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.]
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!
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!