How to Break Into the Lucrative Transcription Business without Leaving Home
They say that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. But trapping mice tend to be a nasty and messy business.
So better to find a socially distanced and hygienic business that doesn’t involve mice or doorstep visitors. This is also one that won’t require highly specialized skills.
Anyone with decent language abilities can pull it off. You just need drive and ingenuity.
Break Into the Lucrative Transcription Business without Leaving Home
Here we offer some tips and tricks on how to make a transcription business thrive without ever leaving home.
What Are the Differences Between Transcriptions and Translations?
Let’s get our terms straight.
Translation involves converting from writing in one language to another.
Transcription is converting from the spoken word to the written word.
It can be from a live speech or from a recording.
Lately, many people are requesting transcripts from Zoom calls recorded for business and pleasure.
Transcription for video conferences is a booming business opportunity if you can transcribe quickly and accurately.
There are occasions where translations and transcriptions are combined, such as when a meeting or conversation is multilingual.
Typically, translators will listen to what is spoken, live or recorded, and then translate without transcribing the original language.
In other cases, the translator is forced to work from the transcription.
This is less desirable because mistakes in the transcription may be wrongly translated.
Transcriptions can be verbatim or non-verbatim.
A verbatim transcriber/transcriptionist writes down everything, including the ums, ers, likes, stumbles, and stutters.
In a non-verbatim transcription, by contrast, the aim is an easily readable text that conveys the essential meaning of what was said.
Verbatim transcription is often required for legal proceedings.
Non-verbatim is often preferred for scholarly or professional transcriptions.
What Is Transcreation and How Can It Be Applied to Transcription Work?
Usually, transcription is a rather cut-and-dry specialization.
Many clients want “just the facts, ma’am” with no creative license allowed.
While most transcription jobs involve straight rendering of audio or video into text, some projects are suitable for allowing some creativity in going from a media source to a text transcript.
Let’s consider a couple of examples.
The first is an interview.
Conducting an interview is a difficult assignment.
One doesn’t always know what to ask and the interviewee doesn’t always know how to answer or doesn’t express the answer in the most possible way.
A transcriptionist or translator with writing skills in one or more languages can improve the written outcome of an interview by taking creative liberties with what has been said and rearranging it into a more elegant or expressive format with greater impact.
This can work in the same language or going from one language to another.
It’s called transcreation falling somewhere between transcription, translation, and creative writing.
Often transcreation is used for marketing and advertising, but it can also be used for white papers and other more journalistic assignments.
The point is to convey ideas rather than the literal words said.
If creative minds can rearrange and rewrite the words in a more effective order, style or format, so much the better.
In fact, transcreation can be a much more lucrative specialization than either transcription or translation.
AI-driven software can often do an adequate job of voice-to-text, but machines are no match for talented writers when it comes to transcreating.
As bots take over professions one by one, those who start by translating or transcribing should take a deep dive into transcreation to explore its creative and commercial potential.
Are Subtitles and Closed Captions Forms of Transcriptions?
Another booming segment of the transcription business that can be done from home is the titling of video content.
Subtitles are used to communicate foreign-language content.
Closed captions are used to assist the hearing-impaired or to communicate meaning in videos streamed in an environment where audio cannot be heard.
With the ever-increasing quantity of video content, there is a voracious appetite for titles in multiple languages.
Applying titles to the video itself is a technical specialty that can be separated from the act of transcribing the titles.
There are many desktop video editing software applications that put this capability within reach of a home-based business.
But it’s also possible to focus on delivering subtitles or closed-captions as text to a production company or freelancer.
Subtitling and closed-captioning require specialized verbal skills.
As Shakespeare wrote, brevity is the soul of wit.
So the trick of the successful titler is to be brief.
Not every spoken word is translated and/or transcribed, just the essential ones.
No one wants to watch a screen crowded with text, so there is an art to expressing the most meaning in the fewest, shortest words.
What Is the Business Potential in Transcribing Zoom Chats?
Even before the pandemic, there was a growing trend toward remote audio and video conferencing.
But since the world closed down in March 2020, that potential continues to expand.
Taking into account both free and premium users, Zoom claimed 300 million daily meeting participants as of March 2021.
That represents a phenomenal increase of 2900% since the end of 2019 when 10 million zoom participants were logging in daily.
And that’s just Zoom.
There’s Skype, Google, and dozens more.
There are dedicated apps for online classes and tutoring – dubbed Zutoring – and chat platforms on every niche topic under the sun.
The question is: how can you profit from this skyrocketing trend which gives no indication of abating, only expanding.
Well, let’s brainstorm some options in the transcription and translation field.
How many users of video conferencing apps would benefit from having text transcripts of what was said, and by whom, in each meeting? Not all, of course, but a significant share would benefit from having a permanent, searchable record.
That’s where your entrepreneurial skill comes in.
How can you craft a viable business out of a clear demonstrated juggernaut of market need and consumer demand? We’re not here to deliver a fish dinner but to stimulate your imagination about new ways and tools to fish.
cultivate a niche business to provide solutions in this space.
One idea is focusing on a specific market and delivering tailored transcriptions for teachers, tutors, or university lecturers.
Another is serving the influences and online marketers who give regular webinars and courses.
With that knowledge, acquire the techniques and experience to efficiently deliver transcriptions, or transcreations to meet those market needs.
Find a unique value proposition and wrap the business and its marketing around that.
Sometimes it’s not the mousetrap but the quality of the cheese – your unique content and flavor – that makes all the difference in attracting the mice – I mean your future customers.
But if you have a knack for languages, transcription and its transcreation cousin are worthy of consideration on the track to success.
Will Your Transcription Business be a One-Person Show?
The beauty of a language services business is that it is easily scalable and manageable without high expenses or complex equipment.
Most of the software and data resources you will need are either inexpensive or free.
One big choice you will need to make is where you will focus on a niche within transcription – like subtitling or legal transcripts – or whether you will broaden to include services like translation or interpretation.
For freelancers and entrepreneurs, especially those with technology skills, there is also the possibility of joining forces with online transcription services.
Teaming up with transcribers from companies like Tomedes, Rev, and Scribie can multiply your reach to a global audience.
These transcribers can support new business connections and help you earn extra income from projects which involve transcribing, subtitling, or closed-captioning.
Many agencies are on the lookout for tech-savvy individuals who are comfortable working with audio and video source materials and combining that with solid credentials in language so that the transcription is fluent and error-free.
If you are not fluently bilingual, then staying within transcription rather than venturing into translation or interpretation is probably the best way to start.
Later you can hire multilingual resources but, if you just know one language, then do what you know best for starters.
If you have specialized knowledge, like legal or medical training, consider focusing your business on these vertical niches.
Or if you are in Hollywood, New York, or another video/filmmaking hub, focus on servicing these industries with your subtitling and closed-captioning expertise.
Don’t be afraid to work as a subcontractor for established language service providers.
This will give you a pipeline of paying work, and you will gain valuable experiences and industry connections.
You will build up a diverse portfolio.
While the rates of subcontractors tend to be constrained by the contractor’s need to have a competitive margin with the end client, you can get more as your experience and capability grows.
Can Transcription be the Gateway to Building an Online Translation Business?
When you are ready, you can turn the tables and start building your own language services agency.
Start with something that you can do well, in which you have some competitive advantage.
But once you sense a demand for related services, or for language pair fluency beyond what you yourself have, the time has come for you to build an agency online.
Freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Freelancer.com support the creation and management of virtual agencies, which are loose associations of independent contractors who combine to attract and execute bigger and better projects.
Many communication projects require design, technical and additional services beyond transcription.
So transcription can become a gateway to a marketing or marcom agency, or one which focuses more on multilingual services like translation or interpretation.
In a virtual agency, you present a united front to the world and individual clients.
Behind the scenes, you are a project manager overseeing the work of subcontractors, making a modest profit from each, taking responsibility for the project as well as your team.
Happily, today’s freelance platforms provide the online infrastructure and escrow services to make managing a virtual agency a snap.
Then, one day, with luck and honed skills, you’ll be well-positioned to wean yourself away from third-party platforms and go on your own.
I’ve seen it done, up close and personal, and it’s been a thrill to experience the juggernaut of entrepreneurial growth.
I look forward to hearing your own success story.
November 7, 2023