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Having mentors and learning from their experiences is the easiest and most effective way of ensuring online success as a Professional Transcriber.
Having that in mind, I took the liberty of interviewing highly qualified and most sought-after transcribers of our time. They are fast, effective, successful and they get the job done the right way the first time.
The first three interviews were from three awesome ladies who gave us nothing but the best tips, but today we are going to do things a little differently.
Allow me to introduce to you a gentleman who does not shy away from a field known to be dominated by women. He is Leon Mwenda. An all-round freelancer who has handled transcription, blogging, SEO and data entry projects. He has more skills and experience than I can count here. So, let’s get started!
Virginia: How did you get started in transcription?
Leon: I got started in transcription at a BPO company. Got trained, fulltime, for about a month and then worked at the company for two and a half years.
Virginia: What type of files do you handle on a day to day basis?
Leon: I mostly work on webinars, podcasts, YouTube Videos, and online TV content, since that is what my main client does. But I also get interviews, sermons and focus groups.
Virginia: Do you accept multiple speaker files and/or files with foreign/heavy accents? And, what has your experience been like handling those types of projects?
Leon: Yes I do. My experience with multiple speaker files has been a gradual learning process. A lot of transcriptionists shy away from these types of files, so it’s very easy to get work when you can do them nicely. Most of the time the clients with these kinds of files ask for simple speakers tags (male/female speaker). In some cases you’re asked to track each speaker and tag them accordingly on the transcripts. What I do is have someone different track and tag the speakers, after the transcript is done.
Accents are very tricky, and they can cost you your clients. So I choose and practice on specific accents and only do those. I mostly work with American, African, British, Scottish and Australian accents. I stay away from Indian and Irish accents, I have a not-so-good history with them.
Virginia: Do you handle verbatim or non-verbatim projects or both? How has your experience been like?
Leon: I work on both. Non-verbatim projects are pretty easy and straight forward. That’s the bulk of the work that I do. Verbatim projects on the other hand need a great deal of attention to detail. Most transcriptionists are trained using verbatim files, so learning to switch between the two is very hard. Verbatim pays much better that non-verbatim, but it also takes more time. In my case re-training and regular practice gives me the edge.
Virginia: What medium do you use to receive work? Email, Dropbox, FTP? Why that medium?
Leon: I have a Gmail address specifically for work. This of course comes with Google Drive, which I couple with Dropbox. These are simple and very easy to use, also, everybody owns an account with them, and I can use them on the go over my phone. Some clients have their own FTP file sharing medium, that’s when I also use that.
Virginia: Do you use the same medium to return finished work (transcripts) back to the client?
Leon: Yes, unless specified, I use the same medium.
Virginia: How frequent do you communicate with your clients?
Leon: Communication is one of the key factors of outsourced projects. So if I’m working on a single project on a long term basis, I make a point of communicating at least thrice in 24 hours, even if the client doesn’t communicate back. Normally on short-term files I communicate with the client;
When I receive the files.
After I confirming the specifications and quality of files.
When I’m half way through the files, and need something I encountered specified.
When I’m done and have just returned the transcript.
Virginia: What payment methods do you use to receive your funds from the clients?
Leon: Most of the time I use direct deposit to a bank account. I make it a prerequisite on any project I work on because it is the safest, cheapest, and fastest mode of payment. Other times, mostly on smaller projects, or when working with transcription companies, I use PayPal and an Equity bank account.
Virginia: Do you work on Freelancing sites like oDesk, Elance, Fiverr and Freelancer? If yes, how has your experience been like?
Leon: Yes, as a freelancer, I started out on oDesk which is, in my opinion, the best freelancing site out there. Actually, apart from a site called Translators Café, I have never worked on any other freelancing site. All my work over the years has been from referrals from oDesk and transcription companies like Rev. There is no limit to what you can do on oDesk, plus you get a chance to develop one-on-one relations with your clients, which has worked very well for me.
Virginia: Do you accept private clients? If so, do you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement? What tips can you offer newbies while handling private clients?
Leon: Yes, 90% of my work is from private clients. NDAs and Contractor Agreements are a must in any project. Getting conned is seen as a rite of passage for online freelancers, but that should not be the case. For newbies;
First, before accepting a private client, ask to work with them on a site like oDesk where you are protected. After you see that you can trust them, you can then work on a one-on-one agreement.
You, the freelancer, come up with an agreement on how you’ll work together. Payment rate, payment mode, payment frequency, work rate and all that. Have the both of you agree and sign on it.
Virginia: Do you outsource? Yes or no? If yes, how do you go about it?
Yes I do outsource. I have a few in-house agents who I work with everyday. When we have more work, I outsource online to people I know, so through Gmail and Dropbox. Payment is done through M-Pesa after work is done and approved.
Virginia: Is transcription your full-time income generator or do you have other sources?
No, it’s not. I work on other online projects, data entry, blogging, SEO, SMM and project management for online based outsourced projects.
Virginia: I understand you are a successful transcriptionist, what has led to your success?
Leon: I treasure my work and clients. I treat clients and work very seriously and professionally. I deliver more than is required. I communicate with my clients as much as I can, and the rest just falls into place. The transcription workforce in Kenya is not that big, so if your work is good/bad it never takes long for you to stand out.
Virginia: What challenges have you faced as a professional transcriptionist?
Leon: When I was starting out, not many people were doing freelance transcription, so I had to learn as I went, which was very costly and time consuming. Knowing how to set up on oDesk, how to receive payment and all that. The main problem now, as we are growing, finding quality and reliable transcriptionists to work with is very very hard.
Virginia: What advice would you give new and aspiring transcriptionists?
Leon: It might seem hard at first, but so does everything else in life. Just keep working hard. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, those are the best lessons you will have. If you can, look for someone who has done transcription professionally before, and get guidance from them, or find a local transcription company/BPO and work there for a few months, in my opinion the best way to go about it. Find a balance between work and play; it is very easy to lose that as a freelancer and lot of people burned out because of that. Don’t be discouraged, as long as you scale up and diversify, you can do this for the rest of your life.
And there you have it folks. Solid advice from a Professional Transcriber who understands what it takes and what it means to deliver top-notch transcripts that meet her client’s needs every time.
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