Branching out makes perfect sense, especially as I have noted fluctuations in my field. Great jobs seem to be posted at certain times of the month, while at other times, the posting area seems kind of 'dry'.
My basic rate for intelligent verbatim starts at $60 per hour of audio. Basic = 2-3 speakers max, good quality of audio, content can't be full to the brim with expert vocab (unless it's expert talk I am very familiar with).
Everything else I charge extra - shorter files, a whole bunch of short files, more speakers, identifying speakers, intensive time stamping, 100% verbatim incl. stutter, non-verbal etc., annotations, very specific formatting requirements, etc.
All my rates are set up to accomplish an hourly rate I want to be making (~$15). This takes some experiences, and you need to be able to judge the file/sample very well beforehand in order to achieve that rate. I also figure in break times (essential as transcription actually requires massive concentration) and editing time (I only run spell check as I know I achieve 95%+ accuracy from the get-go).
My advise for something who wants to try out transcription would be to try and find a job for a 1h (expert) interview. Longer files have the advantage that after a while you get used to the speakers and pick up speed at some point (short files have the disadvantage that you will need to wrap your mind around a whole new speaker situation with each file). Interviews usually are also pretty relaxed as the whole point of the situation is someone explaining something to someone, so they automatically talk fairly reasonable in order to get their stuff across. Webinar transcriptions are often fairly easy as well, if it is not a whole bunch of speakers and half of them are speaking through a Skype conference call. There is still quite a bit of transcription work in market research, but that stuff can take some nerves...
I have my doubts about picking up good transcription rates here on Upwork for English transcription. That kind of work is usually farmed to cheap non-native speakers and then edited by native speakers or very good non-native speakers. The only English transcription work I get on here is by clients who initially want German transcription and then end up giving me their English files as well as they are sold with the quality and don't want to go through the editing hassle with cheaper providers.
I also think that 90% of people who are thinking about trying transcription work end up realizing that it does actually take quite a bit more than they initially thought it would.
you're welcome. If you want more specific info or advise on software or techniques/strategies, feel free to PM. I've trained a few people and been doing the work for ages, so I know how it works.
A good tip for anyone without previous experience wanting to try and offer this service here on the site might also be to pick a random audio/video (e.g. from YouTube), transcribe it and put the transcript into their portfolio.
I once agreed to do transcribe a German audio file into English.
It was dreadful. All the things Sandra talks about I didn't know. I seriously under-quoted just to be confronted by a bad quality audio of a non native German speaker with an accent as thick as a huge hedge, and a Swiss guy with a stutter and a really heavy Swiss accent, talking about esoteric principles in a noisy environment. I had somehow believed I could do it in one whoosh (listen to the German, write it straight to English,) but nooooooooooooooo chance!!!
I did it, and the quality was good, but I think when I worked out the effective hourly rate I cried. Entirely my fault for thinking "How hard can that be....?"
NEVER again. I shall leave it to the people who know what they are doing.
'a non native German speaker with an accent as thick as a huge hedge, and a Swiss guy with a stutter and a really heavy Swiss accent, talking about esoteric principles in a noisy environment.'
OMG, now I have a vision in my head of this balding guy (no offense to balding guys) with a huge gut (no offense to huge guts) in a white wife beater with tons of hair spilling out of the armholes and the neck hole, smoking a big fat stogey picking his nose and worse yet... he's in his boxers and they're kind of worn...
i know. I'm sorry.
I keep giggling about your post because after the first sentence I knew exactly what was coming and I can imagine very, very well what that must have been like
Transcribing into another language (I actually hate that it is called that) is a tough one - I take on the occassional ENG-GER direct transcript, but only do GER-ENG if the content is very fluffy or for very certain clients with whom I have worked on similar projects for years. I still prefer to do a transcript first and then translate - if the translation rate is very good, I might even throw in the transcript for free, or offer a somewhat lower translation rate if they pay for the transcript at my usual rates.
On transcription in general:
I too got burnt a few times, looking back it's okay though because it helped building the knowledge that I have on the subject.
For me personally, it really depends on the subject matter and the speaking situation. I really like doing expert talks, interviews, panels, discussion groups on a veriety of subjects (anything related to social science is probably my favorite) because these often are almost like really good documentaries and full of interesting information (sometimes even information you wouldn't have access to as a "member of the general public", obviously I have to sign NDA's for this type of stuff). Some of this information has even affected my personal life and my way of thinking about a few things.
A while ago I got offered this huge transcription project, the pay was quite good and it would actually have secured several months of fulltime work. However, the job was to transcribe the recordings of people calling their mobile phone provider's customer service, whether it was for technical problems, moving, inquiring for better deals, etc. This kind of stuff (and a lot of market research work I mentioned in my other post) falls into my personal category of "meaningless", and I didn't take it on because I knew no matter how much they offered to pay I would have been ready to drown myself halfway through the project (if not earlier).
I also refuse to transcribe anything that is meant for any kind of speech recognition technology (often clients won't say that it is, but I can recognize what the deal behind the project is anyway). I made the mistake on working on a few of those projects and it made me realize that depending on how and for what purpose it is being applied, speech recognition can be a quite questionable or even dangerous tool.
Sorry for rambling. Anyway, I do think that transcription work is often perceived in a wrong way from several perspectives (people frowning upon transcriptionists because they think all they do is "just type", people who think it should be super cheap for the same reason, people who think that pretty much anyone could do it, including themselves). I don't do as much transcription work as I used to, but still like to take on the occassional project as it puts good money into my bank account and doesn't take away from my "creative energy" that I need for other projects/activities.