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 to earn money by becoming a freelance transcriptionist.
Does the idea of working from home interest you? Working in the legal, medical, law enforcement, or general transcription industries may provide the desired freedom and income.
There’s lots to cover, so let’s get started.
- Why Do People Become Transcriptionists?
- What About a Transcription Training Course?
- What Do You Have To Do to Get Your First Transcription Job?
1. Why do people become transcriptionists?
There are many reasons why working from home as a transcriptionist is an attractive career path. For starters, you can set your hours. Once you gain experience, 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. One thing’s certain: there’s no shortage of online transcription work.
Experts recommend that a transcription career is a more attractive opportunity for those looking for work-at-home opportunities. It’s especially great for individuals who prefer to work alone and not have to deal with customer service issues or handle many inbound phone calls.
Although freelancing is an option, you’d stand a better chance of getting paid regularly if you work for an honest and reputable transcription company.
Do all transcription companies require previous transcription experience?
No. Transcriptionists come from various backgrounds, and it is easy for beginners to find jobs. That is if they have the two most essential qualities for the job: the ability to type fast and listen attentively.
You might think your two-finger typing skills are lightning-fast, but you must 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, with consistent practice, you can have your fingers moving faster in no time.
If you want to check your typing speed and accuracy rate, google online typing or transcription test. 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 essential. 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 legal transcription you received 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?
Online transcription jobs require you to purchase your equipment. Let’s begin with the recommended hardware.
You’ll need a computer with sufficient RAM and storage to ensure peak operating efficiency. Depending on the company, you’ll probably need Microsoft Word, available via subscription, and possibly Google Chrome as your browser. Some companies also require you to use their software, so adequate computer storage space is essential. Some software programs only work or work best with specific browsers.
A high-quality and comfortable keyboard is 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 are the foundation for a transcriptionist, learning to use a foot pedal will increase your productivity and, in turn, your income.
It doesn’t matter if you have a PC, Mac, 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. For future-proofing, we suggest going as high as 16GB. If your computer has difficulty running Chrome, Word, ExpressScribe, Excel, and your foot pedal simultaneously, you will need a new machine to maximize your income potential.
You will want to use a dual monitor setup, if at all possible. Having two monitors allows you to have Google open on one screen and Word on the other, where you will transcribe your work. Having a browser open with easy access on your other monitor lets you quickly research any unknown word or phrase. This happens more than you think; a second monitor will significantly help. The desks in our offices have at least two monitors.
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. Another advantage of this software is that it’s compatible with almost every foot pedal on the market.
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.
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 for your over-the-ear USB transcription headset. The Spectra USB Transcription Headset is an excellent choice if you prefer earbuds.
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 often hear. Microsoft Word can do text expanders and macros already, so it’s a matter of learning how to set them up and use 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, you should call and speak with a company representative to ensure what is being taught will meet your needs. Also, we suggest asking to speak with a few recent program graduates.
- 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 independently 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.
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 a crime scene 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.
Time management and focusing for extended periods are necessary for accurate transcription. If you’re easily distracted, transcribing audio files will be very challenging.
Additionally, having prior work experience with different industries may offer some advantages. For example, someone who’s worked in a clinic or hospital may find it easier to become a medical transcriptionist.
The difficulty in mastering transcription skills depends 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 at 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 high 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 that you must 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 mentally prepare for isolation if you decide to become a transcriptionist. Because of the nature of the work, you rarely get to sit around a meeting table and speak with your boss or peers. And if you do have a meeting, it’ll likely be through Zoom or Google Meet. 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.
We already discussed the ideal equipment setup for a transcriptionist. One aspect that we haven’t touched on is a desk or workspace that allows you to type comfortably for extended periods.
Let’s start with 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 bent 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 resting your feet on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your arms should be loose, and your wrists should never drop from a resting platform. This is why having an adjustable, comfortable chair is a must.
3. What must you 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 passing a course may be advantageous in obtaining your first transcription job if you don’t have any experience. Remember that no to poor quality experience usually means your starting pay may be lower.
Here’s a quick tip if you don’t have any experience but want to get a career as a transcriptionist. You can apply online directly to companies that don’t mandate prior experience. Then, after you have the experience, you can research and apply to other companies that prefer experienced candidates. Companies that require experience almost always pay more. For example, Rev pays their transcriptionists 40 cents per minute, while our company pays new freelancers 80 cents per minute. They do not require experience, though, while we do.
How to get started as a transcriptionist
Embarking on a career as a transcriptionist can be exciting. Transcriptionists can work from their home’s safety and comfort and work as much or as little 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 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 initially.
If you’re inclined to enroll in an online transcription training program, don’t forget 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 sacrifice 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?
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, you are paid a specific rate for each minute of an audio recording. Remember 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 transcriptionists 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 a 60-minute recording. Remember, some projects are easier than others to transcribe.
You are learning a new skill, so obtaining as much experience as possible as a rookie transcriptionist is recommended. New transcriptionists usually work for $0.30 to $0.40 per minute. Then, you can apply for better-paying U.S.-based transcription companies that work on more complex projects and higher-paying work.
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 legitimate physical address to show 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 basic research should help you determine the location and quality of any transcription company you want to work with.
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 a PayPal payment system.
Your work as a professional and experienced transcriptionist should be rewarding. Plus, your hard work should be compensated by a company that submits payment promptly. At a minimum, you should be paid at least every two weeks or twice monthly.
Questions for aspiring Transcriptionists
Occasionally, we get questions about transcription by email or through our website. Here are the most recently asked questions and our answers.
Q: My sister-in-law has just started training to be a transcriptionist and has got me interested. With so many medical offices going to EMR, will there be less need for medical transcriptionists in the future?
A: Many doctors continue to use transcription services because voice recognition isn’t reliable, and they don’t want the burden of documenting a patient visit on top of their other responsibilities. Plus, medical transcription services can still be used with an EMR if someone in-office pastes the completed transcription in the correct data fields or if you have an interface built. Hence, the transcription automatically goes from your transcription service into the EMR.
There are also other branches outside of medical transcription. The usual types of transcription are legal, law enforcement, and academic. You can go for general transcriptionist jobs for a more rounded experience.
Q: What kind of computer is best for transcription?
A: The particular brand is unimportant; you’re good to go as long as it’s fast and has enough memory and storage. More important is having a good set of headphones, a reliable foot pedal, and a fast internet connection (try upgrading your router if it’s running slow), as many accounts are typed online.
Q: Do some areas of transcription work pay better than others? (a relative of a relative in Minnesota who has done transcription work for many years says that her company pays better for operative reports.)
A: It depends on the company, its policies, and the turnaround time (TAT) for different files. If the TAT for an operative report is 30 minutes, it will likely pay more than a standard 24-hour TAT for office notes. But in general, most companies will pay more for difficult dictators (mumblers, accents, etc.), bad-quality audio, or multiple speakers. For the most part, successful transcriptionists are the ones who found their specialty and stuck with it long enough to get paid more.
Working as a transcriptionist can be a rewarding career path. You can earn money from home. You can specialize or choose to take on general transcription work. You can even choose whether to work full-time or part-time. The transcription business offers a lot of flexibility and career choices. If you believe you have the skills and experience to work with a professional, U.S.-based company, we invite you to complete our online freelance form.