Dictation, audio typing, transcription
Back in 2004 when I started my virtual assistant business, digital dictation was just starting to take off. We occasionally got the odd cassette tape delivered, but more and more dictation was being emailed. Over the years, our clients have asked us for various tweaks to the system – and for the most part, we’ve obliged. With countless typists joining the industry, here are the things that make a big difference to typing clients which set you apart from the crowd:
- Quick Turnaround
You should be aiming for a maximum 2 business day turnaround on most pieces of work. Consider offering a guarantee on the turnaround, it gives people confidence that you’ll deliver. You should also get into the habit of acknowledging that you’ve received work and giving them an estimated time of delivery. Build in a bit of breathing space for inevitable disasters – always underpromise and overdeliver!
- Eagle Eyes
Can you offer a better proofing service than your competitors? Do you have two people check every piece of work? Do you regularly check postcodes/place names on the Royal Mail website? Do you have a client dictionary for unusual terms that they use so you can make sure they are always spelt the same way? Do you format your dates and times consistently? How good is your understanding of apostrophes and grammar in general? These little things make a huge difference to the amount of time a client needs to spend checking your work before sending their report out.
- Billing per audio minute
This is one I’ve not done – but knowing what the bill is going to be helps clients’ budgets. You might want to consider a per audio minute rate for work rather than per hour, especially if you know you regularly complete work faster than most other typists (you’ll be doing yourself out of some cash otherwise!).
- Invoice breakdown
We have a couple of clients who need very specific breakdowns of our audio typing – for one each job gets assigned to a different client account so they need precisely how much each job cost on the invoice. For another, they need to know how many reports were generated overall since they get paid by the number of reports. Ask you client before you start how they’d like their invoice detailed. On that note, make sure you get all their billing details upfront so you aren’t chasing them for details constantly – clients are busy people who are difficult to get hold of, make sure you collect everything you need in one phone call or email.
- Credit Terms
We had a client who regularly paid us 10 days late – it drove me loopy until I sat down with him and asked him what the problem was. They didn’t get paid by their client until the 15th of the month and that’s why he was always late. Now, although he’s still liable for the bill whether he gets paid or not, I was able to be slightly more flexible with him once I knew this and we bill on the 15th of the month including the 2 weeks he’s just used of the new month. It works, I get paid, he’s happier… Good news all round. Check with your clients to see if your billing cycle works for them.
Many emails will only send a maximum of 10MB which gets used up fast when you’re sending audio files. Look into providing a secure file upload facility on your website such as www.sendthisfile.com
On a similar vein, make it easy for clients to start working with you – give them tips and advice on buying a digital dictation machine and sending you audio files to type. You might even want to give them a free trial.
This is a major concern for clients – and one that is easily overcome. Most VAs are already using secure email addresses rather than gmail or yahoo etc. You also tend to be registered for Data Protection and known what your responsibilities are in keeping client data safe. You may also have additional security built into your systems such as cloud storage/back up, a system of work which separates client files, confidentiality agreements or additional firewalls and security on your computer. Tell your clients about them!
- The discount shopper
I’m sure you think I’m going to tell you to fire this client on the spot – surprisingly I’m not. I’m going to ask you to weigh up how much hassle they are. On the plus side: You know their work, their accent, how to format everything and you don’t need to do any work to get them as a client. You may well be getting a larger volume of work from them than from other clients.
On the negative side: It’s less than your standard rate. But your standard rate should have an element of prospecting worked into it – the element that pays for you to find and impress new clients, market your business and futureproof it. Unless this client is actively stopping you from seeking out new, higher paying clients, keep them.
What you need to avoid is the discount-client costing you money though – make sure your “rock bottom rate” is still sustainable for you to outsource the work if necessary and make a small profit.
- Specialising in a niche
Being in a niche market is excellent – it makes it easier to target prospects and it allows you to name your price as a specialist. However, beware of only having one niche… Imagine if you’d specialised in property mortgage reports in 2008 – your business would have gone bust overnight in the property meltdown! Your specialist niche (or indeed any one client) should ideally not be more than 30% of your business income, so that if they go bust or the bottom falls out the market, you have a backup plan. It’s not always possible, and as your business grows you’ll inevitably go through periods where more than 30% of your income does come from one client or one industry, but it’s a very good rule of thumb.