No Excuses: How This Homeschooling Mom of 4 Makes Money as a Part-Time Transcriptionist

success interviews Jan 22, 2023

Have you ever thought that you couldn't make a decent living without a college degree? Or maybe you're a busy mom and can't imagine fitting anything else into your already packed schedule?

If you've ever thought these things (or something similar), you DO NOT want to miss this interview with Lisa. Lisa homeschools FOUR kids and needed a flexible work schedule to accommodate her lifestyle. And she found just that as a part-time transcriptionist! Now she's rocking her work-from-home business. We jumped at the chance to ask her all about it.

Q: Welcome, Lisa! Thanks so much for joining me today. Can you tell us a little about your background?

Hi there! My name is Lisa, and I’m a work-at-home, homeschooling mom of four, ages 15, 14, 6, and 4. I’ve been married to my husband, David, for 17 years now. I have lived in Kansas my whole life and really can’t imagine living anywhere else. In my spare time, I really enjoy gardening and writing on my blog at Mobile Home on the Range where I write about all kinds of things from homeschooling to gardening to my favorite recipes and recently my adventures in running!

Q: Wow, you sound super busy! So when did you start doing general transcription, and what made you decide to learn it?

I began general transcription in April of 2010. Prior to that, I had solely been doing medical transcription, but the company I worked for didn’t allow me the flexibility of hours that I really needed. So I put together a résumé and started searching on Craigslist for transcription jobs. At the time, I was really only thinking about doing medical transcription but was able to land a job working for a lady who owns a general transcription company. I have a pretty flexible schedule now, which is so important to me, especially since we have added a couple more children to our family since I first started.

Q: Sounds like becoming a part-time transcriptionist was the perfect fit for you! A flexible schedule is SO important to people these days. What was the most challenging part in getting started?

Ah, good question! There is this little thing called time code that I was completely unfamiliar with when I first started, but thankfully that wasn’t too hard. It’s just a matter of remembering to put it in! Also, keeping track of different formats for different clients was a little tricky. I had a cheat sheet to help me out with that until I had it down. I would definitely recommend making a cheat sheet if you have multiple clients so you can remember the things they require.

Q. In your opinion, can anyone become a transcriptionist?

Yes! I think anyone can become a transcriptionist. There are certain skills that are essential such as good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and attention to detail. Also, you need to have a fairly fast typing speed. But maybe you don’t have these skills but still want to be a transcriptionist. In that case, I would say that as long as you have the drive to learn them, you could definitely be in this line of work.

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

A good transcriptionist follows the client’s instructions and does a thorough job with their work, but a great transcriptionist takes it up a notch and makes themselves indispensable to their clients or whomever they work for. I think this is extremely important in any job, really. Make sure your clients can count on you, and they will keep coming back. For instance, I have been known to rearrange my schedule so that I can get rush jobs completed quickly. There are other things that go along with making yourself indispensable to your clients such as following through on your word (when you say you will have the file back to them at a certain time, then do it), good communication, and being flexible.

Secondly, as I mentioned before, a great transcriptionist will communicate with their client or employer. If you think about it, communication is very, very important in any relationship. I have had many instances in my life where lack of communication caused big problems. With your clients, it can go a long way to avoid frustration and confusion on your part and theirs. This applies to turnaround times, specifications for a particular format, and for your part, the rates you charge. Just make sure there are no surprises!

Also, a great transcriptionist will do the legwork to double-check that names and places are spelled correctly. Many times while working on a file, I won’t have the names of the people who are on the audio file, but after using context clues and Google searches, I can generally figure it out.

Lastly, a great transcriptionist will ask for feedback on their work. The feedback might not always be what you want to hear, but it’s so helpful to know what you need to work on and then apply it as you go. Asking for feedback shows that you really care about what you’re doing and the quality of work you’re putting out.

Q: Those are all fantastic ways to set apart good transcriptionists from great ones, especially communication! What has been the most valuable thing you've learned while working as a transcriptionist?

Reading the instructions for how a client wants their particular dictation is very, very important. Read them and then read them again. If you have questions, ask. I have been known to skim over instructions when I’m in a hurry and have missed something big. It kind of made me want to crawl in a hole! Because I know I have that tendency if I’m in a hurry or distracted, I have made a checklist for myself that includes things like re-reading the instructions, checking spellings of names, and making sure I add time code if needed.

Q: What's your favorite thing about being a transcriptionist? What about your least favorite?

My favorite part about being a transcriptionist is twofold: I am so, so thankful that I can stay home with my kids and make a good wage while doing it, all without a college degree! Also, some of the stuff I get to type is really, really interesting! That makes the job fun.

My least favorite thing about being a transcriptionist is dealing with poor audio quality. And if the audio quality is poor and the person speaking has an accent, I just want to run away! :)

Q: What advice would you give anyone thinking about becoming a general transcriptionist? Is it worth the money for training?

I would say that training is definitely necessary. It won’t be possible to get repeat clients if you have no idea what you’re doing. Reading a WikiHow article is certainly not enough to get you started. :) Once you finish your training, it won’t take very long to make the money back that you spent on the course to begin with.

While all of the training in the course is important, I think that the practice dictations are really vital in training your ear to the different kinds of dictation you will be dealing with. You will want to go over these again and again. When I was doing medical transcription training, I came across a very, very tough practice dictation and could hardly understand anything the person was saying. A few weeks later, after much practice, I came back to the same dictation and was amazed that I was actually able to understand everything!

Also having the tools in place to build your business is essential. There never seems to be a shortage of work available, so knowing how to get your foot in the door and connect with potential clients is really invaluable in your goal to become a successful transcriptionist.

Q: And last but not least: What does a typical day look like for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A typical day usually consists of starting school in the morning with my older two. Thankfully, they can do much of it on their own now, but I go over their schedule and make sure they are off to a good start. From there, I like to get some exercise in (I’ve started Couch to 5K!). After that, I do some housework, gardening, or other things that may need my attention in a busy household. My 6-year-old is in kindergarten, and after lunch I usually sit down and do some school with him. I really enjoy our reading time together. From there, I try to sit down to work in the middle of the afternoon. But since I have quite a few interruptions, my most productive time is usually after the kids go to bed. I have been known to burn the midnight oil at times!

I read a quote recently that said nothing worth having comes easily. In light of that, some advice I would give to anyone thinking about this career is to just keep in mind that it takes a lot of work. While it would be nice if every dictation were easy, that is definitely NOT the case. Sometimes you will deal with poor audio, difficult clients, or both! But if you have the drive, the skills, and the desire, it is definitely possible for you to become a successful transcriptionist.

Our Take

Wow, no excuses, right? We are in awe of all that Lisa can do in both her personal and professional life. General transcription is an incredibly smart choice for people looking for flexibility and a great income, and we're thrilled that Lisa is living the life she wants on her terms.

Your Turn

Do you ever catch yourself making excuses for why you can't do something? Are you too busy, too stressed, don't have the money...or any other iteration of those? How did you overcome those obstacles? Are you still working on figuring it out? Share with me in the comments!

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