In October of 2013 I set out on Elance.com (now Upwork.com) to make a few extra bucks. I was lucky enough to find Marie Trout who needed someone to transcribe recorded interviews for her thesis. Since my full time job as a 911 dispatcher requires me to listen, understand, and type quickly, my skills were perfect for the job! After completing her Doctorate, she decided to turn her research into a book “The Blues – Why It Still Hurts So Good” which is now on sale through Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle e-book.
In the 3 and a half years since I met Marie, I have transcribed interviews, analyzed interviews, edited a manuscript into book form, added footnotes to the book, edited the book into an e-book, helped navigate Amazon’s Seller Central, Author Central and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) tools and updated Marie’s WordPress website using PHP, HTML and CSS.
Purpose: Most of my projects start with a specific purpose which drives the project. This project started with me trying to earn a few extra bucks and has turned into “How can I help Marie best?”
- Communication: Since Marie is in California most of the time, we communicate mainly via email and Skype.
- Transcribing: I used Audacity to listen to interviews so I could slow them down to type-able speeds. I can type fast, but not that fast. I typed up the transcriptions using Microsoft Word to make it easier to deliver them to Marie.
- Analyzing Interviews: Marie and I would review the interviews separately, then meet via Skype to discuss our findings. We also used an application Marie found to tag sections of the interviews, but I forgot what that was.
- Editing: I used Microsoft Word to help edit the book and turn it into an e-book.
- Website: Marie’s site was already using WordPress with a custom theme so I had to learn how the theme was set up. All edits are done in HTML and CSS using Atom then copied to Marie’s site using WordPress tools.
- Amazon: Marie asked for my help getting her book listed on Amazon. I had no experience selling on Amazon so my solution was to dive in head first to learn about any solution that could help Marie.
- Billing: We started with Elance.com, but soon switched to Paypal for billing.
- Communication: Marie and I haven’t met in person, yet. I found that working remotely requires a lot of communication. My theory with remote work is to err on the side of over-communication. I would rather have a client say “Too much! I know you’re doing the work. Just tell me about…” than have them wondering if I’m paying attention.
- Transcribing: It took some trial and error to figure out my workflow, but being paid for the work helped me figure out the best way to get the work done. I learned to create shortcuts for common words to make typing faster then use ‘Find and Replace’ to turn them into real words.
- Analyzing interviews: Marie is the expert. She’s the wife of a professional blues musician and was the one doing all the research. It was up to me to find ways to add value to her work and she made that easy and comfortable.
- Editing: I have a theory that most people use barely 10% of Microsoft Office applications. Editing a manuscript into book-sized pages (Marie self-published) and adding footnotes and styles allowed me to learn a lot about Microsoft Word’s capabilities. I think I can use 20% of Word’s tools now.
- Website: I got to learn how to update a WordPress site with a custom theme without ruining it. This was my first time being paid to do any sort of web development so I was excited and nervous. The biggest challenge was using only WordPress tools and access to update the site.
- Amazon: The Amazon Seller’s Central dashboard is an intimidating array of options and information. This makes sense since just about anyone anywhere can sell almost anything through Amazon. It takes a jump-in-with-both-feet kind of attitude to sell a physical item through Amazon for the first time. KDP was much easier to set up and navigate thanks to Amazon’s guides and Author Central also has some very helpful tools. We ended up using every kind of support option for sellers (chat, email, phone, etc.) to get things set up.
I have become Marie’s go-to person for most things internet and technology related. I believe this is mostly due to our mutual respect for each others’ time and effort along with a lot of timely and honest communication. I now consider Marie to be a friend and I enjoy helping her succeed any way I can.