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To become a Transcriptionist you need to be an accurate typist, practice a lot, have the drive to do it, and be willing to start low. And there’s more… Today you’re going to learn the 5 steps to become a transcriptionist and work from home.
This tutorial for beginners will show you the simple steps to make money transcribing and get online jobs that pay big bucks.
First, I’ll define ‘transcription’ and explain the different ways to do it.
Then, I’ll tell you how you really get paid and how much you can make doing online transcription.
Finally, I’ll show you HOW to become a transcriptionist including:
- You’ll learn What skills and requirements you need.
- How to get started as a transcriptionist, including typing & grammar tests and practice transcription files.
- The right tools needed to become a good transcriptionist.
- Where to get transcription jobs from home – for beginners – so you get some experience under your belt.
- Options for higher paying transcription jobs.
- Where to get precise training to start making a lot more money.
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.
But first, let’s go over a few things.
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:
How You Get Paid To Do Transcription
Audio hours and working hours…the crux of determining how much you’ll get paid as a transcriber.
A while ago, I wrote a pretty extensive post about how much you can make as a transcriptionist, but I’ll go over the basics here:
- The company you work for decides how much they’ll pay you per audio minute or audio hour your transcribe.
- An audio minute / audio hour is NOT the same as a work hour.
- It will take you longer to transcribe an audio minute / hour than a minute or hour.
And this is important:
If you know how much you’re paid for an audio minute or audio hour AND how fast you can transcribe those minutes or hours, you can figure out how much you’ll earn.
So now we have to ask…
How Much Can You Make as a Transcriptionist ?
Again turning to my research on transcription pay, we know that a beginner transcriptionist – one without experience – can make anywhere from $3.00 an hour to $11.00 an hour. An experienced transcriptionist can make anywhere from $7.00 to $20.00 an hour. Maybe even more.
Your earnings depends on the rate per audio file, how fast you can work, your experience and the company you work for.
On the other hand, a freelance transcriptionist can make over $5,000.00 a month if you have a few steady clients.
But don’t worry because you can quickly go from being a beginner to pro transcriptionist by following these steps:
Become A Transcriptionist in 10 Easy Steps
Becoming a Transcriptionist can be overwhelming at first so we’ve broken down the process into 10 easy-to-follow steps.
Step #1: Have The Skills To Be A Transcriptionist
The first step to becoming a transcriptionist is having the right skills and for the most part, the skills needed are the same from one company to another.
- Strong listening skills.
- Fast and accurate typing skills, anywhere from 65 to 75 words per minute.
- Excellent command of English.
- Familiarity with MS Word or similar applications.
- Editing, grammar check, and proofreading skills.
- Multitasking skills.
- Efficient task completion skills.
- Time management skills.
If you have those skills, great !
But if you’re not sure about some of them, like your typing or grammar skills, don’t worry because the next steps will help you.
Step #2: Meet The Technical Requirements
The technical requirements are similar among companies, too, including:
- You need a new-ish computer
- Reliable internet is necessary with download speeds of around 10mbps (check your internet speed at speedtest.net)
- Most beginner-level transcription companies have you work on their software, which is usually a simple and quick install.
- Some companies require you have MS Word installed on your computer.
- Depending on the company, you may have to use Google Chrome to be able to assess their program (TranscribeMe is one of those companies).
- You need a headphone to work with all transcription companies.
- The higher paying transcription companies expect you to use a separate transcription software and foot pedal.
As a beginner, you don’t have to worry too much about meeting all these technical requirements.
When first starting out, you just need a little bit of time and a quiet area to work. Initially, the only equipment you need is your laptop and a simple set of earbuds.
BUT, as you make progress and decide this is the job for you, then investing in better equipment is a good idea. As you move on to better paying jobs, you’ll need to buy a transcription software and foot pedal. I’ll cover these things later on, with recommendations.
Now on to the next step:
Step #3: Check Your Typing, Grammar, and Vocabulary
Before you start working as a transcriptionist, you want to make sure you have what it takes, otherwise you’ll be rejected by every company out there. After all, grammar, vocabulary, even punctuation are vital aspects to perfect transcription.
Before we go through this step, let’s answer this common question:
How fast do you need to type to be a Transcriptionist ?
You should be able to type at least 60 words per minute and the better paying companies expect you to be able to type at least 75 words per minute.
But here’s a secret:
To do transcription from home, it’s not all about your typing speed.
Believe it or not, typing speed is not the biggest factor that slows you down – It’s audio quality, rapid-fire conversation, and Googling unfamiliar terms that’ll slow you down. As long as you can touch type, you’ll be okay, and you’ll get faster with practice.
You do want to be extremely accurate, though. Aim for 100% accuracy.
The 1st 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.
Aim for at least 65 words per minute and 100% accuracy (65 wpm seems to be the minimum requirement among transcription companies).
The 2nd 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.
Step #4: Do Some Practice Transcription Files
Doing some practice transcription files will give you a feel of what it’s really like and help you determine if doing transcription from home is your ‘thing’.
I’m going to give you a few places where you can do some free practice 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.
Here’s how to do the GoTranscript practice transcription file:
The first thing you want to do is click one of the practice ‘files’, located on the left. You’ll notice that you’re using GoTranscript’s own platform – no need to download any software.
After you click one of the transcription tests, I strongly recommend you read through the GoTranscript Guidelines. This will give you an idea how GoTranscript wants their transcription files typed.
Then, play the audio file and start typing what you hear, according to the guidelines you just read.
The next practice transcription to try is Express Scribe. This is actually a free software with downloadable files and for now you’ll use it for practice.
Here’s how to do the Express Scribe practice transcription file:
Here’s what you need to do:
- Go to Express Scribe and download and install the free software.
- Download some of the audio files to your computer.
- Open your downloaded Express Scribe software and locate the audio files within the Dock icon.
- Play the audio file and start transcribing.
OK, on to the next step.
Step #5: Make A Decision: Do You Want To Become A Transcriptionist ?
By now you know what transcription is, how much you can make, and have mastered some practice tests.
Now you need to make a decision. Do you want to become a transcriptionist ? Do you really want to make money transcribing?
This is what I recommend:
FIRST sign-up for the FREE Transcription Foundations ‘mini’ course. It’s a series of emails designed by a long-time transcriptionist that’ll show you who uses transcriptionists, the main keys to success, and helps you see if transcription is a good job for you.
THEN, if you think transcription is a good job for you, familiarize yourself with the style guides of some of the most respectable transcription companies, as we’ll go into now. Most companies utilize similar guidelines so having an understanding of what’s expected will definitely benefit you.
Step #6: Learn The Transcription Style Guidelines
It’s a good idea to learn the style guide of a transcription company before you start working for them. In other words, learn how they want you to transcribe their files.
This will help you pass the initial transcription test when you sign-up with a company.
Here’s what I mean:
Let’s say you’re thinking about working for Go Transcript. Before you actually apply with them, take a look at their Transcription Guidelines. In it, you’ll learn what their expectations are regarding how to handle certain situations.
For example, what do you do if you can’t hear what is being said ? Follow Go Transcript’s exact guidelines to mark it as inaudible.
Another example in Go Transcript’s guidelines: If a word is mispronounded, always use the correct spelling.
Not every transcription company follows the same guidelines. Some will have you transcribing verbatum (exactly as it sounds); some not. Some jobs will have you identifying multiple speakers as ‘speaker A, speaker B’; some will have you identify them by name.
So, before you sigh-on with a company, go through their guidelines. Here are a few to look through:
- Go Transcript’s guidelines
- Rev’s guidelines (.pdf file)
- 3Play Media transcription guidelines
- Daily Transcription guidelines
Now you’re ready to apply for work with some entry-level transcription companies, as I explain next.
Step #7: Get An Entry-Level Transcription Job
Now that you know how to do online transcription and you don’t hate it, 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.
My advice ?
Start working with these two transcription companies, Rev and Go Transcript.
Here’s how to get started:
#1 Work For Rev Transcription
The first thing to do is start the sign up process by going to Rev.com’s freelancer page.
Then, 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.
And that’s where reviewing Rev’s transcription style guide comes in handy (from step #6)…you have a good idea how to do the skill test their way.
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 ?
#2 Work For Go Transcript
Apply at Go Transcript by going to their jobs page.
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 companies because they ranked as two of the only entry-level transcription companies worth considering. You don’t need to have any special equipment and their software is pretty simple to navigate.
Step #8: Get Familiar With Transcription Software and Tools
OK, so now you have some real life, entry-level transcription experience. You did several transcription files for Rev and Go Transcript and can confidently say you know how to do transcription.
You’re anxious to move on to higher paying transcription jobs.
…You’ll want to get you hands on some transcription tools.
You’ll want some transcription software.
Even though a lot of transcription companies utilize their own transcription software, or some popular office suite, it’s often more efficient for you to have a software created specifically for transcription that has all the bells and whistles.
I recommend ExpressScribe because it’s recognized everywhere and really reduces work time. Plus, it works with all the major word processors and speech recognition software.
There’s a free version, which is fine for most new transcribers, as well a a paid version of ExpressScribe. The paid version supports more audio and video formats as well as better file management therefore allowing you to do more professional level transcription.
You’ll want a good transcription headset.
A headset will make it SO MUCH EASIER to hear and understand your audio files compared to the speakers on your computer. Personally, I prefer the “over-the-ear” type of headset – not earbuds. Over the ear headsets are actually pretty comfortable and a lot of them cancel outside noise.
I use this transcription headset.
My next option would be this one.
You’ll want a transcription foot pedal.
A foot pedal lets you use your foot to press one of the three (or four) “buttons” to pause, play back, fast forward, and rewind audio files. Much more efficient than using your keyboard and mouse to do these things. After all, you want to use your fingers for typing.
I recommend one of these foot pedals:
They all work pretty much the same.
Bundle and save. Get the ExpressScribe software / headphone / foot pedal bundle to save a few dollars…through this Amazon link.
Step #9: Make More Money Transcribing
You’re interested in doing more transcription from home…check.
Made some money transcribing…check.
Great ! You’re on your way to making even MORE money doing transcription.
…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.
Don’t worry, though.
Because there’s plenty of work beyond those entry-level jobs !
And to get the better-paying transcription jobs, you have a couple options.
Transcribe for bloggers. A lot of bloggers create video interviews and podcasts and post them on their blog. They need these things transcribed for their readers who prefer to read. This option is the better payer.
Here’s an example:
The owner or 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.
Pat at Smart Passive Income 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 doing online transcription !
But then there’s the question:
How can you get work with these higher payers ?
By getting yourself ‘out there’, like this:
If you’re ready to go from those low paying transcription jobs to something bigger and better – like working for the bloggers I mentioned above – you need to get yourself “out there”.
And to do that, you have a few options:
First, Freelance your services on Upwork and Freelancer so you can set your prices and get several 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.
Second, utilize Facebook groups that are focused around transcription job leads with the hopes of finding transcription work.
But If you really want to make BIG money doing transcription, this is what you need to do:
Step #10: Get Transcription Training
To make MORE money doing online transcription, you need to become a better transcriptionist. No way around it.
And to become a better transcriptionist, you need TRANSCRIPTION TRAINING.
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 going to give you a few transcription training options, starting with the one I like best:
Option #1: Transcribe Anywhere online course
This 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.
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 to use.
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.
I made a few tool recommendations above but Transcribe Anywhere has a few other options.
#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 Who’s hiring ?
This is a biggie. Probably the biggest obstacle you’ll come across…it was for me.
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.
#7 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.
#8 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.
You can read this post to see if Transcribe Anywhere is worth it.
My second best transcription training option is…
Option #2: Transcription Skills – Beginning To Advanced,
Transcription Skills – Beginner To Advanced is a highly-rated, easy-to-comprehend CHEAP course. It’s 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.
In this course, you’ll learn how to use the popular transcription software, ExpressScribe, as well as getting familiar with auto-correct and text expanders.
What I like best about this course is how it taught me to:
- research spelling and terms
- set up auto-correct on my computer
- use text expanders
It also gave me several practice transcription files – which I was able to do whenever I wanted to
What I appreciate most about this course is how it taught me what to do with poor quality audio…because there’s a lot of that in the world of transcription…AND how to properly track speakers.
And I was able to go back and review parts of the course whenever I needed to.
All-in-all, this is a pretty good course for a not-too-beginner-beginner.
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.
Ready To Become A Transcriptionist ?
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.