Looking for a flexible job that allows you to work from home, requires little to no prior experience, and doesn’t involve making sales calls?
Yes, this kind of work exists: You could become a transcriptionist. This job gives you the freedom to set your own hours and, in many cases, work as much or as little as you want each week.
While transcription jobs are usually broken into general, medical and legal categories, the latter two will usually require prior schooling and/or work experience. If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to start by looking into general transcription — so that’s what I’m going to focus on.
Lisa Mills, blogger at Work at Home Mom Revolution and author of Jump Start Your General Transcription Career: The Fast & Easy Way to Get Started, started transcribing shortly after separating from her husband.
“l needed to find a job quickly, and I wanted to be at home with my children, so transcription seemed like a natural fit,” she says. “[S]ince time was of the essence, I started applying immediately for [general transcription] jobs. I got lucky and was hired immediately by a super company, and have worked for them ever since.”
If you’re considering giving transcription a try, here’s what you’ll need to know — plus some of Mill’s best advice.
What Do You Need to Get Started as a Transcriptionist?
Transcription requires listening to audio files and typing out what you hear. Companies that hire professional transcriptionists will usually require a high-quality foot pedal for controlling audio playback with your feet along with the popular Express Scribe transcription software.
However, most of the companies that hire newbies are more laid-back in their equipment requirements, so you’ll only need to have a computer and a high-speed internet connection to start working.
Is Transcription Easy?
It sounds easy enough, right? But just like any other job, what’s easy for one person won’t be for another.
For example, sometimes the files you listen to will be very poor quality, making it difficult to understand what’s being said. And other times, you might find yourself trying to interpret unclear dialog spoken in poor English or with a thick accent.
The work is also quite repetitive. You will have to listen to the same audio over and over again in order to be sure you have transcribed it perfectly. If repetition drives you insane, transcription might not be the line of work for you.
However, the flexibility of the work may make up for the fact it can be challenging and repetitive. “My children are grown now. But when they were younger, I did a lot of my work at night, after they were in bed, and during the day while they were in school,” says Mills. If you enjoy a flexible work schedule, transcription might be the right fit for you.
In addition, managing your own schedule means you can plan time off when you need it. “I can take a vacation whenever I like. I just notify the company that I won’t be taking work for a few days to a week, and will get back in touch when I’m ready for more work,” explains Mills. “Most companies give you a 48-hour turnaround time on work, so I start something, take a break for a while, then come back to it later. And many companies allow you to take as much or as little work as you like.”
How Much Does Transcription Pay?
“General transcription pays well in comparison to most work at home jobs,” says Mills. “The least I’ve made per hour is $15. But I often make $25 per hour or more. Those who specialize in legal can make an even higher wage per hour.”
The exact amount you earn as a transcriptionist will depend on the company you’re working for, how much work is available, and of course your speed and skill level. In general, most companies that are willing to accept beginners do not pay as well as the companies that require past transcription experience.
While Mills translated her rate for me, note that transcription companies usually pay a rate per audio hour or a rate per page, although the audio hour pay rate seems to be the most common. An audio hour is not the same thing as a regular hour.
For example, if you’re being paid $50 per audio hour, this means you’ll earn $50 for every hour of audio you transcribe. It could take you anywhere from two to five hours to transcribe just one hour of audio, depending on the complexity of the file is and your transcription skill level.
Experienced transcriptionists often consider rates below $45 to $50 per audio hour too low. But if you’re brand new to the industry, you may find it’s worth working for a lower rate to get your feet wet and learn valuable skills that could help you land a better-paying transcription job later on.
Where to Find Transcription Jobs as a Beginner
Here is a list of legitimate companies that regularly hire newbie transcriptionists. Most of these companies will require that you take short, simple transcription tests prior to accepting you. The company uses these tests to assess your typing accuracy and attention to detail before assigning you work.
As mentioned above, since these companies hire newbies, their pay rates are less than the range for more experienced transcriptionists. If you start working for less than $45-50 per audio hour, you may want to use the opportunity to build paid transcription experience, and then look for a higher-paying job.
Transcribe Anywhere offers online transcription courses that not only teach students how to transcribe, but also how to start their own freelance transcribing businesses.
The online course features modules, practice dictions and quizzes. It even shows you how to create a website and how to secure clients.
If you can pass TranscribeMe’s short transcription test, you will be put on the waiting list for their transcription projects. These are short, 10-second audio files that you can work on whenever you want, with no deadlines.
The company pays $20 per audio hour, and they do not require any special equipment for transcription prior to getting started. You’ll be paid weekly by PayPal for the work you complete.
Quicktate will hire newbie transcriptionists once they pass a skills test. Most of what you will transcribe for Quicktate are short voicemail messages, although there may occasionally be other types of files as well.
After you have done transcription for Quicktate for some time, you may be promoted to iDictate — a sister company that pays slightly more for transcribed files. Quicktate pays approximately one cent for every four words transcribed, while iDictate pays two cents for every four words transcribed. You can work as much or as little as you want, and they pay weekly by PayPal.
You’ll need to pass a skills test prior to claiming transcription assignments from Rev. Like TranscribeMe, you are free to work as much or as little as you like.
Rev’s pay works out to about $24 to $39 per audio hour. They pay weekly by PayPal, and don’t require any special equipment apart from a computer with a reliable Internet connection.
Tigerfish is an older transcription company that has been using home-based transcriptionists to transcribe audio files for their clients since 1989. You’ll need to pass a skills test prior to working for Tigerfish.
Unlike some of the companies mentioned above, Tigerfish prefers that you use transcription software and a foot pedal. However, the company doesn’t share information on pay rates, method, and job frequency until you apply.
Crowdsurf specializes in providing transcribed media files to the hearing impaired. If you work for Crowdsurf, you’ll have to create an account with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a popular crowdsourced work platform where Crowdsurf houses their transcription tasks. (Make the most of your mTurking time with this trick.)
You’ll earn about five or six cents for every 15 seconds of audio transcribed. You’ll be paid through mTurk, which means you can have your earnings direct-deposited to your bank account at any time provided you’ve earned at least $1.
If you’re looking to earn a little extra money online, give transcription a try with one of these companies. You won’t break the bank, but you will be getting paid to learn how to transcribe audio files — and this could open the door to much better-paying transcription opportunities in the future!
Your Turn: Have you tried working as a transcriptionist? What was it like for you?
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Anna Thurman is a work-from-home mom and blogger. Each week, she researches and reviews the best work-from-home opportunities on her blog, Real Ways to Earn Money Online.