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How to Become a Transcriptionist

Freelance work is appealing for a large number of reasons, but it can be difficult to get started.

One of the most popular forms of freelance work is transcribing audio. In this job, you will be asked to take audio recordings and type out the words in them. It isn’t glamorous, but there are many companies that need transcriptionists. Do you think this might be the right kind of job for you?

Why Become a Transcriptionist?

Transcribing audio probably does not sound like the most exciting work, but it is a good option. If it is something that you think you will enjoy, or at least won’t mind doing for a few hours a day, there are benefits that will come your way.

It is important to note that virtually all transcriptionists are independent contractors. This has pros and cons, but the most important thing to take note of is that you will not be an actual employee of any company you work for. This means that you will not receive health benefits or a 401(k). It also means that if there is no work to be done, you will not get paid. You will also have to make sure to keep track of your earnings independently, as you will not have a company tracking them for you. This will be important when tax season rolls around.

However, there are also some real benefits to working as an independent contractor.

You will have considerably more flexibility than a typical employee, as you will have the freedom to choose who you work for and when you work for them. If a period comes up where you expect to be busy, all you need to do is make sure that you haven’t accepted any jobs that will need to be done during that time. For those with a lot of variance in their schedule, this can be a massive benefit to working as an independent contractor.

If the idea of working in a stuffy office does not appeal to you, or even leaves you feeling fatigued or overburdened, then you will definitely appreciate the chance to work from home. When you work as a transcriptionist, you will be meeting with companies online, meaning you can do all of your work from the comfort of your couch or your coziest chair. There is something refreshing about working in a place that allows you to be in your own environment, as opposed to working in a cubicle under fluorescent lights. While the work you have to do may not be all that different from the sorts of tasks you would be taking on in an office, you will be able to do them in a much more comfortable environment.

Another great aspect of working as a transcriptionist is that you will almost always be able to choose your own hours. While the tasks that you elect to take on will have deadlines, it is on you to decide when you would like to knock them out. While it certainly takes a bit of self-control and personal responsibility to avoid putting off tasks until the last minute, you will love having the opportunity to complete your work when it is convenient for you.

If you get a migraine or something comes up between the hours of nine and five, you would normally have to check in with your office and make up the work in your personal time. Working as an independent contractor, you’ll be able to simply adjust your schedule to make sure that everything gets done when it works for you. For people that maintain a fluid schedule or have midday errands to run such as picking up the kids from school, this form of flexibility can be an absolute lifesaver.

One of the reasons that many people pursue work as a transcriptionist is because the work that is done can be tailored to each individual’s skill level. If you are new to doing transcriptions, you can take on lower-paying jobs in less advanced fields. If you have talents that are perfect for work as a transcriptionist, then you may be able to take on more lucrative jobs. Not only will this work offer you lifestyle flexibility, but it will be flexible to your particular abilities.

Very few jobs can offer you such a wide degree of opportunities. Nobody wants to do work that is too easy, but nobody wants to find themselves overburdened by what they have signed up for. By working as a transcriptionist, you will be able to make sure that you are being presented with the right challenge.

So while it is true that there are some real downsides to consider when deciding to work as an independent contractor, there are real positives to take into account as well. You won’t get the benefits or job security of a traditional employee, but you will have the flexibility to make your work fit comfortably into your busy life. If this sounds like a tradeoff that suits you, it may be time to think about working as a transcriptionist.

What are the Challenges of Transcription?

The best thing about being a transcriptionist is that there is work out there for everybody. No matter your skill level, you can probably find work that you are qualified for. As you keep doing the job, you will certainly improve and find yourself more and more ready to take on more difficult work.

What are some of the hurdles that you will overcome along the way? The most difficult aspect of transcription can be one of the harder ones to do much about: poor audio quality. Simply put, it is your job to transcribe whatever is given to you. While sometimes the audio will be recorded on state of the art technology, sometimes you will be working with recordings that were collected on lesser technology.

Sometimes the recordings will be taken in quiet areas with great acoustics, while sometimes there will be a lot of background noise mussing up the clarity of the speech. Many recordings will feature voices that speak clearly, annunciate, and speak at a good volume. Others will feature voices that can be difficult to make out, whether due to their speech patterns or inconsistency with speaking into the microphone.

The trouble with audio quality is that it is entirely out of your hands. You do not get to do anything to improve the quality, which means it will be up to you to make the best of what you get. This will generally not be an issue, but sometimes it will be a difficulty that comes into play. The ability to pick out what somebody is saying in a less-than-ideal recording is one that can be learned, but it is one that can only be learned through experience. It may be frustrating at first, but if you keep your head up and continue working through the difficulties, you won’t have any trouble.

One of the most elusive challenges when it comes to transcribing is grammar. While some people speak in short, direct sentences, others speak in sprawling journeys that don’t fit the normal confines of grammatical correctness. If you struggle with grammar and sentence structure, you may find yourself occasionally trying to put together words as if they were pieces of a puzzle.

A simple trick is to keep sentences as short and simple as possible, only breaking into more complex grammatical structures when truly necessary. However, this will not bail you out of every situation. In the end, you can only work with what you have got. Still, if you are not a natural at turning verbal speech into proper written speech, you may find yourself struggling to make this aspect of transcription work early on. It won’t be the end of the world, but it will be something for you to overcome.

Another struggle when it comes to transcription is your typing speed. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why faster typists are usually better transcribers. While you can always stop a recording to jot down what you remember, being able to type quickly will allow you to move through the process more quickly and transcribe larger chunks of audio between listening sessions. If you type quickly enough, you may even be able to keep up with some slower talkers, though this is not recommended as it can lead to many annoying errors that you have to go back and fix.

Almost nobody types quickly enough to truly keep up with the speed that most people speak, which is why typing speed is less about matching the pace of the speaker and more about being able to put more words on the page at a time. You will find yourself starting and stopping recordings often when transcribing, but if you type quickly then you will probably be able to make a quicker go of things.

The last major problem that people run into when they begin transcribing is simply being able to commit enough time to it. While you don’t have to take on any more work than you would like to, the lower paying jobs will not feel rewarding when it takes you several hours to complete them. This is one of the biggest reasons why people often quit working as transcriptionists before they have even really gotten started.

If you are able to commit a good chunk of time to the work and learn the ins and outs of efficient transcription, there is no reason that you will not be able to start making decent money in a short amount of time. However, do not be fooled into thinking that this is free money or unskilled work. You can be good at transcription, but you can also be bad at it.

If you are willing to take the time to work out the kinks and harness your strengths, you will absolutely be able to get good work as a transcriptionist. Once you reach that point, the biggest question becomes how much money you will really be able to make.

How Much Money Will You Make as a Transcriptionist?

This is a difficult question to answer, as there are several variables that go into how much money a transcriptionist makes. However, the important answer is that it is possible to make enough to turn it into a career. However, few people ever get to that point. For most, it is a useful way to make some money on the side.

While it is nice that just about anybody can find work as a transcriptionist by signing up for one of the Internet’s many transcription sites, the work that is generally available to beginners does not usually pay well. You may find yourself making $10 or $15 an hour, but you may find yourself making less than minimum wage if you are slow or unable to find decent jobs.

One of the most important skills in transcription has nothing to do with the actual work. What it really comes down to for most people is finding worthwhile work to do. On this end of the deal, the name of the game is diligence.

Sign up for a few websites after reading reviews and figuring out which ones seem to have the happiest transcriptionists. Keep track of the kinds of jobs that are coming around, as you may not begin with much of an idea of what is really good work and what is a waste of time.

After taking on a few jobs, you will probably be able to start sorting out the best jobs from those that are less desirable. Once you are able to comfortably make this distinction, the focus becomes simply getting good at finding the work that you enjoy doing. You will probably have to monitor the opportunities closely, but before long you will probably be able to start getting more desirable work.

The number one reason that people quit pursuing work as transcriptionists is because they don’t think that they will be able to consistently find worthwhile work. If you stick with it, this will almost certainly be a hurdle that you can overcome.

If you are able to specialize in legal and medical transcriptions, you will be able to make more money. These fields often involve complicated terminology that scares off many beginner transcriptionists, which is why you will have to take the time to become comfortable with the type of work that will be asked of you. However, this is one of the best ways to get reliable work that pays well.

If you really want to take your transcription work to the next level, develop your abilities and start networking. Find companies that may need the work done but aren’t advertising on the job boards you frequent, as they may be open to hiring you.

In the end, the best way to make good money as a transcriptionist is to become efficient, both in your ability to transcribe and in your ability to find good work. If you take the time to become a top-end transcriptionist, you can find yourself with enough money to support yourself. If you treat it like a no-skill job, you will probably end up with peanuts.

The money is out there, so now it is your job to go get it. With a little bit of diligence, you will find yourself making the kind of cash you want in no time.