Do you wonder how to know if legal transcription is right for you? I chatted with Angela Smith, TA, who has some good tips and insights.
Angela is the founder of A & C Transcription, Inc, and offers medical, legal, and general transcription. She has several legal transcriptionists who subcontract with her. So she’s been on both sides of the business as both the hirer and hiree. (Tip: As a hirer she looks for transcriptionists that have completed Janet Shaughnessy's Legal Transcription: Theory and Practice course!)
Her last job before transcription was at a knitting mill. She hated the work, but needed to have an income, so she took what was available at that time. But she knew she wanted her own business and to work regular hours, and bring in a decent income. She eventually discovered transcription.
Angela already had a successful medical transcription business when she decided to upgrade her skills and also offer legal transcription. She enrolled in Janet Shaughnessy’s course Legal Transcription: Theory & Practice in 2016.
Angela talks with us about what it takes to be successful at legal transcription, if it’s worth specializing in, and if it’s ideal for those who need a flexible working schedule.
Not sure how to know if legal transcription is for you? Read on for Angela’s story and insights.
Hi there, Angela! Can you share a little background about yourself and tell us how you got started doing transcription from home?
My name is Angela Smith. I'm 52 years young, and I live in East Tennessee about 25 miles north of Knoxville in Luttrell, a small community where everyone knows everyone and most are kin to one another.
I have 25 years experience in the transcription business and my company is called A&C Transcription, Inc.
I started with medical transcription in 1993. Before that, I had worked at dead-end jobs for several years. But I always knew my dream job was working at home and owning my own business. I came from a line of entrepreneurs in various fields and I wanted that, too.
So I began doing research on various work-at-home jobs and stumbled across transcription. It was like a light bulb came on and I knew that was going to be the career for me. I had been told many times I was a “word warrior.”
But I had one problem: I didn't know how to type. I'm of the age when we didn't have computers and we had to learn on typewriters or word processing machines. I was determined, so my best friend let me borrow her typewriter and her typing book that she had from business school, and I taught myself to type.
I had reached the point of typing around 40 to 50 words a minute and knew I needed some education on the actual transcription. So I found a local business college that taught it.
When I say “local” it was about an hour away. Still determined, I commuted back and forth five days a week for a year and a half. I knew there were schools that didn't take that long to complete. But I took other classes as well, like bookkeeping, English, Pharmacology, and computer classes. I knew I would need that knowledge.
How did you know specializing in legal transcription was right for you?
After a long career in medical transcription, things started changing in the field. With electronic medical records, the physicians didn’t need my services as much. I saw the writing on the wall. If I was going to stay in the business of transcription and a career I loved, I needed to reinvent myself.
I chose legal transcription after researching it. There seemed to be a demand for it, which was what I was looking for. So that's the direction I took, and it has paid off, as I now have several clients in legal transcription.
How does your business fit in with your schedule? Does it allow flexibility?
Well, I’m not like most people. I wasn’t after the flexibility as much as wanting to work from home and having a regular business with regular hours for my clients. So my schedule is just like any other job.
I go to work in the morning and stop when the work is done, whether that be in the afternoon, evening, or at night which is the cool thing. You work from home, so you can continue to work and get an assignment done up into the wee hours of the morning if that is what you choose to do.
The flexibility it gives me is I can work around any appointments I might have during the week. I will work around that appointment either early in the morning or when I get back in.
But an answer to your question, “Does it allow flexibility?” I feel it does. But if you want to be successful in a business, you need to treat it as such and not as a hobby of “I will work today, but I’m taking off tomorrow,” for whatever reason. Your clients will learn to rely on you more and send more assignments if they know you are available when they need you.
What is your favorite aspect of legal transcription?
Having new interesting cases everyday. I have learned a lot since starting my career in legal transcription.
What’s the most challenging thing about it?
The most challenging thing for me in legal transcription is you have different speakers on every assignment, and no one speaks the same way. You may have a foreign speaker or a speaker who speaks in broken English or even different English dialects in various parts of the U.S.
You never know if it’s going to be a great speaker, mediocre speaker, or a horrible speaker, and you have to be prepared to tackle whatever is assigned to you without getting frustrated.
What skills or characteristics make for a great legal transcriptionist?
To be a great legal transcriptionist, you have to have a good ear for listening and comprehension of what you hear. When I’m training a subcontractor that takes work from me, I'll say, “Listen for the syllables.”
It’s sort of like learning a musical instrument and training your ear to comprehend what you’re hearing, then applying it to the transcript.
Another thing is being able to follow a client’s specs of how they want things done in their transcript. It will vary from client to client. You need the ability to switch back and forth between clients and their individual specs.
Third, I can’t stress enough how important grammar and punctuation is. You will need to be excellent at this… period.
How would someone know legal transcription ISN'T right for them?
Legal transcription isn't for the person that is not disciplined, especially if you work at home. You will need to work instead of doing laundry, housekeeping, running errands, etc. It’s so easy to get sidetracked with all that.
Being disciplined is key in this career.
How is being a legal transcriptionist different from a general transcriptionist?
In my opinion, legal is more strict as far as formatting and those types of things. Legal is just that – “legal” transcription.
General transcription can be about any subject and from any company or individual client, so, to me, it could be more difficult just because the context of each assignment would be different.
Is it ever a challenge to find clients/steady work?
Sometimes, especially when you first get started. You have to find someone to give you an opportunity to gain experience. Then after that it can be challenging, but doable.
For me, I already had the established transcription business, so I was just able to transition and offer all types of transcription. I already had established medical and general clients, reviews, a website, LinkedIn page, and Facebook page, so my clients were able to find me through those sources.
Do you offer other services in addition to legal transcription?
I offer Medical and General Transcription, as well, and have clients in both.
How has working from home as a transcriptionist changed your life?
I don’t know if it changed my life per se, but it has allowed me to do what I love to do and be able to work from home, which was my ultimate goal.
Do you feel that legal transcription might be a good work-from-home career option for stay-at-home parents?
Well, I’m kind of on the fence about that. I’ve seen some transcriptionists have a great balance with their children and workload, and then, on the other hand, I’ve seen some parents fail miserably at it. So, I think it takes a very disciplined individual to accomplish this.
Ultimately, this is a job, and your clients expect you to treat it as such, so I think it takes an individual who has a skill set for juggling both to do this.
Any final advice for someone who’s asking, “How do I know if legal transcription is right for me?“
It’s a great career. But it takes time to learn what you need to know to be great at it. Be willing to put in the work and time, and don’t go at it half-hearted.
Understand that at the beginning it will be frustrating and time consuming. And, whatever you do, don’t give up. It does get easier the more experience you get.
Remember, you get out of it what you put into it. It’s not a career where you’re going to immediately make a lot of money. You have to “pay your dues” and gain your experience, but eventually your hard work will pay off.
Thank you, Angela!
So, how do you know if legal transcription is the right work-at-home career choice for you?
You could begin by reading my interview with Janet Shaughnessy, whose course Angela highly recommends, and by checking out her free introductory mini-course.
What questions would you ask Angela? Drop me a comment below to join the conversation!