Is Transcription Work a Real Thing?


In the “Department of Impossibly Unlikely Jobs” (that’s a fictional department, by the way), I have always imagined that one of the top jobs is the work of the freelance transcriptionist. After all, it does seem too good to be true, and we all know what is said about situations with such characteristics. Yet, it is an authentic “gig” that is becoming more and more viable as technology advances. However, it can be difficult to know just how to get started in this field.

So, let’s begin with the basics – just what is transcription? It is work that takes the spoken word (once limited to a device charmingly called a “Dictaphone” but now possible via audio files of almost any kind) and turns it into a typed document. Most transcription work is done long after the words were spoken, and they might be legal in nature, medical, or creative. For instance, it’s not at all unusual for an author to dictate their texts and have someone else do all of the typing.

Then, there are court transcripts, for example, which are done “live” by a specially trained and certified expert who usually checks their work against the audio recording. This is not the type of transcriber jobs I have assigned to that fictional department mentioned above. Instead, it is all of the rest – the jobs done by someone sitting down with a keyboard and a recording device.

Great, you think to yourself, where do I sign up for that. And I am in wholehearted agreement that this sort of work sounds appealing. After all, it seems like the perfect work for someone eager to stay at home and be productive for many hours at a time. Yet, there is a bit more to know about transcriptionists jobs than the fact that they take recorded words and put them on paper (and that you can often do them in your pajamas and from almost anywhere in the world).

The Salary for a Transcriptionist

Almost anyone who discovers that transcription is indeed a viable job then wants to know about the pay for such work. This is where things can get confusing. Let’s start with what any transcriber jobs emphasize, the pay per audio hour. This is not the same as the hourly rate you might make with a regular employer. Instead, you are usually going to be paid by the hour transcribed.

In other words, your work at the local bookstore pays you $15 per hour before taxes. The work you might take as you begin doing transcribe jobs is going to pay you something in the area of $25 to $50 per hour of audio you transcribe. And before you say, “Fantastic, not only do I stay home to work, but earn far more”, think again.

Why? Because it can take several hours to convert an hour of audio into a full, grammatically correct and properly formatted transcript. So, that could knock down earnings to something in the area of $10 per hour after taxes are set aside.

And note that I said “set aside”. This is because freelance work – whether it is freelance transcriptionist or lion tamer – requires you to do all of the bookkeeping that a traditional employer pays. So, whatever rate you make, you always have to consider what comes out in terms of taxes and other fees.

This is why most with a lot of experience in transcriptionists jobs say that anything less than $50 per audio hour is really pushing the boundaries on profitability or being worth the effort. Yet, I don’t fully agree. Why not? Because these are seasoned experts speaking and they have lots of room to turn down paying gigs.

As someone just now learning about and considering transcriber jobs, it might be entirely acceptable for you to “cut your teeth” as they say on the lower paying work. That is why I would say that a good plan of approach is to follow the steps outlined below.

The Steps to Take When Eager to Succeed at Transcriber Jobs

If you are like me, you might believe that you need nothing more than a computer, set of good headphones and people who need your work in order to get started. That’s not actually true. Consider that transcription can be done in various fields, and you may not have the functional knowledge of terminology in a specific field to do any sort of transcriptionists jobs.

For instance, if you are entirely unfamiliar with all of the Latin terms used in medicine or the law, you might stumble over many of the words used. This could cause you to do badly with your first few jobs or give up altogether. Even if you stick with it and look up words after sounding them out phonetically, the time it takes could be catastrophic to your profit margin.

So, begin with the most general jobs in less formal industries. Maybe there is a fiction writer eager to have their work transferred to written pages or a cook who wants recipes written down…these are great ways to dip your toe into the proverbial waters.

And just how do you do the work? Again, that is an important part of the job and most professionals use machines that feature foot pedals to stop and start the recordings. Why? Imagine moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse to click on the arrows that run your audio player. Now, imagine doing it many times in a five-minute span because something in a recording is unclear. You need to see where in the recording you should rewind, start and stop it accordingly and do the typing along the way. The foot pedal is an amazing resource as it can start, stop and rewind with just a few taps. There is also transcription software that works as an audio player that can integrate with foot pedals. The most famous include Dragon Speech Recognition and Express Scribe, but you can always do your own research to discover other options.

If you are starting with a limited budget, just stick with your computer and a good word processing program like MSWord and you can really do just fine.

So, we know that you need to start with general work rather than specific industries that might be full of technical terms leading to delays in completing a project. We know it can be very helpful to have gear and software that can streamline even simple transcriptionists jobs.

You should also learn how to adjust the speed of playback as slowing down the recordings can often make it far less stressful to capture accurate transcriptions, and reduces the need to start, stop, and go back and forth to get it right.

Once these proverbial ducks are in a row, it is time to take your first jobs and nowhere is it easier to find general transcription work than on sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Amazon’s MTurk.

In fact, if you are a total beginner who has never done any transcription, it is sites like MTurk that are the best bet. Why? Because they usually have transcriber jobs that feature around 20 seconds of audio, and sometimes less. This means you can learn how to do the work without stumbling over an hour or more of recording time. It reduces the level of stress you are going to experience and starts to build your credibility.

Once you are comfortable enough to take longer jobs, go ahead and stick with MTurk or move on to lengthier recordings via Fiverr or full-blown jobs through Upwork. Remember that the goal is to really start to build and then hone your skills to allow you to have the ability and confidence to go after bigger transcriptionists jobs.

Once you are clear about your personal speed and capability, you can then move on to the legit work at home jobs via sites specializing in transcription work.

They include:

Transcribe Me! At the time of this writing, this site was still in BETA but promised to be an excellent channel through which beginners and experts alike could get all kinds of transcriptionists jobs, including jobs in many different languages. Even more appealing is that the site offers everyone transcription, but “as you get more experience, other positions will become available to you.”

Tigerfish This company is one of the oldest and has been around since the 1990s. They adhere to rigid quality guidelines and clearly say they work with an “elite” team of transcribers. Clearly, if you can get your skill set really honed and refined, they could be a lucrative option. To register, you must transcribe one minute of audio, so don’t even try to register until you have really done the legwork and gotten good at a minute or more of accurate and clean transcription.

Rev Another newer site, they also ask you to take an online test and then choose from the jobs that are a good fit to your interests or skills. They work strictly in English and pay their workers on a weekly basis. They say that fulltime workers can make up to $1,495 per month through the site.

Transcribe Anywhere This site indicates that its goal is to actually help aspiring transcriptionists via courses and practical training. Though there is also an employment component to the site, it is a great resource for beginners or those looking to enhance skills to become more competitive in the modern market.

Quicktate This is a great firm for the more advanced as they do everything from voicemail message transcription to full blown medical file and conference call work. Because they adhere to HIPAA requirements, you must pass a background check to get ongoing work.

With that list, you have an ideal way to build skills, enhance existing ones and find work most appropriate to your level of expertise. Yet, you can also head back to sites like Upwork where you can consistently bid for projects of many kinds and give yourself the option of building your own routine or schedule.

Which is best? When looking to begin doing transcriber jobs, there is no universally ideal route. The best transcriptionists jobs are those that are of interest to you. Remember, you not only listen once, but many times. Then, you must listen again and check your work against the recordings. This could mean you hear the same recording for three to four hours in a single day. That is not work ideally suited to everyone, and is reason to pick a subject area that has at least some interest to you.

Develop Additional Streams of Income

As I always like to do when providing anyone with career advice and ways to eliminate debt or boost income, I want to close with a few words about affiliate marketing. While you may not see a natural connection between passive income via affiliate marketing and working in transcriber jobs, there is one.

When you do any sort of work, be it banking, babysitting, pizza delivery, or even transcriptionists jobs, you have a lot of information of value to others. For example, if you are doing transcriber jobs, you are using different software and gear, different websites and employers, and discovering different shortcuts that might help others in your field. These are things you can also blog about, and when you are a blogger, you can easily become an affiliate marketer.

For instance, your work from home success can allow you to write about it. You might write blogs about fitness for the work at home crowd, or how to keep social if you are an introvert working from home. You can write about almost anything to do with the work (except the actual material) and incorporate it into a blog. When you do, it opens the door to the use of affiliate links. Maybe there are “at the desk exercise” books you can promote and then earn income from thanks to the affiliate link. Perhaps there is software that encourages you to promote and become an affiliate?

Transcriptionists jobs are out there and they are real. You can work from home and you can develop a number of income streams as you do, and I encourage you to get started down this fun and enjoyable career path today.


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