It's easy to argue both for and against the merits of outsourcing, and I frequently do (often in the same conversation), but faced with a perfect storm of deadlines -- features for work, finals for school and holiday party planning for the business press editor's association Cleveland chapter I'm in charge of -- I recently found myself in the classic workaholic's dilemma of too many tasks, 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, for my January feature story on trends in manufacturing IT.
It was an enjoyable interview, packed with valuable insights and information, but the problem was I had neither the time nor the inclination to actually sit down and transcribe it. This half-hour-long 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.
Reading that last sentence was all the convincing I needed. 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.
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.
The most ironic thing about it? The interview with Bob Gault largely centered on global trends in business process outsourcing/offshoring...