“I work in the transcription industry.”  Standard, templated response when you enquire someone as to what they do for a living, and if they happen to be a transcriptionist.

Industry?  How so?  The word “industry” is defined as, economic activity dealing with processing of raw materials and manufacture of products in factories.

With rapid shrinking of job opportunities, erstwhile transcribers leaving for greener pastures, ever reducing pay scales, disappearing job security, and companies large and small shutting shop at an alarming pace, the phrase “transcription industry” seems no longer justified.

When we talk of transcription, medical transcription is what comes to most people’s minds instantaneously.  And justifiably so, because an overwhelming percentage of employment and business growth has for long been in the transcription of medical data.  About 9 of every 10 people one would encounter in the “transcription industry” used to be medical transcriptionists.  Now what has befallen this bellwether industry?

The field of healthcare has seen rapid technological advancements, innovations like voice recognition software, automation, AI, etc.  Companies that couldn’t adapt to these huge market disruptions have fallen by the wayside.  Companies that did adapt, have struggled and are somehow holding on, but there still seems to be a significant amount of catharsis.  Things are not so hunky-dory anymore for medical transcription.  Business owners as well as employees are not taking things for granted any longer as the risk of further disruptions is quite high.

Employees have had to train, teach and get educated with the latest techniques and tools.  Employers have had to deploy software, monitor market trends and align company goals, improve security systems, temper revenue expectations, and even let go some of their valued staff as automation and operating costs keep eating into their profit margins.

This has now become literally a struggle for survival!

Pay packets have frozen.  Hikes and emoluments have frozen.  Promotions have frozen.  Heck, even your current job and employer most probably might be in a state of deep freeze!  Barely any new medical transcription business opportunities.  If at all anything comes up, there’s still those razor-thin margins one has to contend with.  Cost of software, infrastructure, salaries, etc. going up and up constantly, but possibility of increased rates from clients is quite bleak and, in most cases, non-existent.  Client expectations on quality of medical transcripts and adherence to turnaround times are still sky high.

And adding fuel to fire is inflation and cost of living.  Year after year, these two factors keep increasing without fail, further adding to the burden of running a business, holding onto a job, and keeping folks at office and at home contended and happy.  Stress levels are high.  Frustration is high.  Despondency is super high.

Therefore, it is only but natural for staff and senior management alike to search for better avenues of income generation, though a constant search for greener pastures, but now aided and spurred on by desperation.  An obvious choice is non-medical transcription.  General transcription (GT) and Legal transcription (LT).

From the management’s perspective, let’s list out the advantages of non-medical transcription, which is simply anything other than medical transcription.

  1. Reduced learning curveMedical transcription training requires not just good keyboard skills but also savvy medical systems’ knowledge and formats, protocols, client specifications, HIPAA rules, etc. None of that is needed in GT or LT.  A sharp ear for details and deft transcription skills would do a world of good.
  2. Business scope — Every professional and every company, institution, and organization are potential customers! Media companies, law firms, podcasters, speakers, market researchers, filmmakers, book writers, financiers, product companies, conference hosts, college students, professors, and so on and so forth.  The list goes on and on.  The world is full of opportunities!
  3. Lesser demands — Unlike the medical transcription field where timelines and accuracy and error percentages are set in stone, there is less rigidity and more flexibility with general and legal transcription. As long as due diligence is done and the customer is explained of the full process, transcription in the GT and LT fields is a bit more relaxed, less demanding, and therefore more enjoyable for the staff and management alike.
  4. Knowledge & insight — General transcription is such a generic term that it basically encompasses anything and everything under the sun. One could come across topics as diverse as Keynesian economics, landscape architecture, sports science, arthropod palaeontology, quarterly results and press releases, celebrity interviews, etc., just to name a few from the vast ocean of subjects.  Knowledge gained thus and the insight, even if just a glimpse, is immeasurable.

Documentation is here to stay.  People keep needing this in hard forms, for example as a printed report, or in soft forms, for example as a webpage.  More than 80% of all content online is in textual form.  All that’s not going to vanish or change overnight.

Documentation is the backbone of the legal and litigation process all over the world.  Hard copies, handwritten notes, printed reams of paper, case filings, etc. are absolutely vital for law enforcement, administration and judiciary to keep chugging along without any major hiccups or lacunae.  And in spite of litigation process automation in certain aspects, legal transcription is still a critical, functional and supportive activity and a crucial link in the entire litigation process, which the back office processes of our court system is heavily dependent upon.

Though change is constant, and the only thing constant is change, transcription is not going to go away anytime soon.  Of course, as with all other things in the world, as human civilization advances, traditional ways of working are going to be replaced by more efficient and effective tools and strategies.  Technology is just one part of that construct.

Transcribers, just like all other workers, have to adapt and equip quickly in order to be nimble enough to sense and grab opportunities.  In this fast-paced, evolving world, every challenge for you is an opportunity for someone else!

Clear, Concise, and Cogent.  Three C’s that should be at the top of any conversation that any customer support executive has with any client – big, medium or small.  What’s this got to do with demand and supply, you might wonder.


Let me explain in layman terms.  To begin with, here’s a rhetorical question.  What do you think are the most important things when speaking to a potential customer for the first time?

  1. Set the scene.
  2. Roll out the verbal red carpet.
  3. Engage in an engaging conversation.
  4. Identify customer’s pain points.
  5. Provide clear-cut solutions.
  6. Goal setting and reassuring.

Piquing their curiosity, holding their interest, making them agree, and………… clinching the deal!  From the time man started walking on two legs, that’s how it’s been done to turn curious parties into happy clients.

All in one word — promises.  That all-encompassing, all-conquering, invaluable tool for infatuating a customer, making him go blind in love and trust, and open his wallet ready to forgo his hard-earned money, all before any real demonstration of your unseen superpowers.

Throw promises at your customers dime a dozen, keep bombarding them with wonderful images of your incredible skills, and what do you get in return from them?  Trust, faith, loyalty.  Trust on delivery of promises.  Faith on business reputation.  Loyalty from just mere words spoken and exchanged, with an e-mail or two added here and there for the sake of reassurance.

In the field of transcription and content management, this has been the norm since time immemorial.  However, once deals are clinched, contracts are signed and the ink goes dry, up comes the little matter of execution.  And isn’t that a different ballgame altogether!  Okay, now let us just hold this thought for a moment and talk about workflow patterns.

Transcription orders can largely be classified into 3 buckets based on the client’s needs and the frequency of available work — one-time, occasional, and regular.  Companies that are out there delving into all kinds of transcription would have noticed work orders and contracts coming in quite regularly for medical transcription, with more often than not accounts or projects needing 24-hour deadlines, every day, day in and day out, 5 or even 6 days a week.

Even quite a lot of legal transcription work would fall into a similar category as above, though unannounced spurts or slumps in work volume are much more pronounced in the litigation industry than the healthcare industry.  However, given the traditional, hierarchical structure of law firms and how time-conscious the attorneys themselves are, such fluctuations in documentation needs are occasional and can be mostly handled by an efficient team, provided the transcribers are constantly aware and anxious about client’s needs and also have the added benefit of past experiences to anticipate work pattern inconsistencies.

General transcription though is one tough nut to crack.  Such work orders usually fall into the ‘one-time’ or ‘occasional’ buckets, which means managements need to have a team constantly on standby in order to tap into this segment and be able to grab opportunities.  Easier said than done, simply because the project scope cannot be defined in advance until the last minute when the work order finally comes in.  No advance info on size and timelines of work order, hence no way to prepare and allocate resources and be ready.  Companies have to be nimble enough to deploy transcriptionists at a moment’s notice to execute GT work orders, but at the same time cannot expect long-term deployment.

As a result of this, there will most probably be some redundancy and benching of transcribers assigned to GT workflow.  Depending on how good the individual’s core competencies are, they can be redeployed to do legal or medical transcription projects whenever GT work orders have dried up.  However, there’s an innate risk in moving around resources.  This risk is about maintaining quality levels commensurate with the core LT/ MT team’s service delivery and as per client’s expectations.

Routine and familiarity play prominent roles in determining how quickly a cross-trained transcriber adapts to new accounts, new projects and brings oneself up to speed.  If managements are sensitive and recognize this fact and are able to identify the perfect resource at the perfect time for deployment and redeployment, it would do them a world of good in satisfying customer needs while at the same time retaining talent.

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