Saturday, December 1, 2007

Outsource Your Own Job To India

Recently, I was faced with a perfect storm of deadlines -- features for work, finals for school and holiday party planning for the Cleveland chapter -- and I found myself in the classic overachiever's dilemma of too many to-do's, too little time.

One of the more onerous tasks I had waiting on my plate was to transcribe a long interview I had just done with Bob Gault, a managing VP at Siemens IT services/solutions for an upcoming IndustryWeek feature story.

It really was an enjoyable interview, packed with valuable insights and information about global outsourcing, but the problem was I had neither the time nor the inclination to actually sit down and transcribe it. This half-hour audio file was waiting out there, hanging in my mind like a big stop sign, and I knew at some point I would have to put everything else down and play at being my own secretary for a couple of tedious hours.

Then I remembered a great post I'd read from Ryan Norbauer over at Merlin Mann's productivity blog 43 Folders about what the "enlightened outsourcing" of podcast production:
It’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily have to outsource whole projects. To cite an interesting example, we do occasional podcasts at my company. The editing process is enormously tedious and used to take me many hours to turn a two-hour interview into just 30-40 minutes of talk and music. Sure, I’m slow and a total amateur when it comes to audio editing, but that’s really my point. There was clearly someone better suited to doing this work than me.

Since I have embraced outsourcing, I now send the raw audio to my man Ashish at Tech-Synergy, who promptly sends me back a flawless time-indexed transcript in text form. I then mark up that transcript by hand in red ink, which takes about 10 minutes, and scan it rapidly to PDF...I send the edits along with the raw audio to a firm in Argentina who edit it all together as a seamless podcast according to my marks. The whole process costs us less than $75 and saves me many painful hours of work.
It's easy to argue both for and against the merits of outsourcing, and I frequently do (often in the same conversation), but reading that last sentence was all the convincing I needed to give it a shot. I contacted Ashish, and not only was he more than pleased to have my business but he told me that Tech-Synergy follows the tried and true sales philosophy of "the first one is free" for transcribing a file up to 30 minutes long.

Well, I uploaded and emailed the 8MB .wav file from my digital recorder with some notes/titles etc. at about 10 PM and had the completed (and flawless) transcript waiting in my inbox when I woke up the next morning. All told, it saved me an hour or two of mind-numbing transcription work (and that's just counting the parts I'll use -- for the whole thing, probably more like three or four hours), and allowed me to get on to more value-added (and much less annoying) activities, like writing up that outsourcing/offshoring feature story.

Plus, I get postmodern pretentiousness points for outsourcing an interview about outsourcing...


Hesh said...

I once feared losing my entire column to India. Not really, but it was a good theme for a humor column I wrote.
Take a look at:

Hesh Reinfeld
Busines humor columnist- Pittsburgh

Mary Aichlmayr said...

This is a great tip. Transcribing is the only part of the feature writing process that I can't stand. So tedious! Have you ever heard of software that automatically transcribes voice files into Word files? The person who invents that would make millions. Most journalists I know hate transcribing.
Do you think that offshore company offers volume discounts?