A pretty decent day in the life of a freelancing single mother

by Rebecca Smith (Way With Words Transcriber)


Dreams of deadlines.


Fly out of bed at 4:30 alarm – not because of any great enthusiasm, mind, but to defuse the nasty backup alarm in the lounge which will start shrieking in 5, 4, 3, 2… Phew!

Need to start transcribing by five-o-clock so that I’m not under too much pressure, and to ensure enough time for any problems to be addressed without causing panic, swearing and hyperventilation.

Coffee first.

Procrastinate a bit. Emails, Facebook, couple of blogs. Decide that it might be a good idea to actually download the sound for my second job of the day, too.

I know that my first (long!) file is a project that I’ve probably transcribed far too much of in the past two weeks, and worse still, there are 15 interviewees and three interviewers in this one. *Massive sigh.*

More coffee. I swear, if there were a butterfly needle in the house, I would set it up intravenously.

Procrastinate some more in anticipation of the pain. Actively start transcribing at 5:30, berating myself for the half-hour that I am now behind.

Work frantically until seven. Load the washing machine, and then wake Baba up for nursery school. Stuck-record the “eat your cereal” and the “get dressed” until they  have actually happened, whilst running around washing a few dishes, preparing Ba’s lunch, quick shower, vitamins, homework book, ballet clothes, out the door.

Return from the school run; hang out the washing. Few more dishes on the way past the sink. More coffee, and a few olives for breakfast, and then get my head down to work again. Remember that I have promised to roast my Baba a chicken for dinner. Quick dash to the freezer, then back to work.

Finally surface, quite dazed after the six hours of overtalking and crashing crockery that largely made up the long focus group. Grab a gulp of fresh air and a handful of the miniature shortbread biscuits I baked on the weekend, then knuckle down again to my second (short) file which, thankfully, is a teleconference, and only one person speaking at a time. *Happy transcriber!*

Job two uploaded, few more dishes (seriously?!) and then there’s the mad dash to fetch my Baba, before getting started on job three which is (a hopeful estimate of!) four hours. Fortunately, interesting subject matter and only two speakers, but quite hard going in the end because the interviewee is foreign, and not very audible either.

Frantically type away at job three, intermittently speaking to Ops on Messenger about another job, helping Baba with her homework and teaching her how to read, and ignoring phone calls which (apparently!) I should have taken.

15 minutes of the job left. Gap it to the kitchen to preheat the oven for Baba’s chicken. Grab a stiff rum and coke on the way back to the laptop to finish for the day, and upload my last file with a big sigh of relief.

Stare blankly at the screen for a couple of minutes, not quite sure where to go next, now that the immediate pressure is off.  Calculate my hours for tomorrow, and how early I need to get started.

Washing in off the line. A lemon into the chicken cavity, some salt massaged into the skin, chicken into the oven, and back to the laptop because I see there’s an instant message from Ops.

Chat with Ops, in between chopping things (gem squash flies across the kitchen thanks to my hurry and the rather blunt knife, and Baba, smart, gets out of there), folding clothes, more dishes, and dodging a now sugared up and very bouncy six-year-old. Score some more work for tomorrow. Rewrite mental note of what time to wake up in the morning.

Eventually get a fed, bathed, pajamaed, and now argumentative and quite impossible child to bed. Quick made-up bedtime story about a little girl who is so well-behaved that her mother lets her swim almost every day (“except when it’s lightning, hey, mama, else she might get zapped?” Clever Baba!). Lights out. Another big sigh of relief.

Tidy up a few things to avoid the misery of waking up to chaos tomorrow. More dishes, done in welcome silence. Cup of tea while I read Sky news on my phone.

Set the alarms for 4:30. Need to start working by five tomorrow, so that I’m not under too much pressure…



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