5 Ways to Get Fired as a Transcriptionist

how-to and resources Jul 04, 2017

Starting a new career or freelance business is 100% challenging. There is a LOT to learn. Not to mention the nerves that start up.

It can be intimidating, right? Even after taking one of my transcription courses and getting all the training you need, the real-life test comes when you actually start working with clients.


I know my graduates have been terrified when they sent their first "real" job back to their first client. They sat waiting by the computer in nervous anticipation, waiting to see if it went smoothly.

And then they hear back that the client is happy and will be sending them more work in the future.

PHEW. Success! And then they realize they have to do it again... and again... and again.

Now the fear really sets in. What if they mess up? What if they do something that loses them a client? Even though they're now officially working transcriptionists with real clients, that ol' friend doubt comes to visit.

The Hardest Part is Getting Fired Started

Nothing seems to freak out new transcriptionists more than dipping their toe into the pool of clients waiting for them out there in the “real world.” As a newbie, the prospect of mingling with such highly skilled professionals is intimidating.

But here's a little secret: These highly skilled professionals are regular people -- just like you and me. Like our skills, their skills (and reputation) are put to the test with every job they do.

Seeing my graduates going through the cycle (get job, finish job, rinse, repeat) over and over again (and going through that same cycle myself), I’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t -- and this post is about what doesn't work.

Here are just a few of the blunders transcriptionists can make to ensure their new career is on the fast track to crashing and burning.

Way to Get Fired #1: Don't Communicate With Your Clients

Imagine you have a client who just hosted an incredibly important meeting for their business. They had major CEOs donate their time to help them out with a project, and these head honchos had a wealth of information to share with the group. It's imperative that the client gets the meeting transcribed and the transcripts delivered to the meeting participants as well as internal staff as soon as possible.

The client emails her go-to transcriptionist and waits.

... and waits...

and waits some more.

Photo credit: Daniel Nanescu

Six hours later, she gets an e-mail saying, “Sorry. I’m on vacation. I can’t take this job.” Now the client has to scramble to find a transcriptionist she's never used before and crosses her fingers that they'll get it back to her on time... and done well.

Can you imagine the stress on that client?!

And can you understand why that client might not ever use that transcriptionist in the future? The client's job, livelihood, and reputation depend on her ability to produce quality work ON TIME. When she misses deadlines because of a freelance transcriptionist she depends on, that's a recipe for a disaster.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Try to respond to job requests as quickly as possible, and set out of office messages when you're on vacation or unable to take on any more work. Keeping the lines of communication open and honest between yourself and your clients can only benefit you.

Way to Get Fired #2: Be Too Rigid With the Rules

You are going to have clients that rigidly follow the rules no matter what. They have a style guide they follow and a certain way of doing things, and that's it -- no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

On the other hand, you're going to have clients who couldn't care less about most of the rules. They have their own preferences, and that works for them.

Preference Matters!

When it comes to rules and reference materials, remember this: It’s all preference.

You're going to have clients who request standard verbatim but then want every single thing added to the transcript, or you'll have someone request strict verbatim but they don't want everything included. You'll have a client insist on using CMOS but then ignore half of the rules in the style guide. It'll be confusing and frustrating, but the ability to be flexible and accommodate your clients' needs will be what sets you apart from the competition.

This circles back to #1 up above. Communication is going to save your hide with rules and preferences.

Every client is unique, and it's your job to ensure that you are clear on what is expected of you. Issues will inevitably pop up no matter what, but how you handle these situations is what will make or break your business.

Way to Get Fired #3: Put in Minimal Effort

This one frustrates me to no end. I'm of the opinion that if you're going to do something, do it WELL. Be the absolute best you can be. It doesn't matter if it's mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, starting a business... be excellent at whatever it is you're doing.

Think about it: When you pay for goods or services as a consumer, you expect products equaling the amount you spent, right?

Imagine going to a high-end car dealership, paying a sky-high price for a car, and instead of receiving a beautiful Mercedes, you received a jalopy. How would you feel about that?

As transcriptionists, we are providing a service to our clients. Slacking off or working while distracted will be clearly evident to your client. If you miss full sentences or paragraphs of conversation, your client is going to know. And they're not going to be happy about it.

Take pride in your work, transcriptionists. You hold a valuable role in the industry. Don’t devalue yourself by offering out jalopies when you could be the Mercedes of transcription! ;-)

Way to Get Fired #4: Make Errors and Reject Constructive Criticism

You just submitted your first (or hundredth) job as a freelance transcriptionist. Congratulations! You spent a lot of time checking and rechecking your work to make sure everything is perfect. The entire process was a bit nerve-racking, and you’re looking forward to receiving feedback from your client. You excitedly wait for your email notification ping.

When it does, you nearly break your leg rushing toward the computer. You take a deep breath, perhaps say a little prayer, and open the email. As you read, your excited demeanor turns to dismay and your heart starts to pound. Instead of accolades and thanks, your new client sent you a list of errors you missed.

Yes, this happens. No matter the excellence we strive to maintain as transcriptionists, every single one of us will miss something at one point or another. It’s the nature of being human.

While it can be disappointing and frustrating, it's important to view circumstances like these as launch pads toward excellence -- exact road maps to become better at what you love to do.

Keep Calm and Be Human

Handling these situations with professionalism and grace can actually build trust between you and your client. If they feel comfortable enough to approach you about errors, they are more likely to keep you around.

Nobody likes working with someone who becomes defensive when offered constructive criticism. Receive it with grace, and you'll not only become better at what you do, but you'll also foster a wonderful working relationship with your client. Win-win!

We Really Don't Know It All

With that in mind, I do want to make one thing clear: There is no greater disservice a person can do to their career (or their life, for that matter) than to assume they know it all. The fact is that learning and growing as a professional (or in any aspect of life, really) requires a teachable spirit.

Ask yourself that question: Am I teachable? None of us know it all. In fact, I haven’t met one single person who has worked through one (or both) of my courses that hasn't been humbled by it in some way or another. Whether in practice or profession, constructive criticism is essential to developing rock-solid skills.

Never settle for your current skill level. Take on the challenges presented to you -- a sedentary mind has no energy for excellence.

Way to Get Fired #5: Miss a Deadline

Let’s revisit our client friend from earlier in point #1.

After her first transcriptionist dropped the ball and she sent out an SOS, the client gets a response from a new transcriptionist. The client is pressed for time and very nervous about relying on someone she's never worked with before. She sends out the job, trusting her new transcriptionist will return it by the deadline.

Ms. Transcriptionist accepts the job (even though she is already overbooked) because she really didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to make some good money and score a new client. As she works her way through the job, it becomes increasingly apparent that she has overbooked herself and won’t make the deadline for the expedite job.

How do you think this ended for both the client and the transcriptionist? Yeah. Not so good.

When accepting transcription jobs from clients, remember both your reputation and the client's is on the line. NEVER accept a job you cannot complete and return by the deadline. EVER. Consider your client and how a missed deadline could affect her/him -- because accepting a job you can’t handle for the sake of making a buck will undoubtedly cost you (and your client) a lot more in the end.

Our Take

If success as a transcriptionist has taught me anything, it’s that there are far more ways to mess up than to succeed. 

Funny, isn’t it?

It is much easier to get fired as a transcriptionist than it is to become successful.

Being excellent isn’t easy, but the challenge is worth it! While this list isn’t all-inclusive, I can guarantee you that by avoiding these blunders (and offering excellent customer service and high-quality transcription instead), you'll build a thriving freelance transcription business.

Your Turn

Do you agree with these five ways to get fired as a transcriptionist? What do you do to ensure you are doing excellent work, whether it's going through the course, working after you graduate, or just in life in general? I'd love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments!

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