From Toxic Job to Freelance Freedom: Alissa's Story

May 07, 2018 by Janet Shaughnessy

Alissa is a college graduate and mom to a three-year-old toddler. She was working at a toxic 9-to-5 job and knew she needed to find something else that made her happier.

She found Transcribe Anywhere and her life is now totally different -- for the better! She's here to share her experience with the General Transcription course. Enjoy!

Hi, Alissa! Can you tell us a little bit about your background? What did your life look like before TA?

I have a bachelor’s degree from Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. My major was equestrian studies and my minor was business management. After I graduated I moved to a small town in Central Montana, and I took any job I could get that would pay the bills. I was a 911 dispatcher, legal secretary, domestic violence victim advocate, a licensed process server, and a waitress. I served a term on my city commission too.

That's a lot of different jobs! I love the hustle :-) So when did you start doing transcription, and what made you decide to learn it?

My last 9-to-5 job was working for a software company in tech support. The company was completely remote, so I worked from home. I made good money, but I was miserable. The job made me a mean, ugly person that I didn’t want to be. I had constant anxiety, which I’d never had before. It was not a healthy position for me, and I recognized that. After working there for six months, I started exploring other jobs that would allow me to work from home. I stumbled on Transcribe Anywhere, and I explored it and devoured Janet’s blog and loved the upbeat attitude.

I quit my software company job and went back to waitressing but wanted something more. Continuous learning and expanding my skills are important to me, so in January 2017 I signed up for the General Transcription course. It took me eight weeks to complete the course.

Having a toxic job is unhealthy in so many ways. Good for you for recognizing it and finding something new! What was the most challenging part in getting started with the course?

Finding the time to dedicate to the course. I was working four days a week in a restaurant and I had a toddler at home. This course gave me a really good idea of the time I would have available to dedicate to transcription once I earned my certificate.

That's a great way of looking at it! What have been the most valuable things you learned during the course?

Perseverance. Some of the practice dictations are hard and so is the final exam. It took me three tries to pass it, and every time Janet sent it back to me I wanted to cry! Janet is very encouraging, and I powered through it. This is a HARD course, and I am proud of myself for earning my certificate.

I'm so happy to hear that! Learning a new skill is never easy, but it's worth it in the end. How long did it take you to find your first client? How many clients do you have now?

I found my first client within 48 hours. I knew most of the attorneys in my town because I had worked as a legal secretary and a licensed process server, so I sent them an email letting them know that I was offering transcription services as well. One of them needed an audio file transcribed, so I had my first job very quickly. I’ve never had to advertise. Word of mouth brings me plenty of work.

I just moved across the country (from Montana to Arizona) so I’ve changed my business a bit, mostly due to the loss of childcare. I’ve found that transcribing with a three-year-old awake is impossible! I still transcribe for my established clients because I want to maintain those relationships, and I do accept a few new ones, depending on the job. I currently have around twenty clients, but none of them provide me with steady work. The transcription portion of my business is feast or famine, but with my current situation, it works for me.

I love that you rolled with the punches and expanded your business to make it work for you. What advice would you give anyone thinking about becoming a freelance transcriptionist? Is it worth the money for training?

Think of this course as an investment in yourself. This is a very small amount of money for an employable skill. I started making money right away and earned back my tuition fee within the first two months. I believe this course is well worth the money.

For those looking for a way to earn money while staying home with kids, just a note: I can’t transcribe when my three-year-old is awake. My world has far too many distractions and transcription requires concentration. I do have time while she naps and at night after she goes to sleep. I love the flexibility of being able to work when I want, but sometimes I don’t have as many hours available to work as I need. That means late nights and early mornings to meet deadlines. I wouldn’t trade it for a 9-to-5 job, but it does require dedication and a love for my clients to power through those times.

What do you think it takes to be a GOOD transcriptionist? How about a GREAT one?

A good transcriptionist needs patience and attention to detail. A great transcriptionist has a passion for the work.

What’s your favorite thing about being a freelance transcriptionist? What about your least favorite?

My favorite thing about being a freelance transcriptionist is the ability to work for myself. I love the direct interaction with my clients. My least favorite is the sedentary nature of the work. I limit myself to four hours of transcribing per day and I make myself stop every hour and move.

Moving = key. We all sit at our desks too much :-( What does a typical day look like for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I live on a seven-acre horse farm, so I do my outdoor activities and horse chores in the morning when the weather is cool and transcribe for a couple hours in the afternoon while my child naps. I transcribe more in the evenings after bedtime if I have work to finish, but I try to limit transcribing to four hours per day. I’m also a freelance writer, so I balance writing with transcription. Sometimes I have more writing clients than transcription, and sometimes I have more transcription clients than writing. I enjoy doing both, so the variety makes me happy.

When I give clients a quote for my transcription services, I try to keep my earnings at $20/hour. I’ve never had a client complain about my rates. When I’m fully booked with transcription clients I make $560/week or more, especially if I have rush orders.

Always remember that your skills are valuable, and the right clients will pay a fair price for those skills. Don’t sell yourself short.

Our Take

That last piece of advice from Alissa is pure gold. Always be confident in your skills and know your worth. When you're your own boss, you have to be your biggest advocate; otherwise, who else will do it for you?!

Your Turn

Are you looking to expand your skills but aren't quite sure if transcription is right for you? I've got a free course that will give you a glimpse into the world of transcription. Do yourself a favor and check it out -- you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain!

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What separates a ho-hum transcriptionist from an excellent one? Is there even a demand for transcription? Who hires transcriptionists? 
 Can anyone be a transcriptionist? 

Get the answers to all these questions and more by enrolling in my free introductory course, Transcription Foundations.

For our legal transcription mini-course, click here.