6 Tips for Starting a Transcription Service

I’ve been podcasting for a little over a year now and I’ve really come to value the service providers that help podcasters in this industry.

Whether it’s podcast hosters, plugins, transcription services, or voice over actors, I think it’s awesome that the podcasting industry is growing and becoming more mature.

Having gotten my podcast transcribed in the past, I think I have a unique view on what the customer wants when it comes to podcast transcription.

I hope these tips help you set up your company!

1. Create a professional looking website

This point can’t be understated. When I was looking for a transcription service, I’d click off the page of any website that seemed sketchy or amateur. It’s just human nature. We crave professionalism.

I personally use Bluehost to host all of my blogs and websites (some with millions of visitors per year).

Here’s a link to a special intro offer of $3.95/month* + FREE Domain.

website setupAlmost all my sites run on WordPress, which makes it super easy to add functionality with plugins and purchase professional looking themes from a marketplace like ThemeForest or these.

The other great thing about wordpress is that you can add ecommerce functionality to your website and there is a thriving support community, should you have any questions.

However, you can also set up a website with other options like SquareSpace, Wix, or Weebly.

2. Decide on your per minute transcription rate

Even though you could likely charge cheaper rates than some of the mainstream players in the transcription business, I would NOT recommend competing on price.

As a customer, I can tell you that the most infuriating thing is to get back a document that has misspellings or is an inaccurate transcription. I might as well just do it myself.

Most customers that I’ve talked with seem to prize:

  • Accuracy of the transcription
  • Speed of the service or turn around
  • Good customer service and rapid communication.

If you have cheaper rates than the mainstream players, you’re going to put more stress on yourself to find cheap labor and will have lower profit margins to re-invest back in the business.

When I was researching, $1/minute was a pretty standard rate, with discounts for bulk orders. There are a few ways that you’ll be able to earn extra revenue including:

  • Rush fees for customers that want a quick turn around.
  • Verbatim transcription
  • Time stamping
  • Professional document formatting
  • Premium rates for certain categories like medical or legal.
  • Premium rates for multiple speakers and bad audio.

Remember, that you need to keep in mind problems that you might run into with each job and consider fees or how this might impact your rates. This could include:

  • An accented speaker
  • Dialogue in languages other than english
  • Multiple speakers
  • Turnaround time
  • If a customer wants edits or revisions

In my opinion, there are a lot of ways also to expand beyond your initial offering to provide other services in addition to transcription like:

  • Formatting documents into ebook or PDF form with nice design
  • Translating languages
  • Captions on videos
  • Additional add on services that customers can purchase and that you’d earn money on via affiliate commission.

3. Figure out your business systems.

Although you personally could be doing the transcriptions, I’m going to assume that you have someone to fill customer orders and that you’re more of a manager.

There are a few different steps to a standard order process.

  1. Education. The customer learns about your services, the price, and identifies answers to their questions.
  2. Submission. The customer submits their order to you. I would make this as simple as possible. They shouldn’t have to log in or create some kind of account. They are submitting their audio or video file to get an official “quote” or “rate.”
  3. Payment. After you send them the official invoice and they are okay with it and your next steps, you can charge their card. Many services out there simply use paypal for this, but you could also do it on your website.
  4. Delivery. You deliver the order and either have a happy customer or a customer with questions or concerns.

The delivery is a great opportunity to encourage the customer to leave a review of your services or to commit to future orders. They could even share a message on social media in exchange for access to a digital product or discount code.

For example, they could get some kind of goodie if they leave a review or a discount that is valid for a certain number of days.

Before I say the next thing, just remember that I’m not a lawyer or an accountant, and that this blog post is simply my opinion.

That being said, if you’re new to business, it’s absolutely crucial that you are diligent with your accounting and setting up your business entity (I have an LLC). Make sure to track all expenses and revenue. If you’re paying consultants or contractors, you may need to issue them a 1099 or other documents at the end of the year.

4. Stand out from the crowd

There are so many transcription services out there, so the question is how are you different? Since it’s easy to set up a professional looking website, that can’t be your differentiator.

You have to be different in the eyes of the customer based on the value that you bring to their business. Here are a few ways to stand out:

  • Your service is for a specific group of people, like podcasters.
  • You offer free content to help the groups you serve. This is known as content marketing.
  • If serving podcasters, you offer to review their podcast for free.
  • Money back guarantees to assure visitors of the quality of your services
  • Offer a program or discount for certain consistent customers who want transcription service regularly.
  • Educate on the value of transcription with blog posts and youtube videos.
  • Have a social mission where you’re also helping a cause.
  • A surprise that’s delivered with the transcription, like a free guide or access to a certain portion of the website.
  • Webinars for your target market.
  • Writing LinkedIn or Medium posts.
  • Other ways to market on a budget.

Really, you should be viewed as a partner in your customer’s business. You stand out with how you make them feel, the value you bring to their company, and the emotional connection that you form with them.

By the way, I’ve already written a very comprehensive article on how to improve your SEO.

5. Build relationships with key influencers

The name of the game is relationships. It’s a long term game, but it pays off big time.

Let’s say you’re going after a the podcasting niche. Rather than trying to force your service on podcasters or shout as loudly about it as you can, get to know the key players in the market.

Who teaches about podcasting?

What podcasts are popular in the industry?

How can you bring value to these people?

Why not invite them to try out your service for free and, if they like it, share it with their followers? You could even send them a free gift to entice them to write a review, like a new podcasting microphone.

The more people in an industry that you form a positive relationship with, the more likely they are to recommend you to a friend, which will lead to traffic, links, and revenue.

Remember, this won’t happen all at once. It takes time. But it’s a great competitive advantage over other service providers.

I use tools like Buzzsumo to identify influencers. You can also just see which individuals people are following on Twitter, Instagram, and other sites.

6. A final word on customer services

I’ve said this in the past, and often times entrepreneurs that I’ve mentored will come back and tell me they wish they listened to what I’m about to say.

Online, your reputation is your business.

I run an online forum and I can’t tell you the number of angry emails I’ve gotten from business owners, demanding that I remove a negative review that a user wrote on one of my forums.

Always be as thorough and quick as you can when communicating with your customers. Often times, customers are simply wondering about the status of their order or have questions and rather than getting the answer from you, they begin to worry and form their own conclusions.

Usually, a customer will take to a message board, social media, or their own blog when they feel wronged. Be sure to shortcut those emotions before they form into a negative action or media hit that could hurt your business.

Good luck!

  • Mary M

    Thank you so much!
    This is really a big help!

    • Podcasting Hacks

      Great! Do you have any other questions I can help with?

      • Mary M

        Hi there! I was trying to find your contact email for private messaging. Can we discuss over email?

        Thank you! 🙂

  • Jill Cohen-Wilson

    So, that being read (pun intended), I have 30 plus years of transcription experience in every field. I freelance as an independent contractor for at least 5 different transcription companies across the country, and I will not sub out my work to others, because I do not trust their accuracy. I will not work for $1 a minute, because that is just way too low for someone with my expertise. Any thoughts?