How to Become a Transcriptionist & Earn Money From Home In 2021

Are you wondering how to become a transcriptionist and make money from home? We tell you how to get started, how much you can earn, and the requirements to become a part-time or full-time transcriptionist. Find out how to become a transcriptionist here.

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 encouraged millions of people to perform most, if not all, of their job responsibilities from home. With the increasing demand for transcribing audio files to written documents, now is the ideal time to explore how you can earn money by becoming a freelance transcriptionist.

Does the idea of working from home interest you? If so, working in the legal transcription, medical transcription, law enforcement transcription, or general transcription industries may provide the freedom and income you desire.

There’s lots to cover, so let’s get started. 

  1. Why Do People Become Transcriptionists?
    • Do All Transcription Companies Require Previous Experience?
    • What tools do you need to become a transcriptionist?
      • Computer
      • Monitors
      • Transcription Software
      • Foot Pedal
      • Headset
      • Text Expander Software
  2. What About a Transcription Training Course?
    • Is Learning to Become a Transcriptionist Difficult?
    • What Is the Working Environment of a Transcriptionist Like?
  3. What Do You Have To Do to Get Your First Transcription Job?
    • How to Get Started as a Transcriptionist
    • What Can You Expect to Earn as A Freelance transcriptionist?
    • What Is the Easiest Way to Get Started as a Transcriptionist?
    • How Do I Get Paid for the work I do as a transcriptionist?

1.   Why do people become transcriptionists?

There are many reasons why working as a transcriptionist is an attractive, work-at-home profession. For starters, you can set your own hours. Once you are proficient and can easily handle most jobs, your ability to increase your workload and income is up to you. Some people become transcriptionists to generate part-time income. Others devote full-time hours to transcription duties. 

Experts recommend that working as a transcriptionist is a more attractive opportunity for those looking for work-at-home opportunities. It’s especially attractive for individuals who prefer to work alone and not have to deal with customer service issues or handle a plethora of inbound phone calls.

The bottom line for becoming a transcriptionist is determining your own hours and work for transcription companies that are honest and reputable.

Do all transcription companies require previous transcription experience?

No. Transcriptionists come from a variety of backgrounds. Two qualities that are the most important is the ability to type fast and listen attentively. 

You might think your two-finger typing skills are lightning-fast, but you’ll need to master using all ten digits to work as a transcriptionist. Okay, at least nine of ten.

Typing speeds of at least 65 words per minute (wpm) are recommended for beginning transcriptionists—most seasoned transcriptionists type between 75 and 90 wpm. If your typing speed doesn’t hit those levels today, don’t worry because consistent practice can have your fingers moving faster in no time.

If you want to check your typing speed and accuracy rate, google online typing test, and take a few different ones to see how you do. 

Besides keyboard speed and critical listening skills, having an excellent command of the English language is imperative. Some audio files can be easy to transcribe, especially when recorded in a good environment with all parties speaking clearly. However, not all files are so pristine. Often audio files are recorded in less-than-ideal settings with multiple people talking. Other times the person speaking doesn’t speak the primary language well or may pronounce certain words or phrases differently.

For example, when someone uses the word “to,” you need to have a basic command of grammar to determine if they said “to,” “two,” or “too.” These may seem like basic rules everyone knows, yet that’s not the case. Our tests are not easy. Many – the majority – fail our exams because they don’t see the difference between many different homophones.

Imagine if you are a judge or attorney involved with a civil case. The transcript has all kinds of grammatical and punctuation errors. It will make reading the transcript very difficult. They will eventually dismiss the transcript and ask for a corrected version. That is why other reputable companies and we require experience and have challenging pre-employment tests.

What tools do you need to become a transcriptionist?

tools for transcription

Let’s begin with the recommended hardware.

You’ll need a computer with sufficient RAM and adequate storage to ensure peak operating efficiency. Depending on the company, you’ll probably need Microsoft Word, which is available via subscription, and possibly Google Chrome as your browser. Some companies also require you to use their software, which is another reason why adequate computer storage space is essential.  Some software programs only work or work best with specific browsers.

A high quality and comfortable keyboard are also highly recommended. Many of our transcriptionists use a mechanical keyboard. These keyboards are easier on your hands, wrists, and fingers because the keys are easier to push down. They start around $75 and are well worth the investment if you have previously experienced pain in your hands or wrists from typing.  A good pair of earbuds or a headset is also needed to transcribe audio files.

Just as important is access to high-speed internet. Download speeds of at least 10mbps, although 100mbps is recommended, with upload speeds of at least 10mbps. 

Using a foot pedal is also recommended, and here’s why. Each time you remove your hand(s) from the keyboard and use your mouse to playback a portion of the audio file, you lose seven characters each second. Since speed and accuracy is the foundation for a transcriptionist, learning to use a foot pedal will increase your productivity and, in turn, your income.

Computer: It doesn’t matter if you have a PC or Mac, or desktop or laptop. The most important aspect is you have enough RAM and storage. You’ll need at least 8GB of RAM to effectively and simultaneously run multiple software programs. If your computer has difficulty running Chrome, Word, ExpressScribe, Excel, and your foot pedal all at the same time, you will need a new machine if you want to maximize your income potential.

how to transcribe

Monitors: You are going to want to use a dual monitor set up if at all possible. Having two monitors allows you to have Google open on one screen with Word on the other where you will be transcribing your work. Having a browser open with easy access on your other monitor allows you to quickly research any unknown word or phrase. This happens more than you think,  and a second monitor will help a lot. All of our desks have at least two monitors on them here in our offices.

Transcription Software: ExpressScribe is our recommendation. The software is affordable and priced at around $40 for a lifetime subscription. They also have a free version without all the bells and whistles, though. Another advantage of this software is that it’s compatible with almost every foot pedal on the market.

Foot Pedal: A foot pedal isn’t necessary but highly advised because it saves time once you master usage. Look at the Infinity USB Digital Foot Control with Computer plug (IN-USB2). You can find it at Walmart, Amazon, and other online stores.

how to become a transcriptionist

Headset: Do you prefer earbuds or an over-the-ear headset? We recommend an over-the-ear, noise-canceling headset such as the ECS OHUSB Wordslinger Deluxe 

Over the ear USB transcription headset. If you prefer earbuds, then the Spectra USB Transcription Headset is an excellent choice.  

Text Expander Software: While this software isn’t necessary, using text expanders will increase your speed (and income). Using it will lower your error rate and save time since you can use abbreviations for common words and phrases you hear a lot. Microsoft Word has the ability to do text expanders and macros already, so it’s a matter of learning how to set them up and to then start using them. You can learn more about how to set them up by searching YouTube videos, there are a ton of good ones on this.  


2. What about a transcription training course? 

For some aspiring transcriptionists, enrolling in an online training course is beneficial. Others can master the skills of an effective transcriptionist through practice.

Several online training programs teach you the basics of transcription. However, suppose you believe a course will help you. In that case, it’s recommended you call and speak with a representative of the company to ensure what is being taught will meet your needs. Also, we suggest asking to speak with a few recent graduates of the program.

You’re going to want to ask the recent graduates questions like:

  • Did the class help you get a job?
  • Did the school help you get a job after graduation?
  • Do you think I need to go to school or learn on my own from home?
  • Would you recommend this school, or is there a different one I should be considering?

While reputable companies provide excellent instruction, we recommend you avoid foreign-based companies whose training is often subpar.  Any reputable company will be more than happy to comply with these recommendations.

how to become a transcriptionist

Is learning to become a transcriptionist difficult?

As with any occupation, it depends on your natural abilities and inclination to learn the specific skills vital to transcription.

First and foremost, you need to master your typing skills. We previously discussed the importance of typing fast. Set a minimum goal of at least 75 wpm. 

Listening skills are imperative. Depending on the transcription project type, you may have to transcribe conversations between multiple people in less-than-ideal conditions. For example, if four law enforcement officials accompany a suspect to the scene of a crime next to a large construction site, transcribing an audio file into a verbatim format (every word and sound must be transcribed) can be challenging. That’s why a high-quality headset is essential.

The ability to focus for extended periods is necessary. If you’re easily distracted, transcribing audio files will be very challenging for you.

The level of difficulty to master transcription skills is dependent on you and you alone. However, if you are committed to acquiring these skills through hours of practice and dedication, working as a transcriptionist is a rewarding occupation that you can perform from your home’s convenience.

What is the working environment of a transcriptionist like?

The answer to this question is entirely up to you. Since transcription requires a high degree of concentration, a comfortable and quiet environment is best. 

Having a dedicated home office or workspace is essential. Like a corporate office environment, whoever you share space with needs to respect the fact that you need to focus and concentrate on your assignment. The ideal setting is a quiet room with a door you can close if others are nearby.

You should prepare to be working alone a lot if you do decide to become a transcriptionist.  Because of the works nature, you rarely get to sit around a meeting table (Zoom) and speak with your boss or peers in person. We thought it best to mention this point because some people don’t realize it until after working in the transcription industry. Working solo is not for everyone.

how to become a transcriptionist

We already discussed the ideal equipment set-up. One aspect that we haven’t touched on is a desk or workspace that allows you to type comfortably for extended periods.

One aspect not mentioned in the equipment section is a comfortable chair. Everyone’s body style is unique, so it’s best to find an office supply store and sit in several chairs to find the right fit for you. Make sure any office chair is adjustable and made of quality materials. Since many workers perform their duties at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, keep a lookout for surplus office supply sales.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the number one injury for office workers. This condition often develops when a typist spends extended periods with their elbow bend at an acute angle, causing the nerves to compress. Medical experts suggest the best way to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is to maintain good posture by making sure your feet are resting on the floor, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your arms should be loose, and never allow your wrists to drop from a resting platform. This is why having an adjustable, comfortable chair is a must.  


3.   What do you have to do to get your first transcription job?

Some transcription companies, like us, prefer that you have previous experience. Others are willing to hire new and inexperienced transcriptionists. 

Enrolling and completing a transcription course is optional. However, demonstrating the commitment to taking and pass a course may be advantageous in obtaining your first transcription job if you don’t have any experience. Keep in mind that no to low experience usually means you’re starting pay may be lower. 

Suppose you think you are ready to begin a career as a transcriptionist and don’t have any experience. In that case, you can usually apply online directly to the companies that don’t mandate prior experience. Then after you have the experience, you can research and apply to other companies who prefer experience. 

Companies that require experience almost always pay more.  For example, rev.com pays their transcriptionists 40 cents per minute while our company pays new freelancers 80 cents per minute.  They do not require experience, though, and we do require experience.

How to get started as a transcriptionist

Embarking on a career as a transcriptionist can be exciting. Transcriptionists can work from their own home’s safety and comfort and work as little or much as they like.

First, shore up your typing skills through hours of practice. Tons of websites offer typing tips. Some are even free. The faster you learn to increase your typing speed and accuracy, the quicker you’ll become a competent transcriptionist. 

The quickest and easiest method is to find a company that hires inexperienced transcriptionists. Most require that you take a short test to evaluate your typing skills. If successful, they’ll most likely give you simple assignments in the beginning. 

If you’re inclined to enroll in an online transcription training program, don’t neglect to follow the advice given earlier. Speak with a representative of the training company as well as recent graduates. It’s also advisable that any transcription program be based in the U.S. After all, practically all the transcription projects you work on originate in the United States.

Acquiring or purchasing the best equipment you can afford is highly recommended. Transcriptionists with dual monitors, text expander software, and high-quality headphones can transcribe at least 30% faster than our people who don’t use all the tools available to them. If you decide not to use a foot pedal, you will be sacrificing at least 50% more in speed alone.

What can you expect to earn as a freelance transcriptionist?

Enough about training and equipment; let’s talk money. How much can you earn as a rookie and as an experienced transcriptionist?

transcriptionist pay chart

Most freelance jobs are based either on a per-project or per hour basis. Transcription jobs are based and pay on the audio minute except for medical transcription. In other words, for each minute of an audio recording, you are paid a specific rate. Keep in mind that it may take several minutes to transcribe one minute of an audio file.

Beginning and inexperienced transcriptionists usually earn between $.30 and $1.10 per audio minute. According to Payscale.com, the median average hourly rate for transcriptionist is $15.03 per hour. Experienced transcriptionists can earn over $27 per hour.

It may take an inexperienced transcriptionist two hours or more to transcribe 15 minutes of simple audio or eight hours to transcribe 60 minutes of audio. Remember, some projects are easier than others to transcribe. 

You are learning a new skill, so as a rookie transcriptionist, it’s recommended that you obtain as much experience as quickly as possible. New transcriptionists usually work for $.30 to .40 cents per minute. Then you can apply to work for better paying U.S. based transcription companies that work on more complex projects and pay a higher rate. 

What is the easiest way to get started as a transcriptionist?

Simply put, go for it. Up your typing speed and accuracy, obtain the proper equipment and training, and apply to as many reputable companies as possible. 

Speaking of reputable companies, we recommend you work for companies that operate and are based in the United States. Having a Post Office Box as their physical address doesn’t count and should be avoided in our experience. They should have a legit physical address to show that they will be around longer than the $250 contract to have a UPS Store mailbox.

Foreign-based companies are taking advantage of the demand for transcription services by saying they are based or have viable operations in the United States. Performing some basic research should help you determine the location and quality of any transcription company you are interested in working with.

how to become a transcriptionist

How do I get paid for the work I do as a transcriptionist?

The most crucial factor to consider when working as a transcriptionist is to perform work for a reputable company. 

Almost every reputable transcription company will pay you via direct deposit or through a PayPal payment system.

Your work as a professional and experienced transcriptionist should be rewarding. Plus, your hard work should be rewarded by a company that submits payment in a timely fashion. At a minimum, you should be paid at least every two weeks or twice monthly.


Conclusion

Working as either a general, medical, legal, or law enforcement transcriptionist is rewarding and an exciting career choice. Suppose you believe you have the skills and experience to work with a professional, U.S. based company. In that case, we invite you to complete our online freelance form.