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How to Become a Transcriptionist: Expert Interview with Janet Shaughnessy

Today’s guest is Janet Shaughnessy of Zoom Transcription and Transcribe Anywhere (and yes, I’m totally fine with her using the “Anywhere” name :-)).

Janet is the queen of all things transcription and has some excellent advice to share with us based on firsthand experience throughout her years in the industry — and her recommendations on how you can become a transcriptionist.

Several PA students have also taken her transcription courses and have been thrilled with the quality of her instruction.

P.S. — I’m so impressed Janet mastered the real shorthand. That stuff ain’t easy!

Let’s dig in!

Janet, tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in transcription.

Actually, I learned shorthand and typing in high school. So, now you know I’m not exactly a kid. I don’t think younger people today even know what shorthand is. 🙂 However, I learned the skill, and in the beginning years of my work life, I used it “live,” which means I would be in the same room with the person or persons speaking and write down in shorthand everything that was said. Then, I would type it up on a typewriter using Wite-Out and carbon copies!

Fast forward some years and shorthand was replaced with recorded audio. Then, computers were added. I eventually became a medical transcriptionist. I had experience in insurance and law as well.

When my husband became disabled and unable to work, I couldn’t keep up with the demands of my 50-60 hour-a-week job and take care of him. I was paid well as an office manager at an employee benefits company, but I was unhappy and overworked, to say the least. I knew that there must be something I could do from home, and it occurred to me that my transcription skills would transfer well. How right I was! I applied and tested with a company and was hired as a medical transcriptionist right away. I also took on general transcription work. Legal transcription was added later.

What is the difference between general transcription and legal transcription?

General transcription is the practice of transcribing audio and video files for all different types of industries (other than legal and medical). These might include academia, marketing, interviews, filmmakers, and authors, among others.

Legal transcription requires all of the skills necessary as a general transcriptionist with the added knowledge of legal terminology and documentation.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite?

My absolute favorite part of my business (I don’t refer to it as a J-O-B as I work for myself) is the flexibility of my schedule. I can choose when, where, and how much I will work.

My least favorite part of my job is a boring gig. LOL. Let’s face it, we all have different interests. If something is too “tech-y,” I lose interest. Sometimes, we have to deal with poor-quality audio and/or speakers who either aren’t properly mic’d or have foreign accents. Those jobs are always a challenge.

How flexible is this type of work? Is it ideal for moms, as a side gig, digital nomads, etc.?

This type of work is all about flexibility! I would say it’s the ideal setup for anyone who either can’t or no longer wants to be in the rat race of Corporate America. Being a remote worker gives you the ability to set your own schedule to suit your needs, whether they be family obligations or another full-time or part-time job.

What’s the demand like for transcription worldwide? What kinds of companies are looking for transcriptionists? Is the demand expected to increase in the next decade?

With the proliferation of video, the demand for transcription is definitely on the rise. If you’re online at all, you know that video is everywhere! All of that video needs to be turned into a written document to be used for marketing, training, blog or website content, eBooks… the list is endless. Companies of all kinds use transcriptionists. Some are big production companies and others are small mom-and-pop businesses. The demand for qualified transcriptionists will continue to rise.

Besides patience, what else is required to be successful in this type of business?

A qualified transcriptionist is not just a good typist; however, that is certainly one of the skills needed. He or she must also possess excellent English grammar and punctuation skills, have a very good ear, the ability to sit for long periods of time, a commitment to excellence, and be self-motivated.

What’s the earning potential for this type of work?

This is going to seem like a very wide range, but it’s between $15 – $60 per hour. The rate varies depending on demographic area, difficulty of a particular job, and turnaround time. There are various ways that transcriptionists charge for their services. I prefer the “per audio minute” method, but some may charge by the hour, by the line, or by the page. All of this is discussed in my training courses.

Who is not a good fit for transcription? For those who are a good fit, how would you recommend they get started?

Someone who is not self-motivated, who is not a perfectionist (to a degree), or who is physically incapable of sitting for long periods would not be a good fit for transcription.

Some training is definitely required. Transcription isn’t difficult, but it is a skill to be learned. I’d say it’s similar to learning to play a musical instrument, but the learning curve is much shorter :). There’s much more to it than simple typing skills. I’ve learned the hard way not to hire anyone without testing them first and, now, I only hire people who have completed my courses.

There was frustration, when I was first growing my business, with people who seemed so promising at first and would completely let me down by either turning in really shoddy work or, worse, turning in nothing at all. I know that when someone has completed my courses, they are ready and able to produce transcripts that will be as perfect as humanly possible. I always strive to exceed my customers’ expectations, and I expect the same from the transcriptionists who work for me.

And… I never hire anyone who isn’t a native American speaker. There is a lot of outsourcing going on in the transcription world and, although they can undercut our rates, their transcripts cannot match us in accuracy. I’ve had customers who tried that route but came back because of their disappointment with the quality of the work they received.

[Affiliate Disclosure: I financially benefit when a PA reader enrolls in one of Janet’s courses. You can rest assured we would never recommend Janet’s courses if we did not fully trust in their value.]

Our Take

We think transcription is a fabulous and useful add-on to proofreading. Not all transcriptionists can proofread, but if a proofreader can transcribe, you become a double-edged sword in the work-at-home world!

FREEBIE!! Similar to our free intro course here on PA, Janet also offers a free mini-course to learn about a career in transcription.

Your Turn!

Have you taken Janet’s transcription courses? How did you like them?

Are you pairing transcription with proofreading?

Do you have any questions about transcription as a work-at-home career choice?

Leave a comment below!

Interested in becoming a transcriptionist?

Check out Janet’s free mini-courses for legal and general transcription!


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  1. Thanks, Janet! Transcription is something I’ve been considering for a long time now, so this is great insight from someone who has a wealth of experience and knowledge. Awesome! 🙂

  2. Thanks for this information, Janet! I’m taking your legal transcription course now, and I’ve just finished the first practice dictation. This is a wonderful course, and I’m so excited to complete it and begin the next part of my self-employed journey.

  3. Like Keisa, I am considering adding transcription to my repertoire. I appreciate the insight also. I am glad that your course is a resource I could draw on when the time comes. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience.

  4. I worked as a legal transcriptionist for many years, and now would like to do it on line. I need training as far as learning how to produce a transcript on line for submission to transcription agencies, and information as to what transcription equipment, software and computer I would need. I used to work with FTR gold, but the transcripts I produced were hard copies delivered to the clients. I transcribed recordings of court proceedings in NYC which meant there were accents from people all over the world. Any suggestions you have would be very much appreciated.

    1. Each company will have different ways of delivering — some use an FTP site. The companies should give you full instructions on how to deliver the transcripts.

  5. I am interested in learning how to produce transcripts on line. I have many years experience as a legal transcriber using FTR Gold, but the transcripts were hard copies delivered directly to the client, and so I have no experience as far as what equipment, computer and software I would need. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

    1. You don’t need ANY fancy software to digitally deliver a transcript … CutePDF printer is a free online download, and you can “print” your transcripts to PDF and email them that way 🙂

  6. Like Keisha and Jana, I, too, have considered the general transcription route for a long time now. This interview has given me insight. I’m so glad for this course you’ve provided. Thanks for you shedding some knowledge on us, Janet. I look forward to learning more!

  7. First, love the new theme!

    Second, I have taken Janet’s course.

    I started doing transcription years ago when I worked outside of the home. It started with business meetings and what I called the accountants gab fests. Sometimes when we would speak with clients, we would record our meetings because they had a very specific way they wanted accounts handled and sometimes it was better to have a transcript than it was hand written notes. When I started working at City Hall where I did double duty as the Payroll Clerk and the Deputy Court Clerk, I started to get more in to reading legal documents and transcription.

    Over the years I have done transcription here and there. I am thrilled that I can take my transcription knowledge and add it to my proof services. Even more excited is that I have taken Janet’s course and found it to be a valuable tool to add on to my knowledge and I felt it made me much better. I am not as quick as I would like to be, but proper training is really helping , along with the few clients I have been able to obtain since taking the course. I am going to keep practicing!

  8. I finished Proofread Anywhere in August and just signed up for Transcribe Anywhere (general and legal). From what I read from another PA grad, many reporters want the depositions, etc. transcribed. I guess these are digital reporters? Looking forward to learning more about general and legal transcription. I have some familiarity with transcription, but need some guidance. I think proofreading and transcription are a good pairing of services to offer. Also, I hope this will fill the gaps in my schedule when proofreading work is slow.

  9. I just completed Janet’s course. I’ve done a lot of transcription as a Meeting Minutes Recorder and Executive Secretary for a village hall. I’d like to work from home now but wanted more formal training. Everything I’d done previously was self-taught based on the preferences of the village I worked for. I’m also completing the Proofread Anywhere course hoping that the combination will make me well-rounded and offer more work-from-home options!

    1. Hi, Renee! That’s sooo smart. Proofreading and transcription are a match made in heaven 🙂 But I’m a little biased 😉

      1. Thanks Caitlin! I’ve been looking for a program like yours for a long time! Looking forward to fulfilling some life-long dreams!

  10. Hello. My name is Lisa Muriset. I was a Court Reporter for 15 years, so I do have quite extensive experience both as a proofreader and a transcriber as well as a scopist, I have not worked as a court reporter for almost 6 years now, and I do not intend to renew my license. I would, however, like to put my training and experience to work for me and I am very interested in what you appear to have going on within your business.
    I welcome any suggestions you may have as to a career path or which direction you think I should go at this point in time and the fees for your classes. I have been in contact with Caitlin and am considering her course as well.
    Thank you in advance for your time and attention consideration in this matter. I look forward to hearing back from you.
    LIsa Muriset

    1. Hello Lisa,

      I’m so happy you found us. We offer a free mini-course at TranscribeAnywhere.com that will provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision as to whether or not transcribing remotely will be the right choice for you. Your background and experience will certainly be an asset if you decide to pursue transcription as your career choice. Why don’t you head on over to https://transcribeanywhere.com and check it out? I think you’ll find the answers you’re looking for and you can, of course, email me directly if you’d like for any additional information.

  11. Ah, yes. I’m one of those who has the opportunity to learn shorthand in high school and didn’t take it. My friend who did take it never used it after high school. At this stage of my life it’s likey no one at my office except one or two of our older support staff even know what shorthand is. I commend you Janet for using that skill to grow your career. I’m thinking about taking your course once I finish Caitlin’s. 🙂

    1. You won’t be sorry! I have taken both Caitlin’s course and Janet’s early course, and I absolutely can’t wait for her new legal transcription course to go live so I can take that as well! Both are excellent! 🙂

  12. I entered all my correct info to receive your free course but I never received it. I checked the Spam and Trash of my email too.
    Can you please resend it?

    1. Hi, Karen!

      Can you do me a favor? Can you do a search for [email protected] within your email using your email search bar? Sometimes this shows where they’ve gone to. If this doesn’t work, please email us at [email protected]. We are happy to help you out. 🙂

    2. I hope I’m not stepping on your toes, Katie, but…Karen, are you looking for the transcription course or the proofreading course? I was notified via email that there was a response to this post and just want to be sure which course you’re looking for. If it’s transcription, I can help you. Thanks, ladies!

  13. I’m very much interested in returning to the transcription field. I previously worked for more than ten years at home as a medical transcriptionist but left the field after the change in the industry back in 2008. Now, I am looking for part-time work as I am on disability. I look forward to doing something useful and interesting again.

  14. I think it’s best for me to take the level one proofreading course. Than, take and addition the legal transcription course. I am interested in knowing how it works, later. However, We will see just how well, I get this first. Thanks.


  15. Hi, I was wondering if the course would go into detail on how to find a job transcribing from home? I’ve always been interested in doing this type of work, but never knew how to get started.


  16. I’ve very interested in doing both proofreadingand transcription. Which program would you advise to do first? Also, can you be mobile with transcribing?

  17. Thank you, Janet.
    I will be taking both mini-courses if allowed. I am leaning towards the legal transcription. I have always loved studying law. I am hoping to use multiple skills for income. Being a digital nomad is the goal.
    When I was young, I wanted to hike across Europe and various countries. Fast forward thirty years, I will take the train. ????????

  18. I am an accurate typist and consider this assignment I am a touch typist and accurate.

    1. It sounds like learning to become a transcriptionist at Transcribe Anywhere would be a great fit for you!

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