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Tammy Richards: Full-Time En"type"preneur

When is the best time to start your TypeWell career? How about when you are pregnant with your first child? That's what Tammy Richards did.

"I had been a nationally certified freelance sign language interpreter for many years and I heard about TypeWell from a friend," said Tammy. I followed up with Sharon Allen, [now Coordinator of Interpreting and Transcribing Services at Portland Community College], who offered me the training while I was on maternity leave. I really thought TypeWell was cool!"

Once people feel comfortable with you, there's a lot of word of mouth referrals.

Starting part-time, Tammy embraced TypeWell and started on the road to being a full-time independent contractor. She now divides her time between freelance sign language interpreting and providing TypeWell transcription services as an independent contractor under the business name Northwest American Sign Language Associates, Inc.

"What was interesting to me was that not only was I providing services to people that didn't sign, which allowed me to serve a wider customer base, but it was also helpful to people with other issues like auditory processing disorders or people who wanted note taking. Oh, and for veterans who had brain injuries."

Of course you have to have good typing abilities, but one of the lesser-known skills to have is what I call 'referential knowledge.'

That was seven years ago and Tammy has not looked back. She is now doing some of her TypeWell work remotely.

"This way I get exposed to a lot of varied curricula," she said. "I get bored easily. The best part of remote work is not having to drive anywhere. I live 20 miles outside Portland so I save all that travel time and expense."

What are your tips for growing your customer base and keeping them happy, Tammy?

Tammy Richards Headshot Sm

"Once people feel comfortable with you, there's a lot of word of mouth referrals," she said. "But you really need an incredibly good English vocabulary. The bigger the breadth of topics, the better! Of course you have to have good typing abilities, but one of the lesser-known skills to have is what I call referential knowledge. 

When I was an instructor in the Sign Language Interpreter Training Program at Portland Community College, I created the 'Top 100 Things to Know,' which was a quiz type of thing I used while mentoring new practitioners. It included core concepts that are referred to over and over again in different disciplines. Some examples might include: what are the seven wonders of the ancient world? Of the modern world? Or things like Piaget's Theory of Childhood Development in psychology. Even pop culture can be important! Things like the names of the Beatles, for example, keep coming up. People with no hearing loss can pick a lot of these things up by osmosis, but deaf people don't have that opportunity."

Ultimate Test Of Knowledge Page 1edit

Sample page from "Top 100 Things to Know" 

Other tips from Tammy for running one's TypeWell business include what are known as "soft skills."

"You have to have integrity," she said. "Do the job you were hired to do the best you can. And complete the task to which you're assigned in a timely manner."

And how does she make sure the customer is happy?

If customers like you, they will ask for you. That's how you get your work. That's how I've built my business over the years.

"I ask for feedback," she said. "Is this working for you? Is there anything I can do to make it more effective? Anything you don't want me to type out, or is there something you need in the transcript that I am not providing? You never meet your remote customers so you have to figure out what they need."

Tammy Richards also believes in building rapport.

"If customers like you, they will ask for you. That's how you get your work. That's how I've built my business over the years. And it's also how I find my own professional service providers, like the person who cuts my hair or services my car. They consistently do what I ask for and that's why I go back. It's the same principle when I work for my own customers."

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Ken Deutsch

Ken Deutsch is a TypeWell examiner and transcriber who lives in sunny Sarasota. He has constantly revised his definition of the word "old."

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