Digital transcription is a popular choice of service provision for many Virtual Assistants and when new VAs join the industry they often see many of these jobs being promoted via the various VA networks. They’re quick to jump on board to offer this as a service too. However, fast and accurate typing isn’t the only skill that’s required for providing transcription support. You also need to have the ability to spell accurately, know where to put in items such as commas, fullstops, semi-colons, para breaks, etc. And transcription isn’t straightforward typing. It also means stopping or pausing the recording, rewinding, checking that what you’ve typed makes sense, because after all you might have typed it ‘makes cents’, etc. Then there’s the proof-reading and checking to be done before forwarding it on to your client. Often a one hour recording can take between 4-6 hours to type up. For the inexperienced usually the longer time, as you gain more experience, then it becomes shorter. Not only that but the transcription might not simply be one person speaking into a recorder, but it could be a group of people for a committee meeting or a focus group, and you need to be able to discern the different voices speaking. And know how to spell words in particular terminologies relating to the medical industry, legal industry and so on. So, transcription is not straight typing.
Now I’ve covered that I wish to talk about VAs who sub-contract to other VAs who provide digital transcription as a service. It pains me when I hear about new Virtual Assistants, or those who are sub-contracting to other Virtual Assistants, not upholding their commitment to complete a job. Many times this is in relation to digital transcription work but it does apply to other types of work too. I believe it’s because they underestimated the time commitment or how ‘easy’ they thought the job might be.
When a VA takes on work for another VA, that second VA is your client. Not just a colleague. I don’t know why people think they can just let another person down, without notifying them until the last minute that they can’t complete a job. It is detrimental to our industry and ultimately does affect the end client – the person who the ‘second VA’ is getting the work done for.
I’ve heard of a few stories over the past 2 or 3 months and I really struggle to understand why the VA who has undertaken the work, can’t get in touch straight away with the other VA to let them know something has happened, or they’re struggling to complete the work. The VA who is subbing out the work has undertaken a commitment to their client, to get the work done, and they often will sub out work to ensure the time commitment is met. So you’re not just letting down that VA but also their client, someone in the public sector.
Whenever a job is posted with the emphasised word ‘EXPERIENCED’ I see queries from VAs on various forums who want to break into this line of work of how they can get experience if no-one will engage them. The reality is that too many have broken the trust of VAs who are outsourcing the work, to the point that they no longer feel they can trust someone new who wants to break into this particular line of work. When joining the VA industry if you have past experience as a transcriptionist, that is great. But if you haven’t all is not lost. You just need to spend time practicing. Start with podcasts or any audio recording you can find online. Then reach out to groups you might belong to, sporting clubs, church groups, other activities to see if you can transcribe, for free, something they’ve had recorded. Volunteering is a great way to build experience in an area that you want to eventually gain work from. I gained experience in typing up recordings for a consultant many years ago and then typing some conference recordings for the church I belonged to at the time. If you look around and ask, there will be opportunities that will arise. It just takes time – but is worth it, if in the end, you gain a good reputation and are considered reliable in this particular line of work.