Our other articles have discussed freelance article writing, but this time we tackle a different sort of freelancing — typing!
When typewriters first started to be widely used in offices around the United States, there was a big push to get people trained to learn to type, so that office workers could use these new machines to produce professional-looking correspondence and other documents. While at first both men and women were trained in typing skills, “secretarial work” gradually became viewed as a woman’s job. Typing classes were offered in schools, and many women went to night school to learn typing and shorthand, key skills for landing a secretary’s job between the 1930s and the 1960s.
By the 1970s, computers and their built-in word processing programs were starting to appear in offices, and typing became a must-have skill again for everyone working in the computer industry, whether behind the scenes coding and programming the software, or in front of the monitor and keyboard at a desk in a high-rise office building. While many high schools still offered typing classes, there was more of a focus on management skills and business administration. Typing became just another “blue-collar” skill, like plumbing or electrical work or auto repair, and actual training classes started disappearing from public and private schools. Even business and trade schools stopped requiring a typing class for their degree and certificate programs.
If you grew up in the 80s, you’ll remember that this is when computers really hit the marketplace, although they were mostly used for video games at the time, at least by the general public. Professional typists still kept businesses running using computers and typewriters alike, however, and schools and universities began requiring students to turn in their essays and research papers in a typed format, instead of hand-written documents. Most people taught themselves to type, though many people never reached the skill level of a professional touch typist.
Starting with the dot-com boom in the 1990s and continuing through to today, where computers and other digital devices are part of our daily lives, typing is still a key skill for anyone who wants to work efficiently. If you have that key skill, and you can type accurately and quickly, you can turn your skill into a part-time or full-time freelance job.
This article is part of our free Freelancing to Financial Freedom series which teaches moms to make a part time income on the side through FREELANCING.
(Note: For most of these jobs, you’ll need to be able to type at least 50 words per minute.)
Data Entry Jobs
Data entry is a popular choice for freelancers. There are many different types of work that can be done at home, in your spare time. Because it’s such a popular category, and because some jobs only require basic typing skills, there’s a lot of competition for these jobs. If you’re going to beat the crowd you’ll need to be able to type quickly, with zero errors. With data entry jobs, the faster you work the more money you’ll make. If you don’t know how quickly you’re currently typing, check your speed in words per minute (wpm) and your accuracy rate with a free typing test.
Here are some examples of the type of jobs you can expect to find in the data entry category:
- Moving information from one website to another. This often happens when someone has built a shopping website using one type of design, and then switches to a different website location or a web page provider that uses a different format. You will need to accurately transfer the information from one location to the other. Sometimes this is straightforward copying; for example, moving text from a field called “Product Name” to another one called “Product Name.” However, the second website might look very different from the first, and you will have to be careful that you’re transferring the right information to the right places on the new site. This type of job is often called data migration.
- Doing research and entering the results in a table. Clients may want to get information on businesses, people, or places and build a table of information that they can use for sales or for website promotions. You’ll probably be creating spreadsheets of this data, but you might be asked to type it directly into an online database. One example of this is for mailing lists, where you could be asked to search through online telephone directories to find the name, address, and telephone number for people living in a specific geographical area.
- Taking database information to create other documents. When someone wants to use a mailing list to create e-mail advertising campaigns, they don’t want to spend hours and hours entering each of those e-mail addresses into their mailing program – that’s what they hire you for! Online bulk mailing templates are a common way to create these mass e-mail sending projects, and you’ll be cutting and pasting (or typing) each e-mail address into the appropriate space on the template. You’ll probably also be asked to personalize the mailing with something like the person’s first name or the town they live in, so you’ll have to be careful of your spelling.
- Cleaning up databases. Speaking of mailing lists, did you know that misspelled city names and badly-typed addresses lead to thousands of letters being lost in the mail each year? When people create databases of mailing address, whether for online or “snail mail” posting, they’re not always as careful as they should be. In this case, you may be hired to clean up a database to correct misspellings like “Protland” instead of “Portland,” or to fill in missing ZIP codes. If it’s a mailing address for a business, you’ll probably have to go on line to check that the address, website, and contact e-mail are all correct.
Data entry jobs are good for single moms with limited free time, because many projects are small and easy to complete in a short time. You can also break up a job into shorter segments and work on them when you have time. You’ll almost always have a deadline for the completed job, but this sort of typing job is easy to slot into 15-minute breaks or a free hour or two on the weekends.
Audio Transcription Jobs
Transcription jobs can be one of the more profitable ways to use your typing skills, but compared to data entry jobs, they usually take more time and effort. Since you have to focus on carefully listening to what is being said on the recording, and type out every word accurately (as much as you can, anyway), you need to be in a quiet place with no interruptions. You’ll be concentrating on understanding the voices of people who might be speaking too quickly or too quietly to hear easily over a lot of background noise, even if you’re wearing headphones. What’s more, many audio files are of conversations, and you’ll have to track and identify the different people who are speaking. If you’re interested in looking for transcription jobs, make sure your schedule has enough uninterrupted free time each week to handle the work load. You can get some advice on making a schedule that fits your family life in this article.
- Word for word transcriptions of recordings. Interviews are often done using audio recorders (tape recorders or microphones connected to laptops) and later need to be turned into written documents. If there is only one person talking, this can be a fairly straightforward job. If you need to type out the questions that the interviewer is asking as well as the other person’s answers, it’s still pretty easy to tell who is saying what. But if you’re trying to type out every word that a group of people are saying, it can be difficult if they’re all trying to talk at once.
- Text versions of video recordings. A lot of lectures at universities and employee training at corporations is done via video sessions, and those sessions don’t always have written backup training text. You might be asked to transcribe the lectures and lessons from instructional courses or training videos. The advantage with these is that the teacher or lecturer wants to be understood by the students, so they’ll usually speak very clearly and slightly more slowly.
- Medical transcription. One-time medical transcription jobs are sometimes offered to freelancers on the larger job sites, but generally you’ll get these jobs by going through a transcription company that is looking for workers. Sometimes hospitals or medical offices advertise for freelance medical transcribers, but to get those jobs you’ll need to have a good history of experience doing the job. This is another popular job for working or stay-at-home moms because it’s easy to do in shorter amounts of time, and the job is designed to be done at home. This is a good job to get if you want to eventually work full time in a medical office.
- Legal transcription. These jobs are rarely advertised to freelancers because the vocabulary is highly specialized, and the content is usually confidential. If you’re interested in doing legal transcription, you’ll have more luck with a professional transcription company who already works with law offices and the court system. This isn’t court reporting, which requires a specific keyboard and several years of training to qualify for, and which is never offered as a freelance job.
“Reformatting” simply means taking information from one place and putting it someplace else. Transcription is actually a reformatting job, since you’re turning spoken words in an audio file into written text that can be printed out. In general, these freelance projects require you to take text from one type of document and put it into another type of document. For example, you might be asked to view or download a document set up as a PDF file, and re-type all of the text in that PDF file into a Word document. Sometimes you’ll be able to “cut and paste” the text, and that will reduce your typing time. However, a lot of text that has been pasted into another document format isn’t set up correctly, so you’ll have to go back through and edit the text for line breaks, paragraph marks, and general text formatting (bold text, italics, and so on).
Because not everyone uses a typewriter or word processor, you might also find jobs where a writer has handwritten pages they need to get into a printable format. They could simply need a plain text document, or they might want a PDF that’s set up to be printed in book format. While book layout and design is a skill you can learn, it involves more than just typing, and you’ll probably need to invest in some specialized software and training. Any new skill that makes you more marketable is a good thing, so if you have the time and money, and you’re interested in becoming part of the publishing industry in print or on line, this is the place to start.
What You’ll Need To Get Started
All of these typing jobs require a computer, obviously. Not only will you be looking for freelance jobs on line, you’ll be getting your work files through downloads from your clients, and communicating with clients via e-mail. While some data entry jobs will require you to type directly into online spreadsheets or databases, most of your freelance typing jobs will be done on your own computer, using your own software. So what software – and other equipment – do you need?
- Word processing software is usually pre-installed on computers, so you probably already have a word processing program that you use right now. You’ll need this to do text typing and document creation. You’ll have to be comfortable with the basic ways to set up and format a document, as well as how to create different font and text styles. You should also be familiar with creating tables of contents, footnotes, headers and footers, and other more advanced document features.
- Spreadsheets are used for data entry. You’ll need to know how to format a spreadsheet and set up the cells if there is any calculation involved, such as in an expenses spreadsheet for a small business. The spreadsheet software is also usually part of the pre-installed package. If you’ve never used spreadsheets before, learn the basics from a quick tutorial like this one.
- Presentations and slide shows are used more in graphic design jobs, but you’ll need to know how to use them in case you get asked to create or reformat a PowerPoint or other slide show. This is the third basic component of the standard pre-installed software on a new computer.
If you use a Windows computer, you probably have some version of Microsoft Office on it already. If you’re a Mac fanatic, you’ve got their iWork suite. You can use either of these built-in versions, or go for a free third-party software package that has all the features you need, like Adobe’s OpenOffice. Here’s what the three basic programs are called in each of these versions:
Word Processing Spreadsheets Presentations
Microsoft Office Word Excel PowerPoint
Apple iWork Pages Numbers Keynote
Adobe OpenOffice Writer Calc Impress
If you’re interested in doing audio transcription, you’ll also need a way to play back the files. Look for free transcription software like Express Scribe or FTR Player. Express Scribe is only for use with Windows computers. FTR Player was originally designed for courtroom/legal transcription and can be used on Windows or Mac computers. Both can be used with a foot pedal, which saves you a lot of time, and you should be able to find an inexpensive foot pedal at your local office supplies company.