Marcy Thorne’s transcribing business started at her kitchen table.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get started as a transcriber?
About 25 years ago, shortly after I moved to San Diego, I tried to figure out what I could do on my own. I didn’t have much experience typing, let alone transcribing. I didn’t know the difference between hardware and software. I started a secretarial business on my dining room table and did mailing labels and other $10 projects. At first my only clients were my old employers and some friends. After a year I bought a Yellow Page ad, and business picked up a bit. I had someone ask to help with my overload one day a few years later. Overload? I only had underload!
And then what? How did A Better Type grow into the company it is today?
I had a new client ask to have a résumé typed, and my business turned in that direction. Then I hired a résumé writer to do the composing, while I did the formatting and interviewing. It went well for about five years. Later a client asked me to transcribe something for her law office. From there &mdash and I have no idea how, but I’m so thankful &mdash I started getting more transcription projects. Then as time went on I found the need to hire, and I now have seven women transcribing for me.
How do you find your clients?
I named my business A Better Type so it would be first or second in the yellow pages under transcription. I am in a very centrally located area and am five minutes from downtown. I still get about 15% of new clients from the phone book and online yellow pages. I have two very amazing defense attorneys that had me work on an extremely high-profile legal case transcribing witness interviews about ten years ago. After that we got projects from a lot of defense attorneys. We now do mostly legal interviews and PhD candidates’ who are doing interviews for their dissertation. I get calls from new clients almost every day who were referred by our attorneys and PhD candidates. We have about 15% of miscellaneous-type clients &mdash seminars, medical and insurance reports, focus groups, training sessions and about everything else imaginable.
Do you use special equipment that makes the work go faster or that makes it easier? And do you provide it for your employees, or do they have to get it on their own?
Almost all people record digitally now. We have special software that allows us to use foot pedals with our computer so we can start and stop conversation. Without it, it would take 20 times longer. We use an FTP site where most of our clients load their recordings. We get a lot of CDs and DVDs, mostly from our attorneys.
What does it take to be decent transcriber?
First of all, I don’t look for decent… I look for the best. My clients depend on me for quick, but very accurate work, so I depend on my transcribers for that. Also, of course, transcribers who always meet or beat deadlines, and that pick up on things very quickly. My transcribers sign a confidentiality agreement agreeing to keep 100% confidentiality with everything they transcribe. I only keep transcribers who love their job. Who wouldn’t want to work out of their home in their jammies?
Tell me some of the challenges of being a transcriber. It seems like grueling, tedious work to me.
You’re certainly right about that! It’s a job where you have to put your mind in a tunnel. Total concentration is essential. I have six transcribers now; some have been with me for close to 10 years. Besides these women I’ve tried to hire a lot of others that unfortunately didn’t work out after many hours of training them on how we do things. Most people just aren’t made for transcribing. A mistake in a legal interview could be critical to the case. We get some crazy recordings, like someone who has the recorder in their pocket, or wears it on their clothing, while their clothing rubs against it, making it sound like a scratchy old record from the '60s. Or someone chewing their lunch and rustling papers by the recorder. We get a lot that are done at a noisy restaurant, or in street traffic, sometimes at the beach where you can only hear the waves. I could go on and on. I wish I could teach the world how to use a digital recorder. Most people don’t realize that even a ceiling fan or air conditioner can destroy the sound.
Now that you’re no longer one of the transcribers, is there anything about it that you miss? Do you ever have to step in for any reason?
I love what I do much more than transcribing. My transcribing days are long gone. Being the boss and watching over my employees keeps me plenty busy, and they’re much better at it than I could be now. I’m lucky to have them work for me.
I have to ask. Are you hiring?
I might be if the right person came along. Someone with at least five years experience with the easy and the difficult recordings. Someone who catches on extremely quickly to how I like things done; someone with digital equipment.
Any words of wisdom for those considering employment as a transcriber?
Get your speed up to about 80 words per minute or more. Practice with digital recordings that are the good, the bad, and the ugly &mdash practice, practice, practice. Be reliable, and care about your job. Commit to deadlines and let nothing get in your way to meet them.