This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase. Please, read my affiliate disclaimer for more details.
Transcribing is a flexible way to make extra money on your own schedule.
You get to set your own hours and work as much or as little as you want.
As a transcriptionist, you can work on projects in any of these three categories: general, legal, and medical transcription jobs.
If you’re new to transcription, I would encourage you to go after general transcription jobs for beginners. This category is easy to do and does not require much training or experience, although you should be detail-oriented, have good listening skills, and type decently fast.
What is a Transcriptionist?
General transcription is the art of turning audio or video recordings into text documents. A transcriptionist employs special transcription software (Express Scribe + food pedal) and various skills to make clear and readable documents from these recordings.
How Much Money Can You Make Transcribing Online?
Since transcription services are provided on a per audio hour basis, the amount of money you can earn varies. The faster you transcribe, the more money you can earn per hour. If it takes you four hours to transcribe a one-hour audio file, and the project pays $40 (per audio hour), then you will earn $10 per hour.
According to Indeed.com, the average American transciber earns $14.03 per hour. In this ultimate guide to become a transcriptionist, you will learn the exact skills you’ll need to improve on to make money transcribing at home.
The Best Training & Certification to Become a Transcriber Online
There is a Free 7-Lesson Transcription Mini Course offered by Janet Shaugnessy, a professional, successful transcriptionist and teacher.
If you want to offer legal transcription services instead, take the Legal Transcription Free Mini Course and learn everything you need to know about legal transcription.
If you decide to take the full course, you will get a Certificate of Completion. Something that other course instructors don’t offer.
How to Become a Transcriptionist Online
One of the questions most people ask is if you can earn money transcribing at home. In my quest to show you how you can become a transcriptionist and make money doing it, I will share the six skills that you need to be successful, and the software and tools that make subscribing simple and quick.
Make sure to stick around to the end. There are additional commonly asked questions that Janet Shaugnessy answers as well!
Master The 6 Skills Required to Make Money Transcribing From Home
Knowing whether transcription is the right part- or full-time career for you boils down to these six skills. If you already have them, then you’re ahead of most beginners. If you’re willing to obtain these skills and continuously improve them, you can become a transcriptionist and see success.
- Listening skills
- Good typing skills
- Attention to Detail (aka Accuracy)
- Good grammar
- Productivity skills
- Research skills
1. Listening Skills
Good listening skills are required in order to submit quality, professional work every time. Here are the best ways to improve those skills.
Avoid distractions while you transcribe. Work in a quiet environment and focus on what the speaker is saying. Listen to every word that’s being said.
Do not assume what you think should be said, but rather, listen to each word being spoken and how it relates to what you’ve already transcribed.
Listen & Learn
Go on YouTube and find videos that have subtitles on them then listen and learn. Hear what the speakers are saying and confirm that the words are exactly those written on the screen.
If what you heard is not what is being said then slow the video and re-listen again. Doing this 20 minutes a day for a month will get you ahead of the game. You will become a better listener in no time.
Diversify in The Beginning
Get different audio files on different topics and listen to them frequently. When you go to a site like Voice of America under Programs, you will find many audio recordings that you can download and listen to.
When you are starting out you may want to familiarize yourself with different fields. At this time, you do not have the luxury of giving up on a project because you lack the right skills to handle it.
So, diversify and venture into different fields when practicing then later on, after your skills have improved, you can be selective and choose one or two topics of interest that you can be working on.
Choose a Topic of Interest
I know this may sound contradictory since I mentioned ‘diversify’ at the top, but yes, you need to choose one or two topics of interest after you’ve gained experience. I know there are people who like being all over the place. This might be good to some extent but not entirely. The most successful people you see out there concentrate on one thing at a time. They do it so well and that’s why they are so successful.
I personally loved working on self-development materials because I got a ton of useful information from the projects that I could apply in my daily life. And that really motivated me to keep doing the same kind of projects.
2. Fast Typing Speed
Most transcription companies expect you to have an accuracy score of 95 – 98% and a (TAT) Turn Around Time that is, at least, three times the audio recording. Here are some tips on how to improve your typing speed and meet these requirements.
It is a known fact that transcribers, more than anyone else, sit for long hours typing. So, for you to be comfortable and focused, it is required that you position yourself well. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor with knees at 90 degrees. Have your back straight and supported and make sure your fingers are on the home keys. With this kind of posture, you will notice an increase in your typing speed over time.
Avoid Looking at The Keyboard
In the beginning, this might seem almost impossible to do. But, as you gain momentum, your muscle memory will master the keys, and soon typing will become second nature to you. Before you know it, you will start typing effortlessly.
Start with letters like AAAAAAA then go to SSSSSS or AS AS AS etc. Type a whole page or two of these. The idea here is not to rush. Go slow at first and let your fingers get used to the right keys. Once you master the keyboard you will type faster.
Type with Both of Your Hands
Typing with two fingers slows your typing speed. A friend of mine used to call it wood-pecking. You type letter F and then take 30 seconds looking for letter Y.
Imagine if you were typing a 20-page document. How long do you think it would take you to complete it? You might sit there a whole day staring at the computer wondering why you are not moving forward. The correct homes are: A, S, D, F for the left hand and J, K, L, ; for the right hand. This is well laid out in the image above. We have amazing online typing masters that you can take advantage of.
Take Typing Speed Tests
There are many online typing test sites that offer free online typing practice. One of them is typingtest.com. This is a great site that has typing tests, courses, and games to help improve typing. They claim to be the number one resource and I believe they are.
When you take the typing test, you will be able to see how many words per minute you’ve typed. The wrong words that you got and an overall score will be given. Time yourself just 30 minutes a day for the next 30 days and you will see a difference in your speeds. You will be able to type fast, get words correctly and it will be so much fun!
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Once you master how to type, do not sit back and say, “I’ve achieved my goal. Now I don’t need to do this anymore.” Typing is an activity that you do on a daily basis. Even if you do not have work every day, look for books online and type or go to forums or Facebook. Practice typing as consistently as you can.
Accurate transcription plays a very important role across industries, such as in legal, business, and medical fields. For this reason, it is necessary to know the effective ways you can improve your transcription.
This excellent section was written by Verbatim Transcription Services! If you would like to become a transcriptionist, check out their current job listings.
As a professional transcriptionist, it is integral for you to gain a good understanding and background of the field you are going to participate in. Therefore, you should get yourself familiar with terminologies and phrases commonly used in the field to prevent you from transcribing the wrong information. This is very important, as you could just imagine the damage you could cause to a patient if in case you have transcribed the wrong medication or dosage. It might even be deadly.
Quiet Working Environment
Focus on the audio without any distractions in your space meaning you may want to select a quiet spot where you don’t hear noise other than the audio you are transcribing.
Create a Brief Summary of The Audio Topic
Before the actual verbatim transcription, you may want to create a brief description or a summary of what you are about to transcribe for money. This will include the main message of the particular audio file.
If you were to transcribe an interview, you might want to prepare the important elements of it, including the time and date, interviewer and interviewee, and the subject/topic.
Listen to The Audio First
Find the time to listen to the entire audio file before typing it into text. This will help you improve time efficiency for marking specific areas, which contain unclear or inaudible audio. In the process, you will be able to tackle the same problem when you are transcribing and prevent committing mistakes while you are working on the copy.
Set Up a Template
Make use of a good verbatim transcription template to help you save time in preparing your needed template or format. This will not only improve the accuracy of transcription but will also allow you to focus on transcribing.
If you discover abbreviations in the file, you may want to spell it out in your description so that the readers can understand what it means.
4. Grammar Skills
If you are typing non-verbatim vs verbatim, then grammar skills are important. Verbatim transcripts will be typed exactly as you hear the audio, while non-verbatim has leniency to clean up the script. The amount of editing you do will depend on each client’s requirements.
Read, Read, Read
Reading can improve your grammar skills without boring you to pieces with textbook learning. Instead, get lost in your favorite novel. Just be sure to pay closer attention to the words, sentence structure, and overall grammar.
Take Grammar Tests
You can improve your grammar by taking free editing and grammar tests online. Exercising your skills daily is the best way to upkeep your current skills while continuously improving on them.
Get Tutored or Take a Class
If you still need help improving your grammar skills, it’s okay to reach out for help. There are places like Skillshare and Udemy that provide tons of free prerecorded classes, or you can set up lessons with a live tutor through Wyzant.
Related: Online Proofreading Jobs
5. Productivity and Scheduling Skills
For you to become a transcriptionist and find success, you must learn how to plan your day productively. It’s important to follow a routine or schedule every day so that you can deliver quality work, meet deadlines, and have some spare time to spend with your family.
Here is the exact schedule that helped me remain productive as a transcriptionist on Rev.com.
- I wake up at 5:00 AM
- Log in to the site
- Check available projects
- Read instructions and requirements like:
- TAT (turn around time/due date)
- Verbatim or Non-verbatim
- Number of speakers
- Audio Length
- Audio Quality
- Amount to be paid
- Any Special Requests
- This takes me about 30 to 45 minutes max.
- Pick one that is favorable and claim it.
- I get a notification from the site informing me about the exact time I claimed it and when I should hand in the transcript.
- I download it on my computer using IDM (Internet Download Manager) and upload it on Express Scribe.
- I open a blank Microsoft Word document, save the transcript using the audio file name, and start typing as fast as I can.
- I activate Focus Booster and set 10-minute breaks. For every one hour worked I rest for 10 minutes.
- I log in Skype and leave my email open in case the client wants to communicate with me or I want some clarification.
Helpful productivity resources:
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy
6. Research Skills
Knowing how to do a Google search correctly will not only make your work easier, it will ensure that you submit client-ready transcripts that meet their needs in a timely manner.
In this example, the transcriber (my subcontractor) didn’t know the correct spelling of the speaker. So, she decided to do her best and write it as a phonetic. See the example below.
As you can see above, Angle Barrenweld is what the transcriber typed. But, the correct spelling should be Ingvild Bjornvold. So, how do we go about finding the correct spelling?
Copy the terms Social Solutions and paste it in Google and click search. Social Solutions is a company/brand name. You will realize that there are lots of searches on there but there is no mention of the director anywhere. The next step is adding the word “Director” to those two terms as shown below.
Here, several searches with the term director showed up. We have April Rose who is the Director of Account Management. Chris Wheeler, the Director of Advanced Support Consulting Group and Senior Director of Account Management Sales whose name has not been disclosed.
They are all directors working at Social Solutions. But, our main focus is on the Director of Strategic Initiatives. Our last option is to type “Social Solutions” put a dash then “Director of Strategic Initiatives.” And, bam! We got our search.
The fifth search result has a brief bio about the speaker. This is a great resource for getting more info about him in case it’s needed in the transcript.
Transcription Tools & Equipment
There are certain products and services that you’ll need to have in order to become a transcriptionist. It’s a small investment into a potentially lucrative career.
- A working computer
- Transcription Headsets
- Ergonomic Chair
- High-speed Internet Connection
- Microsoft Word
- Transcription Software
- Foot Pedal
- File Converter
1. A Computer
A simple desktop computer with a full-sized keyboard is ideal. Just make sure it is in good working condition. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It should have Windows installed and enough RAM to save your work. If you prefer using a laptop that is totally fine. When using a desktop you will need a Monitor Stand to properly place your computer.
A few good ones I can recommend on Amazon are:
- HP 14-an013nr 14-Inch Notebook
- Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM 15.6-Inch Full HD Notebook
- Dell Inspiron 24 3000 Series All-In-One
You will be working on various transcription projects, and some may contain background noise or difficult accents. Getting a quality transcription headset with ‘noise-canceling’ feature is ideal. This will allow you to work faster and get more done in a short period of time. ECS OHUSB WordSlinger Deluxe Overhead USB Transcription Headset and Spectra SP-VC5 3.5 mm Mono/Stereo Dual Speaker Transcription Headset with Volume Control are good ones.
3. Ergonomic Chair
As you may be aware, transcription can be a tiresome job because you have to sit for longer periods of time while transcribing. Getting yourself an ergonomic chair that will protect not only your back but the rest of your body is a good decision. It will ensure that your feet are flat on the ground, your back is protected and your hands and wrists are in a proper position. Failing to adhere to this can result in developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or chronic back pains.
4. Internet Connection
As a professional transcriptionist, you will be downloading digital files from the client’s server or online portal, so a high-speed internet connection is mandatory. Go visit your local internet service provider and get the best option.
5. Microsoft Word
There are clients who like WordPerfect but a good number prefers working with Microsoft Word. This word processing software can do spell-checking and correct grammar for you. Grammarly and Ginger can also perform this same task but you have to pay for their services. If you are looking for a free option, PaperRater is the place to be. You can also set text expanders, in a way that you just type a few letters of a word and the whole word will appear automatically. So, before commencing a project, make sure you consult with your client on which word processor to use.
6. Transcription Software
I have been hearing some good things about FTW Transcriber but I have been using Express Scribe for the past 3 years and it didn’t disappoint. This is a professional transcription program that’s easy to use, has start, stop, and rewind features and most of all, it’s free. There is a Pro version but if you are a beginner, I would recommend the free version, at least until you are able to afford the paid version.
7. Foot Pedal
Another piece of equipment to have as a transcriptionist is a foot pedal. However, it is not as compulsory as the other five listed above. Like I mentioned earlier, Express Scribe has the start, stop, remind features that are a great substitute for a foot pedal. This is mostly required in medical transcription. It costs around $80 and can be ordered online, either on Amazon or eBay.
8. File Converter
There are times when you get a file that’s in video format and you have to convert it into an audio format like MP3. One software that I loved using was File Factory. It made my work so much easier. But, you can also use ZamZar. I’ve heard good things about it, as well. One thing I’m loving about this is it can also convert to PDF format. So, this is a software that you should definitely check out.
Faq for New Transcribers
To answer all of your questions about transcribing, I had an interview with Janet Shaughnessy.
Janet is the founder and creator of TranscribeAnywhere; a transcription website dedicated to offering extensive transcription training in general, legal, and medical transcription.
She started her work from home journey as a medical transcriptionist back in 2007 and later created Zoom Transcription Services.
Having been a professional transcriber for many years, Janet has a wealth of experience in the transcription field and can help you to make money online by transcribing in 2-4 months.
Check out her free mini-course to see if you can pass the transcription tests that most companies require before you get started.
Can anybody be a transcriptionist?
Are there any special skills, transcription training or equipment needed?
No, not everybody can be a transcriptionist. It takes training and specific skills to be a qualified transcriptionist. In addition to what most people perceive as perhaps the only skill required — typing — transcriptionists must possess a strong command of the English language, including grammar and punctuation. Transcriptionists must possess a good ear and practice focused listening.
They must also be comfortable sitting at a desk and working alone. There’s special transcription software needed to control the playback of audio and video files. The use of a headset and foot pedal are optional but used by most professional transcriptionists.
You can find cost-effective transcription sofwares and kits on Amazon.
Who hires transcriptionists?
General transcriptionists transcribe anything other than medical and legal. This might include bloggers, podcasters, interviewers, researchers, academicians, conferences, marketers…the list goes on and on.
Legal transcriptionists work in a variety of legal arenas, including the courts, attorney practices, with court reporters, law enforcement, and insurance companies.
Looking for a solid company that has Transcriber jobs for beginners and experts alike? Have a look here!
You can also find out how to make $1,000 per month editing transcripts for court reporters.
Do you need to make any initial investments to make money transcribing?
There’s a small investment for the needed transcription equipment, usually under $100, assuming you already have a computer. Transcription training is essential and can be found online at various price points. Transcribe Anywhere offers the most comprehensive, yet least expensive.
Can you turn transcribing into a full-time job?
How often you want to work is entirely up to the individual. Some transcribers prefer part-time and some prefer full-time. I think the greatest benefit of working as a transcriptionist is the time freedom it brings. There’s no way you can compare it to punching a clock.
You’ve been a transcriber for almost 10 years. How did you get started? What has your experience been like?
Actually, it’s been much longer than that. I started my at-home business going on 12 years ago now, but I first learned transcription in high school. I started my business by working as a subcontractor for larger transcription companies and, eventually, developed enough of my own clientele to start my own business.
Did you face any challenges while transcribing?
Transcribing is hard work, much more so than most people realize. It gets easier with time and experience, but I worked a lot in the beginning because, well, I had to support my husband and myself when he became disabled.
I didn’t have a clear understanding of all of the new technology either, so I had to learn as I went, oftentimes spending way too long trying to figure things out. That’s actually how the Transcribe Anywhere courses developed. They evolved from the notes I gave to my new hires to help bring them up to speed.
Tell us more about your course: Transcribe Anywhere: Theory & Practice
Besides what I’ve already mentioned, the best way to learn more about our courses is to visit the website, Transcribe Anywhere, where you’ll find information on our courses, prices, and an enrollment form for our Free 7-Lesson General Transcription Mini-Course in general and legal transcription.
Which success tips or advice would you give to someone who wants to become a transcriptionist?
Preparation is the first pillar of success. Don’t try to wing it. I receive emails on a regular basis from students who’ve tried that and failed. “You just can’t know what you just don’t know.”
Thank you, Janet, for taking the time to show us how one can become a transcriptionist and make extra money from home.
Transcription can be a lucrative home-based business if you know what you are doing. That’s exactly what Janet offers through her e-learning platform at TranscribeAnywhere. Go check it out if transcription sounds like the perfect work from home career choice for you.
More Resources on How to Become a Transcriber
These transcription resources, e-books, and courses will come in handy!
- How to Open a Transcription Account and Pass the Test
- Medical Transcription Companies Hiring Now
- Jump-start Your Work At Home General Transcription Career by Lisa Mills
- Make Money From Home: How to Become a Non-Medical Home-Based Transcriptionist by April Hodson
- How to Transcribe and Excel In General Transcription
- Work From Home Doing Transcription
Have you done transcribing or know someone who does? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!
Liked this post? Share it on Pinterest!
Virginia Nakitari is a full-time blogger and a work from home expert. Join Virginia and 200,000 monthly readers on EarnSmartOnlineClass to learn how to make money online, even as a beginner. Before starting this blog, Virginia worked as a freelancer, specializing in general transcription and virtual assistance. Her wide clientele comprised of business coaches, podcasters, bloggers, and other online entrepreneurs. It’s through these interactions that Virginia developed a knack for writing and showing people how to work from home, make money online and attain financial freedom.