This guide will teach you how to become a transcriptionist and work from home, making reliable income for you and your family.
You’re probably a beginner so I’ve built this guide to be simple and direct to the point. It shows you the steps you need to take so you can make money transcribing online.
Make sure you bookmark this page because I’m going deep. You’re going to learn everything it takes to be successful in the long run as a transcriptionist.
Why should you consider being a transcriptionist?
The industry is experiencing steady growth because of the rise of video content. Search engines have a hard time indexing this information and transcriptionists are necessary for helping provide clarity with the meaning.
Speech recognition tools are still underperforming in a big way and can’t do the job even to 50% of what a human can do.
The best part? It should only take about 1-2 weeks before you start taking home serious income.
Below we’re going to walk through:
- What is a transcriptionist?
- Who should become one?
- Transcriptionist salary.
- Equipment you need.
- Steps to becoming a transcriptionist.
- Is transcription a good work from home job?
With that said…
Let’s get started!
What is a transcriptionist?
A transcription is a written caption of an audio recording. The goal with transcription is to provide words that can be read for audio files.
Have you ever seen a movie with subtitles on the bottom? That’s transcription.
What about a Facebook video with captions? That’s also transcription.
It even includes meeting minutes for board room executives.
Typically transcription is put into 3 main buckets:
Medical: This is the process where you transcribe voice-recorded medical reports which are provided by nurses, physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals. It’s a critical aspect of the industry to keep records accurate. It’s also very crowded with transcription providers.
Legal: This is the process where you transcribe recordings made by paralegals, attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals. This is often what people think when they hear of a transcriptionist.
General: This is the process where you transcribe recordings made by the general communities. From business executives to podcasters (which is really popular!). This is the fastest growing niche of transcription right now.
In summary – a transcriptionist is someone who listens to an audio file to convert it to text.
Who Should Become A Transcriptionist?
Being a transcriptionist is not about typing fast. Yes – you need to be a decent typist, however you also need to have great listening skills and a knack for technology.
If you’re a patient person, who enjoys solving problems, then becoming a transcriptionist is for you. Often the audio files are difficult to handle. They’re garbled up with thick accents, multiple dialogs, and poor English.
Beyond being a patient and persistent, here are the top skills you need to be a transcriptionist:
- Quick & Accurate Typing: you need to be quick to the draw. How fast should you type? At least 85 words per minute. That’s fast. This skill is an absolute must. You either have it or you’re not going to succeed.
- Listening Comprehension: When working as a transcriptionist you’ll need laser focus on listening to every word. You have to hear everything the audio file is telling you.
- Technology Knowledge: You’re going to be using a mix of hardware (foot pedals & headsets) along with software (word processors, audio files). You need to know how to use them both.
- Mastery Of Your Language: Grammar, comprehension, and vocabulary play a critical role in being a successful transcriptionist.
- Proofreading Ability: Before you deliver the final product to your clients, you’ll need to read through your work for errors. (Although you can always use a tool like Grammarly…)
Want to know the most important factor for becoming a transcriptionist?
Plan and simple. You need to be gritty to build the skill sets necessary for success. I always recommend this to people before they begin their journey: “Find your why. Write it down, and keep it close.”
Like most things in life, how much you get paid for your work depends on your experience.
As a beginner you’ll get paid anywhere from $4 to $12 an hour. Experienced transcriptionists typically make between $8-$22 an hour.
Although you’re not usually paid on a per hour basis.
Actually, you’re typically paid on a per audio minute basis. This means you’re paid a specific rate for each minute of audio you need to transcribe.
That’s why quick typing and detailed listening skills are so essential. An inexperienced transcriptionist might take 4 hours to transcribe 1 hour worth of audio.
Remember – you’re learning a new skill and getting paid. You’re not going to make experienced level pay right off the bat. In fact, you might need to charge much less than your competition to get the work and practice for your portfolio.
The good news?
Once you reach a certain level of experience you’re likely to earn over $5,000/month with your transcription work. Many freelancers are doing this right now!
What Transcription Equipment Do You Need?
Once you get some experience with entry level work, you’ll quickly realize you need some help if you want to reach the next level.
The only way you’ll get high paying jobs, without burning hours flipping back and forth between the audio file and your word doc, is with transcription tools.
High Quality Internet
It goes without saying but you’ll need quality internet to connect with your clients. Audio files are rather large and can take a long time to download. You’ll want download speeds of at least 100mb/s.
A comfortable keyboard will be your best friend. Seriously, don’t risk getting carpal tunnel syndrome from typing on a standard keyboard. Many transcriptionists use mechanical keyboards to make it easier for your wrists, fingers, and hands to stay limber and healthy.
They’re usually fairly cheap, but treat it like an investment. It’s worth every penny keeping your hands healthy.
Here are some options:
If you’re working from home you’ll need a transcription software.
The best one in the industry is ExpressScribe. It’s the “gold-standard” within the field. It works with every major word processor by connecting your audio playback to foot pedal controls. This will give you more accurate control of the audio file with features like file management, playback speed control, multi-channel options, and much more.
There are 2 versions available:
Free ExpressScribe Version
This is perfect for new transcribers. You get almost all the bells and whistles without having to pay out of pocket for it.
Paid ExpressScribe Version
With the paid version you get everything above plus much more audio and video formats for your work. It’s recommended experienced transcriptionists get the paid version because you get better file management.
Having a headset is non-negotiable. You’ll get nuances and clarity in the audio you would never find relying on your computer audio.
Most transcriptionists prefer the over-the-ear headset compared to earbuds. Although I’ve been a big fan of the latest Apple AirPods which fit snugly in my ear and also cancel noise.
Here are some good options:
Going back and forth between the audio file and your word processor eats up precious time.
With a foot pedal you use your foot to play, pause, rewind, and fast forward your audio files. All without leaving your word processor.
So much more efficient than clicking between the 2 windows.
Steps You Need to Take to Become a Transcriptionist
When I first began applying to transcription jobs I didn’t take this step. I got rejected countless times because I didn’t even meet the entry level requirements.
Looking back here’s what I would have done differently…
Step #1: Get A Baseline On Your Grammar, Typing, and Vocabulary
Most transcription companies will ask you qualifying questions to make sure you can perform the job.
Before you reach out and apply you need to have a baseline of your skills around your typing, grammar, and vocabulary.
How Fast Can You Type?
Most companies require a minimum of 60 words/minute. That’s the base level requirement for most roles.
As a beginner you can get away with touch typing. You’re still earning your stripes.
You’ll want to take a typing test before applying. Here’s a quick option:
Take the test and get a baseline. When I first took it I got 54 words per minute with 68% accuracy. (I thought I was a fast typer!)
Keep practicing until you can hit 60 words/minute at least twice on your test.
Additionally, always aim for at least 100% accuracy on your writing. It makes your job easier in the proofreading stage!
Is Your Grammar Polished?
This is always where I struggle. Grammar does not come naturally to me. I’m always working to improve it, and by reading a lot you can get better.
There are a number of practice websites available to assist with your knowledge base. For example, you can go to the website below to take a test on your grammar skills.
Link here: OPTION 1
As long as you know the difference between, their, there, and they’re, you’re good.
Don’t let grammar cause you to not take action. I’m not good and I was able to make do with the help of Grammarly and word processor tools.
Step #2: Get Your Tech Stack In Order
If you’re a beginner you don’t need to stress about your tech stack too much. You’ll need the basics to complete your work.
Make sure you dedicate quiet time, and a small dedicated office, to your work. Obviously you’ll need a computer and a headset.
As you make progress though, your tech stack becomes more important. It will free up your time and allow you to complete more work in a shorter time frame. This allows you to raise your rates significantly.
You’ll want to seriously consider investing in better equipment over time.
Here are the technical requirements for most companies:
- You need a computer less than 2 years old with enough RAM for audio files.
- High speed internet – ideally 100mb/s.
- Word processors like Word or Google Docs.
- Foot pedal and transcription software (only for when you’re experienced though).
Step #3: Build Your Skill Base With Practice
We talked earlier about the skills you need to have in order to be a transcriptionist. Before you dive into the deep waters you’ll want to at least have a foundation.
Here are the skills recommended you develop:
- Command of your language (you’ll want to know your idioms and colloquialisms).
- Familiarity with word processors.
- Fast typing skills (preferably at 85 words per minute).
- Efficient time management skills.
- Excellent listening skills.
If you already have these skills, you’re good to move onto the next step. If you don’t have these skills it’s time to start practicing!
I recommend you only take a maximum of 2 weeks to get the basics down. You’ll learn so much from actually doing the job.
Practice On Real Transcription Files
The best way to really know if transcribing is something you want to do is by practicing on real transcription files.
Try out one or two of the practice files. Get a feel for your skill level and the work it takes.
This will determine if you want to pursue the role or not.
Use Express Scribe’s practice files:
When you download the Express Scribe software you’ll get access to their practice files. Download the free audio and just start transcribing.
Take a look at how long the audio file is, then compare to how long it took you to transcribe. Doing this will give you the best baseline understanding.
Step #4: Decide If You Want To Continue
You’ve done all the prep work. You’ve brushed up on your typing skills and grammar. You’ve even taken a couple practice files.
Now you need to decide if transcribing is something you want to pursue.
Remember, you don’t have to get married to the idea of transcribing only. I started out transcribing to earn extra side income, but transitioned into content, copywriting, and sales because that’s the niche I wanted to get really good at.
Trust me when I say the transcription work helped me tremendously for writing content!
If you decide yes you want to continue, plunge deep and get some clients.
If you decide no, ask yourself what parts of the transcription work did you like and not like? This will give you a better indication about your path to a second source of income.
Step #5: Find Clients
Now the fun really begins!
It’s time to find clients and make some money.
You have two options for this:
- Work for a transcription company
- Become a freelance transcriptionist
You have to make a decision about which route you want to take. Personally, I took the second route and became a freelancer immediately. I think it’s worth it to break out on your own, but it’s very difficult to do this without any prior experience.
Let’s walk through the options together.
Option 1: Work For A Transcription Company
There are a lot of companies who provide online transcription work. Here are the 2 best for beginners.
- Go Transcript
- Rev Transcription
These companies are considered mediators between the client and the freelancer. The nice thing about working for companies like this is you don’t need to hustle for clients. Work is usually always available.
The bad part? The work is rather low paying compared to finding clients yourself.
Sign up as a freelancer within their sign up page.
Once complete, you’ll take a quick skill test (this is why you practiced earlier!). It should take only 15 minutes to complete, and it will test your grammar, speed, and vocabulary. It’s not very hard and it’s built into their editing platform.
After completion you’ll get a notification a couple days later indicating if you’ve been accepted. If so, you can activate your account to start getting paying jobs.
You do this by clicking their “Find Work” section where you’ll preview the audio file before deciding if it’s what you want to work on. Make sure you preview the audio file so you can get good quality files. You only have an hour to cancel the job without getting penalized if you pick it up.
This company works the same way as Go Transcript. They’re basically the same process.
- Sign up
- Complete skill test
- Get Accepted
- Preview jobs
- Start working on files
Option 2: Become A Freelance Transcriptionist
This is the route I took when I first became a freelancer.
I personally like this route because I can set my prices and build a business on my own. Learning the sales process of getting clients proved immensely valuable over the long run.
There are 2 main platforms you can start with as a freelancer:
If you want to learn more about Upwork, I suggest you look at my article reviewing the platform.
Freelancer.com works the same way as Upwork. Each is built as a place for clients and freelancers to connect online for work.
Is Being A Transcriptionist A Good Work From Home Job?
In my opinion, yes it’s a great work from home job if you’re a beginning freelancer.
Personally I used transcription work to springboard into content and copywriting related work. It’s how I built my profile on Upwork and got my first clients.
As with everything in life, never settle. You’ll want to continue to push yourself to the boundaries of what you thought possible.
If you’re disciplined with your time, and you want high quality remote work, then I recommend becoming a transcriptionist.
You can work from any place on the planet and make at least $40,000/yr.
I highly recommend you give it a swing if you’re looking to become a freelancer, but need to build your portfolio.