Home Office – Making it work for you

home office contemporary

Top 5 tips to create the perfect home office

home office contemporaryWorking from home has some unique challenges not least of which is setting up a decent workspace. Not everyone who decides to work from home has the luxury of a spare room they can set aside specifically for their home office but even if you need to use part of another room for work here are some useful tips to getting set up and avoiding spending your days hunched over your laptop at the kitchen table.

1. Use Natural Light

If you can make sure you position your desk near a window, the natural light is good for your general wellbeing as well as making the work environment bright and welcoming. It also means that you can take in the view from time to time which rests your eyes if you are looking at the screen for hours on end. Be mindful that as the sun moves around you might get some glare, so blinds or curtains should also be a consideration. Use overhead lighting that is gentle on the eyes – really harsh strip lights can cause eye strain and headaches.

2. Keep your workspace separate.

This can be really hard to do if you don’t have a room for your office, especially if you have children or your partner at home during the day. If you are lucky enough to have an office in a spare room then invest in a do not disturb sign for your door.

If you are using part of a room that is set aside it might be helpful to invest in a couple of cubicle panels to separate the space from your domestic environment.  Not only can you then put a notice on this saying that you are not to be disturbed but it also shields any distractions from view.

Try and be disciplined in the amount of time you spend in contact with people for non-work related issues. If you think about how you would behave in a work office environment and try to bring that into your home office it really helps keep you focused.

3. Be Mindful of your comfort.

You wouldn’t keep quiet at work if you were given dodgy office equipment so make sure you keep the same standard in your home office. Tables, chairs, lighting and other forms of office equipment should be purchased with your comfort in mind. Make your office ergonomically sound – look at support for your back, footrests, the height of your desk, screens and so on. Make sure you use properly designed wrist rests and mousepads with gel wrist support. In short, maximise your well being.

4. Consider your space

Home offices tend to be compact and bijou especially if they are sharing a domestic space. When you are planning your office room or space make sure you take into account what sort of work you will be doing, how much equipment you need, how large it is and how much storage you need for files, documents and so on. If you have to share a space then shelving is super helpful for keeping the office compact and unobtrusive. Space is at a premium for most home offices. When planning your home office, think about your workflow. To avoid a dining room suddenly looking like a makeshift workspace, for example, you will need to get creative. Consider using normal home furniture for storing your office files and equipment rather than industrial looking office furniture.

5. Enjoy the home office

home office cornerOne of the real joys of working at home is that you can have whatever you like in your home office – you can choose your own colour scheme, posters, pictures, in fact, anything you please. It is always worthwhile considering adding a plant, they make the workplace more pleasant and can also improve the air quality. Plants like Peace Lilies are inexpensive to buy, really low maintenance, and really give the office a lift.

If you are working from home in your own business you need to get super productive and working on optimising the home office environment really is time well spent.

 

 

If you have enjoyed this blog read more about business, freelance and working from home here.

Outsourcing Your Transcription – 3 ways you can save time and money.

save time outsourcing

If you already employ office staff, why should you consider outsourcing your transcription?

It may seem counter-intuitive to outsource transcription if you already employ office staff but if  you have a company that communicates a lot through audio recording it is undoubtedly something that you should consider, and there are many benefits to using a professional transcriber.  I have been providing quality transcription services to clients from many business, health and academic settings who are based both in the UK and across the globe. Below are my top 3 reasons why outsourcing your transcription work to a professional like myself can save you time and money.

1: Save Time & Money

Unless you are actually a transcription company it doesn’t make sense to allocate staff and resources to transcribing audio when you could easily outsource it and redeploy your staff into other, more profitable and productive areas of your business. Your staff are probably busy working on a variety of projects and having to take time out to fit in transcription work which can often be long and laborious is not only poor use of their time, it can also lead to delays and missed deadlines. This is the top reason for outsourcing your files to a professional transcriber who can focus on your individual needs and ensure your files are returned to you in a timely manner.

2: Reduce your stress levels

Even the best laid plans and the most well organised businesses can sometimes have unexpected setbacks. Staff sickness, computing issues, holidays and so on can and do happen. Outsourcing your transcription work takes away at least one aspect of the stress when things don’t quite go to plan. Having a professional ready and waiting to step in and deliver your documents on time will mean you are free to focus on what is important to you – your business.

save money outsource transcription3: Save Money (again)

Using a professional transcriber can save money almost immediately by removing the need to spend money on the necessary transcription equipment: Foot pedals, computers, keyboard, headphones and software all add up. It also frees up office space allowing you to use that space more effectively in your business.

 

The reasons that companies use audio transcripts are many and varied – legal, finance and medical, patient records, seminars and workshops, research, recordings of interviews, meetings and other important business, academic or personal events.

If you need a good quality record you need a professional transcriber to ensure that you get accurately produced transcripts presented effectively, to your own specifications and within your specified timeline.

If you need a high quality transcript from any audio or video file, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss your individual needs.

 

Research Transcription – What it is and how to get the best deal.

What is Research Transcription?

Every researcher who uses interviews and/or focus groups to collect qualitative data will need to have the recorded audio converted into accurate transcripts. For someone embarking on their first research project finding someone to transcribe all these interviews can be daunting to say the least. Many initially try to do it themselves but often come to realise that a) transcribing is a lot harder than it looks; and b) they simply don’t have the time they need to turn all those hours of audio into text. Not only that but it is essential that research transcription is done accurately in order to effectively draw data from the data.

Before you contact a transcriber you really need to know what sort of transcription it is you need and be able to communicate these clearly to ensure that you get the best quality transcript possible.

In order to obtain high quality research transcripts there are a lot of things to consider but here are the top 5 things you should give some attention to both before you contact the transcriber and during the initial consultation:

1. What style transcript do I need?

This may seem obvious – you need the transcriber to turn your audio into text, but it really isn’t that simple.

The most common style transcribers use for research transcription, and most other forms of transcription too, is known as Intelligent Verbatim. Basically what this does is it records accurately the words spoken by the person or people in the group but takes out all the stutters, ‘ums’, ‘ahs’, and ‘you knows’ so that the text flows well when written.

On the other hand pure or strict verbatim will keep all of those things in. Very few, if any, researchers tend to use this because not only does it clutter the text, making it hard to read and garner information from the data, it is also more time consuming and complex to transcribe and always involves extra costs.

In order that you get an accurate quote from the transcriber you should be specific about what you want.

2. What format do you need the transcript in?

This is especially important now that researchers tend to use a lot of different types of data analysis software. Programmes like Nvivo for example, need transcripts in a very specific format in order to import your data. If you already know which programme you will be using for data analysis let your transcriber know so they can format the work accordingly.

3.   Will the transcript be accurate?

This, of course, is of paramount importance and is essential to ensure that the data you have collected during your research can be read, used, analysed and evaluated properly. Make sure that you stipulate this before undertaking a contract with a transcriber. If you require a particular form of English, eg, UK, American, Australian, for example, your transcriber should be able to do this for you. Make sure that your transcriber also proofreads the transcripts a second time, if they fail to do so you may need to fund a proofreader later on. Many transcribers are happy to provide customer testimonials as proof of their accuracy and professionalism.

4.  Is it confidential?

Every researcher is bound by the ethical standards as stipulated by their educational establishment or funding organisation. It is therefore important that any transcriber you employ can maintain confidentiality of your data. Every transcriber has policies which detail the steps they take to maintain confidentiality and safety of your files and these should in in their terms and conditions. Many researchers ask transcribers to sign a standard non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and any experienced research transcriber will be happy to do so.

5.  Can it be done in time?

Always discuss deadlines with your transcriber before the project begins so that they can assess the work and ascertain if your timeline is something they can accommodate. If your research body has particular ways they fund research and this will effect how and when the transcriber can be paid it is always worth discussing this at the initial meeting too. Most transcribers are happy to be flexible to the needs of researchers in terms of deadline, workload, staggering delivery and timing invoices and so on, but do ensure you iron out all the relevant details with them before they agree to the project.

If you need more information or would like to discuss your research project please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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!