Do you want to start earning money while working from home? Are you good with grammar, typing, and listening? Then working as a transcriptionist might be a great career for you.
Many years ago my husband was in grad school. We had two young kids, and we needed more income to stay out of debt.
He had a full schedule, and I really wanted to stay home with my kids. So I started looking into ways to earn money from home.
I decided to become a general transcriptionist and taught myself the skills I needed.
Within a few months, I was earning $15-$25/hour as a transcriptionist and supplementing my family’s income. Plus, I was doing all of my work while my kids were taking naps or sleeping.
What is transcription?
Transcription is typing out an audio file that you listen to. There are three major types of transcription:
- General transcription
- Legal transcription
- Medical transcription
General transcription is transcribing any audio file that isn’t a legal or medical file. Types of general transcription may include business interviews, podcasts, lectures, videos, conferences, etc.
Legal transcription includes transcribing court proceedings, depositions, interviews, etc. Legal transcriptionists need to know how to correctly format legal documents and use legal terminology.
Medical transcription is transcribing medical dictations from doctors and health care professionals. Medical transcriptionists need to know medical terminology.
General transcription is the easiest field to get into as you don’t need specific training on legal or medical terminology. General transcription is the field that I worked in for many years.
Skills a transcriptionist needs
Working as a transcriptionist can be hard work, and you need the right skills to succeed.
- Good grammar and spelling – Transcriptionists need to accurately type what is being said with the right grammar and punctuation. Transcriptionists with poor grammar and/or spelling will it find hard to succeed.
- Listening – Audio files will often have multiple people, speakers with accents, or hard to hear audio. You need to be able to understand what is being said and type it out as you go.
- Typing – Fast typing will help you transcribe the audio faster so you can take on more work.
- Attention to detail – Your companies and clients will each have their own instructions and formatting preferences. You’ll need to pay attention to detail to create their transcripts.
If you don’t have some of these skills yet, you can practice the skills until you’re ready to find transcription jobs.
Getting started as a transcriptionist
It takes time to start earning money as a transcriptionist. You’ll need to learn new skills, practice, and find transcription work. In the end, it pays off, though.
Here’s the steps I took when I started working as a transcriptionist.
Research the industry to see if it’s right for you
Before I got too deep into my investing time and money into becoming a transcription, I did my research. I wanted to make sure transcription was a good fit for me and my family.
During this time I researched:
- The pay rate I should aim for
- What companies look for when hiring
- What kind of tools I needed, etc.
All of this information is available for free if you search transcription forums and Facebook groups. Some people prefer taking an online course so they have all the information in one place.
If you prefer to take a course, you can explore my course How to Become a Transcriptionist.
Practice transcribing audio files
You’ll need to practice transcribing audio files if you don’t have prior transcription experience. First, you’ll need to download an audio player.
Audio players let you easily control audio files so you can start and stop them as you’re transcribing. I recommend the audio player Express Scribe.
There’s many podcasts and other audio files online that you can use to practice transcribing. Simply download the audio onto your computer, upload it into Express Scribe, and type out what is being said in a Word document.
If you want more in-depth Express Scribe and productivity training, take a look at my course Transcription Skills. It includes almost two hours of practice audio files with answer keys to compare against.
Find transcription jobs
Once you’ve practiced, you’re ready to start getting paid. You can either become a subcontractor for a transcription company or find your own transcription clients. There are pros and cons to both paths.
As a subcontractor, you’re technically self-employed. You earn a set amount per audio minute. Usually, the pay is lower than working with private clients. However, you don’t need to worry about marketing a transcription business, hunting down payments, or interacting with clients.
You can search online for transcription companies that hire beginning transcriptionists. Most companies require you to take a practice audio test and to submit a cover letter and resume.
Transcribing for your own private clients can be more lucrative, but you’ll take on more risks. There are many transcriptionists who subcontractor for a few companies while also working for their own private clients.
Transcription tools you’ll need
I’m a big believer in bootstrapping a business. So I recommend starting with free or cheap tools. Then you can upgrade when you’re earning money and want to increase your productivity.
The basic tools you’ll need to get started include:
- A computer, keyboard, and mouse
- Headphones (you can start with cheap earbuds)
- A word processing program. Microsoft Word is my preference, but to start out you could use Google Docs or a comparable program
- An audio player like Express Scribe
Tools to upgrade to later:
Common Questions About Working as a Transcriptionist
Here are some common questions people have about the transcription field.
How much money can I earn as a transcriptionist?
How much you can earn depends on:
- Your company’s pay rate
- Your experience and speed at transcribing
- How many hours you work
- If you take on harder files like accents and large groups
I consistently made $15-$25/hour as a general transcriptionist for a company. If you specialize in legal or medical transcription, or if you work for your own private clients, you can earn even more.
This preview lecture to How to Become a Transcriptionist shows you how much you can potentially earn as a transcriptionist compared to other jobs. There’s an interactive spreadsheet so you can plug in your own numbers.
Is transcription a scam?
There are many reputable transcription companies to work for. However, there are some people who will try to scam you and many myths about transcription floating around. Do your research when taking on new clients or companies or ask for references. If something seems too good to be true, be extra wary.
Do people pay for transcription when there’s voice recognition software?
Voice recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Google Docs Speech Recognition continues to improve each year. However, humans are still better at recognizing speech and transcribing it with the correct grammar. This is especially true for group transcripts and poor audio.
Do I need to be certified to be a transcriptionist?
There isn’t any set certification to become a general transcriptionist. Some online courses provide internal certification that some of their company partners recognize.
There are more formal certifications for legal and medical transcriptionists that employers might look for when hiring.
Want to know more about working as a transcriptionist?
Working from home as a transcriptionist helped my family through some lean years, and gave me the skills needed to help teach others about the field.
If you’re interested in becoming a transcriptionist, you can check out my Udemy course How to Become a Transcriptionist. It’s one of the most popular transcription courses on Udemy and covers:
- Everything you need to know about the industry
- How to find and apply to transcription companies
- A basic overview of working with Express Scribe
- How to increase your income as a transcriptionist
By the end of the course, you’ll be ready to apply to transcription companies and start your career.