Zoho Mail and Its Limitations For Free Accounts

Screenshot of Zoho Mail

There once was a company called AdventNet that created IT software – network monitoring, help desk ticketing, etc. Eventually they started this fledgling division called Zoho which seemed to me (at the time) like a distraction from their IT business. But Zoho grew and grew and eventually AdventNet changed its name to Zoho. Zoho still makes a line of IT software, but it is their Zoho Suite that more people are familiar with.

Screenshot of Zoho Mail

I’ve always liked their software, though sometimes it has been a bit rough around the edges. Part of this is because they usually offer free versions with a fairly robust featureset for those who only need a few users or to monitor a few systems.

In general I haven’t found these limitations to be too much of a nuisance, but I recently started using Zoho Mail and have been frustrated by the number of features which are only available in their paid version. Granted, the paid version isn’t bad – $28/yr. per user – but it isn’t what I’ve come to expect from Zoho.

I figured it would be helpful for others who are considering Zoho Mail as a solution for their needs to have a concise list of some of the more notable of these limitations…as the 25 free users offer is quite attractive at first glance. Without further ado, here is my list of functionality not available in the free version:

  • Mail Forwarding – Want to setup an email address [email protected] and forward it to [email protected]? You can’t on a free account. (Granted, you can create an email alias for an account).
  • POP/IMAP/ActiveSync – These are all methods of retrieving mail from Zoho’s server and are used by email client software like Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Mailbird. (Zoho does have a robust web interface, similar in functionality to Gmail’s, so this is only a deal breaker if you use a software email client).
  • Email Routing – Want to have emails sent to [email protected] routed to a third party helpdesk like Zendesk or Freshdesk? You can’t, it’s a premium feature. (That said, you can probably setup these and other services to access the account automatically and pull the emails).

Besides these limitations, Zoho Mail seems full-featured, the user interface is quite nice, and one can customize things with one’s custom domain rather than having @zohomail.com emails.

What alternatives do you have? At the price of free I’m not aware of many with any robust implementation. I’m luckily enough to be grandfathered into a G Suite account from back in the day when Google was still handing them out for free. ūüôā

The only other completely free solution I’m aware of (at least for a few users) that offers similar functionality to Zoho Mail (e.g., custom domain email rather than @provider.com email) is Bitrix24, but I’ve never personally used them (interestingly, they also have a decent suite of applications and offer a free phone number as well – though it doesn’t appear to come with any minutes, but per minute pricing is cheap). Do you have suggestions for alternatives?

If we look at paid alternatives things begin to open up a bit for us we can add Google Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Rackspace, and so on to the list. Yet Zoho Mail’s prices still seem to be among the best.

Its also worth noting that most web hosts I’ve used (e.g. Bluehost, SiteGround) offer free email hosting as well. These services tend to be fairly full-featured but really lacking in the UI department.

Turmoil in the Medical Transcription World – A Career Path Full of Potholes and Dead Ends

Photo of a Pothole in a Road

In my last post I discussed working from home in general. ¬†In this post I’d like to delve a little more specifically into what it is like to work in the medical transcription field.

Many people are familiar with the term medical transcriptionist.  We are also known as medical language specialists.  I think that is actually a more accurate title, because to do this job well requires so much more than typing.  You have to understand what you are transcribing and have a really good grasp of anatomy and physiology as well as medical terminology, pharmacology and grammar.

The medical transcriptionist listens to and then transcribes recordings of physicians describing their interactions with patients.  These may include clinic visits in cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, psychology, orthopedics, physical therapy, etc.  You may type emergency room visits or descriptions of surgical procedures.  If you were to work for a local physician, say a neurologist, you would type mainly neurology reports and you would quickly become proficient in neurological terminology.  When working for a transcription service you must be proficient in all the specialties and familiar with all the medical terminology that goes along with them. In addition to that you will have a very large number of physicians you will be typing for, which often presents a challenge as you strive to learn all of their varying accents and idiosyncrasies.

With the advent of new technology the transcription of reports is frequently being replaced with editing of reports.¬†¬† Computer software translates the physician’s spoken words into text which the transcriptionist then must edit while listening carefully to the dictation.

I personally prefer typing over editing, finding editing too monotonous, but I know people who love to edit.¬†¬† You can edit more lines per hour than you can transcribe, but don’t get too excited – the companies also pay less per line for editing! ¬†For transcribing dictation the rate may be 8 cents per line but the editing rate will probably be closer to 4 cents per line.¬† Yes, as a transcriptionist you work for pennies!¬† These pennies really do add up though and it is possible to make a good income as a transcriptionist or editor, but it takes a lot of skill, determination and self discipline…and often a¬†good dose¬†of luck as well, as I’ll explain¬† in just a bit.

There are, however, many drawbacks in the field that make it difficult to earn that good income. “Back in the day” it was a lucrative career, a profession.¬†¬†¬† Today it can be quite difficult to make even a decent wage in this profession.

I am currently sitting here typing this article instead of working at transcribing reports because there is no work available this morning.¬† I was tired, but got up with the 4:30 a.m. alarm to prepare for my day at work.¬† Settled in at 5 and ready to begin my workday when the all-too-familiar message appeared on my screen “While your queue is empty, work arrives continuously.¬† Please contact your QManager.”¬† Well, 1 hour and 20 minutes later and still that continuously arriving work is nowhere to be found!

I didn’t even bother to contact the QManager this morning‚Ķchoosing instead to write this article. The days I do contact the QManager I either get a message back saying “keep waiting, work is slowly coming in”‚Ķin other words, there is no work, sit tight and eventually there will be some.¬† The other option is that the QManager will find another account and have me begin work on that.¬† This can be a frustrating process as new accounts mean reading through pages and pages of instructions about what the client (hospital) expects.

There is so much variation from client to client. For example:

  • Some want their headings in bold, all caps while some want them in bold mixed case while others want all caps, but no bold.
  • Allergies in caps or not, bold or not.
  • Number all lists.¬† Don’t number lists.¬† Only number medications.
  • Patient names allowed in the report.¬† Patient names not allowed in the report.
  • Remember Dr. So and So; he wants to make up his own rules which you need to remember too.

You are expected to study these rules and remember them (or have notes everywhere as reminders!).   This is something that is done for every hospital or clinic you type for.  I currently have 4 hospitals I type for….so 4 sets of rules to keep straight.  You might type 3 reports for 1 hospital, then 2 for a different hospital, back to the first hospital for 1 report, onto a different hospital for 2…so you have to keep all these rules for all these different clients straight. So, sometimes I would rather be out of work and not typing than wading through trying to learn all these new rules for a temporary account.

One of the big downsides of being a transcriptionist is that we are only paid for those lines produced which means the time you spend studying those client expectations, time spent reading emails from your supervisor, time spent researching medication doses or unfamiliar terms or the name of the taco joint in St. Louis, Missouri the doctor mentions that the patient works at‚Ķ.all the time you spend doing any of these things you are not compensated for. The time spent waiting to see if any work comes into your queue isn’t compensated for, either (I know of one company that will pay you for up to 15 minutes of out of work time per day; not very helpful if you are out of work for 2, 3 or 4 hours!).

How many other professions are there where you are expected to report to work on time and not get paid if when you get there they have no work available for you to do?  This policy seems like a real injustice to me, but it is the norm in the medical transcription field.

Some companies require that you stay near your computer and “keep checking back” throughout our shift for work.¬†¬†Some employers offer “flex time.” If you come to work and there is none available¬†you can request flex time.¬†¬† This is helpful in a way as you can then go do something else for a while and work again later in the day when there is work available again.

But what if your schedule isn’t flexible?¬† I’m currently caring for my elderly mother who needs my full attention during the day…I get up early in the morning to work, before she is up.¬† If there is no work I don’t have the ability to come back 3 or 4 hours later to see if there is some available.¬† The result?¬† No pay for the hours lost.¬† This can make budgeting difficult and this lack of having a consistent dependable income¬†is one of the biggest problems that I see for¬†the medical transcriptionist.

There is another practice in the medical transcription field which I really don’t understand or like, because it means two transcriptionists with equal skills can be earning very different income based on the accounts they are doing and the rules of those accounts.

Let me explain.  We are paid by lines…so for example for every 65-character line we might be paid 8 cents for typing or 4 cents for editing.  I recently had been working at one company where my accounts were all straight typing, which I loved!  I had one account which had many macros (pre-typed text you can copy and paste into the report; this only takes seconds, but you get credit for all those lines just as if you had typed them) and it also had text often plugged right into the report, so before you typed anything at all you might already have 30 or 40 lines to your credit.  Other accounts never did this, so my line counts were always much lower when I worked on those accounts.

There are also varying rules for each account regarding how many blanks you can leave.¬†¬† The transcription companies put a lot of weight on how many blanks you leave and it counts against you if you send in too many reports with blanks.¬† The problem comes when one account might allow you to have 3 blanks in a report and not send it in for corrections while another account allows no blanks.¬† So it’s harder for the medical transcriptionist on the account with zero blanks to keep her submission rate low than it is for the transcriptionist on the other account, but there are no allowances for this (at least not at any companies I’ve worked for).¬† Since this is often tied to the amount of money you make it really can be more of a situation where luck of the draw (which account you are on) determines your paycheck more than how good a transcriptionist you are¬†or how hard you are working.

One company I know of will reduce your line rate to a mere 7 cents per line for straight transcription if you send more than 5% of your reports to QC for corrections.¬† Many times these submissions are not the transcriptionist’s fault.¬† I have had to send in reports when there was no dictation, the attending physician’s name was not dictated, or some other similar situation which couldn’t be avoided‚Ķthese reports counted against the QC submission rate and can result in a significant decrease in pay.¬† All rewards for 100% accuracy and high line counts disappear if the QC submission rate is deemed too high.¬†¬† We are always told not to guess, to flag anything we are unsure of – but if we do it just one too many times we can pay for it, literally.

I actually had this happen to me (I went from 11 cents a line to 7 cents a line) because I was 0.1% over the quota for that pay period…and I know that I had 2 reports¬†during that time¬†that were no dictations; it was almost certainly one of those reports that caused me to exceed the limit and lose several hundred dollars in pay that pay period.

I am writing this article not to discourage anyone from becoming a medical transcriptionist, because there are some positives things about this career, but there are also many downsides and I hope this article helps you go into it with your eyes wide open.  The charge for tuition to learn transcription is significant and learning this trade also requires substantial investment of time.

I went into this profession expecting to make very good wages and be appreciated for producing quality work.  Neither has happened, in nearly 12 years as a transcriptionist.  One of these days I will go back to school and finish my degree and get a better job.  But for now, I type on.

If you choose this profession I wish you well.  I hope you are one of the fortunate ones who can find a company that rewards your efforts and skill appropriately.

Earn.com A Little Extra on the Side

A Photo of a Clock with Small Piles of Money Near It

 

A Photo of a Clock with Small Piles of Money Near It
This photo was generously provided by Nattanan Kanchanaprat and Pixabay.

(Post Updated: Feb 13th, 2018)

What is Earn.com?

Earn.com is a nifty site where individuals can receive and respond to messages from various organizations and other individuals in exchange for a few dollars. For example I’m a member[1] of a number of lists including:

  • Facebook Users
  • GitHub Users
  • HTML Programmers
  • Instagram Users
  • Pinterest Users
  • Reddit Users
  • Twitter Users
  • YouTube Users

When someone wants to communicate with a certain population of individuals (e.g. twitter users), they can send a message through earn.com which pays x amount for each response. Or if someone wants to communicate with a specific individual they can reach out to that person with a message and an offer of payment for a response.

Why Would Anyone Send Messages Using Earn.com?

There actual use cases where one would want to send a message a groups of users or a specific individual For example:

  • Send a poll to Facebook users providing images of two different potential ads and asking which one would interest them more.
  • Sending out some content to Pinterest users you believe will go viral in hopes that they will pin it and share it.
  • Sharing a link to an awesome new YouTube video.
  • Contacting a CEO of a company you believe will be interested in your product or service.
  • Communicating with a well-known scientist who might otherwise not see your email among the innumerable she receives each day.

The more general the group the less one is likely to get paid per message…but there are also all sorts of niche groups – for example digital currency investors, hackers news users, and so on. I tend to see offers from these a bit more frequently – the cryptocurrency related messages seem to pay especially well.

Is There Any Money In Using Earn.com?

Sure. You aren’t going to get rich off it, but it is fun and provides some extra pocket change.

I’ve been on the site for a while[2] and accumulated around $120 with relatively little effort.

But there is more to Earn.com than pocket change for the occasional message…

Using Earn.com to Monetize Your Email

Earn.com can integrate with Gmail (your choice, I personally haven’t integrated yet). When you receive an email from an individual or organization that you don’t necessarily want to spend time responding to, you can “bounce” the email to Earn.com to gauge how serious they are in their desire to talk to you.

The individual or organization receives a reply email from Earn.com that indicates how much it will cost them to receive a response from you. They can then choose to go find someone else to bother or, if they are really interested in what you have to say or really think their product is meant for you, they can pay up. You spend a few moments replying to their message, pocket the cash, and if it is something you are actually interested in, the relationship continues from there.

Granted, this isn’t something that is going to work for everyone. But if you own a business and are being constantly propositioned by sales people, one way to weed out those who are running through an address book name by name is to charge them a few dollars for a response. They will probably move on to the next name on the list.

Similarly, if you are a public personality of some sort (e.g. actor, author, blogger) and you receive a lot of communications you could choose to charge a few dollars to get a response.

Obviously, this tool could be used poorly. I wouldn’t recommend charging your own family and friends to contact you.[3] And if you are an internet personality I’d suggest not requiring payment for every correspondence. On the other hand, it might be worthwhile to bounce some of those requests for guest posts (or to review a product) to Earn.com to test their seriousness and to make a few bucks.

Bonus: Your Money is Bitcoin

You’ve probably heard the words Bitcoin, digital currency, or cryptocurrency being thrown around on occasion – whether on/in the news or by a geeky friend. You probably also know that Bitcoin is worth a lot of money – I mean thousands of dollars for a single Bitcoin. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way for folks to get Bitcoin without spending a significant amount of money at this point in time (kind of like buying gold).[4] But Earn.com keeps your earnings as Bitcoin. As such your earnings can increase with Bitcoin price increases[5] and you can cash out in dollars or in Bitcoin.

In general I’m not recommending buying Bitcoin at the moment (I’m not a financial advisor, so go talk to someone who knows what they are talking about to decide whether to buy or not) due to the significant price fluctuations occurring (and the likelihood that another technology will supersede Bitcoin), but I would suggest keeping your Earn.com earnings as Bitcoin.

What About Those Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)?

There are tons of companies right now trying to get in on the cryptocurrency boom. Some are for real but many of them aren’t. Of those that are real it is almost certain a majority of them will fail. If you get an offer to buy into an ICO I recommend, in general, not investing. If you decide you really think it is worth investing in, be sure to do your own research and DON’T INVEST MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD TO LOSE!!!!

Closing Thoughts

Earn.com is a fun, free way to make a few extra bucks. It is also a way you can contact individuals (and actually receive responses) that you might not otherwise be able to converse with (e.g. CEOs or blogging personalities). Because your earnings are kept as Bitcoin you also have the opportunity to get into the Bitcoin market at no monetary cost (just a few minutes of your time).

For those who are confused about what Bitcoin is and how it works – don’t worry, I plan on releasing a few articles in the near future on how cryptocurrencies work.

 

  1. [1]You can see my profile at: earn.com/davemackey/referral/?a=aj1r4df6vzgufrio
  2. [2]I don’t recall how long, long enough that I was on it before it was called earn.com
  3. [3]Doing so may result in the loss of said family and friends.
  4. [4]It used to be one could “mine” Bitcoin using one’s computer. These days there are specialized machines mining Bitcoin which make it almost impossible to earn anything significant using one’s own computer.
  5. [5]That is how I hit $120 so quickly….the value of my earnings increased with the increasing price in Bitcoin!