Transcription jobs were something I dabbled in briefly when I first started working from home. General transcription is one of the few work-from-home industries that welcomes newcomers with little to no experience. Though the pay can be pretty low starting out, experienced transcriptionists can easily earn a full-time income from home.
Starting a transcription career can be a little confusing and overwhelming. There are different types of transcription. Some require training and some don’t. You may or may not need to purchase equipment. Today, let’s take an in-depth look at this work from home opportunity.
The Transcription Process
Once you are contracted for a transcription job from home, you will be sent audio or video files that need to be transcribed into text files. Files today are usually exchanged via digital means. There is software available to help with playing back the audio on your computer. When you are finished turning the audio into text, you will send the text file to your client.
There are three main categories of transcription work — general, legal, and medical — so the opportunity to enter this field is huge right now. If you’re wondering if remote transcription work is a good fit for you, here are some of the frequently asked questions about becoming a transcriptionist.
Typical Requirements for Transcription Work
General transcription work — for things like books, podcasts, or Facebook videos — tends to have a lower barrier to entry than the other two categories. Legal and medical transcription positions often require specialized training, which gives you a solid understanding of the vocabulary used in each. (Career Step is one of the very few companies providing online medical transcription and editing training that is not only AHDI-approved but also works directly with companies hiring remote workers.)
Typical requirements for transcription work include typing at a certain speed without errors (often 60+ wpm), a quality headset, a quiet space to work in, the ability to sit and type for long periods of time (ideally), a computer with dependable high-speed internet access, and specialized software. Express Scribe is the current industry standard, and they have a free version available. This type of software will allow you to use “hot keys” to stop and start audio and control the speed. Express Scribe works with both keyboards and foot pedals.
After you start making a few bucks, you will find a foot-pedal can greatly increase your productivity. As transcriptionists are paid by the audio minute completed, the more you can transcribe the more can earn.
If you’re a good listener and typist, with the ability to transcribe words verbatim, transcription work could be a wonderful way to earn money from home. Good research skills won’t hurt either. Every now and again you may need to look up the spelling or meaning of a word. You will also need to be able to follow directions and pay attention to detail. Every company has their own style guide that needs to be followed when transcribing files.
If you would like to test out your speed and practice a bit before applying to a job, StenoSpeed and Express Scribe both have practice files available.
How flexible are the hours?
The flexibility of your hours depends in large part on the type of transcription job you get. Some are completely self-directed, others are extremely flexible, and many fall somewhere between.
If you’re working for a more traditional company, you’ll probably be assigned specific shifts to work. Shifts are set in stone and change (typically) every 6 months. It should be pretty obvious during the application process whether or not you’re looking at a shift-based job.
There are other companies that let you log in and claim work whenever you want. These positions offer a lot more flexibility, though you might not always have steady work available.
And finally, you can also find companies that will give you an assignment with a deadline. They won’t care when you do the work, as long as it’s done on time. If you’re thinking about freelancing as a transcriptionist, this is most likely how a lot of your work will be structured.
There are three main categories of transcription; general, legal and medical. General transcription usually requires no formal training. Legal transcription often relies on experience. Medical transcription usually requires an AHDI-approved certificate (Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity). As you would expect, legal and medical transcription tend to pay quite a bit more than general gigs.
Now, that’s not to say general transcription can’t pay well. It all depends on where you are finding work and your experience. There are a lot of places out there that allow almost any in and literally pay only pennies. If you are willing to invest in your skills, you may be able to find clients of your own willing to pay a premium for your services.
CareerStep is my go-to recommendation for medical transcription and coding training. They are AHDI-approved and allow you to complete your certification on your own time. They also help with job placement and have tuition assistance available.
TranscribeAnywhere offers in-depth training on both general and legal transcription. The course includes training, templates, contracts, help with setting rates and more. A private Facebook Group is also available. Janet has a free mini-course you take first to help you decide if this is a good career fit for you.
Jump-Start Your Work at Home Transcription Career is an inexpensive ebook from the fabulous Lisa Mills at WorkAtHomeMomRevolution.com. Lisa includes 60 companies that hire general transcriptionists along with her tips to getting started.
At- Home Transcription Jobs
There are so many people in need of transcriptionists today. Even I outsource videos and podcasts I have been done to be transcribed for use in blog posts and subscriber giveaways. And with the popularity of video marketing increasing, expect more of these opportunities to pop up.
In addition to bloggers and online business owners, insurance agents, lawyers, authors, doctors, churches and others have a need for audio files to be transcribed. Here are a few companies that hire online workers.
- Rev.com – the pay isn’t too high here and they prefer some experience. It’s very flexible, however.
- TranscribeMe – open to newbies, operates on a microtask, crowd-based setup. Pay is $20 per audio hour to start.
- GMR Transcription stopped by recently to tell us more about transcription and their company. Read it here.
- Tigerfish – no experience needed, you just need to pass their test
- Allegis – wants 2+ years experience, but I’ve heard only good things about them
- Net Transcripts – hires for a lot of legal and police transcription (interesting!), you need to be a resident of the U.S. and pass a background check
- Focus Forward – experience preferred
- 3 Play Media – no transcription experience necessary, though you should be well-versed in word processing
- AccuTran Global – open to newbies
- Appen – no experience needed
- BabbleType – no experience needed
- Birch Creek Communications – no experience needed
- Castingwords – no experience needed
- CrowdSurf – no experience needed
- Go Transcript – no experience required
- Hollywood Transcribers – newbies welcome
- scribie – newbies welcome
- SpeedPad – newbies welcome
- Transcript Divas – newbies welcome
- Ubiquis – newbies welcome to apply
- VerbalInk – newbies welcome to apply
For additional opportunities, check out Lisa’s book above or visit FlexJobs. FlexJobs is one of my favorite online job boards. Their leads are researched and always remote. You should also check out this list from Real Ways to Earn.
What skills will these job descriptions have?
Typical keywords you’ll find in transcription job descriptions include communication skills, English proficiency, attention to details, ability to meet deadlines/time-management, and typing speed and accuracy.
Make sure your resume reflects the keywords and skills the hiring company specifies. If you don’t have the required experience as a transcriptionist, it’s important to show that your specific background has given you the skills you need to be an asset to the company.
Highlight any positions you’ve held where typing speed and accuracy were essential. Mention any experience you have paying close attention to details, along with your ability to process audible information. Since grammar and spelling are also essential parts of transcribing, make sure you include positions where these components of English mattered.
What experience do I need on my resume?
Transcription job descriptions tend to focus on your ability to transcribe audio content accurately, and quickly. Your typing skills need to be solid, so if you haven’t typed much since high school, you should consider taking some free online training to boost your speed and accuracy.
On your resume, you’ll want to highlight your speed and accuracy. If you have experience, use numbers from your past to provide a specific look at your qualifications (ie: 98% accuracy on difficult audio transcription.)
Listening skills are important for transcribers. You may need to transcribe audio from a speaker with a thick accent or a speech impediment. Make sure you highlight your ability to listen on your resume and indicate if you have experience with difficult audio (or with people who can at times be difficult to understand).
Not all audio features the English language, and some companies will specify a preference for candidates who can speak multiple languages in their job description. If you are multilingual, be sure your resume reflects your proficiency in other languages.
What are some typical interview questions?
The hiring company will have some unique questions meant specifically for the role you’re applying for. However, here are some typical questions you might get during a transcriptionist interview:
- Do you double check your work? Give us an example of a time when you caught errors doing this step.
- Tell us about your knowledge of spelling and grammar. Have you ever had a role where they were important?
- Tell us about your organization skills. Many clients require unique systems and software. How would you keep track of this information to ensure you use the proper procedures for each one?
- Why do you want to work for this company? What drew you to this position?
- Do you have the availability in your schedule to meet the required turnaround time?
- What is your experience working remotely?
In addition to the more general questions designed to help the interview committee learn more about you, you’ll likely receive some more role-specific questions such as:
- What would you do if you couldn’t understand part of an audio file you were transcribing?
- What medical specialty do you consider the most difficult to transcribe? Why?
- Describe your training and experience in this industry. Do you hold any certificates?
- When you come across a term in the audio that you don’t understand, what reference materials will you use to learn what the word means?
- The files you will be transcribing are confidential. How will you ensure confidentiality on all materials?
How do I know if something is a scam?
Unfortunately, there are scams in all fields, including transcription work. To help protect yourself from getting scammed, here are some common red flags to watch for:
- Too good to be true. If an opportunity sounds too good to be true in terms of pay, hours, and expectations, it probably is.
- Require too much information. Be cautious of freely giving out your personal information in order to learn more about an opportunity, or in the early stages of requesting information. Your social security number shouldn’t be required to find out the details of a position.
- Pay us before we pay you. Generally speaking, if the company requires you to pay money before landing a job, it’s likely a scam. The exception to this could be a company requesting a background check – if yours does, make sure you thoroughly research both the hiring company and the company used to perform the check before paying.
- No company name or contact information. Legitimate companies want you to spend a little time researching them before you apply. This helps ensure you’re a good fit for both the job and the team. If there is no company name listed, or no contact information is available, it could be a sign of a scam.
Typically, pay for transcribers is either per word or line transcribed, or more commonly, per audio hour. Remember that an audio hour is not how long it takes you to transcribe the file. It's a flat rate for the length of the audio file. It’s estimated that it can take anywhere from three to six hours to transcribe one audio hour depending on the audio quality and number of speakers – and your experience. Divide that audio hour quote by 3 or 4. Is that an hourly wage you can live with?
If the company is promising much more than that, make sure you do your research. Check for independent reviews of the company and see if other people have experience with them.
How do I use remote transcription work as a stepping stone?
This is an important question because you don’t want to be stuck at a low-paying transcription job forever. You can use your beginning position to start gaining the experience you need to break into higher paying ones, or to strike out on your own as a freelancer if that’s what you want to do.
If you find that you enjoy transcription work, you may consider investing in some training to become more specialized. Companies such as TranscribeAnywhere offer both free and paid training courses for both general and legal transcription.
Transcription isn’t for everyone, so even if you don’t decide to make a complete career change your experience hasn’t been wasted. You are gaining important typing skills, learning to manage your time as a remote worker, and learning to work as a contract employee. You’re learning to complete work accurately, on a deadline, and improving your listening skills. These will each help you as you prepare to apply to your dream position.
Originally published on May 1, 2016. Updated May 18, 2018.