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Today on the blog, Katherine Ferranti from Ferranti Transcription is filling us in on what it’s like to make money transcribing from home.
If you’re worried about transcriptionists not being needed anymore, don’t be! There’s a mistaken belief that the need for transcriptionists is decreasing, but it’s actually increasing! The explosion of video content on the internet means that more people are trying to get their content found on Google. Google and other search engines can’t understand what a video is about unless there’s a written transcript to go with it.
Don’t believe that demand for transcriptionists is increasing? Katherine has to use independent contractors to keep up with the volume of work!
If you’re a word nerd looking for a way to earn extra money online, transcription might be the thing for you. It’s particularly suitable for proofreaders looking to add another service to their business!
Take it away, Katherine
1. Hi, Katherine! Tell us a little bit about you and your business. What’s your work-at-home job?
I work as a transcriber and proofreader. My work is about 75% legal transcription and proofreading and about 25% general transcription. For the legal side, I work as an independent contractor with an agency transcribing and proofreading hearings and trials. The agency has large contracts across all 50 states, and it makes for a lot of work across many jurisdictions. I love the variety and the experience it gives me.
My general transcription work is through my own business (Ferranti Transcription) and includes things like podcasts and interviews. This side of my business is growing bit by bit, and I just began using some independent contractors to help me with the volume.
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2. That’s awesome that you’ve grown so much you need to hire independent contractors! Why did you decide on this line of work and how did you get started?
I came to this industry a bit sideways. I had 15 years of technical writing experience, so I had a fairly robust skill set to work with, but I didn’t want to go back to a full-time corporate gig. Previously, I was a massage therapist for 8 years, and I wanted to maintain the flexibility I had with that job but also have something more steady income-wise when I left massage. A passing conversation turned me on to the idea of supporting court reporters, which turned into me discovering the Proofread Anywhere and Transcribe Anywhere courses.
3. Did you need any training or experience for this job? Did you take any courses?
Technically, you don’t need any special training or experience to work as a transcriber. However, it definitely helps to come in with a correct working knowledge of grammar (not what you THINK is correct, but what is ACTUALLY correct, or at least some good reference manuals to use) and a knack for staying organized.
I think if you are going to run your own business, you do need some experience. But a lot of agencies will hire someone with zero experience as long as you meet the deadlines and adhere to their formats. The audio isn’t always great, but it’s a good way to start building your skills if you are truly starting from zero.
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4. I couldn’t agree more. There can be a huge difference between what you think is correct and what is actually correct! Talk us through a typical workday.
I’m not sure there is anything typical about any of my workdays. Just when you think it’s going to be quiet and you can just plow through some jobs and clear out the queue, something gets expedited and has to be turned in ASAP, or a job request comes in from out of nowhere, or there is a lull and you unexpectedly find yourself with a free afternoon.
But generally, I start my day by looking at my overall queue to see what jobs are due to clients today or tomorrow. Those are the projects I tackle first. I prefer to work on my highest-bandwidth jobs early in the day when I am fresh (e.g., jobs I am transcribing or long jobs that I have to proofread) and proofread shorter jobs in the afternoon.
Because I am trying to grow my personal business, I try to spend some dedicated time each week working on marketing or the website (I am currently moving it to a different platform/doing a bit of a redesign) or networking.
5. Is this your full-time job or a side hustle? How many hours a week do you work?
This is my full-time job, but I work with many people who work for agencies as an “extra” on evenings and weekends. I generally work “normal business hours” of 9–5 Monday through Friday. However, I do take advantage of the flexibility and run my errands on weekdays, so I don’t have to fight crowds on the weekends (2 p.m. Tuesday Costco run for the win!). As such, sometimes I’ll work an hour or so on a weekend if I have a job that’s due. But I like to be really firm with my boundaries and don’t work on weekends unless I have to.
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6. I try to implement that rule too. It’s important to have a good work-life balance. What one quality would you say is the most important for your job?
How can I pick just one? I proofread new transcribers for the agency I work for and I guess if I had to pick ONE thing, it’s communication. With remote work, I can’t just walk by your cube and have an impromptu chat or pop over to coach you on something or see that you are stressed when I run into you in the coffee room.
So communication has to be PROACTIVE. I shouldn’t have to reach out to find out the status of something, and I am definitely not a mind reader and have no idea that you are struggling if you don’t tell me. So you should be willing to reach out whether it’s with an update or a question.
Other equally important qualities are organizational skills (both with files and materials as well as time) and willingness to receive feedback. Proofreaders give feedback so the work can improve over time. If you take every correction personally, you will burn yourself out before you even begin. I love it when someone proofs my transcription work because the final product is better for the client, which is the whole point.
7. That’s a great way to look at it. Transcribers and proofreaders are both there to ensure that the client’s work is the best it can be, so we shouldn’t take corrections to heart. What one tool could you not live without?
Again — impossible to pick one as it’s really more of a tool KIT than one single thing.
Essential tools: computer, foot pedal, and headphones. Also quiet! You cannot transcribe in a loud environment. I rely heavily on all things Google: Gmail, Hangouts, and Drive to organize my files.
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8. How do you manage your work-life balance when you work from home?
I have a dedicated office in a spare room. This lets me go to work and leave work at the end of the day — that closed door is a very clear boundary! There is no way I could work on my sofa or anything that casual.
I also don’t take care of kids during the day or anything like that, so my focus isn’t pulled away constantly. I do have distractions of household chores (errands, yard work), but I am pretty good about setting boundaries. And sometimes an errand is a great chance to take a break, clear my head, and return fresh.
And honestly, client deadlines go a long way to keeping me on task. It’s much easier to ignore the personal stuff like updating my website and impossible to ignore the client deadline.
I got good at setting boundaries and saying no when I was a massage therapist. So finding myself working all weekend isn’t something I struggle with personally, but I know others who do. I think once anyone burns themselves out at a job, you learn how to be protective of your personal time going forward.
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9. What’s your favorite part about your job?
The best part of my job, and something my husband and I talk about regularly and actively plan for and count on, is the flexibility to work anywhere. I could move anywhere and still do this work. I personally don’t take work with me on vacation, but if I wanted to take an extended trip overseas to stay with my best friend for a month, for example, I could work from there and help finance that trip. And it frees us up to move anywhere at any time and me not have to go job hunting. That’s worth a lot to us.
There are some restrictions with legal transcription in terms of where you are located when transcribing (for example, some California jurisdictions require the transcribing be done on U.S. soil). But there is still plenty of work I can do in both in the legal and general realms.
10. The ability to work anywhere is my favorite part of my job too! What’s the most challenging part of your job?
On the legal side of things, it can get challenging to manage multiple jobs all in different stages of completion. You have to really keep things organized. You are juggling audio for multiple jobs, the transcripts, the reference materials, and all of them are in different places in the pipeline (some just started, some out for proofing, some are jobs with multiple transcribers and you have to keep the sections organized, etc.).
For my personal business, marketing is a HUGE hurdle. Marketing is a job unto itself, and it’s something you have to really spend a lot of time and effort to figure out. Work doesn’t just show up because you launched a website or a Facebook page. You have to work at the marketing piece, and it’s really challenging at times.
11. Unfortunately, marketing is a necessary evil. If you do it consistently though, you’ll start to see results. Any advice for someone interested in making money transcribing?
I would highly recommend looking into the Transcribe Anywhere course. This is NOT sponsored, but I believe in her content and the practice exercises the course offers. I think she has a FREE introductory email series that explains some aspects of the job and what to expect from this type of work, which I found helpful when I was exploring my options. I am also always happy to answer questions.
My only word of caution would be to remember this industry is DEADLINE DRIVEN. While the hours are certainly flexible, once you accept a job, that job must be completed by the deadline. So you should be honest with yourself about how you are able to organize your working hours before diving in.
Katherine prides herself on her ability to reinvent herself, whether by design or necessity. Her varied career has developed into a unique toolbox of skills and she brings a one-of-a-kind perspective to business along with warmth, reliability, and moxy. She has built two businesses from scratch as well as had a successful corporate career where she made valuable contributions and friends for life. Katherine is an avid gardener, makes a nice home for all the wildlife that passes by, loves procedural detective novels, and recently discovered embroidery. She also loves nachos.
I love that Katherine presented an honest view of what working as a transcriptionist is like. Flexibility is a huge bonus of work-at-home jobs, but it’s important to remember that once you accept a job, you must finish it on time, or you will be letting your clients down.
If you want to make money transcribing from home, check out Transcribe Anywhere’s FREE general transcription mini-course.
Want to boost your earning potential as a transcriptionist? Check out the legal transcription mini-course!
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