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One of the best things you can ever do for yourself is to work in a job you love. Many people think they cannot make this happen, but that is not true. You can find the right job for you and do the work you love to do.
The right job for you may well be a freelance job. If you want to freelance at home – or anywhere, really – you can find a way. There are increasing ways to be a freelancer, and one great way is to become a transcriptionist.
Janet Shaughnessy is a veteran transcriptionist who saw the emerging popularity of this field along with a real need for proper transcription training, so she created the Transcribe Anywhere online transcription training program.
I talked with Janet about what exactly transcriptionists do and how Transcribe Anywhere can help you learn how to become a transcriptionist. To update this article, I’ve talked with her again two times. First, to get her thoughts about what 2020 holds for transcriptionists and then again in August 2020, after the onset of the pandemic, so I could share with you what she now thinks will happen to the field of freelance transcription in the future. Here is what Janet had to say.
How to Become a Transcriptionist in 2020 and Beyond
First, what exactly do transcriptionists do?
Transcriptionists convert audio and video content into text documents. Too many people think that all we do is type, but typing is the easy part. Sure, it’s an essential skill, but it’s not the only skill required to provide quality transcripts. Punctuation, spelling, and critical thinking skills are equally as important. You must also possess a good ear to capture the spoken word and type it verbatim.
How much money can transcriptionists make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, general transcriptionists earn $45K/year and legal transcriptionists earn $65K/year. These are averages and will vary depending on region, experience, and number of hours worked.
You can read what World of Freelancers wrote about all you need to know about the field of legal transcription here.
Are there any special transcriptionist tools that people need to do online transcription?
You need transcription software, a headset and also possibly a foot pedal. A transcriptionist foot pedal is optional, but most transcriptionists prefer using one.
Transcriptionists are freelancers. Can you tell us a bit about the pros and cons of working in a freelance job versus having an employer?
I’m the wrong person to ask because I’m completely pro freelancing. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and I wouldn’t go back to a regular j-o-b no matter what was being offered.
The idea that there’s security in a regular job is a very false sense of security. It may have been true one or two generations ago, but it isn’t any longer. No one works for the same company for 30 years and retires with a gold watch and nice pension.
It’s a freelance revolution. Companies are realizing the benefits of outsourcing versus hiring employees. In the digital age, so many jobs that once had to be done in the office can be done anywhere with a computer and internet connection. Transcription is a perfect example. My advice: Build marketable skills!
What do people learn about how to become a transcriptionist in your Transcribe Anywhere courses?
You can view the online course syllabi at the website. But, in short, we take them from the very beginning of explaining what transcription is, the equipment needed, typing and punctuation drills, practice dictations of all sorts (there’s a LOT of practice in my courses) and finally, after passing the final exam, training in marketing transcription services and obtaining work is provided.
How long does it take to complete the Transcribe Anywhere program?
On average, it takes students about four months to complete our online transcription courses.
Once you learn to do online transcription, how do you find clients?
I only share that information with people who’ve completed training and passed the final exam.
No one without training or experience will pass a transcription test, so there’s no point in perpetuating the myth that “anyone can be a transcriptionist.” It simply isn’t true and people will be sorely disappointed when they find that they don’t know what they thought they knew. I hear it all the time.
People find Transcribe Anywhere after failing to find work on their own because they weren’t prepared.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges of being a freelance transcriptionist?
It’s a lot more difficult than people imagine. Proper punctuation seems to be the biggest hurdle, but once you get it, you’re good. A few, but not many, have found that they just don’t enjoy it. They’re definitely in the minority, but there are some who’ve decided they’d rather stick with a regular job. It could be that whole false sense of security thing I spoke about earlier.
I happen to love what I do, but it isn’t for everybody. If you’re not self-disciplined and/or like the office work environment, then transcription probably isn’t the right choice for you.
What should people know about the field of online transcription in 2020?
As some people know and some need to know, medical transcription is no longer a viable option. The adoption of the electronic medical record and outsourcing have depleted the demand, along with the pay, for qualified MTs. Transcribe Anywhere is working closely with AAERT (American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers) to help struggling MTs transition into general and/or legal transcription.
As a whole, the amount of work available to transcribers is growing all the time.
I’ve been asked several times recently whether or not transcription is a recession-proof industry. First, let me say that I’m not at all sure that we’re going to have a recession. I have no crystal ball and I don’t believe most of what the mainstream media says. I’m not an economics expert, so we’ll see what happens.
What I do know is this: I started my work-at-home business in 2006. The 2008 recession hit just two years into my self-employment and I was continuing to grow it. Even in a down economy, content is produced that needs to be transcribed. Litigation doesn’t stop. Business doesn’t stop. Authors don’t stop writing. Podcasters don’t stop “podding.” Marketers don’t stop marketing. Conferences don’t stop. Finance doesn’t stop. Insurance doesn’t stop. I can go on and on, but you get the picture. So recession proof? I can’t guarantee that. What I can say is that it hasn’t stopped us before and with the amount of content being produced on a daily basis, I can’t imagine that trend not to continue.
You still work as a transcriptionist. How has freelance transcription work been going since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020?
The last couple of months have been some of my highest grossing months ever!
I guess there really is a silver lining, although hard to see at the moment, in every situation.
Transcribe Anywhere has also enrolled many students who’ve either lost their jobs completely or are on unemployment with an uncertain future. They’re very wise to acquire skills that will help them move forward knowing that they’re securing in-demand transcription skills.
What about once the pandemic is finally over? What do you think might happen in the field of freelance transcription long term?
With the pandemic and more people working remotely, we’ve transcribed a lot of Zoom meetings. This is, fortunately or unfortunately, a trend that I see continuing. Businesses have realized that many jobs can be done remotely. But teams still have to communicate and these virtual meetings need to be documented.
Why should someone become a transcriptionist in 2020 and beyond?
- To take control of your time and money
- To spend more time with family and friends
- To have the ability to work when and where you want
- To learn a new skill! Skills = $$$
- To be your own boss
- To gain confidence in your abilities
- To be a role model for your children
- To learn new things every single day through the transcripts we provide for such a wide variety of clients
- To stop wearing suits, ties, dresses, and pantyhose
- To stop paying for commuting, lunches out, and work clothes
- TIME FREEDOM is the number one reason on my list for loving what I do.
Cover image by BUMIPUTRA