Are you a fast typist? A good listener? Do you have an above-average command of punctuation and grammar? Are you looking for a real home-based career opportunity? Have you ever considered transcription as an option?
In this interview, Janet Shaughnessy, the creator of Transcribe Anywhere talks about transcription and how it can provide home-based work for moms (or dads) who want their “work” to fit in around family time rather than the other way around. On Transcribe Anywhere she has an online, self-paced course, “General Transcription: Theory and Practice,” that teaches the A-Z of remote transcription. She also has a free mini-course which gives you the opportunity to see if transcription is the right fit for you.
Janet, could you give us a little history? How far back does your relationship with transcription go?
Well, if I answer that honestly, I’ll have to tell you how old I am. LOL. I don’t mind. I actually learned to transcribe in high school. I learned Gregg Shorthand and, unless you were alive in the ’70s, you might not even know what that is. It’s simply a different alphabet that uses what looks like hieroglyphics that allows you to speed write. We also used dictation machines and typewriters. When I first started working, I would take “live” dictation, meaning that I sat in the room and wrote down what was said and later typed it. I started my home-based transcription business in 2006. With the advances in technology, it’s a whole new world with a lot of opportunities for us to work from anywhere with an internet connection and a computer.
Do you really need a course to learn transcription? Isn't it enough to be able to type well?
Typing well is one skill that you need. That’s definitely true. But, it’s not the only skill required to excel as a transcriptionist. One must also possess an above-average command of English grammar and punctuation. You need to learn about the different styles of transcription, notations, and become very proficient with the use of the software and hardware required to provide dictation services. You need to be much more than a fast typist if you’re considering this as a career option.
Is this something that a stay-at-home mom can do in her limited amount of time? Is it a flexible job?
Bingo! That’s the beauty of working remotely as a transcriptionist. You can work around your own schedule. For me, having a flexible schedule was the main driver causing me to look at transcription as a career option. Although I had a very highly-paid, full-time job, my husband became disabled and I needed to be able to take him to all of his doctor’s appointments and just be with him, frankly. My employer was somewhat understanding, but it wasn’t fair to them for me to take so much time off and, frankly, it was stressing me out. Looking back now, it was actually a blessing in disguise. I have never been happier and I couldn’t and wouldn’t go back to the corporate world no matter what was offered to me.
Realistically, what is the minimum amount of time you would need to devote to this on a daily basis? What if you can only work on it late at night or early in the morning?
Again, as a transcriptionist, your work hours are entirely what you decide you want them to be. You can work as little or as much as you want. It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night you’re working as long as you meet the deadline to turn in your work. The amount of time you spend working is up to the person as well depending on their own availability and how much money they need or want to make.
Is this a real career? Can you make a decent income doing this part-time?
This is a real career. I built a very successful business providing transcription services. But, you don’t have to take it to that level. Many transcriptionists only want to work part-time and that’s absolutely fine. You can hire on with a larger transcription company and work only when you want. You still have that flexibility in your work schedule, but you don’t have to run your own business if you don’t want to or don’t have the time to do that.
Is this a job that a stay-at-home mom could make into a full-time job once the kids are older and she has more time on her hands?
Why not? As your availability to work increases, you take on more work. It’s really as simple as that.
Is there really much demand for transcription nowadays?
The demand is growing every day! Technology is increasing so rapidly and audio and video is everywhere. Virtually anyone can produce content that needs to be turned into a text document. This is a fabulous thing for us transcriptionists. The availability of work is abundant.
Are there any transcription niches that are more profitable than others?
That’s a good question. Providing general transcription services encompasses a wide variety of industries and, therefore, offers the most opportunities for gaining employment. Legal transcription is also a great niche to get into. I don’t recommend or even offer medical transcription services anymore. I used to sell a medical transcription course, but I stopped selling it mainly because I don’t view it as a growing field. Yes, there is still work available for MTs, but it’s not like it used to be. Have you been to see a doctor lately? They spend more time typing into their iPads than looking at their patients. Sad, but true.
Is it hard to get clients and have a steady workflow?
It wasn’t hard for me. What’s important is that you become excellent at what you do. Then, it’s just a matter of applying to transcription companies and testing with them. Yes, you must be prepared to take a test. I learned the hard way never to hire anyone whose work I hadn’t tested. All larger transcription companies are going to test a potential hire. With the proper training, you’ll pass with flying colors.
Do you ever have to go meet clients or can you do everything from home?
I have never met any of my clients in person. Isn’t that crazy? It’s funny because I actually have developed some very close and friendly relationships with many of them. We mostly email for business purposes, but we talk on the phone or Skype too. I never targeted just my local market. Many newbies think that’s what they should do. It’s simply not the case. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with working within your own demographic area, but it’s just completely irrelevant when working as a transcriptionist. Many of my clients are British and Australian. If they speak English, I accept their work.
What kind of skills do you need?
We sort of touched on this in an earlier question, but here’s the short list:
- Fast and accurate typing
- Proficiency in spelling, grammar, and punctuation
- Knowledge of the internet and critical thinking skills (i.e., research)
- Knowledge of the hardware and software required to provide transcription services
- Self-motivation and self-discipline
Do you need any office equipment besides a laptop and an internet connection?
You’ll also need headphones. A foot pedal is optional, but I prefer one.
What are the startup costs involved?
Other than your training, as long as you have a computer, internet connection, and a set of headphones, you’re good to go. I recommend purchasing Microsoft Word if you don’t already have it. You can download it directly from Microsoft or buy it at a store like Staples. Actually, Microsoft is now offering a subscription-based version of Office 365 for only $6.99 a month. That’s affordable for anyone.
What is the best part of the job for you?
Far and above everything else, it’s the flexibility in my schedule. Time is a finite commodity. The ability to spend time with my family and take care of my mother and husband who need me around – well, I just can’t put a price on that. After that, I really do enjoy learning from my clients. I can honestly say that I learn something new every day. I know a little bit about a lot of things!
Do you have any advice for moms who want to give it a go?
Sure. We offer a free introductory course just for that purpose. You can try it out and see if it’s the right fit for you. It might be and it might not be. The free transcription course gives you the opportunity to discern that for yourself before plunging in.
Thank you, Janet.
You can read more about Janet's full general transcription course here.
Have you ever worked as a transcriptionist? Do you agree with Janet's points? Or does transcription as a home-based career opportunity sound like something you would be interested in doing? Any questions or comments? Please leave them below!