A typist is an administrative professional who completes transcripts and other typing tasks to enable the creation of printed or electronic documents.
A typist is someone who provides electronic or hard-copy typed documents at the request of an employer or hiring organisation. Historically, most typists were salaried as administrative assistants, personal assistants or secretaries under the employ of an organisation.
The typist will often be asked to complete audio transcripts, where material is supplied on a voice recorder or in an MP3 file, which then needs to be transcribed onto paper or in a Word document. Sometimes, the role can also include editing work, such as when a document has been converted from a foreign language into English, which subsequently needs to be corrected and tightened up.
In the last decade, the internet has facilitated typing professionals with the ability to work exclusively at home, and on a freelance basis in many cases. This recent cultural shift means that now many typists work on a “pay per job” basis, accepting work as and when it is suitable, for organisations which do not directly employ them. This type of work is ideal for the parents of children, or as a back-up source of income for students.
Being self-employed, there is no ‘starting salary’ as such. The typist can earn as much as they want to (in theory), up to around £30,000 per annum based on several respondents who assisted with this guide. This figure is of course dependent on how much work the typist is able to take on or is capable of completing. Jobs must often be returned within 24 hours, and so this becomes a limiting factor for the freelancer. Respondents advised that the average turnover for a self-employed typist is between £15,000 and £20,000 per annum, before tax. Average salaried roles (full-time with companies) tend to offer similar levels of remuneration in the UK.
- Assess the requirements of the typing task.
- Employed typists will complete work as requested, whereas freelancers can choose to accept or decline jobs on an ad hoc basis
- Price the job in the case of freelancers, and submit a firm quotation (either per page, per word or per hour)
- Work with internal departments to understand the brief fully, for those in the employ of a company
- Complete all transcriptions in a timely and accurate fashion
- Submit the complete document in an appropriate format
- Freelance typists must invoice their client at the agreed rate after completion
- Ensure the safety of the original audio copy, in the case of transcription work
There are no formal qualifications required to be a typist, although a “Pitman” qualification shows that the typist has completed professional training relevant to this particular role. Pitman Training offers courses in IT, office, secretarial and PA training. In addition to Pitman, courses are available at further education colleges to improve typing speed and transcription accuracy. Candidates should consult with their nearest education centre for details, as these are very popular courses available at learning institutions throughout the UK.
- Be able to understand the brief fully and deliver against its terms as agreed
- Be able to maintain a very high typing speed to meet deadlines
- Handle multiple projects simultaneously
- Manage deadline extensions and seek assistance where appropriate
- Possess excellent reading and listening skills
- Have a strong understanding of English language and grammar
- Have a professional level of knowledge in word processing software
- Be able to work with a variety of document types
- Be self motivated and able to promote one’s services, in the case of freelancers
Where the typist is under the employ of a company, the work environment will typically be an office, but the levels of noise, stress, comfort, flexibility and working hours will vary from company to company. Freelancers usually work from home, although there are exceptions; for example, a legal typist may be expected to complete real-time transcription whilst actually in the courtroom whilst a trial is ongoing. Others may be able to hot-desk in their client’s business locations for short-term temporary placements or limited term contracts.
A proliferation of companies who promise “give up work and earn money at home” has grown exponentially over the last decade. These organisations are normally outsourced typing firms who sub-contract won jobs to teams of part-time or self-employed freelancers. There is nothing to stop the freelancer creating their own web site so that they retain all of their earnings, and pitching for their own work. There are now many web sites that offer the freelancer a means to price jobs and attempt to win work. This may or may not reduce the level of available work they are offered in comparison to working for an established outsourcing firm.
Typists who are fully employed and work for a company can enjoy a range of upwards or sideward steps, depending on the type of firm or organisation they work for. Many typists begin as temporary staff and go on to enjoy office management or secretarial roles in other departments, or in other companies when they feel the need to ‘spread their wings.’
As the employer could be any form of organisation, there are no major employers as such. Those typists who work as sole traders are self-employed, so this is not particularly relevant.
Lesley Kemp is an experienced UK-based typist who focuses on legal transcription assignments. She enjoys an established portfolio of legal clients who use her services regularly.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
I ‘fell into’ a secretarial career which ultimately resulted in the setting up of my own business as a sole trader. In my late teens, having no particular direction, I was enlisted by my father at a secretarial college in Leamington Spa where I studied Pitman typing and shorthand, along with book-keeping and business skills. I rose through the ranks of office secretary, PA at director level and finally was appointed office manager for a small independent recruitment consultancy in London. I had a career break for a few years while my children were very young.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of 'exercise'?
I have specialised in the art of transcription and can usually be found transcribing determinations as dictated by an immigration judge. I am also a supplier to a large legal services organisation for whom I transcribe court proceedings.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
The most common type of enquiry I receive in addition to my legal transcription assignments is contact from universities up and down the country requiring transcripts for academic research interviews.
What do you like most about the job?
I enjoy most of all the autonomy and independence of being self-employed. This has enabled me to stay at home with my children when they were young and work during the hours when they were asleep or my husband was at home.
What do you like least about the job?
During the early days before I was established, the work-flow was uncertain and I had to work hard at marketing my services. I did not like the uncertainty.
What are the key responsibilities?
Transcribing audio dialogue into a final document for use by the client.
What about academic requirements? Any formal demands, e.g. A Levels?
No academic requirements are required and I suppose that one could manage as a self-taught typist. However, I have typing qualifications from Pitman.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Market research of the potential market is of absolute paramount importance to get a clear and concise picture of how to go about creating and developing one’s business.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
To succeed as a self-employed typist one needs to be determined, self-disciplined and extremely motivated.
Any closing questions, comments or additional advice?
Being self-employed is very hard work, especially when taking into consideration the time not only spent on the assignments but also on one’s administration and accounts which is of course unpaid work, and for some who choose to employ the services of an accountant, an extra expenditure. For businesses choosing to complete their own accounts, keeping track of income and expenditure will make submission of self-assessment to HM Revenue and Customs straightforward.