Mar 10, 2012 - Finances, Work    7 Comments

Replying to a Comment About Working From Your RV as a Transcriptionist

Reader Jayne asked a couple of questions in comments on the Street View post about working from you RV as a transcriptionist that I felt warranted their own post:

I know it’s best to do one’s research before jumping in, so I am hoping to learn from those are already in this field [transcription]. Hoping to learn about what you love about your job, what attributes /skills one needs to be successful? I can type fairly fast but definitely would need to improve my accuracy and knowledge of punctuation. I see many online programs for certifications as well as local schools.

What I love the most is probably specific to me in that I got really lucky and found a great client that provides me with a variety of projects. One day I’m transcribing in the medical field, another I’m transcribing a hearing, and the next I’m doing a focus group.

Skills that are necessary include:

– a good ear for voices (I struggle if I have more than four really distinct voices)

-good broad general knowledge (to understand, not just hear, what someone is saying)

-good typing skills

-patience (sometimes you get files that are very difficult)

-self-discipline (to meet deadlines)

I looked into accreditation and discovered that experience goes as far as a degree in the field of general transcription. If you want to go into medical, then a certificate could be helpful to learn the specifics of that trade, such as privacy rules, document standards, and terminology. But you can also get all that from someone willing to take you on as an apprentice of sorts. You don’t have to have a certificate to get into the medical transcription business.

A misconception about transcription is that it’s a mindless job that anyone can do. But it takes a certain amount of writing skills to turn words into readable text. I often have to break grammar and punctuation rules to make a transcript legible.

One of my first questions is understanding if technology might change the need for transcriptionists with all the voice recognition products on the horizon.

My client and I have talked about this and neither one of us is concerned. Software won’t be able to muddle through thick accents, stutterers, and mutterers. What I could see happening is that people may use software for the first transcript and then have a human do a review, but most people will realise that this is not cost efficient.

The second most important is what industries use them and which might be the best to target. I am only familiar with medical and legal but am sure there are niche needs and would it be better to think about this.

I am a general transcriptionist who dabbles in medical and legal thanks to that one client. Having had a taste of all three, I prefer being a general transcriptionist because it offers more variety. Industries that use transcriptionists include police departments, mental health professionals, research companies (eg. focus groups, surveys), political offices, the entertainment industry, and on and on and on.

you have the French / English translation skill, which I am sure opens the door for additional opportunities.

It does, but not as much as some would think because I am not an accredited translator. My translation clients are folks who can’t afford an accredited translator.

I have one occasional transcription client who also pays me to translate the transcript into the other language. I love those jobs!

If you had to go back and do it over again, would you select your current industry or another?

I wouldn’t change anything because my path has led me to an awesome client who is the backbone of my business and who provides me with a wonderful variety of things.

Last, but certainly not least is income. Wondering what I might expect to earn as an hourly rate in the beginning and what the more experienced folks out there are billing.

Billing in transcription is a thorny issue. Medical and legal pays by the line, but I’m not too familiar with that. I’m paid by audio minute, which is the standard in general transcription. The problem with being paid by audio minute is that most people looking for transcriptionists don’t understand how long it takes to transcribe one audio minute. The industry standard for good quality audio with a couple of speakers is 1:4. That means that an hour of transcription takes four hours to transcribe. I can type up to 100 words a minute and I can only beat this standard when I have a solo speaker with a prepared speech.

So all that said, I would not accept less than $1 per audio minute, which means $15/hour, minus taxes and expenses. But I usually get $1.20 to $1.40 with my big client (as I am a sub-contractor) and I charge $1.50 to $2 per audio minute to direct clients.

This brings up another challenge with transcription. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has offered to pay me $15 to transcribe an hour of audio. To those folks, I explain how long it takes to actually transcribe an hour of audio (and provide links to support my argument). Some reply, “Oh, that’s why no one wants this job! Will you do it for $60?” and others outsource to other countries where wages are lower (a common issue on Elance).

I am 55 and wonder if it is realistic to think I could carry this career into my retirement years to supplement my income.

There is a lot of need for transcriptionists, and it seems to be a bigger field in the US than in Canada based on how many ads I see on Craigslist. I think that a good transcriptionist will never be out of work.

As a final note, transcription does involve investing in some equipment: a reliable way to get online on the road, a good noise-canceling headset, a good keyboard, and a foot pedal, as well as an ergonomic desk setup. Transcription isn’t a job that can be done efficiently from the couch or a coffee shop. So keep that in mind when setting up a home office in an RV, and plan your electrical set up so that it will allow you to keep working even on 12V power. I have actually never transcribed with all this equipment while traveling in the RV and I am curious to see how it will affect my battery usage. I may end up having to spring for more batteries.

Thanks for your questions, Jayne. I wish you the best in setting up your online business.

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  • In my senior year of high school I had a job in a hospital medical records dept. My duties involved transcribing operating reports and I quickly picked it up – nothing like being young and having excellent hearing! I would have stayed on full time after graduation, but was accepted for a job with the federal govt. which paid a lot better, but I probably should have gone back to transcription on a part time basis after I retired. It sounds like a terrific opportunity for your traveling lifestyle in an RV.

  • Thanks to both you and your reader for the great questions and responses about transcribing. I am looking ahead to retirement and wonder if I could make a part time job of offering transcription services. I may have to get a hearing aid by then, but…

  • Thanks a lot for this! Transcription is one of the methods I am considering to support myself on the road and after it’s great to get a more in depth explanation of what is involved.

  • Rae,

    Thank you for answeringl my questions. I will continue to research this opportunity. I appreciate your comment about the office set up in an RV. I was under the impression you were doing this on the road. Certainly something to think about.

    Another option for me is to continue selling promotional products. I have thought about setting up a website but have concerns about the
    time / cost commitment in putting together and managing a successful site. I notice you sell some products on your site…..wondering how you do with them?

    Thanks again for all your insight and best of luck getting back on the road. I look forward to reading your blog.

    Safe travels~

  • Jayne, my best advice is to have multiple revenue streams. My main ones are transcription, Squidoo, ebook sales, and Amazon commissions.

  • Excellent job description… What other work from RV jobs have you met people doing?

  • I’ve met lots of salespeople, hocking everything from all manner of physical wares to ad space for magazines. There are lots of graphic designers and programmers on the road.

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