Many TypeWell transcribers are interested in becoming independent contractors. While the majority of TypeWell transcribers are employed by schools or agencies, the idea of being one's own boss and the lure of making "extra money on the side" are strong incentives for many people.
But reaching those goals is not as simple as just finding a client who wants/needs TypeWell services and then going out and providing those services. There are legal and practical aspects to being an independent contractor in any service profession, and you need to attend to those issues before you begin to market your services.
As an independent contractor, you will be functioning not only as the service provider, but as your own business manager, too. In that second role, you'll be responsible for providing your own laptops (yours and the reader's), writing your own clear policies about scheduling practices, class cancellations, student "no shows", timeliness of providing a transcript after the class/meeting, your pay rates, etc.
For more information about written policies, wise and ethical scheduling, transcriber duties, and all the other aspects of running a high-quality TypeWell service program, see:
Defining your Service Policies
Transcriber Duties and Code of Ethics
In your role as your own business manager you'll need to communicate your policies clearly to the Service Coordinator at the school or other work site. The Service Coordinator at a college or other school is most often the disability support service supervisor or the special education coordinator who oversees support services to students, including hiring independent contractors. Be prepared to give your written polices to the Service Coordinator and discuss them with him/her. The site Service Coordinator may well require that you follow the site's already-developed policies about scheduling, class cancellations, etc. However, in all cases, it is crucial that you and the Service Coordinator openly communicate expectations and agree on policies before you begin providing services.
You must also be prepared to discuss any differences between your policies and expectations and those of the site (such as the need for breaks and teams). Be prepared politely and professionally to affirm policies that optimize the quality of service to the consumer and your ergonomic health. No assignment is worth accepting if it sets you up to damage your health or to provide poor-quality communication access to deaf consumers.
Here are some important areas to consider on the path to becoming an independent TypeWell service provider.
Equipment and Software Licenses
- To earn pay as an independent contractor, you must own the computer(s) and other equipment, and the software licenses used to provide the services.
- OR, you must have explicit written permission from the owner to use the equipment and software licenses for your independent use.
- A transcriber computer
- A reader's reading device (e.g., laptop, tablet, etc.)
- Wireless linking system
- Steno table
- Ergonomic carry bag
- See this link for Equipment details
- TypeWell Transcriber software subscription
- If doing remote work, must have Skype (free), Zoom (freemium), or another method of receiving audio, as well as TypeWell's Premium Transcriber software.
- Accounting software for business management (e.g., QuickBooks®, Xero, etc.)
Legal and Business Aspects
A. Official designation as independent contractor
- May have to be registered with your State as a Business Entity (e.g., sole proprietorship)
- Must know and prepare for correct tax filing (e.g., income tax, self-employed FICA taxes, documenting business expenses)
B. Some Necessary Business Procedures
- Written "Terms of Service Agreement" (i.e., service contract) (See Business Resources, below.)
- Written Service Policies (cover all the questions listed in these articles: Duties and Site Policies)
- Consider having professional liability insurance
C. Business Resources
- Federal government Small Business Resource website (includes a helpful questionnaire to guide starting an independent contracting business)
- Nolo Publishers' legal encyclopedia Independent Contractor posts
- Tammy Richards' presentation at 2009 WNCAP, "Becoming an Independent Contractor"
- Sample TypeWell Transcription Terms of Service Agreement from Tammy Richards WNCAP presentation, 2009
- Tammy Richards' book: "Establishing a Freelance Interpretation Business: Professional Guidance for Sign Language Interpreters", 3rd edition. Order at nwasla.com.
- Freelancers Union
Getting Work — Reaching Clients
A. Professional marketing materials
- Current résumé, with work samples and letters of reference/recommendation
- Business Cards
- Website (see below)
- TypeWell brochure (hard copies available upon request)
B. Identify potential clients to send your packet and/or visit and do a demo
- Do a Google search to locate potential clients in your local area. Search for sites and the person in charge of providing ADA accommodations at: Local colleges (search for disability support services office, deaf services coordinator)
- Local school district programs (e.g., middle school through high school)
- Local churches
- Local senior living centers
- Local Adult Education programs
- Local Community Centers
C. Develop a Website
- Design a website just for you, or work with a group of local transcribers to share a website and the resulting assignments.
- On your website, include the geographic area you prefer to work, as well as your Polices. (See Business Procedures section, above.)
- Show sample pricing, too. That is the number one question clients are looking to answer when they begin searching for service providers!