Trusty Transcriptionists is celebrating 5 years in business! I feel huge gratitude to all of my clients that have accompanied me on this journey. When I started this business (admittedly on a bit of a whim) I really did not expect it to be this successful. Of course, success is defined by the person, for me success is making enough money to live on, having the freedom to travel from time to time, remaining busy and producing a product the client is happy with. Throughout my time running the business, several people were gently nudging me to expand and grow the business. I did so for a short time but found it was not very lucrative from a financial perspective. It is very time consuming and often draining once you start bringing other people into the equation and I wanted people to be paid fairly for their work. I remember when I first started out freelancing, I was being paid by a large well known British company to do their transcribing at 35p per audio minute! This is truly exploitative. This company charges a significantly higher rate per minute than I charge, so what they are paying their subcontractors is shameful. It also drove me to quickly move away from working for any third parties, and start my own business. I valued myself much more than that.
Over the past five years, for the most part, times have been good. I initially invested heavily in advertising when I started the business. After a couple of years, I found I rarely had to advertise (thankfully because it is expensive!) I was busy all of the time and never without work. Referrals and repeat business kept me ticking along. I felt very lucky but I knew that it was my hard work and initial marketing that had set things up for me. This is not an easy game, not knowing when your next paycheque is coming from. There is no guarantee that I am going to make any money at all from month to month. This can be stressful and I don't think it's for everybody. In reality, if I'd not had a large chunk of savings, I could have easily been put out of business many times. Often the large companies are the slowest to pay and sometimes the amounts owed are significant. I have been so fortunate, in all of my five years I have only had one person who refused to engage with me on payment. She just ghosted me when I tried to communicate about the overdue invoices. This went on for months and I eventually sent the debt to a collection agency who recouped the loss for me immediately. This sort of confrontation is really not my style and I lost a lot of sleep over this issue. This was of course in my first year of business when I was very green to the whole thing. But I felt justified and completely entitled to claim my money and I've never regretted doing that. One other person who was studying law asked me to do some copy typing for him. Again, I was quite new to the business and agreed to do it (I hate copy typing, it is not a service I offer) I charged him a very minimal amount for the document, it was not even worth my time. He never paid me. I chased a couple of times but just let it go in the end as it was such a small sum it simply was not worth my time or energy (I'm sure he's made a wonderful solicitor ;-) But overall, I've been very lucky on that front.
Typing for a living is certainly not what I envisaged as my life plan, but I am very happy running my own business and with the lifestyle I've managed to eke out during the process. My only regret is my mother had passed away several years before I started the business. I would have loved for her to have seen what I've accomplished, all of it is really thanks to her. My mother was a very proficient executive secretary/administrator all of her life. She mainly worked for different departments of the government and for law firms (the later, she hated). I recall the home office in my house growing up, it had two desks in it, one for my father (who worked in politics) and one for my mother who acted as secretary for my father evenings and weekends. In my mind, I can still hear the voice of my father dictating letters to my mother, and that clacking sound of the keys on the typewriter as my mother typed away, letter after letter, usually with carbon paper in-between to make those much-coveted copies.
I recall vividly the summer of 1983, when I was 13 years old, my mother insisted that I do typing lessons at home several times a week. In the summer holidays? You've got to be kidding me. No, no she was not. She had bought me a book which contained introductory lessons. I had to work my way through one lesson a week. She promised me that typing was a skill that I could always fall back on if need be. My mother was fiercely independent and worked full-time for all of her life. These were good values to instil into me of course. And she was wise because life throws one so many curve-balls, little did she know that she would become a widow at the age of 42, and be solely responsible for me, her 14-year-old daughter and only child. That certainly was not the life plan. And so on those beautiful July and August days, Ottawa summers were fabulously hot and sunny, there I sat in the home office typing away (it was still typewriters in those days folks, I am that old!) I started by learning the home row, FFF space, JJJ space, F space J space, FJF space. You get the picture, anybody who has had touch typing lessons knows the score.
Now, don't feel too sorry for me, these lessons perhaps took up three hours a week of my holiday time, the rest of the time I was with friends and swimming in our back garden and having endless sleepover parties. These were good times. The sad part of this story is several years later when I was 16 years old and in high school, I took typing as one of my elective classes (at mother's insistence naturally) You would think that I would have passed with flying colours, after all, I had a head start on everybody else, I actually knew the keyboard by touch. But nope, I failed typing miserably, a big fat F (and I'm not talking FFF space) This of course was mainly because I was in the billiards hall playing pool, eating fries, flirting with boys and smoking cigarettes instead of showing up to typing class. Without practice and diligence in touch typing, you will fail, that's guaranteed. The end result is only what I deserved, I had to go to summer school to retake typing and I spent yet another fine summer in front of a typewriter!
With luck, next year I will be celebrating 6 years in business. It has come clear to me that I am going to have to diversify my services a little bit over the next few years if I want to stay in business. My intention is to start offering some virtual services in addition to transcription service over the next six months or so. It has always perplexed me greatly how many people do not know how to touch type in this country (like why in the world are you not offering this as a class in all schools? Our whole world is based around a computer keyboard now!) But technology, of course, is eventually going to bypass the need for any of this, as artificial intelligence begins to develop further and people can just command with their voices. And these are exciting times ahead, admittedly I'm a little worried but I am willing to embrace it. However, voice recognition is not up to standard yet when it comes to more than one voice, let me assure you (I tested it out several times to put my mind at ease, the results produced by software were dire!) But not before long the machines will be taking over... yes time stops for no one, not even for a transcriptionist who spent several of her hot and sunny summer holidays typing away under mother's orders.
Photograph- my mother and father 1972- Did they have a premonition to toast Trusty Transcriptionists celebrating 5 years in business?