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Author Archive for Catherine Poole – Page 3

Making a change – introducing learning tools

April is a funny time of year, one where it seems to be true to say that you really do experience four seasons in one day. Last week we were enjoying 20 degree temperatures (yes, even in Scotland!), and yesterday I rushed through a stinging hailstorm which was closely followed by a blizzard.

The variability in the spring weather patterns has got me thinking about the changes business owners must make on a reasonably regular business in order to keep things moving along and stop things going stagnant.

Change is good!

I know, I know, it’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day routine of business when you have a few regular clients, a fairly consistent amount of work and you know what you’re doing with whatever product or service you’re offering.

At the risk of sounding like a cliche, however, you have to get out of your comfort zone if you’re going to grow and develop your business. This is what I’m planning in doing in the not too distant future, and I would love to have your feedback on my idea, and if you think it’s something that’s going to work.

Up until now, my business has been purely service-based. In the main I provide transcription services to my clients, along with a bit of proofreading and editing (which, I’m sure you’ll agree, comes with the territory). However, this is very much a time-based business model, and it’s always been my intention to look into ways of creating passive income (I’m not even sure I really like that phrase!) by creating courses or learning tools of some sort.

Here’s the scary bit…

Okay, so I recently made myself accountable both to my coach and to my mastermind group that I would map out a potential course for people who are a bit scared when it comes to writing for their businesses. This could be in terms of blog writing like this, or even just best practice when it comes to contacting clients or posting on social media.

So this is where you come in!

What puts you off writing for business?

Is this you? What are you afraid of when you’re writing for your business?

Do you feel anxious about getting your spelling, grammar and punctuation wrong? Are you worried about your sentence structure? Are you unsure of the proper way to address somebody in a letter? What about different styles to use in different types of writing or correspondence?

Is the whole writing process just not something you feel comfortable with at all and you feel more comfortable articulating yourself verbally than getting your words down on paper?

This is a bit of a scary thing, and because it’s so new for me I can still feel a certain amount of resistance towards it, but by writing it down here, I’m making myself doubly accountable. I would welcome your comments, so please watch this space!

So….how do you make changes in your business? I would love to know!

Are you visible enough in your business?

Are you invisible?!

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to view an almost total eclipse of the sun here in Scotland – well, I say view, I hadn’t been organised enough to get hold of those special filter glasses and by the time I realised the eclipse was taking place, everywhere had sold out. Fortunately, despite a bright and sunny start to the day, the clouds came over enough to act as a filter, and I was able to see what was, I think, about 95% totality.

solar eclipse

The whole idea of the sun hiding behind the moon (nearly!) got me thinking about where we hide ourselves in our businesses, especially if we don’t feel particularly comfortable shouting about what we’re good at. I know when I was in the workplace before my children came along, I trundled along in the background in my support role, getting things done, working away on the day to day tasks and providing an essential service to the people I worked for. However, I felt pretty much invisible in terms of the business as a whole, and I never really felt that important, despite the fact that if I hadn’t been there, the whole team wouldn’t have worked!

Becoming a business owner

Being a business owner is a different kettle of fish, mind you. If you don’t make yourself visible, you won’t get business, it’s as simple as that!

That was a difficult concept for me to grasp at first. I wasn’t remotely comfortable promoting myself and telling people what I was good at, and in the very early days even starting my Facebook page made me feel extremely anxious – what if people actually wanted to buy my services?? What a scary thought!

I’ve been in business for over four years, but I’ve only had a blog for just over a year, and the posts were only once a month at first, but I’ve managed to increase them to once a fortnight (more or less) for the moment. I do love the writing process, so once a week is my goal, sooner rather than later, I hope!

So what do you do if you’re feeling a bit invisible?

My advice to you first of all would be to start a blog. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and even if you aren’t able to have it there on your website, you could do what I did in the early days and set something up on wordpress.com. If I can work out the technical bits and bobs, anyone can. If you want to start off by doing a post a month, you only need to think of 12 topics to write about, and I bet you can come up with more than that if you set your mind to it. What questions do your clients and potential clients ask you? What advice can you give? What can you teach people?

You can even do what I’ve done recently and try out video as a way of making yourself really visible. My videos aren’t polished at all, and they’ve all been done either on my phone or with my webcam, but it’s a great way for people to see YOU, and after all, people buy from people they like and trust, don’t they?

As a little addendum, if you’re struggling to write, you could try dictating your thoughts and ideas and get somebody like me to transcribe and edit them into a usable form, and the same goes for videos, which can be transcribed and turned into written blog posts or articles.

How would you like to make yourself more visible in your business? Please do comment below, I’d love to hear some other ideas!

My 30 day video challenge

Video – a bit scary!

If you have read any of my previous blog posts, you will know that I’m fairly new to the medium of video when it comes to content marketing. Not being a big fan of the sound of my voice or seeing myself on the screen isn’t a good starting point, but over the last few months I have managed to record a handful of videos on my webcam and even publish them on YouTube, no mean feat in itself!

However, I was recently challenged by my good friend Lyn Pornaro, of Three A’s Business Coaching, to take part in a 30 day video challenge – recording a short video every day for 30 days!

The challenge!

I will admit that when I realised what I had let myself in for I was a tad apprehensive, to say the least. I decided to go with the flow nonetheless, and unlike my earlier efforts where I was unable to even record anything without a script taped to my laptop screen, I made the decision to talk pretty much off the top of my head about the day’s topic of my choosing, and try not to be too pernickety about any ums, ers and waffling.

You can see the results of the first day in the video above! If you’d like to have a look at my other videos and follow my progress, please do pop over to my YouTube channel.

As I’m writing this, I have just recorded my ninth short video (they’re all about two minutes (ish) long), and so far I’ve more or less managed to come up with something new to talk about every day. The point I’m trying to make is that I think every business owner sometimes struggles to come up with new content, but perhaps this is because we all suffer from the curse of knowledge, and we sometimes forget that we know a lot about what we do and how we can help others.

To give you an example, I did one video last week where I asked how you would describe your business to a ten year old! To put this in perspective, I was speaking to somebody at a networking event recently who didn’t actually know what transcription was, so this made me think. I realised that it’s not always obvious to others what  you do, even if you say something like, “I’m a transcription specialist”. If you get a blank look, then you know you need to expand a bit!

Anyway, please do pop over and check out the videos. I’d love to hear your comments, and if you feel up to taking up the 30 day challenge too, please let me know!

Where does the time go?!?

clockDo you know how long it takes you to get stuff done in your business, whether that be client work, admin or even just popping onto Facebook for ‘five minutes’?

To be honest, I wasn’t sure until recently. I kind of knew on average how long it took me to do a piece of transcription work, depending on the number of speakers, audio quality and so on, but in reality, I wasn’t really sure. I might be focused on a job for a wee while, but then I would get sidetracked with something else and before I knew it, half the day would have disappeared and I wasn’t really sure how much I had actually achieved.

I know there are a million and one time tracking apps and gizmos out there, but the method that’s working for me is the simple stopwatch function on my phone.

I’m sure a few of you are familiar with the Pomodoro technique, whereby you use a timer to break down your time into chunks of, say, 25 minutes, and when the timer rings you give yourself a five minute break before starting on the next chunk of time. I haven’t exactly used this method before, but I had tried putting on the timer on my phone for an hour to see how much I would get done, and that did improve my focus, but only to a degree.

The stopwatch, however, actually measures how much time you’re spending on a job, and if you do need to take a break from what you’re doing, you can hit pause and go back to it in due course without ‘losing your place’, as it were. You might find that you don’t want to stop, mind you, as it becomes a bit of a case of mind over matter in the battle over who will win, you or the stopwatch!

It’s also a great way to track what’s coming into your business on a daily basis. I’ve started logging the time spent on transcription (and proofreading) work on a spreadsheet and it calculates each job’s hourly rate based on my ‘per audio minute’ rate and the time spent on the job and gives me a weekly total and a running monthly total. It’s quite an eye opener and a fantastic way to reach your targets.

Do you use a stopwatch or other time tracking software in your business? Please either comment below or pop over to my Facebook page and let me know!

 

My top five effective recording tips!

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I transcribe a lot of content on a regular basis, and this can be anything from straight dictation to interviews, focus groups, webinars, podcasts, videos or speakers at events.

I appreciate that quality of recordings can vary depending on the venue, number of speakers, accents and so on, but I think it’s well worth thinking about a few important factors before you record your audio or video.

Here are my top five tips for effective audio and video recording before getting it transcribed!

1. Speak clearly – a no-brainer, surely? Mumbling isn’t particularly helpful and is likely to result in a lot of inaudible time stamps!

2. If there are two or more speakers, it’s better to have people speaking one at a time and preferably not talking over each other or interrupting constantly. If individual speakers need to be identified, make sure they introduce themselves clearly at the beginning of the recording.

3. Think about where you’re doing your recording. If it’s just you, make sure you’re not in a room where echoes are likely to occur which will have an impact on the audio or video. If you’re recording an interview, try not to do it in a crowded place like a restaurant or where there are other people in the background who are likely to make a noise.

4. Is your recording device up to scratch? If it’s just you or a handful of people, your smartphone or a Dictaphone will probably suffice, but if you’re recording a larger group in a bigger space, it might be worth using two devices to make sure you’re picking up everybody speaking.

5. Lastly (for now!), it’s always really helpful to spell any difficult names or unusual words. Google has become my friend when it comes to searching for the strange and unfamiliar!

Go forth and record, then come to me to get your content transcribed!

 

 

 

My transcription essentials

I think that I really must be suffering from the curse of knowledge!

I have talked to a number of people recently about some of the equipment I use as part of my transcription business, and I would say that a majority of them had no idea that such a thing as a foot pedal even existed, let alone be an essential part of my toolkit!

So this week I decided to record a short video where I explain a little bit about some of the hardware I use in my business. To cut a long story short, I would find it very hard to do what I do without the following:

My headphones 

Yes, you can hear audio through your computer’s speakers, but the wearing of headphones immediately helps to shut out any external noise. I find it also focuses my attention more, and I’m less likely to miss out audio where the sound might dip or one of the speakers’ voices is, shall we say, a little bit mumbly.

My wireless keyboard/mouse

I used the laptop keyboard in the early days, but I don’t really think these are designed for a LOT of typing (which is what I do, obviously!), plus the  keys are too shallow and close together. Using a wireless keyboard also means I can put my laptop on a riser, which takes it up to my eye level and is better for my posture.

My foot pedal

Absolutely essential! I can use this to play, rewind and fast forward the audio I’m listening to, which enables me to focus on the typing part of the job, which is obviously the most important part of transcription. I can’t imagine how anybody attempting to transcribe their audio/video would manage without this tool!

Express Scribe

I don’t mention this in the video, but this is the software I use, which supports audio and video formats such as mp3, mp4, wav and Windows Media files. It also works in conjunction with my foot pedal, unlike other media players, plus you can slow down or speed up the voices.

So, what are the essential tools you use in YOUR business? Have a look at my video, and let me know what you can’t manage without.

I love WordPress!

Hooray, I am up and running!

It’s been a couple of months since I wrote a proper blog post, and there’s a very good reason.

This is the first blog post that I’ve written from my own website, woohoo! My site was re-launched last week, thanks to the very clever WordPress skills of Tracy Swindale from Super Secretary, and I am SO excited to be publishing content on my very own platform at last.

I’ve been blogging for a year now, and lack of a blog prior to the beginning of 2014 led me to setting up a wordpress.com blog, mainly in sheer frustration at the fact I didn’t have one actually on my website. When I started my business, I was in the very fortunate position that my husband was able to build me a website, and for this I will always be eternally grateful, as I would never have got anything up and running in the first place without his support.

But as things developed and my business moved on, this became a bit of a problem.

I was unable to make changes to the site without getting my other half to go in and do the changes on my behalf, and this often meant waiting ages until he had time on his hands. It hardly seemed worth it for small changes, and when it became clear that I really needed to make a lot of updates (when I narrowed down my niche to being a transcription specialist, for example), it really became quite untenable.

I knew something had to change!

I’d already discovered how easy it was to create blog posts on the page I’d set up in wordpress.com, and I am overjoyed to discover that it’s now just as easy to make changes and add new pages on my website.

I certainly wouldn’t say I was an expert yet, not by any means, but I’m so looking forward to the flexibility that it’s going to give me, both in terms of blogging and content marketing, and being able to keep my website looking the way I want it to.

 

 

 

 

Information overload – what’s your best learning style?

Do YOU have information overload when it comes to choosing which way you learn?

DeathtoStock_Creative Community6

You can’t have failed to notice that I like to talk a lot about the benefits of using intelligent transcription and how it can help individuals and small businesses make more of their online audio or video content. Your content is valuable and it stands to reason that you’d like to make it even more valuable by turning existing words into new content, such as blog posts, social media posts, online articles and e-books.

But what about online courses and learning information?

Do you buy online courses? Perhaps you create and sell them yourself as part of your business or perhaps you’re thinking about it (in spite of the whole hooha over the new VAT rules due to come in on 1st January, but that’s another story altogether!).

Over the last couple of years I have been a prodigious browser of courses available to buy at the click of a button, and have even bought a few. It’s enough to make your head spin sometimes, there are so many available, and it’s hard to know where to start.

What would make you choose one course over another?

The cost? The blurb on the sales page? Testimonials from satisfied customers?

Content that’s accessible for your own personal learning style, perhaps?!

Things like cost and recommendations are extremely important, of course, but I often wonder if people stop to consider the implications of what’s involved in accessing the course content before they click on the old Paypal button. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the content at all, but I often wonder if buyers of online courses think about how they prefer to access learning material before they buy a course.

I wonder too if businesses that produce online courses are missing a trick when it comes to making their content more accessible to more people.

As mentioned above, I have bought a few courses since the start of 2013 and I’m afraid to admit that (whispers), I haven’t finished all of them. Now, this could be down to various reasons, namely procrastination (horrors!), lack of time, not managing my time properly (cough) and that old chestnut, just not getting round to it. Perhaps you’re in a similar boat!

I’ve realised that I actually prefer to READ my learning material. I have to be in the right mood to listen to or watch a webinar, and I will admit that I’m easily distracted by other things on the computer whilst they’re running. But give me a book and a comfy sofa, and my focus is only in one place.

You might now be able to guess where this thread is heading!

I think it’s always worth considering how your customers are likely to access their learning materials, and provide the content accordingly. If this means providing an intelligent transcript of the audio of a set of webinars or videos, then I really do believe you’ll be adding a lot of extra value to what you’re offering.

What do you think? I’d love to know how you like to access your content online, so please either leave a comment, or pop over to my Facebook page and let me know.

More on the pesky problem of spelling and punctuation…

Anybody who happens to see my Facebook posts on a regular basis won’t have failed to notice that I’m a bit of a pedant when it comes to spelling and punctuation. I have talked about the whole issue of apostrophes elsewhere, and I think it’s time to expand on this a wee bit!

If you run a business or if you’re starting to think about it, it stands to reason that you want all your business bits and bobs like your website, your business cards and your social media pages to look tip top. You want to come across as professional and trustworthy without losing sight of your own individuality, so what you’re aiming for is to create an eye catching personal brand, and it goes without saying that you probably want to spend a bit of time working on what you want to say to get the customers flocking in.

Unfortunately it can be very easy to spoil the effect of a lovely website or sales page with a few pesky old spelling and punctuation or grammar mistakes.

Here’s a selection of some of my favourites and a few hints and tips on how to correct the errors.

Although I’ve covered this before, I think the dreaded misplaced apostrophe deserves a recap, and it’s most commonly used in a plural where it is not needed.

To give you an example, how about book’s. The plural of book is books. The only time you need an apostrophe is if you plan to write something like, ‘The book’s an excellent read’ (short for ‘the book is an excellent read’) or ‘The book’s contents’. If you have several books, you might say something like, ‘The books’ covers were all shiny’.  The apostrophe always goes at the end if it’s the possessive of a plural.

Continuing on the subject of apostrophes, it’s is short for it is, where its is a possessive, e.g. ‘the tree has lost its leaves’.

Confusion is common when it comes to your/you’re and they’re/there/their.

You’re is the contraction of you are and your is a pronoun, e.g. ‘you’re going shopping later’ or ‘your mum’s going shopping later’.

They’re is the contraction of they are.

There can be used in a sentence with a verb e.g. there is a bird in the sky.

Their indicates possession, e.g. their house is lovely.

Not to mention the use of should of instead of should’ve (the contraction of should have).

Moving on, what about words that sound the same but have different spellings?

A few examples are…

Accept/except. Stationery/stationary. Affect/effect. Compliment/complement. Principle/ principal.

I accept your apology for eating the chocolate, even though there is nothing left for me in the fridge except cheese.

I bought some stationery before I went to catch the train, which was already stationary at the platform.

She knew how to affect him, and the overall effect was spellbinding.

Her friend gave her a compliment on the beautiful shoes that complemented her dress.

He refused to change his mind as it would be against his principles, despite being confronted by the principal person in charge.

Even pedantic people like me can be guilty of slip-ups – have you ever found yourself looking at a word for so long that it starts to look wrong?

Yup, me too.

The moral of the story is, if you’ve got important words out there that you want other people to take seriously, always get someone else to proofread them before hitting publish!

Lights, camera, action!

If you’ve been following my posts over the last few months, you might have noticed that I’ve been talking about some of the ways you can get out of your comfort zone when it comes to getting your message across, and these have included speaking at a networking event and being interviewed for a podcast.

Some of you might even have noticed that I made myself accountable in my last blog post and said that I would record myself talking on video, so here I am in all my glory!

Yikes!

This is a big ‘eek’ moment for me. It’s one thing getting up in front of people to speak if you can’t actually see yourself, but it’s quite another thing seeing yourself on the screen as the webcam records you speaking.

By the way, this is the easiest way to get started if you want to try and video yourself. We do have a family handheld camcorder, but I imagine you probably need a tripod for this, unless you fancy trying some sort of wobbly video selfie!

I’ve watched quite a lot of videos on people’s blogs and websites recently, and I think they can be a great way to get your personality across. It’s easy to become a bit faceless in business, particularly if you’re largely web-based and might not necessarily meet your clients face to face, and I think the most important thing to remember is that you don’t actually need to look picture perfect. In fact, it’s probably better if you look as normal as possible, as you’re then more likely to come across as a real person, if that makes sense, rather than one of the candidates on The Apprentice.

Hands up if you feel intimidated by highly polished videos with high production values and perfectly groomed business people – I know I do! Okay, so you might not want to appear on video in your pyjamas, for example, and I know that the lighting isn’t going to be perfect on my video and it might be slightly grainy in appearance, but you have to start somewhere.

At this point I’m going to tell you that I will be transcribing my video and putting the text of the content underneath for you to read, so this will give you an idea of how intelligent transcription can add value to your content, especially when it takes out the ums, ers and hesitations of when you’re speaking!

In this very simple example, you can choose either to watch the video OR to read the transcript (or you can do both, of course!). If you’re recording your own videos, you get them transcribed and you want to go back at some point in the future and, for example, turn a series of video posts and blog posts into an e-book, the written content will be there for you to use.

So that’s it for my first video attempt! I hope you enjoyed it, and I will talk to you soon. ‘Bye!


 

So, what do you think?

I’d love to hear what you think about video versus blog and how you can use a combination of the two as part of your content marketing strategy, so please either leave me a comment, contact me via my Facebook page or drop me a tweet.