How do I make good money at transcription? I've heard your questions and your complaints about the low-paying work-from-home transcription jobs out there – jobs that pay especially poorly for newbies. It's true that work-at-home production-based jobs like transcription can suffer from a workforce feeling cheated by insultingly low rates. I understand.
But I’ve got good news – you don’t have to keep putting up with these low rates. With the right application of skills (that you build and polish) and the right equipment, you can grow beyond these low-paying starter companies into a well-paying transcription career.
Read on for the components of a healthy transcription career, along with five companies offering good rates of pay to experienced remote workers.
How Online Transcription Companies Pay
The majority of transcription companies pay per audio hour transcribed, and those rates are not usually kind to beginners – especially for those in general transcription. Rev starts their transcriptionists out at $0.36 per audio minute and can go up to $0.65 – that's $21.60-$39.00 per audio hour. TranscribeMe says they pay $15-$22 per audio hour. AccuTran Global, for one, pays per word – their top rate is $0.0055 per word (so someone consistently transcribing 90 words per minute could make $29.70 per hour transcribed). Any way you look at it, time is one of the two most important factors in how much you can make as a transcriptionist. (The other is industry – folks who specialize in medical can score higher pay rates than general transcriptionists.)
Since new transcriptionists tend to be slow transcriptionists – say, taking 8 minutes to complete transcription of 1 minute of audio – their rate of pay tends to be low in this production-based industry. With Rev, for example, you'd get paid 36 cents for 8 minutes of work at that rate – which works out to $2.70 per hour. Happily, improving your rates as a transcriptionist is easy and straightforward. (And even at Rev, you can move into higher-paying positions like captioning with consistent quality and experience.)
The faster you improve, the quicker you type, and the more accurate you are, the better your pay rates become. Experienced transcribers can achieve a 4:1 or even 3:1 ratio of transcription turnaround with a good audio file – taking only 3 or 4 minutes to transcribe 1 minute of audio – allowing you to double how much you make as a beginner. Couple that improvement with a better-paying transcription company and you’ll find transcribing to be a viable career, especially if you decide to specialize into medical or legal.
Train Yourself to Succeed
One easy way to improve your turnaround time on transcription is to practice and improve your typing skills. Right up front, before getting into any specialized equipment, the most important part of your transcription career is your base typing speed and accuracy. Time is money: being able to type quickly with virtually no errors will make your time worth so much more.
Thanks to the Internet, it's super easy and barely an inconvenience to improve your typing skills today. You don't need to go out and buy the latest edition of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing anymore. Use websites like TypingTest.com for an assessment and typist training, check out Typing Attack for a fun game that improves your speed and accuracy, or play TypeDown for a Tetris-reminiscent typing game. I’ve got even more tips over in my dedicated post on how to improve your typing speed.
Helpful Equipment to Improve Production
1. Foot Pedal
Foot pedals are a key piece of equipment in the experienced and productive transcriptionist's arsenal. Rather than having to use your keyboard or mouse to control the recording – breaking you away from your typing and slowing down your transcription – you can instead control the audio with your foot. These pedals often feature three buttons. The large central button controls playback of the audio, allowing you to play or pause with a press or release of the button, while two smaller buttons on either side allow you to rewind or advance the audio file as needed. This keeps you plugged into the transcription process, speeding up your turnaround time with seamless multitasking. A foot pedal can make your time more profitable right away.
It's true that the audio quality of the file you're transcribing affects how easily and quickly you can transcribe it; poor audio quality can be frustrating when you're trying to make a living at transcription, but it's ultimately out of your control. What you CAN control is how you listen to these audio files – and having a headset is integral to hearing clearly – the first time – and transcribing as efficiently as possible. You can use earbuds or headphones, whichever works best for you, and you don't have to spend a ton of money here. (Although, as a professional transcriptionist, you may want to invest in quality headphones that are not only comfortable but also allow for control over volume and clarity.)
3. Transcription Software
You can set yourself up to succeed at your transcription career by using purpose-built transcription software. Some of the companies you work with may have their own apps you're expected to use for transcription. For those that don't, however, it's extremely useful to have your own software that you're accustomed to using. Transcription software like Express Scribe that integrates with your foot pedal allows you to use your foot to control the audio, and software that has text expanders built in help you quickly complete common words or phrases. Some software lets you control the audio in the same window as your transcription, keeping everything on-screen and letting you control the audio with keyboard hotkeys if you don't have a foot pedal.
4. Text Expander
Text expanders are brilliant pieces of software that help make your transcription duties that much more efficient (like 30% more efficient!). These programs use customized acronyms and abbreviations to save you time and effort in typing terminology or phrases common to the audio file you're transcribing. Some effort is required to set them up – for example, you'll need to enter those common words and phrases into the program, along with the acronym or text shortcut you want to trigger the expander's action of adding the word/phrase to your transcription document. But a little set-up at the start goes a long way toward faster, efficient, and more profitable transcription later – especially if you're working in a specialized field like medical transcription.
5. Ergonomic Office
Transcription requires you to sit at your computer for long periods doing repetitive tasks – which isn't always great for our bodies, and is even worse when you don't have an ergonomic set-up. It's worth preventing stress injuries and other body pains to spend a little money and time on your home office or workspace. After all, if you're too uncomfortable to work quickly – or work at all – you're not getting paid the way you should.
If you can get an ergonomic office chair, do that or at least get one of those cheap back-support cushions to help your posture. Wrist rests for keyboard and mouse can help keep your wrists straight and minimize carpal tunnel syndrome. You might even install a convertible standing desk, so you can sit or stand as you wish while working. It's also important to do gentle arm and wrist stretches before and after long typing sessions, and to take breaks regularly to move around.
4 Online Transcription Jobs that Pay Well
Aberdeen Broadcast Services is looking for both transcribers and captioners. They require their transcriptionists to have a foot pedal and transcription software along with either good speakers or professional headphones, and their captioners to have real-time captioning software and two computers (one for backup). Their transcription pay rate is $1.00 per audio minute while their captioner pay rate is up to $75.00 per hour. To apply for either position, you’ll need to email them your job-related resume; if interested, they’ll contact you on how to take the mandatory tests to qualify for either position.
Birch Creek Communications is often looking for the best in corporate transcriptionists to service their corporate clients. They pay up to $1.75 per audio minute (their rates start at $0.40 per audio minute). They advise that you can earn higher rates of pay through consistent, fast work with high accuracy. Most of their work is available during business hours Monday – Friday, and their clients value fast turnaround. If they are interested in you, you can anticipate a multiple-part screening session followed by a probationary period on the base pay rate.
GMR Transcription hires both general and legal transcriptionists; they're also interested in Spanish-speakers who can do transcription and translation. If you succeed at their transcription test, GMR states on their website most transcriptionists earn between $1,000 and $3,000 per month (file quality is one of the aspects dictating pay rate – audio files with terrible quality pay better). They also recommend you have a foot pedal and headphones along with a reliable home computer and up-to-date software.
Speechpad welcomes both new and experienced transcriptionists with no special equipment requirements beyond the basics: a reliable computer with an Internet connection. They also require headphones, and suggest a foot pedal. Their transcribers are paid a minimum of $0.25 per audio minute but their highest rate of pay is $1.00/audio minute for files requiring experienced transcribers. There may also be bonuses based on performance and customer feedback. They pay through PayPal.
In order to make the best rates as a work-from-home transcriber, you’ll need to be fast, accurate, and experienced. Luckily, there’s a clearly defined progression to get you to those high rates: practice your skills, invest in the right equipment, and you’ll be on your way.