Transcribing is not just a job for women (anymore)!
More and more men are entering this field and enjoying it! Scott Bywater is a professional male transcriber for Way With Words. In an interview conducted with him, he shares his transcribing experiences and views on male transcribers in the market.
My job entails contacting the operations team and requesting work to be allocated. I download the file, usually an mp3, and use a freeware program called Express Scribe to transcribe the words spoken on the file into Microsoft Word format, identifying speakers as I go. Usually hints in the audio will provide me with something to search on the Internet, which can provide more context within which to work, including, at times, a visual image of one or more of the speakers. More importantly, it can expand the topic being discussed, allowing a greater understanding, and generally an enhanced ability to produce an accurate transcript.
To take an obscure example, someone who breaks off in an interview with a digression about obscure baseball players to illustrate a point might throw in a detail that makes it possible to locate the correct spelling of such players’ names.
Male transcribers? They’re few and far between, in my experience. Usually when transcribing I’ve worked in essentially all-female environments, the only other bloke being the audio tech, or perhaps a software guy. I believe, though, that there will be a increase in men in transcription given that keyboard skills are now no longer so gender-fixed.
The image of the old fashioned typing pool is long gone, and with it the idea that men can’t type (except journalists in two-finger punching style). The new model may be more information-focused, on search missions to discover the key missing word in the penultimate sentence on the final page that will take the transcript from being good to being great. Or just being correct, which is consolation enough.
Well, let’s put it this way: when I started transcribing it was using cassette tapes and dictaphones, MS-DOS and fax machines. There was no Internet, everything was analogue, everyone had a home phone, people still wore digital watches. We were all basically living in trees and eating nuts and berries.
A magic pixie visited me in the night … no, I was working for an electronic media monitoring company as a précis writer/editor, and every now and then was called upon to transcribe or check the radio and television transcripts that we sold. Transcription turned out to be good combination of my skills learned by (a) taking typing instead of computer studies in high school, and (b) sitting with a tape recorder trying to figure out the words to pop songs (also in high school).
Coffee. Blank page. Hour-long burst. More coffee. Hour-long burst. Maybe some food, maybe a short walk. Sometimes more coffee. Bursts get shorter. Email checking gets more frequent. When ears turn to cloth, it’s time to stop. Unless there’s a looming deadline, in which case more coffee.
I prefer to work in the mornings, but it depends upon my schedule and where I am at the time. The flexibility of this work is such that the only real limitation is the distance between you and the deadline. You manage your own time – a great luxury in this age – and on that basis pick and choose the work you want according to the day you want.
The access to a constant stream of highly detailed and obscure information about esoteric topics, lives and histories that can be absolutely fascinating. And, given the technological developments of recent years, the sheer portability of the job.
Like W.C. Fields says: never work with animals or children. Poor placers of microphones also bring grief.
The best way to find time for anything is, of course, to enjoy it. Pace yourself. Try to recognise your natural rhythms, whether you work better in the morning or afternoon, or even evening, for that matter, and how long you can go before your frustration levels rise. This is a normal response in interview transcription – people refuse to talk in proper sentences, and they mumble, and they keep saying “If you will” or “you know”. An hour, maybe an hour and a half; personally, it’s an hour for the first couple of hours, then it drops down to 45 minutes or so.
The ability to deduce your own best working patterns is gold, because it gives you the key to enjoyment and the success that follows from enjoyment. There are times to allow yourself to be distracted, there are times to stare out the window, and there are times to put the pedal down to make the deadline. Make it work for you.
In interview transcription, as in life, be interested in things. In that case, few transcript jobs are dull, and you feel as if you are gaining in knowledge and experience just by typing. Occasionally one is downright entertained. Also, remember that autocorrect is your friend.