I have this part time job doing transcription for this outfit out of San Francisco. They’re a “generic” transcription company. They’ll transcribe anything you want — I’ve done an interview with an actress on a TV series recorded on the interviewer’s iPhone while they’re standing in the middle of a crowd, round table discussions in Oz*, degree candidates interviewing people as research for their thesis, lawyer-recorded testimony of a witness during a trial, the raw sound from a film crew shooting a home improvement program (And . . . action!), sound tracks of videos, podcasts, sermons, speeches, you name it. One time I did over 45 minutes of three old people identifying people in old pictures. (“That’s so and so whose daddy ran the feed store. He graduated a year ahead of me and his younger brother was in the same class as my sister. He married what’s her name. They’re both dead now …”)
You can “try before you buy” and preview a sound file to make sure you’re not getting in over your head with an accent you can’t understand (after 26 years of medical transcription, I’ve yet to hit an accent I can’t get), or terrible sound quality or lots of background noise you haven’t the patience to fool with. You not only have to transcribe what’s said, but identify who says it, which is not hard if there’s only one speaker, but which can be problematic if there’s five or six. I try to pick jobs that are about something interesting, especially if they’re longer. You have to transcribe and upload a job within a certain time limit, usually hours, so I try to stick with sound files of under 20 minutes because I can only transcribe about 5 to 7 minutes of dictation per hour because my typing speed maxes out at about 80 wpm, and 3 or 4 hours of sustained typing is all I can do before my finger joints start killing. However, if you just do little jobs, you have to do a lot of them to make any money. Last week I did five jobs, but they were all under 10 minutes and I only made a little over $40 total.
Then, last Thursday, I got my electric bill and, yes, it was higher than the proverbial giraffe’s ears. I’ve got two weeks to make $200 so I can pay it. So Friday morning, I bit the bullet and took on a 2-hour sound file, 126 minutes. It was a good clear sound file of seven people having a focus group, and it paid extra because I had to put time hacks in it ever 2 minutes. That sucker took me almost 24 hours to transcribe, not counting the 4-hour nap I had to take in the middle of it because I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. It was 76 pages! My hands were sore clear up to my elbows. I had to dose up with 8-hour acetaminophen before I crashed and burned, and slept for 16 hours straight. I had some really vivid and off-the-wall dreams, as I do when I take acetaminophen before bed. The pay period ends on Saturday at midnight GMT, which is 7 p.m. here, and I’ve got to make $80 between now and then.
It was a good test (read: baptism by fire) of my DIY keyboard tray, which I didn’t get cut quite right on one side, but which otherwise worked pretty well. .