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Full-time vs. Freelance: Five Things to Consider Before Accepting a Permanent Transcriber Position

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More schools and organizations are hiring transcribers into permanent staff positions. For employers, there are many benefits to creating in-house positions for service providers, ranging from consistency to cost effectiveness.

As a transcriber, have you considered the personal benefits and trade-offs of permanent employment? 

Here are five things to consider before making the leap from freelance work to a permanent position:

1. You’ll Be Trading Flexibility For Stability. As a freelance transcriber, you may be accustomed to setting your own schedule, taking assignments as they fit into your otherwise busy life. Permanent employees will most likely not enjoy that same freedom. Your work is likely to follow normal 9:00-5:00 business hours (and may include overtime, such as night or weekend assignments, if the position is not a salaried position). The trade-off is that your employment contract should guarantee you a certain number of billable hours, so gone are the lean days of scrambling to find work.

2. Your Duties May Expand. As a freelancer, you are responsible for showing up on time and providing a clear and accurate transcript. However, once you become the employee of an organization, your responsibilities may grow. Most contracts have an “other duties as assigned” clause, and while this should not be abused by your employer (for example, you should not be expected to run personal errands for your supervisor), you may be asked to caption materials, correspond with clients, collaborate on special projects, attend staff meetings, and so forth, when you are not actively transcribing. 

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If you are only interested in transcribing, this arrangement may not work for you. However, if you like variety, you may find that the added duties of a permanent position not only help you to grow your résumé but also provide you with opportunity for advancement or promotion.

3. Your Procedures and Protocols Will Change.  Once you become the employee of an organization, you are bound by that organization’s policies. Depending on the organization, you may be required to clock in and out upon arrival/departure. You may be expected to complete confidentiality training. Your vacations will be subject to supervisor approval. You may even be asked to adhere to a specific dress code. Your performance will also be subject to annual evaluation by a manager or supervisor.

4. Your Benefits Stand to Increase.  If you take on full-time work, your employer will most likely provide you with benefits, such as paid leave, a retirement plan, health insurance, and other valuable perks. The value of these benefits varies from place to place, but they are worth taking a close look at because often they can be worth their weight in gold.

For some transcribers, permanent employment is the ultimate goal, but it is not the ideal situation for all service providers.

5. Your Pay Rate Could Change. Pay is hard to predict because every organization is different. Sometimes, your hourly pay will go down but your overall compensation (with benefits) will go up. Sometimes, your hourly rate will stay the same, but your billable hours will increase. Sometimes, your hourly rate will climb gradually based on factors such as performance, longevity, or professional development. It is important to clarify and negotiate these conditions before you sign on the dotted line.

If you are considering making the switch from freelance work, you should consider the points above. If you do make the switch, you should expect the job to feel different, and you should be prepared to adapt to a new environment with different opportunities and challenges. What won’t change, regardless of where you work, is the valuable communication access you provide for consumers who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing, and your ongoing adherence to the TypeWell Transcriber’s Code of Ethics.


Jason Kapcala

Jason Kapcala is Coordinator of Auxiliary Aids for West Virginia University’s Office of Accessibility Services. Prior to becoming a Transcriber, he worked as a writer and college English instructor.

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