Testing out transcription services

I recently had several projects that required transcripts of audio and video recordings, including a great conversation with Kim Dority about finding her unknown unknowns. I identified four services that were regularly mentioned and ran tests to compare their suitability. (Note that this is distinct from dictation software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking; my focus was solely on tools that reliably transcribe recorded speech and generate a reasonably well-formatted and punctuated document.)

I tested these tools by uploading fifteen minutes of a podcast and comparing both overall quality and specifically the number of errors in a test paragraph. I found that they differed primarily in how many filler words (“um” and “uh”) they removed, whether they could distinguish between speakers, and how well they identified the start and end of sentences and punctuated accordingly. None of the transcripts were perfect but the two 3-star tools offered what I consider good-enough transcription. You will still need to review the transcripts and polish them if you want to publish or distribute them, but this is much less time-consuming than transcribing manually. Note that all these services offer a free trial, so test them with a representative sample of the audio or video you are working with, to see how well each one meets your needs.


Cost: $6/audio hour
Time stamp?  YES
Multiple speaker ID? YES although not always accurate
# of errors in test paragraph: 6
Comments: Included filler words. Didn’t capitalize most proper names.
Overall grade: ♦ ♦ 

Cost: $15/audio hour ($12/hour with subscription plan)
Time stamp? YES
Multiple speaker ID? NO
# of errors in test paragraph: 3
Comments: Eliminated most filler words. Had one UK spelling in test paragraph.
Overall grade: ♦ ♦ 

Cost: $6/audio hour
Time stamp? YES
Multiple speaker ID? NO
# of errors in test paragraph: 6
Comments: Lots of run-on sentences. Eliminated most filler words.
Overall grade: ♦ 

Cost: $15/audio hour ($10/hour with subscription plan)
Time stamp? Only when viewed on web, not embedded in transcript
Multiple speaker ID? NO
# of errors in test paragraph: 12
Comments: Far more errors than other tools. Eliminated most filler words.
Overall grade: ♦ 

Making Yourself Irreplaceable

At the AIIP 2018 Annual Conference, I’m giving a presentation on how to Make Yourself Irreplaceable: The Secret of ‘Reality-Check Conversations’. Also called informational interviews, these conversations (not emails or surveys) are essential for solopreneurs who want to become competition-proof and provide services their clients need, value and are willing to pay for.

Following are some resources for making yourself irreplaceable:

My slide deck on the reality-check interview from the AIIP conference

My interview with Kim Dority about how she discovered her unknown unknowns

My white paper on the reality-check interview

My webinar on the art of the informational interview


Want help on setting up or conducting successful reality-check interviews and make yourself irreplaceable? Maybe I can help.


Learning about your unknown unknowns

Recently, I was talking with Kim Dority, a friend and colleague and one of the smartest people I know, and she was telling me about how she had recently pivoted the focus of her business. First, she developed a compelling write-up of the services she could provide to graduate schools to better attract, support and retain qualified students. She then sent this out in an introductory letter to a few of her top prospects to see how it was received. She followed up with conversations, either in person at a conference they were attending or on the phone, to discuss what she could do for each of those prospects. It turned out that no one wanted to buy any of the services she had so carefully crafted. Instead, they all asked for something specific to their needs – to run their internship program, or to develop a series of workshops for alumni. She could not have predicted the outcome of any of these conversations, but each one resulted in some type of consulting engagement.

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“We’ll have more work later” and other pipe-dreams

Recently I was negotiating a subcontracting project with a colleague. He wanted me to lower my price—to which I had already applied a subcontractor discount—by saying he was sure the client would have more money (and presumably more projects) later. My response was “Great! When your client has a bigger budget, let me know and we can get started on this. If it turns out that your client has steady work, we can talk about a volume discount after, say, six months.”

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The ROI of Relationships

I recently overhead a consultant talking about the need to stay in touch with contacts, even if they never turn into clients. I completely agree. But then I winced when I heard how she described her thought process: “I know I’ll never make any money off her, but…

Words matter. The words you say out loud matter and, perhaps even more importantly, so do the words you say to yourself. And what you say in your head often winds up being reflected in how you act and the words you do choose to speak. When we let ourselves think in crass terms, even in jest, we reinforce the worst of being in business – seeing everyone as a mark, as nothing more than how much we can make off them.

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The Public Speaker’s Secret Weapon

Eyes Behind Red Curtains On Wood StageAlthough I’m pretty comfortable speaking in front of a crowd now, I wasn’t born that way. In fact, I remember being absolutely terrified for at least the first few dozen presentations I gave. I managed to get the terror under control but it took many years before I discovered the secret weapon that has completely turned around my experience speaking in public.

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Killing the Task Monsters

I’m a great list-maker. I have to-do lists everywhere; they have been compiled carefully, organized strategically, color coded and tagged. But when it comes to actually getting all those listed things done, it’s another matter. Some I can get done right away, and virtuously check that item as DONE. Others I look at, think “ugh, that’s going to take time”, and skip over, day after day. Pretty soon, they become big ugly Task Monsters, glaring at me reproachfully, daring me to take them on.

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Stability vs. steady income

aesopAs a child, I read Aesop’s Fables avidly; I like getting my life lessons from animals rather than humans, I suppose. One fable that caught my attention way back then was The Dog and The Wolf, the TL;DR version of which is a well-fed dog offered to help a scrawny wolf get regular food from his master. The wolf listened but noticed a bald spot on the dog’s neck where the collar sat. Goodbye, said the wolf. There is nothing worth so much as liberty.

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Handling scope creep

Scope creep, the phrase that strikes fear in the heart of every consultant…

We have all had that experience, where we carefully plan out every aspect of a project, estimating the necessary time and resources and even adding in a safety margin, only to have our client ask for “just a little more” work or “just this little addition” to our deliverable halfway through the project. All of a sudden the expected work load has doubled, for no additional income.

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