This is a story about a freelance job that looked good but, by the end of the process, smelled bad.
Like many freelancers, I troll Craigs List a lot, looking for opportunities. Most of the time, I am looking for writing jobs but every once in a while, an ad of a different color attracts my attention like the ad for transcriptionists.
The company, Focus Forward, is willing to pay $10 for every 15 minutes of transcribed tape. Since I transcribe my own interviews all the time and am pretty fast at transcription, I thought I could make a few fast dollars doing something interesting and easy. I applied. It wasn’t all that easy.
First of all, you have to download transcription software. Then you have to download the “rules” for transcription, transcribe a test tape and send it in for “inspection.” I was fine with the software download. I was fine with doing the test. I ran into trouble with the “rules.” They have a LOT of rules that are not logically ordered and contradictory. But I decided to play the game.
Here’s a company that states, right in the rules, that you have to transcribe the audio tape, verbatim. Last time I looked, that meant word for word. In those same rules, however, they have a whole list of words and verbalized pauses that they don’t want transcribed. Problem #1.
They also carefully call out that you have to transcribe everything including the conversation at the end…but don’t mention the conversation at the beginning. So transcribe everything but not really. Transcribe the conversation at the end…but no mention of the beginning. Problem #2
And Focus Forward gives you ways to cover words that are either not clearly stated on the tape or not at all familiar to you. You are told to use [PH] to indicate you are spelling the word phonetically if you can’t hear or don’t recognize it. I used this device for a drug name I had never heard of but that was called out as incorrect in the transcript. Problem #3.
I got a snarky email informing me I didn’t make the cut. Failure to type the intro conversation about the weather and vacation was fatal. I also use [PH], capitalized celiac and spelled Super Fresh as one word.
Freelancers everywhere probably have similar stories of making an honest effort to meet all the requirements of a prospective client only to be washed out NOT for lack of skill or lack of trying but for being utterly unable to jump through hoops that are tangled up like spaghetti. If, when that happens to you, remember…it really isn’t your problem.
BTW Focus Forward is STILL looking for transcribers. I wonder why?