Is Online Transcription Work Worth It?

Updated on April 28, 2020
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana is a frugal DIY addict who is always testing fitness and work-from-home ideas as well as natural health tips for both humans and pets.

Is online transcription the job for you?
Is online transcription the job for you? | Source

The Allure Is Obvious

Do the following sound good?

  • Work from home
  • Set your own hours
  • Great earning potential
  • Be your own boss
  • No joining fees
  • Get paid weekly

All of these hooks have been used by transcription sites to lure new freelancers.

Let's get one thing clear: Online transcription work is not a scam. Most sites will never ask for dodgy things like joining fees or a one-time deposit for whatever nonsense. The work is legitimate. There really are audio and video clips waiting to be transcribed by you for money.

That being said, it's not an easy field to break into, the competition is tough and many companies pay peanuts.

Training for the Test

Once again, legitimate companies freely provide light training. You can download their rules and preferences regarding transcription styles such as full and clean verbatim. This is the first barrier hopeful transcriptionists run into. The sales pitch sounded great but now that you're at the company's door, they hand you the training material and require that you pass a test with high marks.

Quality work is desirable. In that regard, it's understandable why there's an entrance exam. In any case, any training for a novice is valuable. You can study the material at your own time and when ready, take the online test. Depending on the company, an applicant must score 90 percent or higher in order to join their stable of transcriptionists. The thought can be daunting, but often the exam is just a short clip to be transcribed. You must then wait between three weeks and three months to hear whether you passed or failed.

Transcribers will encounter recorded professional settings like meetings and interviews. Background noise and many speakers can make transcription difficult.
Transcribers will encounter recorded professional settings like meetings and interviews. Background noise and many speakers can make transcription difficult. | Source

The Equipment

Transcription requires equipment. Some elements could already be in your possession, but others can be expensive to acquire. It's best to wait until you passed your exam and completed a few jobs to see if you want to continue in this field. Should you love a future in transcription work, then you'll need the following:

  • Excellent headphones
  • Foot pedal to pause clips (this leaves your hands free to type)
  • Software to enhance the sound
  • Computer
  • Internet connection

What They Don't Tell You

Once you ace the exam and can take jobs, a disheartening reality surfaces. There's no work specifically earmarked for you. All available clips are placed in a kind of free-for-all page where transcriptionists can choose the work they want. It allows you to pick what you want, like higher-paying jobs and the clear audio pieces that take less time to transcribe. The problem? Everyone wants those and they compete like vultures. Sometimes, you're still listening to a test sample to decide whether you want it and somebody snatches it by clicking the tab that makes it their project. It's a first come, first serve kind of situation.

There are people who make a decent living off such sites. They have the equipment and experience. They're dedicated. The trouble is that competing with established transcriptionists in an open marketplace can leave beginners with the scraps.

Speaking of Scraps

During training, you are taught how to mark words that are difficult to hear. However, nobody truly grasps the frustration of bad audio until they deal with their first disaster—and it can certainly feel like one. Some clips are brilliant. You can hear just fine what is being discussed but it's common for clips to have serious problems.

You'll encounter some of the following:

  • Personal interviews being held in public places where cutlery, announcements, and background conversations drown out the main speakers.
  • Voices so poorly recorded the words sound like an alien language distorted through a long tube.
  • A group that laughs and talks over one another, making it impossible to know who's speaking.
  • A speaker with a strong accent and worse, the sound quality is poor.
  • Clips in foreign languages.
  • Individuals using business jargon, terms or name places (you're expected to research their spelling and context).
  • Sound that remains too soft no matter how high you turn it up.

The best way to establish a career in transcription is to gain experience. Start slowly and accept a job when you have a few free hours.
The best way to establish a career in transcription is to gain experience. Start slowly and accept a job when you have a few free hours. | Source


Transcription sites are strict. To uphold quality work, they tend to have brutal rules. Some grade transcriptionists according to a point system or something similar. Fall below a certain bar and you're kicked off the team. One can also earn penalties for not meeting deadlines or taking too long to return a clip you cannot complete. Needless to say, this can be nerve-wracking for a novice.

Time and Payment

Some sites set deadlines, which often ends within hours after choosing a job. So "setting your own hours" is only true until you accept a project. Then it is a rush to complete or risk a penalty. A few hours sounds like enough time but not when you're new at this and struggling to hear the speakers. Then a 10-minute piece really can take three or four hours.

Clips are commonly between 2 and 60 minutes long. Pay ranges between $1 to $2.80 per clip.

The Experience Is Worth it

Transcription sites are fine when you're looking to earn pocket money. But if you're desiring full-time employment, use them to gain experience. Why? The big money is paid to transcriptionists with experience who work directly with the client. For this reason, freelance platforms offer the most lucrative offers. There is also competition, but it's fairer. The client picks the freelancer. They look at your experience, your work ethic and offer much better pay. The work is not snatched by the first person who gets the chance.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jana Louise Smit


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Jana Louise Smit profile imageAUTHOR

      Jana Louise Smit 

      12 months ago from South Africa

      Thank you. I wish you all the best should you decide to give it another go. :)

    • Larry Slawson profile image

      Larry Slawson 

      12 months ago from North Carolina

      Interesting. I've tried transcription work in the past. Might have to give it another shot. Thank you for sharing :)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)