In recent years, the shift to remote work has affected almost all industries, but transcriptionists were working from home long before it became a common trend. If you’d like to make money online, transcription can be a great way to earn extra money and work flexible hours. Transcriptionists need strong typing, grammar and listening skills. If that describes you, doing transcription as an independent contractor might be a rewarding career for you.
What is a Transcriptionist?
A transcriptionist listens to an audio or video recording and produces a document that is an accurate reflection of its contents. Some transcriptionists do verbatim transcriptions, where they type exactly what is said, while some do “clean verbatim” transcription, where they leave out stutters, grunts, or other irrelevant sounds while still capturing the meaning of the recording accurately. All transcriptionists have to have a good ear to understand what’s being said and excellent grammar skills.
What Types of Transcription Services Can You Provide?
Although typing what you hear may sound simple, transcription can be a complex field. There are several different types of transcription, and each type has its own standards and guidelines. If you’re planning to start your own business, you may want to specialize in one area or offer a range of services.
General transcription consists of all types of transcription other than legal or medical transcription. General transcriptionists may transcribe many types of video or audio recordings, including:
- Video captions
- Speakers at conferences
- Insurance interviews
- Worker’s compensation interviews
Medical transcriptionists listen to clinicians’ notes about patients and transcribe them into a special type of document that becomes part of a patient’s medical record. Medical transcription requires training, although it may be on-the-job training or a training course. Medical transcriptionists usually do “clean verbatim” transcription, so they don’t transcribe every “uh” or “um” the clinician dictates. However, medical transcriptionists have to know the difference between easily confused medical words such as aphagia and aphasia.
Some medical transcriptionists edit speech-to-text documents. This involves taking a document that was produced by speech recognition software and making sure it’s an accurate reflection of what the doctor, nurse practitioner, or therapist dictated. Transcriptionists also have to be skilled at understanding foreign accents since many doctors have accents, even if they speak excellent English.
Legal transcriptionists make printed documents from legal audio recordings. These documents become a part of the legal record. Legal transcriptionists can work for attorneys, paralegals, court reporters, or other legal professionals. It’s important to understand the difference between legal transcription and court reporting, however. Court reporters work inside the courtroom recording the proceedings of a trial. A court reporter may then hire a legal transcriptionist to create an official transcript.
Legal transcription is usually strictly verbatim, meaning that every utterance gets transcribed. Legal transcriptionists have to know the proper way to format grammatically incorrect language since people rarely talk in complete, grammatically correct sentences.
What Tools Do You Need to Become a Transcriptionist?
To be a transcriptionist, you’ll need a computer, high-quality headphones or a headset, a foot pedal to control audio (thus freeing your hands to focus on typing), high-speed internet, and transcription software. A good headset is imperative since you’ll need to hear even faint noises. You can order noise-canceling headphones from Amazon. These block out room noises so you can hear the audio recording better. If you’re doing legal or medical transcription, you may also need reference books as well. A comfortable office chair, a desk and a quiet room are also helpful for transcriptionists. If you’re working for your own clients, you may also need bookkeeping and invoicing software.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Transcriptionist?
No matter what type of transcription you plan to offer, you’ll need the following transcription skills:
Fast and accurate typing skills. It’s not the only skill you’ll need, but typing is one of the most important. To make money in your transcription business, you have to type fast and accurately. Before you begin transcription, you should have a typing speed of at least 65 words per minute with a high degree of accuracy. However, you should try to get your speed up to between 75 and 90 words per minute since transcriptionists are paid by the line. The faster you can type, the more money you’ll make.
Attentive listening. Transcriptionists have to listen to a lot of different people and accurately transcribe what they’re saying. You need to be able to understand a variety of accents and dialects. Very few people speak perfectly. Most mumble, trip over their words, start and restart their sentences, or switch ideas in mid-sentence. Our brains normally ignore these types of errors in normal conversation, but you’ll have to type them all out. You’ll need well-developed listening skills to pick up on all of the subtle grunts and noises that you hear.
Good memory. When you’re transcribing, there’s a lot of stop-and-go with the recordings. You use a foot pedal to control the recording. You press it to play the recording, then let up to stop it. If you didn’t catch something the first time or don’t remember it, you have to rewind the recording to listen again. If you have a good memory, you’ll spend less time rewinding the recording, so your work will go faster.
Excellent grammar and spelling. While spellcheck will catch many common spelling errors, you need to know you’re using the right word. Transcriptionists can’t mix up you, your, and you’re. Additionally, your grammar skills need to be top-notch because you’ll be dealing with a lot of tricky grammar issues, especially if you’re doing strict verbatim transcription.
Research skills. When you run into unfamiliar terminology or acronyms, you need to research them and make sure you’re formatting them correctly. Being able to do accurate research is especially important in medical transcription. You should be able to tell the difference between an authoritative website such as a medical center and an unqualified blogger. It’s imperative that all of your research is done from authoritative places.
Communication skills. As a business owner, you need to communicate with your clients effectively. When you’re your own boss, doing a good job is only part of the equation. You also have to be sure you understand your client’s expectations, and your client understands the services you provide.
Computer skills. You don’t need to know the latest in tech to be a transcriptionist, but you do need to know your way around the computer. You should be skilled in word processing software and transcription software. You also may need to know how to use file transfer protocol (FTP) to transfer completed files to your client’s or other specific platforms. If you work for a transcription service, they may have their own proprietary software you’ll need to learn. However, many of these are cloud-based and have similar functions. Basically, you’ll have to access a job, type it, and submit it. There may also be functions for notifying quality assurance (QA) if something needs to be double-checked.
Where Can You Find Transcription Jobs as a Beginner?
If you’ve never done transcription before, it’s a good idea to start working as a general transcriptionist for a service. You can build up your skills before you have to worry about finding clients. Make sure you understand the pay structure before you invest the time and effort into working for them.
Many companies pay per minute of audio transcribed. This is not how much you get paid per minute of working. A minute of audio may take a beginner 10 minutes to transcribe. Even very experienced transcriptionists take at least four minutes to transcribe a minute of good-quality audio. Bad audio may take much longer. You should do some test transcriptions to determine how long it takes you to transcribe a minute of audio so you can calculate your true pay rate.
If it takes you 10 minutes to transcribe a minute of audio, you’ll make $3.60 per hour working for a service that pays 60 cents per minute of audio. If you can do a minute of audio in six minutes, you’ll make $6 per hour working for that same rate. The good news is if you do it regularly, you’ll quickly improve your accuracy and speed, and therefore your pay. However, you’ll never make a lot of money working for these services.
If you want to make more money in transcription, you’ll need to do more specialized transcription work, such as medical or legal, or work for clients directly. Working for a transcription service while you build up your own business can be a good strategy. If you’re interested in building up some experience before you find your own clients, a service may be a good option. Here are some companies that hire transcriptionists with no prior experience for online transcription jobs:
Gotranscript is a web-based transcription service that frequently hires beginners. It pays 60 cents per minute of audio transcribed. You can choose how much or how little you want to work, and you choose which jobs you want to take. Gotranscript pays weekly via Paypal. To apply, you will have to take a grammar quiz and do a transcription test, which is the industry standard when you’re applying for transcription jobs.
Crowdsurf is a transcription platform that’s always hiring new transcriptionists. If you’re accepted, you’ll start with basic jobs, but you can level-up to more complex work that pays better. The platform provides transcription and captioning services, so you’ll have access to a variety of work. Crowdsurf is different from some other transcription sites because your audio files are 15 to 35-second segments of an audio file. After they’re completed, they’re combined with other segments from the same file. So you’re only working on a portion of a file, not the entire thing.
Crowdsurf pays via WorkMarket, so you have to set up an account there to getpaid. Your pay is based on the volume and accuracy of your work, in addition to any bonuses. After you complete at least 100 tasks on level 1, you’ll be eligible to level-up to higher-paying tasks. Crowdsurf doesn’t list pay rate on its website, but Glassdoor reportsaverage transcriptionist salary at Crowdsurf is $6 per hour, with a range from $2 to $9 per hour.
Quicktate transcribes voicemail messages, memos, letters, legal files, medical files, phone call recordings, conference calls and other audio files. It features a variety of work and gives priority to fast and accurate transcriptionists. It offers audio files in many different languages, so if you speak another language, you may get extra work. You’ll take a typing quiz and a test to apply. They pay 1/4 cent per word for general transcription and 1/2 cent per word for medical transcription.
Upwork is a platform that matches freelancers with work opportunities. After you create an account, you can bid on posted jobs. People who post jobs can set a price they’re willing to pay or leave the price open and see what bids they get. The pay rate for jobs on Upwork is much higher than the pay rate of most transcription services. However, you may have a harder time finding consistent work on Upwork.
Transcribeme offers general transcription jobs starting at $15 per audio hour, which works out to 25 cents per audio minute. You’ll be eligible for higher-paying jobs and advancement opportunities after you’ve been there a while and develop your skills.
Happyscribe is a company based in Barcelona, but hires US-based transcriptionists. It has a higher pay rate than many other transcription services at .9 euro per audio minute, which works out to a little more than $1 US at the current exchange rate. The process for applying is similar to other services. You’ll need to take a quiz and do a test transcription. Happyscribe pays every two weeks in your currency, so you don’t have to worry about exchanging it.
How to Become a Transcriptionist and Make Money From Home
The best way to make money as a transcriptionist is to start your own business. Once you’ve built up some experience and are confident you can handle the work, you can charge substantially more than you would make working for transcription companies. The downside is that it may take some time to build your business to the point that it can support you. Here are the steps you’ll need to get started:
Identify Your Skill Set and Choose Transcription Service to Provide
The first thing you need to do is decide what type of transcription services you want to offer. If you specialize in medical or legal transcription, you can charge more than for general transcription. Captioning video may require special equipment like MixCaptions or Amara, so make sure you factor that into costs to start up. If you want to offer services but you don’t currently have the skillset, this would be a good time to take a class at Skillshare or Udemy. Once you’ve decided whether you want to be a generalist or specialist, you can decide on your best option.
Take a Transcription Course or Training Online
Medical transcription is the highest paying type of transcription work, but you’ll need the training to do it. You don’t have to be certified as a medical transcriptionist, although you can. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) is the certification body for medical transcriptionists. It offers two types of certification, the Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) – Level 1 and the Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) – Level 2.
Certification would certainly give you a competitive edge over other transcriptionists when you’re trying to get clients. There are many online transcription courses that offer training in medical transcription, but none of them offer certification. To get certified, you’ll have to go through ADHI and take a test to qualify.
Legal transcription pays better than general transcription. Like medical transcription, certification is optional. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) offers a test for certification as a legal transcriptionist. Its website offers a list of approved schools and courses for legal transcription.
You can also look into transcription training courses for setting up a general transcription business. However, you should check with people who have taken the course before you invest a lot of money. You want to verify the quality of the program before you commit to it. A good program should include information that will help you set up your business and find clients, not just offer the type of information you can find in a free mini-course.
Set Up Your Transcription Business
Once you’ve finished training and decided what services you want to offer, you’re ready to set up your business. After you decide on a name, check with your Secretary of State’s website to see if it’s available. You can set up your business as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability corporation (LLC), or a corporation. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, so you may want to consult with an attorney to decide which is best for you.
Create Social Media Presence
When you have your official business name, you can set up a website and create social media profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn. You’ll need a Facebook profile to buy ads, which you may want to do in the future, and LinkedIn is the best social platform for business networking.
Your main online presence will be your website. Make sure it’s simple and easy to navigate. It should be easy for your clients to contact you, so put your contact information in a prominent place.
Choose Your Pricing Structure
Before you decide on your prices, figure up the cost of running your business. You want to keep your prices competitive but make sure you’re charging enough to give yourself a good hourly rate. You’ll need to charge more than the hourly rate you want to earn because you will have to invest a lot of unpaid time in running your business.
Consider varying your rates based on factors such as turn-around time, audio quality and the number of speakers. You can charge higher rates for rush jobs, poor audio and more speakers.
Land Potential Clients by Applying to Jobs Online
You can start applying for online jobs after you have your website and pricing structure in place. However, don’t overlook your own website and social media channels for marketing opportunities. Reach out to your network and let them know you’re offering transcription. Use your platform to create value and establish yourself as an expert. Start looking for transcription work in freelance marketplaces such as FlexJobs, Guru, and Upwork.
FAQS on How to Become a Transcriptionist
Some frequently asked questions about becoming a transcriptionist include:
How do I start to become a transcriptionist?
You can get started as a transcriptionist by applying to work with transcription companies that hire beginners. You won’t make much money to start with, but it’s a good way to develop your skills. You can learn what equipment you need and how to be more effective. Starting with a transcription company is an easy way to get started without an up-front investment.
Trying it out before you commit completely will also give you a chance to make sure you enjoy transcription. If you decide you want to pursue a career in transcription, you can do some training courses or get certified in specialty areas of transcription such as legal or medical.
How Much Do Transcriptionists Make?
According to Indeed, the average salary for a transcriptionist is $16.48 per hour. This number includes all types of transcriptionists, including those working for transcription services that don’t pay very well. You’ll make much less than this just starting out, and you can make much more if you’re running your own business.
What Do I Need to Become a Transcriptionist?
If you’re just starting out as a transcriptionist, you can get by with a computer, a high-speed internet connection, a foot pedal, and a headset or headphones. Transcription can be hard on your body, so if you’re doing it full-time, you may want to consider investing in a good ergonomic chair and keyboard. Transcriptionists are prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome, and an ergonomic keyboard may help protect your wrists. Additionally, if you start your own business, you’ll need transcription software and you may need other specialized software for certain types of transcription, such as video captioning.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Transcriptionist?
You can get started as a general transcriptionist right away, but it will take a while before you’re making any money. Most medical transcriptionist courses take six- to- 12 months to complete. After you complete one of these courses, you can start as an entry-level transcriptionist. Legal transcription courses can be completed in three- to- six months.
Do You Need Training to Become a Transcriptionist?
You don’t need any training to find work in general transcription. However, if you don’t know how to touch-type, you’ll be at a significant disadvantage. You will need training to do legal or medical transcription since there are specific guidelines you have to follow. You can get this training on the job, or you can take a course. Most places aren’t willing to hire people who aren’t trained. So if you’re interested in legal or medical transcription, your best option will be to take a course.
Is It worth Becoming a Transcriptionist?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, medical transcription jobs will decline 7% between 2020 and 2030. Electronic medical records and speech recognition software have replaced many medical transcriptionists. Legal transcription jobs are also expected to grow slower than average. If you’re searching for a high-paying job in an in-demand field, transcription may not be the best option.
On the positive side, transcription is an easy field to get started in, and it offers a lot of flexibility. You can set your own schedule and work part-time or full-time. While it may not be as fast-growing or in-demand as some tech industries, it’s still possible to work in the transcription industry. If you start your own business, your possible earnings can increase significantly.
Becoming a transcriptionist is a relatively easy process, although becoming a specialized transcriptionist can take up a year of training. Transcription offers you the chance to make some money by working when it’s most convenient for you. Starting an online transcription business can be a great side hustle if you’re looking to earn some extra money but don’t want to have to deal with a commute.
While you won’t make much money when you first start, after you learn the basics, you can earn a lot more money by offering your transcription services directly to clients. Setting up a business is a lot of work upfront, but once you have some regular clients, you’ll reap the rewards.