properly it will not give you a good quality recording.  This is especially important in meetings with more than one speaker.  Before you start you should make sure that everyone’s voice is picked up properly by the recording device.  If recording a seminar or lecture get as close to the speaker as possible and avoid chatting to the person next to you!
  3. Choose your environment – this means as free from background noise as possible.  Although it can be tempting to have that meeting over lunch, the excessive background noise created in areas like cafes, bars, and restaurants can make even a good quality audio hellish if not impossible to transcribe.  Other places to avoid would include transportation or anywhere outside.
  4. Set ground rules – set aside 5 minutes for housekeeping when planning on recording a meeting.  This should include things like informing people they are being recorded and encouraging them to avoid interrupting or talking over others.  Confusion over who is speaking is one of the main issues of transcribing multi-person meetings or focus groups and is something that adds to the cost for the client.
  5. Do not be tempted to multi-task – this is something that happens a lot when people record Skype or any kind of conference call via their computer.  The other people are talking and the person recording starts typing notes or clicking links.  These can really mess up your recording and make it difficult to understand.  If you must take notes or surf online, use a notepad or an alternative device to the one that you are using to record your audio.
  6. Speak normally – the average person speaks at around 160 words per minute, the average typist types at under half of that.  Although it is tempting to try to cram as much into your audio minutes as possible, the end result is often so difficult to transcribe it ends up costing more in the long run.

For more information about how to improve your recordings before submitting them for transcription, or to discuss a project, please contact me.

 

No more file storage for transcription clients

Up until the beginning of this year, I was offering, as standard, reasonably long-term storage for clients’ files.  I am now no longer able to offer this because of changes in legislation.

From a transcription point of view, this has to cover issues like confidentiality and data storage so I updated information on this which can be read in full here (for general website information) or here (for transcription clients).

It’s been a really busy summer transcription wise so updating the website has had to take a back seat.  I’m back on the case now that things have started to settle into a more normal pace and I have finally managed to upload some of the boring (but necessary) legal bits and pieces we all seem to need these days.

The main points are:

  • All documents, audio, video files, etc., are stored on my password protected business computer in my home office.
  • All data is permanently deleted within 24 hours of receipt of final payment if it contains Personal Identifiable Information (PII), if not it will be permanently deleted after 7 days.
  • Clients maintain all responsibility for files and information stored in the cloud, on file transfer systems, etc.
  • I accept no liability for malicious hacking, cyber attacks, etc.

 

When I submit your files I will inform you of the date these files will be removed from my system. As a general guideline medical transcription files or, indeed, anything containing PII will be removed within 24 hours from the date final payment is received. All other files will be deleted 7 days following receipt of final cleared payment.  Please check your files thoroughly and keep them safe – once they’ve gone, they’ve gone!

 

5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Blog Writer for Your Business

writer

You’ve looked at all the reasons why you really need to have a regularly updated blog on your website.  You’ve decided to hire a professional writer for your blog.   Here are 5 key skills to look for:

  1. Writing Skill – This may seem obvious but be sure to ask for samples of previous writing.  A professional blogger should be able to write in a variety of styles.  Maybe you are looking for a personal narrative style blog, or a list style (like this post) or a range of styles.  Look for spelling and grammar as well as content.
  2. Content Management Skills – Most blogs nowadays use content management systems like WordPress.  Your blogger should be familiar with how these work.  Most bloggers have a working knowledge of HTML and CSS.  This is useful to ensure that the content loads properly and is visually appealing.  Basic photo editing is another skill to look for, you want the images you use to look their best when viewed online.
  3. Social Media Savvy – You will want to be able to share your content widely on social media.  Most, if not all, bloggers will have a  personal website and business social media accounts.  If they don’t have these for their own business it is unlikely that they will be able to help you with yours.
  4. Originality – Content is great but it must be original.  Not only is copying someone else’s content extremely bad form it also infringes on copyright and can get you into all sorts of sticky situations.  Your blogger should provide copy that has passed Copyscape as original content.
  5. Reliability – This is something that is not limited to Blogging.  Ultimately you need someone who will produce quality content on time, every time.  Although most bloggers are outsourced when hiring it helps to think of them as an employee:  Would you hire this person as a permanent member of your staff?  If the answer is, ‘no’, you need to keep looking.

 

 

Why Hiring a Blogger is Great for Your Business

blogger credit: https://pixabay.com/en/wood-table-background-beverage-3265727/

It’s 2018, and the first stop for most people when searching for any type of business or service will be online.  We all know this, but why would you need to hire a professional Blogger?

Well, you may have a website but no one can find it.  Or people find it and all they find is basic information and very little else.  If the content is old, outdated or even non-existent, this gives a really bad impression of your business and the customer may well choose to go elsewhere.

This is where a blog comes in.

  1. Updating your site keeps it current. Adding a post even as little as once or twice a month shows customers you are not only still out there and available, but that you care about your business. Not only that, it is a great way of showing your expertise and getting some customer testimonials out there.  Most business people see this as too time consuming and choose to hire a professional to write the blog on their behalf.
  2. It increases the size of your site.   The way search engines work is to crawl through each website and index them according to content.  The more pages, the more they have to search, and the greater your range of keywords can be.  You can’t use the same keyword too many times.  If you do you could end up penalised in the results.  The more pages you add, the greater your ability to use your chosen keywords and others to drive people to your site.  Hiring a blogger that knows this will pay for itself by driving more traffic to your site and more customers to your door.
  3. It drives traffic to your site.   Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or, more simply, the way that search engines see your site and then ranks it on the results page.  The fact that regular updates increase your visibility is a key reason to get blogging or to hire a blogger to do it for you.  But there are other indirect benefits too – if people return to your site or if they click away and return, and especially if they think the content is so good they share it on (backward linking), the search engines will think your site is wonderful and your ranking will go up.  The higher you are in the search results, the more likely people are to choose to click on your business page.

Of course, there is more to blogging than simply adding a sentence here or there.  Check out my post on the key skills to look for in a blogger, or contact me for more information on my blogging services.

 

 

 

 

Avoiding Terrible Text

terrible text too many fonts

Top 4 Terrible Text Mistakes

How to Avoid Terrible Text in Documents and on the Web

The use of terrible text is one of the most easily avoidable faux pas in written work – either in books or on the web.    Many clients come to me and ask me to look at their documents, books, and websites and one of the most common issues I find is the inappropriate use of fonts and formatting.   Here are some of the most comment text mistakes and what you should avoid:

Elaborate Fonts 

These are the kiss of death to any online content.  You will have put in a lot of work on this and because they are often not web friendly when you upload your work it will be converted straight back to Times New Roman on the screen. This is probably a good thing since they are notoriously difficult to read.

In books, these fonts may look pretty but once you are faced with reading a whole page of it the novelty soon wears off.  There are not many books written in funky fonts for that reason.  One notable example to this is the wonderful book series by Glennie Kindred – they look beautiful and they are easy to read.  To use this type of effect this you have to be pretty skilled and want to attract a specific type of reader.

terrible textCentralising Large Bodies of Text 

This does not look “creative”, it looks messy and it is difficult for the eye to follow.  Some centralisation is fine;  you want to draw the eye to a particular section, but whole web pages – or book pages – is a no-no.  It will lose you readers and you won’t get your point across.

Inconsistency

Choose a font style and stick to it.  The point is not to show how amazing you are at formatting and using different fonts.  The point is that you want people to read your website or book.  Multiple fonts are not easy on the eye and it puts people off.   A different style of writing on every page is a no-no.   People are turned off by attempts to make a website more interesting by varying the style of writing, the font type and the position of the text on the page.  It also looks incredibly amateur.

Making web pages look the same is not “boring” – it gives continuity and makes the text easier to follow and read.

Poor Grammar/Spelling 

We all make mistakes but the importance of using spelling and grammar checking tools cannot be understated. Basic errors like failing to use capitalisation in headings or the random use of the apostrophe will grate on the nerves of most readers. Friends are often useful in finding mistakes so get them to look at your book or website.  Always go back to any text and look at it after in 24 hours when you have a fresh eye just to make sure.

I offer proofreading services, help for authors and I am happy to supply text for your website.

You can contact me here to arrange an informal chat when we can discuss any specific needs you have.

5 tips for Successful Working from Home

working from home

Working from Home is Hard

Everyone thinks working from home is fantastic.  In reality, there is a myriad of ways in which simply being at home is not necessarily the best thing when it comes to productivity.

It can be literally anything that gets in the way of sitting down at that desk.  If you’re not really ‘in the mood’ today that pile of laundry suddenly becomes the most urgent thing in the world. Then there are bathrooms to clean and things to dust.  The dog needs letting out in the garden, so you might as well take her for a walk.  Then, of course, your husband works from home, so maybe you will grab a quick coffee together, which turns into lunch.  Before you know it, it is 3 pm and you have achieved next to nothing.

As you finally hit that last keystroke at 10 pm you curse your procrastination earlier in the day.

So here are my top 5 top tips for successful working from home:

#1     Get up!  You can’t lie in every day if you work from home.  Sad but true.  If you get up at a normal time you are more likely to be at your desk at a normal time.

#2     Get dressed!  You can’t work in your PJs no matter what the image of a freelancer is.   It is bad psychologically and does not make you look or feel like a professional person.  Staying in your PJs will simply mean you get nothing done.

#3     Schedule in those household tasks.  Being at home all day means you get to see all those little things you didn’t do.  After a while, it starts to grate on the nerves when you leave your office so schedule it in as part of the workday and don’t let it build up.  It seems counterintuitive but it saves time and makes you more productive in the long run.

#4    Plan your day – make sure that you know when your breaks are.  If, like me, you spend a lot of time typing, make sure you get up and walk around for 10 minutes in every hour.  It will make you more efficient, but also schedule some proper coffee/tea and a lunch break – and stick to it!

#5     Stop at a reasonable time.  We all know that sometimes you have to pull a 12 hour day to get something done or to help a client for which something has gone terribly awry.  But if it is every day that is a really bad thing.  Ultimately you will burn out, your work, social life and personal relationships will suffer.  Look after yourself first!

 

How video transcription will increase website traffic

Why do I need a video transcription Service?

Here are the top 5 reasons my clients give for arranging video transcription for the website or blog:

In reverse order:

#5:  They want to keep a personal hard copy.

#4:  As an added service for their website visitors.

#3:  To print out a transcript for use in teaching or for assessment purposes.

#2:  To use the material in a book or paper.

But the most popular reason by far is:

#1:  To help to drive more traffic to a website or blog.

Video transcription is something that you need if you regularly use video on your blog or website.

Why?  Search engines like Google are geared to look for new written content.  The more frequently a blog or website is updated the higher it will climb in the search rankings.

Videos are often hosted on sites like YouTube and Vimeo and then embedded onto a website.  Although you may update your site regularly in this way, if you do not provide a transcript the video simply won’t be picked up by the search engines as a recent update.

Videos are a great way to add interest for your visitors, but if you don’t follow them up with video transcription they will not be getting those visitors through your virtual door.

If you are someone who uses video regularly – for academic, advertising or informational purposes, transcribing your video to text could make a huge difference to your web traffic.

 

For more information on my video to text transcription services please contact me.

 

 

 

 

Reinvention in Freelance

reinvent freelance

Necessity is the Mother of (Re)Invention

Stagnation is not your friend.

 

In order to maintain even some semblance of independently earnt income I have had to invent and reinvent myself several times and I am now in the process of doing so all over again!

I went self-employed in 2009. Over the course of the last 9 years I have worked in web design, eCommerce, book publishing and also simultaneously worked part-time in retail as an employee.  Some of these I still do, some I have allowed to drift away into the self-employment void.

My first incarnation was as a web designer – it soon became untenable in the face of the endless ‘do it yourself’ web design sites so I had to look into something else.

As so many before me I opened an online store, and also sold on Amazon and eBay.  I waited for the sales and money to roll in.  This wasn’t a total disaster since it kept me ticking over until late 2015.

One morning I suddenly realised that with my job and my business I was working around 60-70 hours a week.  My turnover was great,  my profit margins were practically non-existent.  Being competitive and then paying fees to various online platforms was killing me – financially and probably literally.

I had to stop, but I didn’t want to quit the dream of working for myself.   So I had to have a good think about the direction I was going to take.

Then it occurred to me:  Instead of looking at ways of making money maybe I should take a look at my skill set as a whole, ascertain which ones other people would pay me for, and market those.  This probably sounds obvious to most people, but for some reason, the logic of this escaped me.

So in January 2016, I joined an online freelance platform offering medical transcription services, drawing on my previous professional background as a nurse and as a typist.  I didn’t hold out much hope, but it took off.   I’ve been doing it ever since.  There is still competition but I  now have a set of regularly returning clients as well as new ones arriving all the time.

As I have come into 2018, I realise that I have developed new skills and that these may, in turn, be something I can offer in the business world.  Business

I am 9 years on and I still have not quit my day job.  I have no intention of doing so right now, but I have every belief that one day I will realise my dreams and that I’ll do it by inventing and reinventing myself.