I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to get started working from home as a transcriber. So this week I sat down with veteran transcriber, Janet Shaughnessy. Not only is she making six figures as a transcriber, but she also wrote a course on the subject. Read on to see if transcription work is your work-at-home calling.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
You might be surprised to learn that I was sort of forced into my entrepreneurial journey. It’s turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, but it wasn’t something I initially set out to do.
I had a very demanding career in the medical and insurance industries when my husband became disabled. The job that I once thought I was “lucky” to have turned into more than I could handle. I needed to be available to take care of my husband. I was completely stressed out and exhausted and, let’s face it, no matter how valued of an employee you are, bosses don’t look kindly upon subordinates who take too much time away from the job. In fact, 50-60 hour work weeks were the norm and expected, regardless of what was going on in my family life.
I finally quit. I said, “I can’t do this anymore” and left the perceived security and financial stability of my job. Life is funny, and I believe God leads us where we’re meant to be. Through what was, initially, a hard time, I’ve found my greatest happiness and a thoroughly enjoyable lifestyle, with much more balance in my work and professional life.
Do you have any special training?
I learned to transcribe in high school. Way back then, we learned Gregg Shorthand and typing. We also transcribed from Dictaphone machines. I used those skills in my career through the years, and my first home-based work was as a medical transcriptionist. I no longer offer medical transcription services, and I certainly don’t teach it. The demand, along with the pay, for medical transcriptionists has decreased rather dramatically with the adoption of the electronic medical record. My focus now is mainly on legal transcription and general transcription. Knowledge of medical terminology still comes in handy when transcribing for medical malpractice cases, scientific conferences, and training events.
Can you expand on how you got started after you left your insurance job? Did you enroll in a medical transcription course? And how did you fund this transition period?
I didn’t enroll in a Medical Transcription course because I already had experience transcribing as a Medical Transcriptionist when I worked for a large HMO. To be honest, I struggled because I really didn’t know a lot about working remotely as a transcriptionist. I worked my way through it, but it would have been much easier if there was a course available that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and take two years to complete. I needed money, and I needed it fast.
I funded building my business on savings and credit cards. I wasted money on things I didn’t need, but I was learning as I went. I didn’t enjoy incurring all that debt at the time, but when faced with no other options, I just went for it. With hard work and God’s grace, it’s all worked out very well for me. However, I hope to save people from needing to go through all of that. It doesn’t need to cost that much or take that long to become a qualified transcriptionist.
I’ve heard that traditional medical transcribers are evolving into dictation editors, who correct and edit written reports generated by speech recognition software. Did you find this to be true?
No, I don’t find that to be true. I keep hearing about these dictation editors, but I’ve yet to see many, if any, job listings for them. There are some, but the MTs I’ve spoken with who have transitioned into that role are very unhappy in their new roles. The pay is extremely low, and the work is tedious. I just don’t see medical transcription as a good career option anymore, and I wish the schools who are offering these courses would stop perpetuating the lie that it is.
What sorts of individuals make good transcriptionists?
Most of the skills required can be learned or improved upon, such as:
- Fast and accurate typing,
- Proficiency in spelling, grammar, and punctuation,
- Knowledge of the internet and critical thinking skills (research).
What you need to succeed is a commitment to train and prepare. Self-discipline and self-motivation are absolute requirements that can’t be taught. One must possess the desire within themselves to be the best they can be in order to get the most out of anything really. Transcription is no different.
Realistically, how much money can someone earn as a transcriber?
A beginning transcriptionist should expect to start somewhere in the $15/hour range. That’s just a general guideline. Keep in mind that we’re not usually hourly employees. We’re self-employed. We go into a lot of detail in our courses about how to charge for our services, but generally speaking, a good transcriptionist works on a 4:1 ratio — meaning it will take four hours to transcribe one hour of audio or video. We set our rates according to that guideline. Depending on how much time you have available or want to devote to work will determine how much you can make. Zoom Transcription Services made six figures last year. Did I start out making that much? No! I worked hard and built up my business over time.
What is a typical day in a transcriber’s life like?
It really depends on the person. I’m not sure there is a typical day. Since we’re self-employed, we set our own schedules. For me, personally, I’m more of a night bird. I tend to start later in the day, take time off in the afternoon for relaxation and/or whatever needs to be done, and come back in the early evening to finish a few things before turning off for the day. In the beginning stages of building my business, I worked a lot more than I do now. I had no choice since my husband had no income for two years. That hard work definitely paid off.
How did you get involved in teaching people how to make money with transcription?
The first iteration of my training courses came about because I was training everyone I hired, even those with experience. I realized that there was a need for a comprehensive course, gathered all my notes, and made my first eBook. That was sold as a digital download for several years before embarking on building the Transcribe Anywhere site. It wasn’t easy to build, but the course is much more comprehensive and interactive than a simple eBook.
What will people learn during your free training?
People will get a lot of insight into what it’s really like to work as a self-employed transcriptionist. There are a lot of myths out there. The free course is actually designed to give people all the information they’ll need to decide whether or not transcription is actually the right choice for them. It’s not for everybody.
What are some of the benefits to be a transcriber?
I think the most important benefit is having a better work/life balance. The ability to set your own hours and be available when your family needs you, or just to pursue other things that make you happy, is absolutely invaluable.
What advice would you give to a new or aspiring transcriber?
Don’t believe the myths. Not everyone can do this, and no one can succeed without training and practice. Take the time to hone your craft and, when it seems too difficult, remember why you wanted to do this, to begin with. Take some time to regroup and get back to work! You’ll get out of it what you put into it.
If you’d like to connect with Janet Shaughnessy or find out more a work at home transcription career, please see TranscribeAnywhere.
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