The Home-Based Typist Blog

How to boost your VA business with transcription

Are you struggling to grow your Virtual Assistant business, particularly in the midst of the current economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic? The good news is you can do something immediately to keep earning, and that very same thing can also future-proof your business, ensuring that when times are tough you have something to fall back on.

Many VAs use transcription (doing typing work from home) as a means of supplementing their income while they wait for other client work to come in, or between projects and assignments as a stopgap. As VAs usually come from administrative, secretarial or PA backgrounds, touch typing is likely to be something they’re highly skilled in already. As a current or former PA, secretary, administrator, writer or proofreader, you’re likely to be naturally organised and pay close attention to detail – all essential skills that can immediately be transferred into transcription work.

“I’m a freelance writer, journalist and editor who hates transcribing my own work. But transcribing other people’s work is a different story. I enjoy hearing about other industries and topics and, most importantly, can easily fit transcription work into my weekly schedule. This kind of work gives you the freedom to pick and choose how much you want to take on, which is a godsend when you’re having an unusually quiet or busy week. It also tends to come with flexible deadlines, so you can seamlessly slot it into your day without it impacting other work. Personally, I tend to rely on transcription jobs when I need an extra income boost. And in the current climate, that’s something you may need more often than not.”

– Lauren Sharkey, Journalist, Copywriter & Editor |
Author of Resisters: 52 Young Women Making Herstory Right Now

By utilising a two-pronged method of doing both VA and transcription work, this helped me to bolster my efforts, start up and run my business (Outsource Typing) successfully, and last the distance. My business is coming up for its ninth anniversary (Aug 2020), and I’ve been entirely freelance as my full-time job since 2011. According to The Office of National Statistics, only around 42-45% of businesses will make it to their fifth year of trading. I started my business in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and now I’m currently weathering the latest world pandemic crisis. I can do this because I have reinforced my business by offering as many skills as I can to my clients.

When I started my freelancing work back in 2011, there were VAs in the UK, yes, but the profession was still relatively new and unheard of (requiring a lot of explanation at the likes of networking events!) The UK is now flooded with VAs. If you go looking for current stats, you might find estimates. However, it’s worth noting that these numbers may have been taken from paid surveys, so it’s unlikely that every single VA in the land has been accounted for.

Therefore, in reality, there are an unknown number of VAs out there trading right now and rising. I’ve seen such a boom in our industry over the last decade. You may have already done your competitor research but, if not, take a look into how many VAs there are in your local area right now. With stiff competition, it’s crucial for you to not only stand out from the crowd, but also ensure that you’re doing enough behind the scenes to stay afloat for business survival.

The good news is, I can share with you my method, what worked for me and how you can gain success too.

I wanted to be a VA after hearing about it on the radio. I loved the idea that I could transfer my skills and experience, but work flexibly, something that many employers could not – and still cannot – offer. However, when I started out, it took time to reach clients, to get the word out, and explore marketing strategies that worked for this particular type of business. Not every new business owner has the time to sit back and wait – most will want to start seeing ROI (return on investment) and profits quickly.

Luckily, I found out about transcription work. I was tested and approved by a couple of the larger industry leaders in the transcription field and began completing as many assignments as I could. This work acted a means of supplementing my income while I marketed for VA clients. I wasn’t contracted or committed to doing a certain level of work and I could complete the transcription work whenever I was able. When VA work came in, I prioritised this and then used the transcription as a fall-back to supplement my income when VA work was quiet. I now offer both types of services to my clients – VA and transcription services – and my business is thriving. Actually, we now do more transcription work than VA work, to give you an idea of the sort of demand that’s out there!

“Transcription is a specialist skill that can generate your business long term income. When I started my business (Tayside Virtual Assistant) initially it was one of the services that instantly took off… Our company has evolved into web design, logos, graphics, etc., but transcription is something that will always be on our services list.”

You can find out more about transcription here on my website. It will help give you an understanding of some of the types of work that are available – a vast array. You may have heard of ‘transcription’ before and never given it a second thought, but it’s worth considering as it can give a revitalising boost to your business. You can take on ad hoc assignments from agencies to support you, or actually branch out and start taking on your own clients – whatever you need to do to keep your business going so you can focus on what you love.

“I have a mix of clients in my business – some of whom I do regular transcription for, others require more traditional administrative support, and yet others who require ad-hoc transcription work. I really appreciate having a variety of work because it helps me to keep expanding my knowledge.”

– Rose Donnelly, UK Virtual Assistant

It’s well worth diversifying into transcription. You might be working with clients doing work that you that you dislike or working with people you don’t gel with but you can’t be choosy. So take control, do something proactive, and then you’ll be in a better position to pick and choose the clients you want to work with, and even building a portfolio career! 

Find out more about starting up as a freelance transcriber.  Arm yourself with research and find out reasons why businesses fail in this fantastically thorough article from to help you avoid common pitfalls.

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