Freelance Wanted, Sort of…

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?


Filed under Business writing, Freelance Writing, Medical Writing

84 responses to “Freelance Wanted, Sort of…

  1. Did anybody ever hear from Michael on the name of the media company he worked for? Let me know.

  2. Brian

    Any suggestions for becoming involved as a transcriber? My typing rate is fairly abysmal at 40wpm on a good day! Is the financial return commensurate with the amount of work entailed?

    • patsquared2

      I type very quickly – have been transcribing my own interviews and notes for about 35 years. I’m not sure 40 wpm is going to be good. The pay sounds good until you break it down. You literally get paid on volume. So if you can’t turn it around quickly and accurately, transcription may not be a good fit for you.

      • Brian

        Thanks for the reply; in reference to it, what would you suggest an acceptable typing speed to be?

      • patsquared2

        The issue of WPM is really directly tied to how much you get paid. The faster you can type, the more you can transcribe and the more money you will make. So faster is better but accuracy counts, too.

  3. Anita

    Michael, can you please forward me the name of the transcription company? My e-mail is Thanks!

  4. elle P.

    I am also interested in the media transcription, if you’re still doing it (I see this post is not new) 🙂 My email is I have worked in the medical field, and maybe these mixed reviews of FF shouldn’t make me panic, but I just applied, so we’ll see. Thanks!

    • patsquared2

      I think how well you do with Focus Forward depends on how much experience you have in the world of transcription. That’s my take away from all the people who have commented on my original post. Clearly, I didn’t have any experience except transcribing interviews (hundreds of them) that I conducted for articles that I was assigned to write. I thought that prepared me but I had the advantage of having heard each person speak and being able to “fill in the blanks” that inevitably occur as a result. If you have experience, FF should be fine for you. Good luck!

  5. Tam

    I am very interested in transcription work; would you please email me the name of the California based company you work for?

  6. Alexis

    I have also been interested in posting for a job with FF and based off of what I am reading here I would be interested to know the company that you found based out of California. My email is little24lexy@yahoodotcom. I love all the honest feedback and insight provided by each of you and have learned that the transcribing world is not as simple as one would think. I look forward to hearing back from you.

    • patsquared2

      I thought it would be an easy gig, too. Had no idea just how much is demanded of a transcriber and how short the turnaround times are. Complicate both factors with bad video and lousy instructions and you can see how much tougher it can be. Good luck with this endeavor.

  7. It’s been a while since I checked in, so I wanted to give you a transcription update. I was contacted by another agency to do freelance work for them. The new guys are, in many (many) ways, preferable to Focus Forward: the audio is almost always very clear; the assignments are not as hellaciously long; and the topics are usually entertaining, if not interesting, and certainly light years better than the soul-crushing boredom of some of the FF topics.

    The new place pays by wordcount, so it’s tough comparing which agency pays better. I’m doing most of my work for them now, but I’m also taking on smaller Focus Forward assignments (I’m doing one right now, in fact), because I really (really) need the money.

    • patsquared2

      Thanks for the update. Could you share the name of the new company you are working for? How did you find them? What was the qualifying test like?

      • Honestly, I don’t know if I can identify this other agency – so I’m going to play it safe and say “no”. I can tell you about them, though.

        While Focus Forward deals with market research, this new agency works with entertainment and media. They’re based out of California (where else?). Instead of downloading mp3 and wma files, they give me video clips (.mov) to transcribe. Because of this (and because the clients are media companies), the audio is always good. I’ve done … probably over 50 assignments for them, and I’ve never struggled with the audio quality of the jobs. They range from very good to pristine, which helps immensely with how quickly I can do work for them, and how much work I can do for them (and, in the process, earn more money).

        With Focus Forward’s clients, on the other hand, the audio could be anywhere from pristine to unholy abysmal. As stated before, the poor audio quality significantly impedes work process.

        You know, I can’t precisely remember how I found them. I do remember filling out a form, and sending them a resume, via their website.

        The qualifying test consisted of two short video files to transcribe. My accuracy was fine, but I struggled with the formatting on the first one, since I was so used to the Focus Forward style. The second test was fine, though, and I’ve only received minor corrections in my transcriptions for the new agency since then.

        Regarding their name, I wouldn’t feel comfortable disclosing it in a public forum like this. However, I could probably tell you in an e-mail. If you’re interested, let me know how I could contact you (or anyone else who’s interested) privately, and I’d give you more information.

    • Would you be able to share the name of the other agency that contacted you?

    • Nikki

      Hey, Michael. I actually got accepted by Focus Forward last weekend but I haven’t submitted the paperwork required to begin work. I’ve read too many bad things about the company(here and elsewhere) to justify working for them.

      I’m very curious about the media company you work for though, as I’m trying to get into entertainment transcription. Please email me at dwt157 at yahoo dot com. Thank you.

      • patsquared2

        Nikki, I would give them a try. Until I read the comment by Roanna (below) I had no idea how difficult it can be to transcribe. I thought you just did it! That’s probably part of the reason I had a bad experience with them. You might be one of the lucky or more gifted ones to work for them…

      • Hello, Nikki. I would agree with Pat’s reply to you, and suggest you give Focus Forward a second thought. From my own experience – working with them since 2010 – they are a legitimate company. They’ve never not sent me a paycheck when one was due, they’ve always sent me the amount I was due, and they’ve always responded to any questions I have about transcripts, billing, invoicing, etc.

        That said, I will e-mail you the information about the media company (and you too, Pat). I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about Focus Forward, too.


      • patsquared2

        Thanks Michael…and again, thank you for your insight into Focus Forward. It’s helped me and probably lots of others who have read this post.

      • Nikki

        Thanks for the comments, guys. I guess part of the reason I haven’t accepted the job is because I got another one a few days later. The pay is less (while I’m in a probation period) but TAT is pretty generous, and the owner is really nice.

        I’m also intimidated by the fact that a lot of FFs audio has medical terminology. But I suppose I should still give them a shot. If I don’t like working for them, I can always quit.

        Thanks for the extra info about FF and the email, Michael. I’ll respond in a bit.

    • Tara

      Michael: After reading your review, I am curious to know more information about the other company you work for. My email is Thank you. Tara

    • Angel Yeah.

      Michael, would you be able to contact me via e-mail and share this company with me, as well? My e-mail is

    • Jeanette

      Michael, I’d like to find out of the name of the new agency you’re doing freelance for. Please send me an email with this info. Thanks much!

    • Hey Michael! I was wondering if you could e-mail me the name of the new place you’re at? Thanks!

    • Amber

      I am interested in this other company too, Michael. Can you email me the info at

    • Hi Michael!
      If it’s not way too far out here past the time of all this, and if you’re still working for that preferable transcribing company, I was wondering if you could email me their info?
      Thank you,
      Bette Jane

    • Michael, I am interested in the California agency you mentioned. I would appreciate it if you would email the info to me at Thanks very much.

    • Jodi

      Hey, I know I’m late to the game, but if Michael is still around and giving out private info on the Cali company, I’d like to hear back about it. Thanks.
      ragdolltb at

  8. Marisa

    I just got hired by FF and am looking forward to the challenge. I’m a trained medical transcriptionist, which is a very hard field to get hired into because every employer wants at least 1 year experience. The average person just cannot work as an MT because it is a very specialized field of study. You have to know a lot about medical jargon, dosages, medications, anatomy, etc to catch doctor’s mistakes and your own. I’m grateful I got a job as a transcriptionist for the experience. Once I get the experience I can get a better paying job elsewhere, hopefully as an MT.

    • patsquared2

      Good luck! Your background probably prepares you better than most for this kind of work. Hope you do well with it.

  9. T

    I was accepted at Focus Forward and wished I wasn’t. The test is fairly easy, but it took a month to get the results and another month to get a first assignment. Pay rate was $10 for 15 minutes and assumed 15 minutes per hour. The one on one in depth interviews weren’t bad but many recordings were focus groups which take much longer. The quality of the audio was not great either. During the short time I worked for them (about two months), I actually thought they were trying to make me quit. I hear you, Jean. What went wrong, went wrong quickly. Direct Deposit worked fine though.

    • patsquared2

      The story appears to be pretty much the same for most people who work for them. As I have said before, it’s no wonder they are ALWAYS advertising for more people to transcribe. Imagine how much better their business would be if they cleaned up their act a bit. Thanks for sharing this info and sorry about your experience.

  10. Charles

    Hi Just wanted to know how FF pay. Do they pay via paypal, and how often do they pay?

    • patsquared2

      Not sure as I never got a chance to work for them. Anyone else know?


      They pay via check sent by mail. When I first started with FF a few years ago, they had the option of Direct Deposit – which I applied for – but it never was set up (no clue why). So I’m not sure about DD anymore, but they do send out a check twice a month – for the 15th and end of the month. You almost always get it a few days late, but you do get paid.

  11. I’d be the first person to complain about what Focus Forward (unwittingly or not) puts its transcribers through, but I’m also compelled to point out that they’re quite nice sometimes. Recently, I’ve had to reject a couple of assignments they sent me because the audio was so impossibly difficult to work with. I explained, in my e-mail to the respective project directors, the precise problems I was having with the audio file (audio distortion, poor recording quality, etc.).

    The project directors had no trouble whatsoever taking those jobs off my hands and finding ones that were infinitely better. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t usually make those requests, or maybe I was just lucky.

    Freelance transcribing isn’t a nice job, by any means, and maybe I find in favor of Focus Forward more often than not because the money I’ve earned from them has proved immeasurably helpful; but while I agree that they can get away with murder sometimes, I wouldn’t be doing right by my conscience (or them, for that matter) for not pointing out the occasional good.

    • Jean

      I completely agree that Focus Forward is guilty of occasional good. They were always very helpful and understanding, especially when they sent me a near impossible audio file. It’s all this good that is precisely what made my “termination” all the more bitter and, frankly, infuriating. A company gives you constant assignments, and praises your work, then suddenly one day claims that you don’t meet their standards, and are terminated without any discussion or chance to improve whatever was wrong? Something’s not right there.

    • patsquared2

      Well done you. And I mean that. It is nice to know that everyone’s experience with Focus Forward has not been a bad one. And I’m glad you have been able to work with them and make some money. Thanks for sharing the other side.

    • Lacey

      Hi Michael,

      I’m definitely very interested in learning more about the company you work for that’s based out of California. Would you be open to sharing that with me at heywheats (at) gmail (dot) com? Many thanks!

  12. Jean

    I applied to Focus Forward about a year ago. It took them about 2 weeks to get back to me, but they did, and I passed their test. For the next 12 months, they gave me consistent work. I had no problem with the rules and transcription guidelines. The poor audio quality was an issue more often than not, though (along with spending extra hours trying to decipher the speech of people who would whisper, mumble, etc.) Very often, it was infuriating. However, they gave me consistent work, and often emailed me to commend me on my work. Then, about a month ago, when I changed my availability from 20 hours a week to 40+ hour a week, they suddenly decided that my services were no longer required. The excuse they used was that it was based on client feedback, and that they let a lot of transcribers go who weren’t producing work that was up to their accuracy standards. That would be understandable if I had received complaints, concerns, fewer assignments, ANYTHING to back up that claim. Needless to say, I am very disappointed, as my full time job went to part time, due to layoffs, and I was counting on the transcription work to supplement it. More frustrating is the fact that, after a year of solid quality work, they dropped this bombshell on me which, frankly, I don’t feel was for a valid reason. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

    • patsquared2

      Their action does not surprise me. This company doesn’t seem to know a good resource when it sees it and is only interested in its own objectives. I am sorry you were treated this way. If you went back to 20 hours, would they give you work?

  13. violinconlimon

    Hi, James-
    I just took the Spanish transcription test a few days ago. What is your experience working for the company so far? I’d like to transcribe 5 or 6 hours of audio per week. Are you getting the 7 hours per week you hoped for? Thanks for any information you can provide.

  14. James

    I was just hired by Focus Forward after taking their Spanish language transcription test. I’m just wondering if there’s anyone out there who could chime in about how copious Spanish language jobs are from Focus Forward. Ideally, I’d like to transcribe about 7 hours of audio a week from Spanish to English or from Spanish to Spanish. At this point — especially after reading some of the helpful comments here — I doubt it would be worth the time and effort for me to work solely with English to English transcription. Considering the hourly rate offered for Spanish language transcribers, I’d be willing to put up with a hell of a lot — including all-nighters — as long as I could rely on getting a certain amount of work per pay period.

    Once hired, FF sends you a handful of information packets to download. One thing that struck me from the transcribers’ manual is that it says work is either feast or famine with the company. I’m wondering how literally to take that. Is it common to go a while without getting any work whatsoever? How reasonable would it be to expect to transcribe about and hour of audio a day in Spanish?

    Finally, if there’s anyone out there who has experience with Spanish transcription for FF, what types of jobs do you get most commonly (i.e., Spanish-Spanish, Spanish-English, English-Spanish)?

    many thanks in advance for the help!


    P.S. I will be calling FF tomorrow, so I’ll try to report back with any info I get

  15. Hi Lea,

    Good to know you’ve started. To answer your immediate question, I don’t use a foot pedal. I’m sure it would be useful, but I used my hands. Of course, then I gave myself repetitive stress injury (but that’s also because I pushed myself further and faster than I should have). Now I use a headset and a dictation software to “transcribe”, which brings its own set of problems and solutions.

    • Hey Michael I’m new to this forum and I’v been reading your thread about Focus Forward I’m wondering if you are still working with the media company and if so how’s it going. Would you be willing to share their name with me too write to me at adriana1124 @Yahoo (dot com)


  16. I submitted my test file and was accepted a few days later. I found the instructions very clear and not difficult to follow. The audio quality was fine as well. In the test instructions it specifically stated ways to find words you aren’t familiar with as well as proper drug names.

    The only transcription experience I had was three years conducting market research phone calls where we sometimes had to record verbatim answers to open ended questions. But it’s easier when you have a live respondent and can ask them to slow down or repeat something. I type about 65wpm, nothing special. I’m just looking for this to be a little extra money in my pocket, especially since I’m moving soon and and am not sure what the job market will be like in our new place.

    The paperwork they sent did mention medical terminology and asked if there were any accents I’d feel particularly comfortable transcribing (the paperwork was recently updated, just in Feb I believe, so these may be new additions.) If I remember, I’ll report back after my first few assignments and let you know how it goes.

    One question for those who have worked with the company, do you use a foot pedal, or just use the hotkeys?

    • Typingmom

      I use a foot pedal. BTW – if you guys want to pick up more transcription work you can also try where you bid on jobs. There are a lot of independent contract transcription projects available. The only problem is with getting paid on a timely basis by your “employer.” One employer who seems to always be looking for transcriptionists is Babbletype. They pay well & on time. However, another one of my “employers” still owes me close to $300 for work I did a month ago and which I keep asking her about. She keeps giving us subcontractors “updates” on payment but nothing is coming. I’m refusing to take anything else from her until that money is paid. Luckily, I’m phasing out of my independent transcription work as a former employer offered me a job (after being unemployed for six years) so I’m very happy to be working full time with a great salary and to be back at my old stomping grounds, not to mention not spending all night having to listen to unintelligible accents. Also, I never had problem with finding words or the medical aspect of FF’s transcripts. I actually enjoyed researching the medical portion.

  17. Michael Perera

    Wow, didn’t expect this much feedback.

    Linda: I didn’t have any experience when I started with Focus Forward; just fast typing skills (80 wpm) and a lot of free time on my hands. I got a lot of work from them towards the end of last year (2010). This year, it’s been less. They send me notification of assignments by e-mail, and they call me if they need to clarify anything. For example, they called to ask me to revise my work on one particularly tough assignment. In another case, they liked the work I did on one type of assignment, so they called to reach out to me first (ahead of their other transcribers) to see if I’d like to do another of that type.

    I haven’t heard from their clients directly about their work, but I heard from the project director at FF once that the client liked the job I did for one of their assignments (FF had actually called me to ask if I’d like to do another job for them).

    The poor quality of the audio is a problem, but the fault lies more with the clients than it does Focus Forward. It does get infuriating, though, maddening to the point of violence. I was up until 4:30 a.m. two nights ago, and then got another assignment later in the “day” (I put “day” in inverted commas because it’s really easy to lose track of time with these things).

    So yeah, it’s definitely frustrating, but it’s my main source of income. I have, uh, complications landing a full-time job, so FF has paid the bills, settled some of my debt, helped me get STARTED on other debt, and has let me indulge in the odd pleasure every now and then. From my perspective, it’s worth the long, long, long nights and public meltdowns on Facebook.

  18. Typingmom

    Wow! Michael, you’ve actually gotten feedback from Focus Forward and their clients? The only feedback I’ve ever gotten was a misplaced apostrophe and then received even more inaudible tapes that are sent at the end of my day so, yes, I too am up very late (1:00, 2:00, 3:00, even 5:00 a.m.) to try to make a deadline. It must be my punishment. In this economy every little bit helps but when you’re health is suffering because you lack sleep because you’re checking your computer every hour during the day to see if they’ve sent a transcript at a “normal” time so you can start on but then what’s the trade-off? Plus that 90 cents an hour that it ends up coming out to would go a lot further if I lived somewhere like India. I do have to say FF is very understanding if you can’t meet a deadline. I’ve also contacted them if I have an audio that’s bad and they just say to do the best I can and to capture as much as possible. What I don’t understand is the poor quality of these audios. All the things I’ve transcribed are for nationally-recognized companies, and you would think they would have better equipment.

    I’m now bidding on jobs through Most people are paying 20-25 cents per audio minute. I’ve contracted with a couple companies through them. One I can do some “native speaker” transcription since they outsource the easy stuff out of the country, but I can also pick up extra work doing quality control of those transcripts. I work with someone who gets files sent to her by nationally-known companies and pays anywhere from $23 a/h to $38 a/h and almost every audio is very clear. In one two-month period, I did 25 transcriptions with FF, and I’d say MAYBE five of those were audible (or at least just had one or two “inaudibles” throughout). I now get files throughout the day so I’m not necessarily having to stay up all night, and I can usually do more than one transcript in a day. I’ve made more with her in the last month than with FF in over the year I’ve worked with them. It’s still not enough to make a full-time living but it helps out a lot while still looking for full-time employment.

    You know, transcription is hard. I think a lot of people think it’s easy but it really isn’t. Ther are times when I want to just bang my head against the keyboard. I worked in the legal field for over twenty years and had heavy transcription so it’s not like I’m new to this, and I am not a slow typist.

    Linda, they generally contact you by e-mail unless you’re a minute late turning in a transcript because you’re so busy trying to finish it that you don’t have time to shoot them an e-mail stating you’re going to be late. Then they’ll call you. They have a monthly calendar that you sign into and state for each day how much audio you want. You can log in at any time and change the amount. I find the best chance of getting anthing from them is if you go for the longest audio which is >90 minutes.

  19. Linda

    I guess you said you didn’t have much experience, did you have any at all? I assume they liked your test submission. How much work have you been getting from them? Do they contact you by phone or is it mostly or all email?

  20. Linda

    @Michael Perera: Michael, did you have much experience transcribing when you started w/ Focus Fwd?

  21. Michael Perera

    I’ve been transcribing for Focus Forward for maybe about 9 months now (in fact, I’m working on a transcription right now). The work is often frustrating, time-consuming, annoying to the point of distraction, but it pays decently.

    They’re my only real experience in transcribing, so I have nothing to compare them to.

    They like my work (and they’ve indicated their clients like my stuff, too).

    On the occasions where I have to use a lot of [INAUDIBLE] tags, I make it clear in my e-mails to them why I did so – bad audio quality, too much crosstalking, that kind of thing. I’ve developed a good rapport with them, so I think they know I’m not trying to give them the runaround.

    There are times I’ve been late on assignments, of course, but as long as I give them a heads-up, it’s rarely been an issue.

    Yes, they do bill you for how long the recorded audio is, and not how long you spend on actually transcribing. That’s probably a good thing, because if they did, I’d probably be a millionaire right now. There have been more than a few all-nighters (tonight’s going to be one, too), but I think that’s what I get for working from home.

    At the end of the day, the work I do for them is money that helps me pay the bills. I’ll complain about the long nights, the boring topics and the lousy audio, but I find my outlook significantly improves when I’m in line at my bank.

  22. teknoarcanist

    Follow-up to my earlier comment:

    I’m wondering how this strategy will pan out for Fast Forward in the long run. Do transcripts which I can only assume to be full of [inaudibles] really satisfy their clients?

    To everyone reading this: if you’re interested in REALLY transcribing and REALLY making money, go check out your local community college’s Court Reporting program. It’s typically a 2-year degree (if you knuckle down and apply yourself…otherwise it may take longer) and you’ll leave with a certification that marks you as having a very distinct, specialized skillset.

    You’ll be able to do work in court, or for a freelance agency doing depositions, doing CART services for deaf people, or even captioning-from-home for TV — which is currently primed to explode, due to legislation passed in the last few years mandating that all TV programs have to be closed-captioned. And if you’re bilingual, that’s even better.

    Point is: Court Reporting is like nursing. They always have more work-demand than they do capable persons. So the pay is fantastic. And something like 90% of working reporters report very high job satisfaction; ie, very few people become professional reporters and later change careers, whereas the average American will make 2-3 career-changes in his or her adult life.

    So yeah.

    Court Reporting.

    It’s pretty much the furkin shite.

    • patsquared2

      When I read your comment I was immediately and acutely aware of how right you are. I am not trained in transcription and as you point out, Fast Forward isn’t looking for trained transcriptionists. They are looking to shave more money off the top of their clients’ fees by hiring people like me, not people like you who are trained and would do a much better job.

      LOVE the idea of you doing their work as homework AND getting paid for it. And really like the court reporter idea. Thanks for taking the time to share this information and your thoughts!

    • Roanna Ossege-Martin

      I am a high-speed court reporting student. It does NOT take two years for the vast majority of people. The national average to get to the speeds required to be certifed is four to five years. I have seen two people out of hundreds get to high speeds in two years and under and they were just naturals or they practiced for hours and hours everyday. Some people have been in school for seven to ten years and just cannot get a hold of the speed they need. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. That said, I love writing at high speed.

      Realtime reporting, which is what is required to caption or CART is even harder. You can write sloppy 200 wpm and as long as you can read it, no problem. With realtime you have to write perfectly or have your software trained to read your slop which means you have to misstroke correctly. It is taxing.

      I write 180-200 words per minute currently and it has taken me 3 1/2 years to get to this speed. I am 10 credits shy of the Technical Associates.

      I just broke my leg and had to take a break from school. I was hired by FF a couple of days ago. Thought I could make some money while sitting around.Thanks to everyone for the info.

      • patsquared2

        I am really impressed not only with your speed but the work that it takes to get to a reasonable level of transcription. Perhaps my ignorance is why I was so upset with FF. It’s a harder job than I thought it was. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience. And here’s hoping the leg heals quickly and well!

  23. teknoarcanist

    As a court reporting student, nearly all of the Focus Forward’s instructions (leaving out ums and uhs; using [inaudible] and [ph] for phonetic spelling) are exactly in line with what we’ve been taught. Their methodology seems legit enough.

    That having been said, a lot of what is causing you frustration might be that you’re not trained for transcription — and it seems pretty clear to me that Focus Forward is attempting to circumvent having to hire legitimate realtime reporters (who normally charge about 2-3 dollars A PAGE) by crowd-sourcing to people who are uninformed/untrained . . . and then turning around and selling those transcripts at the standard rate.

    Now you COULD make money if you transcribed at speed, and didn’t have to stop or replay the recording. As I’m currently taking transcription at about 160wpm (have to take at 225 to be certified), I only had to stop the tape once or twice. You figure a good 20m for a 15m recording, which I could then transcribe in about a half an hour, maybe less — in the end, I would probably average out about 10 an hour.

    So yeah. If you’re not trained at taking transcription, it’s too fast, not enough money for the time spent. But if you ARE trained at taking transcription, it’s not enough money for services rendered.

    (In the real world, court reporters generally make damn good money.)

    I’ll probably check them out anyway just for supplementary income to my shit job, and because I can mark time transcribing FF interviews down as homework 😛

  24. patsquared2

    thanks so much TypingMom for this background information and for your insights. You are right about the earning power – it looks liek you will earn more per hour than you do. But as a gainfully unemployed person, making $40 in 3 hours would not be so bad!

    I truly hope that other people get a chance to see your comments and get a leg up on being able to transcribe for this company. They are always advertising so they must need people

  25. Typingmom

    90 cents an hour (or less, depending on how difficult the audio is). For Focus Forward, the pay is $10 for 15 minutes of audio which takes anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour or more to type. It sounds great and easy at first – hey, I can type fast so I can make $40 an hour but unfortunately that’s not the reality of it. An hour of audio is going to take at least three hours to transcribe and that’s if you get quality audio which is very, very rare. I always search the Internet to try to find unfamiliar terms or words, but I have to say that I’m pretty careful otherwise while typing because I never have enough time to go back and review the entire transcript. I’ve looked into other transcription agencies and also on and that’s pretty much the same pay you’re going to get. Some “buyers” ask for an estimate of how long a contractor thinks it would take to transcribe an hour of audio and people will say six hours. I don’t know how you can “estimate” it if you haven’t heard it. At least with Focus Forward you don’t need to identify each speaker. You just bold the moderator’s comments. I also contract with a company who requires that we identify each speaker by name which is almost impossible, especially if the job is split between two contractors and you’ve got the second half of the audio and have no idea who these people are. I had one the other day and was told in the instructions who the speakers were (“Bob,” “Joan,” unidentified “Female”). Come to find out near the end, “Bob” wasn’t even the male speaking. I found out it had been someone else all along when “Bob” ended up interrupting the conversation, so I had to go back and change every instance where I’d identified “Bob” speaking to “Mike.” Then “Mike” left the call and “Bob” continued on but frankly “Bob” and “Mike” had very similar accents and tone to their voices so at the end I actually had no clue as to who had been speaking all along. But I guess it turned out OK since I never got chastised for getting the speakers wrong. But you can only do your best and in this economy, you’ve got to scramble to get whatever work you can get.

  26. NCTranscriber

    Concerning the test – In the intro conversation, does the subject say, “I just got back from my honeymoon in [INAUDIBLE sounds like: Disneyland].” That’s my take on it.

  27. NCTranscriber

    Do they want Superfresh spelled as one or two words?
    The Superfresh website says “Superfresh.”

    @ptotheatsign: Did you get accepted by focusfwd? If so, how is it working out?
    @sand: How about you?

    @Tyoingmom: Your calculated pay rate was “.90”, is that 90 cents an hour? Or 90% of $10/hr?

    Does anybody have any test tips or failed spots in the test they could care to reveal?

    • patsquared2

      They do, if memory serves me right. It has been over a year since I was rejected… And I am not sure about “honeymoon” in the into chit chat. One word of caution – us “inaudible” sparingly and if you can, not at all. They tell you you can use it but they don’t really mean it.

  28. Typingmom

    I applied and took the test for Focus Forward in October and was accepted after submitting it three days earlier (pretty quickly – must have been desperate). I’ve worked in the legal field for over 20 years, worked with both international in-house attorneys and clients with accents, have done a lot of transcription work and am a very fast typist. However, the quality of tapes not to mention the many interviews with ESL people make it extremely difficult to transcribe these tapes in a timely manner. I’ve done 25 transcripts since October. Out of those 25, I’ve had maybe 5 tapes that were easily transcribed. When I got my 1099 for the end of the year we figured my hourly rate was only .90 but it’s actually much less since they only pay for the audio that is being transcribed — not the time it takes you to actually type it or the time it takes you to research terms, etc. online. Also their turn around time does not correspond with what is in their manual. They’re on the East Coast; I’m on West Coast. I often don’t get a file until between 3:00 p.m. & 6:00 p.m. and have to get it back by 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. the next morning which means I’m up all night transcribing. I love to type and do transcription work but this has really burned me out in this short time. I’m really desperate to find something else or another company to work for.

    • patsquared2

      Well that just about frosts the cookie! I am sorry you have had such a difficult experience with this company. Apparently they aren’t very well managed and they take all they can get while paying the minimum to professionals like you. Your experience almost makes me glad they tossed me overboard! I just wish it had not been so difficult for you. Thank you foir sharing.

  29. saviodo777

    Being someone who has worked in a field that needed transcriptions done for the company I ran, I do not at all think that the rules are “crap”. I think that for the most part the rules that Focus Forward requested and the instructions were fairly reasonable. The fact that some phrases were said to be included like “well” and “whatever” is strange to be, but understandable in some ways. Also, as someone who has transcribed for a full time job at a company previously, I do know that instructions are valuable for a position like this because otherwise, the transcription ends up with “um” and useless phrases filling up so much space on the pages that the transcription practically must be edited. And if it doesn’t say to leave something out, then the assumption should be to include it, i.e. the beginning conversation. I simply don’t think that it is a ridiculous request for them to want freelance transcribers that they are paying to do work from home on their own time to follow some instructions. It would be the same at any other kind of job. And I will continue to believe so even if they do not approve my submission. It is their right to expect the job to be done a specific way and it doesn’t make them fishy any more than it would make a typical employer fishy for having a procedure manual for a particular job.

    • Sand


      Did you get in?



    • patsquared2

      BTW – I never said their rules were “crap.” What I did say and will repeat is that their rules are contradictory. You cannot demand verbatim transcriptions with exceptions. It is a contradiction in terms….and confusing.

  30. ptotheatsign

    I also submitted a transcription of that same audio conversation to Focus Forward.

    I included the introductory conversation and spelled “celiac” lowercase. But I did spell it “Superfresh,” because that’s how that place’s Web site spelled it. If that’s a major offense, so be it.

    I almost included an [INAUDIBLE] before finally figuring out that the woman said “Lays” when talking about the junk-food brands. At least I think she did.

    Agreed, the instructions were crap. If Focus Forward is as picky as you say, I’m sure I managed to mess something up, likely in the words and phrases that are supposed to be omitted (such as “OK” and “you know”). However, the instructions didn’t include similar worthless terms like “well,” which to me seems less valuable than “all right” or “you know.” Whatever.

    I haven’t heard back yet, but I’ll try to comment again when I do.

    • Sand


      Did you get accepted by Focus Forward?

      Do you have the time to proof read and edit your work before you send it back?



      • patsquared2

        I was turned down by this company for not typing the introductory comments…which had NOTHING to do with the research survey. I was confused by their direction that you type the transcript verbatim…except you don’t. High IQ, writer, editor, transcriber but just could not wend my way through their contradictory rules. Let me know how you do with them!

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