How to land a transcription job by pitching – a guide for beginners

There are transcription platforms online that allow you to make money by transcribing audio for them. But what if I told you there’s a better way? What if you could start you freelance transcription business right now? 

And the best part is, You won’t need any money to start. Whole thing is completely free.

But let’s start from the beginning.

What is transcription?

Transcription is a service performed by people called transcribers. It requires you to listen to an audio file and transcribe everything you hear into a document (or software). Basically, you type what you hear.

How much money can you typically earn?

Typically, for a beginner, transcribing allows you to earn around $0.50-$0.80 per audio minute. Please mind that it means you get paid for a minute of transcribed audio, and NOT per minute of work. 

When I first started to transcribe it took me around 4-6 minutes to transcribe a minute of audio. Of course it may vary depending on a person. You see, I’m not much of a fast typer. My typing speed is around 42 words per minute, Which I’d say is pretty bad (for a blogger). You can check yours here: Online Typing Test

Assuming that it takes you 5 minutes to transcribe a minute of audio, you can transcribe 12 minutes an hour, which at best results in you earning $9.60 per hour. 

Now, that’s not much, considering how hard this work is. Audio files are not always good quality, and it may take you a long time to get used to such work.

You see, all this data applies to somewhat “standard” ways of transcribing. These are usually websites that allow you to work for them for a commision. 

For instance, a customer comes to a website that has the authority and buys a transcription of a minute of their audio. And they pay $1. The site then passes the work to you, for which you earn $0.70. 

Such way of transcribing is easy. Those sites are well known and respected in the industry. People trust that they can provide a quality service and don’t have to bother proofreading the work.

But there is another way. What if I told you that you can take full control of what you transcribe, who you transcribe for and how much you charge for it?

What I’m talking about is pitching. 

Pitching is basically reaching out to potential clients individually and trying to close a deal with them. 

In this case, you’d want to pitch your transcription services to people.

Why is pitching better?

Well,

  • You don’t need to pass the application test.
  • You don’t need to wait for the approval of a transcription company. 
  • The amount of work that comes in is dependant only on you (sometimes transcription websites may not have an infinite amount of work available at all times.)
  • You decide how much you want to charge for the service.
  • You don’t have to worry about other transcribers stealing your client. Once you close a client it’s pretty safe from there on.

Landing a Transcription job by pitching is a great way for beginners to make some money.

You see, when I started transcribing I used to think that I’m not being paid enough for what I do. 

I thought to myself, If a client is paying the company $1 and I get only $0.60, why wouldn’t I try to pitch them and see if they would prefer to pay me that $1 directly?

The client pays the same amount of money, and I earn more for what I do.

And then it happened. I started pitching.

Before you get all excited, there’s a couple of things you need to know before you pitch to anyone.

You need to know who to pitch

Obviously you can’t just email random people. You need to think who’d benefit from a transcription service. Although I’m sure there are many, my answer is – YouTubers. 

YouTube content creators are perfect clients for you. 

a photo of a youtuber recording a video for his YouTube channel
Photo by Gianandrea Villa on Unsplash

Why are they perfect?

  • There’s a vast amount of them for you to choose from.
  • Their content often has a good audio quality. They need this for their viewers to enjoy their videos, and this is just perfect for you, since you will have no trouble hearing what they say.
  • If you pick a Youtuber that creates content centered around your point of interest, it will not only make you money, but also you’ll enjoy it. 
  • Also, they usually include an email address labeled “For Business Inquiries” on their YouTube channel, so it’s easy to contact them.

Make sure to pick those who have no subtitles on their videos. It’s pointless if they do, since they probably had someone taken care of them. Go into their video feed and look for the Closed Caption (CC) sign on a Thumbnail. If it’s not there, you’re good to go.

Screenshot of YouTube Videos list with an arrow pointing to CC icon
The CC icon on the bottom indicates that this video has subtitles (sometimes you can find this in the upper right corner of a Thumbnail)

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to target any youtuber that doesn’t have subtitles on their videos. 

Think about it, you need someone who would have no problem with paying you for this.

If you target someone who puts their DIY videos online for fun and occasionally, They simply won’t bother considering your service. They don’t need it. 

On the other hand, If someone uploads a lot of videos, puts their time and effort into it, hopefully runs a blog along their YouTube channel (which is absolutely perfect, and you’ll see why in a second) chances are, they are monetizing it. If they’re making money already, they’d surely want to make more.

They should have no problem with paying you a couple of bucks for a service that can result in them making more money.

What to do when you already have a list of potential clients?

Once you picked your targets, it’s time to focus on your pitch. 

You can pitch in a number of ways. Email, phone, social media, basically, any form of contact.

I will focus on email pitching, but the rules apply to any other form of engagement.

How to create a good pitch?

First things first, get that copy & paste bullshit out of your mind. It’s like the greatest mistake you can do. You can’t just copy one email and send them to everyone. Your chances of someone replying to such emails are slim to none. 

The pitching email needs to be personalized.

People need to see you’re serious about your work, and they need to see that in your first email. 

How do you make a personalized email?

Address your client by their name. Simply do some research and find their name. I’d say that their first name is enough, since we’re trying to pitch youtubers here. You see, youtubers create a kind of community with their audience, that’s why I think it should be fine if you go with their name. However, If you’re ever pitching to someone else, be sure to think about how to address them. You wouldn’t want to disrespect them in any way. 

Make sure that your email contains some sort of compliment. Find something that your client did that’s not obvious right away. Don’t tell them you just like their content. Tell them you like their content and really loved that one video on a certain topic. 

Be sure to pick some video that is not accessible right away on their homepage, go into uploads a scroll a bit down. It adds to your credibility, and shows them that you didn’t just take the popular uploads like everyone else.

To put this into practise, I wrote this sample of a personalized pitch for you.

Hey Michael.

I recently saw one of you videos on [topic]. I think you’re right about [something] and that you did a great job with the video. Also, congratulations on being featured on [some other channel or magazine, but only if featured] (…)

This is a nice, personalized introduction to you email. It lets Michael know that he wasn’t a simple copy and paste target on your list.

After you’ve taken care of personalization…

You need to introduce yourself. The thing is, be yourself. Don’t pretend that you’re someone you’re not. If you have no experience and you just started, tell them. Don’t claim to be an expert if you’re not.

Of course your chances of landing a client are much higher when you have experience, but we’ll deal with that later on in this article.

Now, we come to the most important part of the email. The introduction of a service. If you got your potential client to read up to this moment, not it’s your best shot to close a deal with them. 

Describe what your service is about. Most importantly, outline the benefits they will get by working with you.

I can’t stress this enough. You absolutely need to make them aware that by signing up for your service they are going to benefit. Make sure they are very well informed of that.

How do you outline the benefits of your service?

You provide them with a plan on how it’s going to pay off for them. 

Tell them that with your transcription they can add subtitles to their videos (or that you can do that for them – add this to the service to make it more attractive). Subtitles greatly enhance the experience of the viewer. 

In this part, I’d write something along the lines:

(…) Firstly, many people are just learning the language and have trouble hearing everything. There are (estimated) 1.5 Billion people in the world who learn english. How many of them do you think would benefit from a subtitled video?

Secondly, there are people with hearing issues. 5% of the world population, actually. They’d also be grateful if they could enjoy the content by reading subtitles.

And lastly, having Closed Captions on you YouTube videos helps you rank a bit higher in the feed. (…)

If you’re feeling fancy you can add something else, for instance, the fact that there are people (including myself) who browse YouTube on their phones and are to lazy to click a video, so they just watch it on the thumbnail autoplay and read the subtitles. 

Just be sure not to over exaggerate. Your first email can’t be too long, or they won’t read it. It must be enough to hook their attention and have them email you for more details.

Remember when I said it’s great if they run a blog? Now, this allows you to have another advantage of your transcription service to present.

If they run a blog, simply tell them about this idea.

Each time they get a transcription done, they pretty much have a blogpost written (kind of).

Why?

They don’t need to think about it again. They’ve done the work once while shooting a video, now they just get the transcription for subtitles and can easily edit that to change it into a blog post. 

That’s twice the content for such a small price. If they were to have an article written from scratch they would need to pay at least $20 to get it decently written. 

But you include that in your service. For what? Maybe $5 extra, it all depends on the client. 

How should your first email look like?

When I started pitching transcription service to YouTubers, my first email looked exactly like this:

Hi There. 

My name is Wojtek. I really like your content, and truly appreciate the time and effort you put into making your videos. I find them very informative and professional. I really like your recipes. Therefore I would like to help you to spread the content even further. 

You see, There are a lot of people around who don’t know English that well. They might be still learning and can’t quite hear every bit of your precious videos. Then, there is also deaf people.

The point is, some people might want to read rather than hear. Therefore I would like to offer my services of Video Transcription. (99%+ accurate)

Basically, I would take a video of your choice and transcribe everything what you say into text. Then, You (or I) can upload this to Your video as Closed Captions (because I can include timestamps if you so desire) or put it on to your blog! When you post a video and have the transcription you basically have a free blog post that can be supported by a link to your video. Also, having Closed Captions on your videos helps you rank a bit higher in YouTube searches. There are countless opportunities. 

Let me know if You’re interested in this kind of stuff and I can provide you with more details on the topic 🙂

Cheers, Wojtek.

Now why am I telling you this? Because I don’t want you to repeat my mistakes. Let’s analyze this email.

There’s no name of the client. In the first paragraph, I do say I like their content and all that stuff, but It’s not personalized. There’s no particular example of what I like about their content, or which Video I enjoyed the most. Anybody could write that. Those facts alone prove that this email was a Copy & Paste one. Because It actually was.

This is a huge mistake. Back then, I used to think that I don’t need to dedicate my time to writing those emails unless they respond to me. 

WRONG

The first email is the most important one. It’s your only chance for them to reply. If it’s bad, they’re not going to bother.

Rest of the email seems pretty fine, although it is quite hard to read, so I’d also change that.

Here is a complete pitching email that should work well.

Hey Michael.

I recently saw one of you videos on [topic]. I think you’re right about [something] and That you did a great job with the video. Also, congratulations on being featured on [some other channel or magazine, but only if featured].

My name is Wojtek and I am a Transcriptionist. Recently, I was browsing through your channel and noticed you don’t have Closed Captions on your videos.

I think you’re missing out on a lot by this. Look, 

There are (estimated) 1.5 Billion people in the world who learn english. They might have trouble hearing everything. How many of them do you think would benefit from a subtitled video?

Secondly, there are people with hearing issues. 5% of the world population, actually. They’d also be grateful if they could enjoy the content by reading subtitles.

Having Closed Captions on you YouTube videos helps you rank a bit higher in the feed and reach a wider audience.

That’s why I’d love to help you with that and offer my services of Video Transcription.

Since I know you might be skeptical, I would like to prove my credibility by offering you a free trial. 

Should you be interested, Please email me back so we can get into more detail.

Take care,

Wojtek

The client is addressed by their name. The amount of detail on his videos proves that I actually took the time to check that.

There is an introduction of the freelnacer, so he knows he’s been emailed by a human being, not by a bot. If you were to have any experience you should add it here.

The first bolded sentence creates an urgency in his mind. “I don’t want to be missing out on anything” Is what he subconsciously thinks. It hooks his attention.

There is proof that adding subtitles would cause him to benefit from it.

Also, this email is shorter and provides more information than the previous one. It provides enough information for Michael to know why he would need transcription, and still is short enough for him to read it all.

It’s not spammy. The point of this email is to grab his attention and interest and make him email me for more details, so that I can close the deal.

Feel free to use this email as a template when pitching your clients.

How to maximize the chance of success if you have no previous experience?

Look, nobody likes ordering a service from inexperienced freelancers. Why would they pay you that $1 per minute instead of the transcription company? You’re a beginner and they have a team of experienced transcriptionists. 

That’s why you have to make your offer appealing to them. You want them to actually consider your offer and eventually hire you.

How do you make an offer more appealing?

By expanding the package. Offer extra timestamps on the transcription, Offer you’ll edit it to be suitable for a blog post, anything that will add to your service is good.

By offering your service at a low price. Give them a discount if they choose to use your transcription and rewriting it into a blog post.

Now, stay with me, because this is probably the most important part of this article.

In order to make your client hire you despite the lack of experience, I suggest you offer your services for free.

Why on earth would I do that?

Well, simply because they don’t know you. They don’t know the quality of your service, they don’t know if you’re good at what you do.

If you offer them to transcribe one of their videos for free to see if they like it, they are much more likely to agree than if you were to charge something for that.

After that, they’ll see the quality of your work, they’ll see you’re not a scammer. Then, you can start talking money.

You see, it’s the easiest to get your foot in the door by offering a free service, and after they see the quality you start to charge for it.

Of course you can’t charge too much, as long as you’re inexperienced it’s good to charge a bit less that most transcription sites, so it’s still better for those people to choose you over them. 

Once you get experience, you’ll start to get the hang of it and can charge more, but along with the greater quality of the service. 

What do you do after they respond to your pitch?

If they responded, it’s already a success. Don’t expect everyone to respond. In fact, some may not even read the email. Just be patient. Eventually, someone will reply and after you land a couple of clients it’s going to be easier.

After they respond, you need to ensure they get a detailed description of the service. 

In your first email you just described it briefly, outlined the benefits and said you can do the first one for free to see if they like it.

Now, you provide as much detail as they need to fully understand the issue.

It’s a good idea to stick to these bullet points:

  • How will you be working – Tell them what you are going to do. Take the video, transcribe it, edit it into a blog post, etc.
  • When should they expect the work to be done – inform them of the deadline. The faster the better.
  • What do you need to get started – Ask them to provide a video URL they want transcribed.
  • Ask whether they have any specific instructions for you to follow – For instance, what format and document type they’d like the transcription in.
  • How to process the payment – Whether it’s PayPal, Bank Transfer or other means. It’s good if they have a wide choice.
  • Thank them for choosing your service.

You’ll probably exchange a couple of emails to work out the details and ensure that everything goes smoothly.

When you’ve arranged an agreement, you’re good to go. You just landed your first client. Congratulations. Now, be sure to deliver high quality work in the arranged time.

What do you do after you’ve landed a client?

After they purchase your service once, there is a chance they’ll like to stay in touch and use you services for an extended period of time.

In other words, you’ll work with them for some time. It’s great for you, since you can have a trusted client, and know exactly what they want and how they want it done.

However, there will be cases when people order a few transcriptions and decide they don’t want any more. This scenario is less optimistic for you, since this might mean there was something wrong with your work. 

Be sure to ask them for the reason and ideas on what should you improve.

No matter which type of client will you be working with, there is one thing you absolutely must do.

You must ask for feedback. For a testimonial.

Even if they agree to your free trial and still decide not to work with you, be sure to ask them for feedback. Ask them what’s wrong, what was the reason they decided not to buy your service. You always want to improve, and the easiest way to do this is to figure out what’s wrong.

However, If you end up working with someone a little bit longer, you should ask them to write a short review, a testimonial, to help you with your business.

You absolutely want to have a lot of good testimonials. 

Testimonials allow you to gain more credibility. When you show off the reviews and opinions of your previous clients, the future ones are much more likely to buy the service.

Conclusion

Landing freelance jobs by pitching is not about doing one job and dipping. It’s about finding a clients that can work with you long-term.

As in every career, beginnings are hard. You might struggle for a few weeks before you get your first client. You might even end up working with some people who quit after the free trial. 

The thing is, don’t get discouraged. Keep on working.

Video Transcription is not a hard thing to do, especially if you enjoy the topic of a video. Videos are easier to understand than audio since you can get the whole context.

You just need some practise. If you don’t feel strong enough or just don’t know if it’s something you’d like to do – go sign up for some platform like Rev.com or Daily Transcription.

Work for them for a week or so and see if you like it. It certainly does add to your experience, and you can inform your future clients that you used to work for such companies.

Once you land a couple of clients, get a few testimonials, things are going to get easier. By that time you will have gotten used to working as a transcriptionist, and chances are, that some clients will hire you long-term as their transcriptionist. You’ll become part of a team.

Now, there’s no excuse for you not to try this. This doesn’t require any money, you just need to put in the work. But if you’re not willing to put in the work, how can you expect to earn money?

Grab my template, and go out there, dig through YouTube and find channels you like. Reach out to those people. 

And hey, even if you fail, you will have gotten experience. Failure is a lesson.

You’ll never know, unless you try.