This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure
(updated with new resources April 2019)
Today you’re going to learn the simple steps to become a transcriptionist and get jobs from home that pay big bucks.
First, I’ll define ‘transcription’, ‘audio hours’, ‘audio files’ and ‘working hours’
Then, I’ll tell you how much you can make doing online transcription.
Finally, I’ll show you HOW to do online transcription including:
- what you need to learn and how to learn it
- where to get transcription jobs from home – for beginners – so you get some experience under your belt.
- how to amp it up and start making the big bucks you want.
The best part ? You should be able to learn how to do transcription from home in a few weeks and go from making nothing to big bucks.
Sound good ? Let’s get to it then.
Defining ‘Transcription’ And ‘Audio Hours’
What is transcription ?
Transcription is a typed representation of an audio file. In other words, you listen to a recorded file and type out what you hear.
There are 3 main types of transcription:
General transcription is the most common and has the largest field of jobs. The newest and most sought-after genre: transcribing videos and podcasts for blogs.
Legal transcription, on the other hand, is kind of “up-and-coming” as far as home-based work is concerned and is considered the type used when working with courts and law enforcement.
Medical transcription is still widely used and absolutely necessary in the medical field, however, not as popular a remote job as it once was.
Transcription is the kind of work that fits your schedule because it can be done part time, online, and with no experience needed…at least initially, as you’ll read.
So, to recap, as a transcriptionist you listen to a file and type-up what you heard. It’s pretty easy to do but can be repetitive and time consuming. Sometimes you have to re-play an audio file because you didn’t understand what was said. Poor quality, unclear dialog, broken English and thick accents all contribute to replaying audio files, which adds more time to the overall transcription process. But – as with anything – the more often you do it, the better you get.
Which brings me to this:
What are audio hours and audio files?
An audio hour is the length of an audio file – or culmination of audio files – that make up an hour of someone talking.
Audio files are the backbone of transcription. File meaning a recording of someone talking that is stored on a computer to be typed out later.
Now, these two distinctions are important:
Work hour = the length of time it takes to transcribe an audio hour.
Audio hour is not the same as work hour. It can take more time to transcribe an audio file than the actual length of the file. In my experience, often twice the time.
How Much Can You Make Doing Transcription ?
How much you make doing transcription depends on your experience, the company you work for or if you’re a freelance transcriptionist. Working for a transcription company that processes a lot of files, an experienced transcriptionist can make anywhere from $7.50 to $20.00 an actual hour. On the other hand, a freelance transcriptionist can make over $5,000.00 a month if you have a few steady clients.
Because it can be difficult getting clients as a new freelancer, a lot of people choose to work for a transcription company. And a lot of companies get glowing reviews from ‘other’ blogs that talk about how much you can make doing online transcription.
But don’t get too excited if you read those blogs.
Because here’s the truth:
Most of the time they don’t break it down to show how much you can really make.
I did, in this post. Here’s my calculation:
How long it takes to transcribe an hour of audio: EXPERIENCED TRANSCRIBERS
- It can take 1 hour to complete 15 audio minutes
- 2 hours for 30 audio minutes
- 3 hours for 45 audio minutes
- 4 hours for 1 audio hour
So…If paid $0.50 cents per audio minute, that is $30.00 for an audio hour
But…if it takes 4 hours to complete an audio hour, that is $7.50 per hour pay rate (30 / 4)
How long it takes to transcribe an hour of audio: BRAND NEW, INEXPERIENCED TRANSCRIBERS
- It can take 1.5 hour to complete 15 audio minutes
- 3 hours for 30 audio minutes
- 4.5 hours for 45 audio minutes
- 6 hours for 1 audio hour
So…If paid $0.50 per audio minute, that is $30.00 for an audio hour
But…if it takes 6 hours to complete an audio hour, that is $5.00 per hour pay rate (30 / 6)
Based on my research of transcription companies, it’s pretty clear that working entry-level transcription jobs don’t pay a whole lot.
But don’t worry.
You can go from being a beginner to pro transcriptionist by following these three steps:
Step #1: Learn How To Do Transcription From Home
The #1 thing you want to do is know how accurately and fast you type.
Go to 10fastfingers.com. It’s a free online typing test.
Start typing. How did you do ? I sucked at first…40 words per minute with 76% accuracy.
Keep at it. Aim for 60 words a minute with 100% accuracy.
The next thing you want to do is brush up on your grammar and vocabulary.
Do this by going through the little test on examenglish.com.
All you have to do is answer about 15 multiple choice questions.
Here’s an example:
After you’ve answered all 15 questions, you’re graded on your performance. You might be surprised at how good you know English.
Do a few practice transcription files to get a feel of how it works.
I’m going to give you a few places where you can do some free practice transcription files. However, they’re non-paying…just practice…but I highly recommend trying them out.
The first one to check out is GoTranscript’s practice jobs. Even though this is a very simple form of transcription test, it is definitely worth trying.
The next transcription software to try is Express Scribe’s free software and downloadable files. And what’s better than free? Being able to use it later on, when you start working as a transcriber. For now, though you’ll use it for practice.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Download and install the software.
- Download some of the audio files to your computer
- Open your Express Scribe software and locate the audio files within the Dock icon
- Play the audio file and start transcribing
Step #2: Get Paid To Do Entry-Level Transcription
Now that you know how to do online transcription; It’s time to get paid.
There are a lot of transcription companies that hire beginners and people who have no experience.
No doubt, a lot of remote transcription jobs pay pretty low. In fact, all the “seasoned” transcriptionists will scoff, insisting you don’t bother with these companies.
I think differently.
After all, you’re just starting out and you need to build up some experience.
Start with these two transcription companies:
Once signed-up, you will have to take a 15 minute transcription skill test, which consists of a 5-10 minute grammar test and a 3-5 minute transcription sample. Don’t worry, it’s not too hard, you use their built-in editing platform, and you can use any earbuds or earphones that have good sound quality.
Here is a screenshot of a practice transcription file. Notice the different colors associated with the different speakers ?
If all went well with your test, within about 48 hours you’ll get an email from Rev instructing you on activating your account and claiming paying transcription jobs.
And you claim jobs by…
…checking out the “Find Work” queue for jobs you can claim, do, and get paid for. But before you do, here are a few tips:
- Preview the audio file before you claim it. As a newbie, I strongly recommend doing this – this way, you won’t be in for any surprises.
- I recommend doing shorter files at first, maybe 5-10 minutes long, to be sure you understand how the platform works.
Which brings me to this important tip:
You have ONE HOUR to un-claim a job without being penalized. See why I suggest previewing the file and starting out with short ones ?
GoTranscript works similar to Rev:
- You use their platform
- Take a test
- Wait a few days for their email, which hopefully reads: “you’re approved”
- Start working on files.
And yes, with GoTranscript you can pre-listen to an audio file before you select to transcribe it.
You also have an hour to decide if you don’t want to do a file without being penalized.
But I don’t want you to miss anything, so here’s a link to their guidelines for new transcribers. You’re going to want to read it a few times.
And in case you’re wondering:
I picked these two companies because they ranked highest on my Best Entry Level Transcription Companies post and are two of the best remote transcription jobs worth considering when starting out.
Step #3: Amp It Up And Make More Money Doing Transcription
OK, so now you have some entry-level transcription experience. You did several transcription files for Rev and Go Transcript and can confidently say you know how to do transcription.
…If you really want to make MORE money doing online transcription, you need to be a better transcriptionist. No way around it.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
When you first start out doing online transcription, you’ll only make about $500.00 a month IF you’re working for at least two different beginner-level companies, and IF you’re working at least 20 hours a week.
As long as you stick with those entry-level jobs you’ll only get so far – NO MATTER HOW MUCH HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE YOU GAIN – because they’re just not good payers.
There’s plenty of work beyond those entry-level jobs.
Like bloggers who do a lot of video interviews and podcasts and post them on their blog. They need these things transcribed for their readers who prefer to read.
Here’s an example:
The guy at ProBlogger.com does a lot of video interviews which he publishes on his blog. He also includes a transcribed file for his fans who would rather read the interview. The image below shows a transcribed file of one of his video interviews. You can also check out one of his transcribed interviews here.
Same thing with Pat at Smart Passive Income:
He has his podcasts transcribed and included in his blog.
Both these guys hired pro-level transcriptionists to do this for them.
Now, I can’t be certain, but they more than likely hired their transcribers through freelance platforms. And the freelance platforms showcased the transcriptionist’s awesome talents.
Take a look at this screenshot from Freelancer.com. You can make pretty good money once you ‘get out there’.
But then there’s the question:
How do you ‘get out there’ and get those high paying jobs ?
Well, you can let your friends and family know that you do transcription. They might know someone who needs to have something transcribed.
You can also get on freelance platforms. Upwork and Freelancer are perfect if you’re just starting out because you can set your prices low-ish and get quite a few easy jobs under your belt. Or, to put it another way, easy jobs that pay better than the entry-level transcription companies I described in Step #2.
But, if you really want to make BIG money doing transcription, this is what you need:
Not a degree.
Not some fancy certification.
Just really good training so you can be better than all the other transcriptionists.
Employers and blog owners want transcribers who can do more than just type fast. They’re looking for someone who can time stamp an audio file, transcribe multiple speakers, and clean-up bad files. Take a transcription course and really get into the nitty-gritty. Otherwise, it will take you a lot longer to get the jobs that pay well.
So I’m just going to come right out and say it:
The Transcribe Anywhere course will give you the grit you need – and the knowledge to land some decent jobs.
It’s the online course for new transcribers that goes into great detail on moving up from beginner to pro.
Now, to be honest, that Transcribe Anywhere course might be a bit too expensive for you. So I checked out a highly-rated, easy-to-comprehend CHEAP course (this one), which is pretty darn good but fell just a little bit short of getting me over the hump from knowing how to do transcription from home to actually doing it for a living. That’s why I recommend the Transcribe Anywhere course.
I’ll go over a few things that I would not have known if I had not taken the online course:
#1 The best / right tools.
I was given well thought-out suggestions on the right tools, like:
- Headsets and foot pedals and where to get the best deals. There are a ton of options out there but Transcribe Anywhere turned me in the right direction for getting the best ones within my budget.
- Transcription software. I had no idea that there were a lot of options here, too.
My tools recommendation ?
This is the best transcription headset. It’s inexpensive and reliable.
And I’m sticking with Express Scribe transcription software, but the pro version. It comes with a foot pedal.
#2 Shortcuts and simplified key strokes (aka ‘hot keys’).
- how to shortcut things like “[unclear]” and “[overtalking]”
- how to use the CTRL key, like this: CTRL+E – gradually slow down the playback speed, CTRL+R – return the playback to the dictator’s actual speed, and CTRL+T – speed up the dictation incrementally.
- I learned / changed the F keys to: F1 for Copy, F2 for Italics, F3 for Paste, F8 for Bold
#3 Proper punctuation
#4 Transcription style. Yes, there really is a “style”.
#5 After-the-class care, like:
- Lifetime access to course material. VERY GRATEFUL FOR THIS ! I found myself going back over some of the formatting information.
- Lifetime access to future updates, which means whenever the course is updated, or changed, I don’t have to pay for it. A big win, if you ask me.
- Lifetime access to the student support Facebook group which is awesome because people share their little mistakes so you can learn from them.
#6 How to transfer what is learned into making money.
This is a biggie. Probably the biggest obstacle you’ll come across…it was for me.
Like: who’s hiring ?
The course covers that.
For instance, a lot of bloggers need transcriptionists, like I explained in the examples earlier.
There are many companies out there looking for online transcribers, too. And not just the ones that hire beginners. Police departments, doctor’s offices, lawyers…they all need transcribers. In fact, transcription outsourcing companies, like this one, frequently have openings for experienced transcriptionists.
And: where to find the paying gigs ?
In the long run I wanted to go the Independent Contractor route because I wanted more flexibility. I devoured the transcription templates, sample client contracts, lessons, and worksheets to make sure my fanny was covered.
Freelance platforms are still the #1 place to get paying transcription gigs, however, you have to really “sell” your experience and skills. The more you know, the better, right ? Freelancer and Upwork are the most popular platforms, so go ahead and get yourself up on them. Transcribe Anywhere gets into this and goes over more specialized platforms.
Also: how much to charge ?
Another sticky subject that people don’t like to share. Should you charge by the audio minute, audio hour, or audio file ? And how much ? This is when it’s nice to have a pro course like Transcribe Anywhere because there are worksheets that go over how to calculate rates.
Here’s a good way to figure out how much to charge:
Take a look at these freelance transcribers
The average hourly rate is over $24.00. Maybe charge $20-something an hour…because you’re still new.
So, Is Transcription A Good Work From Home Job ?
Yep, I definitely think so.
Just make sure you don’t settle too long for one of the entry-level transcription jobs. To put it another way, they’re good enough to get your feet wet, but not good enough to make a living.
Transcription is the kind of job that requires concentration and a steady block of time. Not only will you be wearing a headset and won’t be able to acknowledge others in the home, the stopping and starting to deal with household things will result in losing track of where you were
But no matter how little or often you work, you’ll have the skills and potential to make $50,000.00 a year.
So yes, doing online transcription is definitely worth it.
Are You Ready To Go From Zero To $50,000.00 ?
What do you think, is this a career you’re ready to get into ?
Hesitant to get started ?
Check out the practice resources I listed in this post. Then, head on over to Transcribe Anywhere and check out the free (as in zero cost or commitment) intro courses – one for general transcription and one for legal transcription.
Let me know in the comments below if you’re going to start a new job doing online transcription.