A mechanical keyboard enthusiast for 8 years, I recently plunged into the gateway drug that is the DIY keyboard/PCB kit.
What Is transcription?
Transcription is probably one of the easiest work-at-home gigs to get into. It involves typing out spoken material from an audio file. The audio content can be a variety of things, such as a formal or informal interview, focus group, or lecture, and the material is frequently interesting. Finished transcripts will have strict formatting requirements, and your source audio may not always be the best quality. Often, speakers mumble, talk over each other, or have difficult-to-follow accents. The work is both challenging and rewarding.
Medical, legal, and translation transcription are specialized areas that require more experience or additional education. Medical transcribing includes doctor-patient conversations for patient records and requires training due to the medical terminology. Legal transcribing involves courtroom hearings, conversations between lawyers and clients, and other related content where a legal background will help you immensely. Translating, of course requires mastery of more than one language.
How Much Does Transcription Pay?
The hourly pay rate for transcribing audio varies depending on how fast you can put out quality work. Websites frequently pay $10 to $20 per audio hour. So, if it takes you three hours to transcribe one hour of audio, you’re looking at only $3 to $6 per working hour. And believe me, you will be slow at first.
How quickly you can turn out work will depend less on your typing speed and more on your grammar skills, ability to format text efficiently, and familiarity with company style guides. The less you need to look up rules, the faster you will be. It’s really a matter of practice. Don’t expect to pull in $1,000 in just four weeks!
Once you are approved to work for a transcription website, a reasonable goal in your first month is $50, with an average $250 being the norm for those looking to supplement an existing income. With dedication, your skills will improve, and you can make a respectable $1,000 each month. The more time you can put into it, the more you’ll make.
How do I get started?
This is an online work-from-home job that requires a high-speed internet connection and a PC with audio capability. It’s not demanding in terms of hardware, so even those with older machines will do fine. Transcription really doesn’t have any fancy requirements to get going.
If you don’t already have a good typing speed, get it up to at least 55 WPM (words per minute). Most sites recommend transcription applicants be at 70 WPM, but you can start working sooner. The sites care less about your speed than they do about your quality. So long as you meet the assignment deadline, they’re still only paying you based on the audio itself. A slower typing speed doesn’t affect them much, but it has a direct impact on your personal profitability. It is in your best interest to improve as a typist, but don’t let it stop you from getting started now!
Some transcription companies have built-in audio players, but most do not. You can use whatever player came on your PC when you're first starting out. Keep in mind, you will be starting and stopping audio as you type to catch up with the speaker. It helps to have software that allows you to adjust playback speed as well, but you can get by without for a little while. ExpressScribe has a free version of their software you can download that lets you type your transcript right in their app and has keyboard shortcuts for playback options. There’s no reason not to download it right away.
It will be helpful to bookmark a few grammar sites in advance for both the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook. Companies will use these in addition to their own style guides for general formatting rules. Their guide will let you know which is the preferred format. If you encounter something that is not covered in their company guide, you will need to refer to one of these.
Now, get ready for your assessments!
What Do I Need to Know About Assessments?
Each transcription company you apply to will require a skill assessment, and you should apply to several. Tests can include a question and answer portion that will help assess your grammar skills, but all will include actual audio files to transcribe. Make sure you download and thoroughly read the company style guide you are provided. This 15-to-30-page document will differ between each website, so it’s easiest to do one application per day to help keep your rules straight. There is very little room for error in these tests, as the number of applicants is enormous, so take your time!
Some audio files will only be 30 seconds in length, while others might be as long as 10 minutes. Most sites require you to transcribe three separate audio files for an accurate sampling of your work. Some even give you practice files. If this is your first time transcribing, you will feel discouraged by how long it takes you to transcribe only 10 minutes of audio. Don’t worry; you will improve. Take your time. Because of the number of applicants, most sites won’t let you attempt the same test again for six months. Failure essentially bars you from working with that particular company for half a year, thus limiting your income capabilities.
Transcribe your work somewhere you can save it. Do not type your audio transcriptions for your testing directly into a browser. If your computer freezes, you will lose your work and have to start your transcription again from scratch. Notepad is fine for testing. Save your work frequently and paste it into the browser when you are finished to submit it.
Companies will give you a pass/fail response immediately. Should you pass, you will have your account activated and be able to start working within the week. That’s it! You can get started transcribing now!
Beginner-Friendly Transcription Sites
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.