Working For TranscribeMe: Is It Worth It?
TranscribeMe is an online transcription web site. People send audio files to them, and other people get paid to listen to those audio files and type them out. They seem to be one of the most reputable and popular online transcription websites around right now.
If you're considering joining TranscribeMe, you might be wondering if it's worth your time. When I was thinking about joining the site, I did a little bit of research beforehand, and what I found were mixed opinions. Some people said it was great (if you are good at transcribing), and others said it was a complete waste of time.
Although I was quite hesitant thanks to the negative reviews I read, I decided to join the site anyway. I've been transcribing with them for about five months now, I think it's fairly safe to say that I've spent enough time doing this that I have developed a well-informed opinion. Here's what it's like to be a transcriptionist at TranscribeMe from someone who's been at it a little while.
The Signup Process
I'll start with what it takes to actually sign up. You do have to pass an exam before you can start transcribing. This test proves to them that you can actually do a decent job. They can't take just anybody now, can they?
Let me warn you, the test isn't exactly a piece of cake. It's designed to make sure you can adhere to their rules and do things exactly the way they want them done. Study up on their style guide and transcriber handbook.
You have two attempts to pass the exam. After that, you have to wait 30 days to try again. I have a degree in English, I've been writing for many years, and I did quite a bit of studying before taking the test. I still failed it the first time. Luckily, I passed the second time and was in.
In addition to passing their test, you must provide a scanned copy of your driver's license or ID. After these two steps, the signup process is complete, and you can begin taking work. Now, onto what it's like to actually do the work.
I'll start with the pay because—let's be honest—that's why we're really here in the first place. TranscribeMe currently pays $20 per audio hour. That was the main thing that hooked my attention. Pay is sent to you via PayPal. You can request a payout as soon as you have reached $20, and they are sent every Thursday.
Please note that the pay is based on audio hours, not actual hours spent. This means that your pay is based on how quickly you can type out those files. Some files will be more time-consuming than others, and you will almost certainly have to play the file back several times to make sure your work is accurate.
When I first started out, I averaged a measly $4 per hour spent. Where I live, that is less than half the minimum wage. It took me about four minutes to transcribe every minute of audio. Now that I've been at it a little while, I'm up to averaging about $10 per hour spent. That's still below the minimum wage in the state I live in.
Granted, I'm in California, and the cost of living is high here. $10 an hour really doesn't get you very far at all. I personally consider this to be really lousy pay. However, in areas where the cost of living and the minimum wage are lower, this can end up being a fairly lucrative gig.
The Kinds of Work You'll Be Doing
If you're new to transcribing, I'd like to warn you that it's not nearly as easy as it seems. You will have to transcribe the words of people who don't speak English very well, who might have thick accents, who mumble, who use strange slang you've never heard before, who speak complete jibberish and can't really form a sentence that makes any sense, who are speaking on cell phones that have crappy connections, who have someone else trying to talk over them, who have music playing in the background, and so on.
It's your job to figure out what the heck is coming out of these people's mouths and type it out so that it can be read and understood. That's not always easy.
The Accuracy Requirements
TranscribeMe wants their transcribers to be as accurate as possible and understandably so. They have to make sure they provide good services for their customers.
They will have editors checking your work after you turn it in. Their job is to catch any mistakes you may have made. They will make changes to your file if they feel it's necessary. You are allowed to have up to 30% of your file corrected before it's rejected. If your file is rejected, you likely won't get paid for it. If you ask me, 30% is a lot of room for error. Even on my very worst days, I have never had an editor correct more than 12% of a single job.
Don't tell anyone I told you this, but I want to give you a little tip about accuracy. Don't fret too much over it! I've seen other transcribers on the forums spend over an hour on one file because they can't figure out what is the correct punctuation for a certain situation, they can't decide how to get the formatting just perfect, or they can't figure out how a person's name is spelled.
The editors are there for a reason, and nothing bad will happen to you if they have to make a few corrections on your file! Time is money, so be careful not to spend too much time trying to make everything perfect.
"Work as Little or As Much as You Want"
"All work is currently assigned. Please check back shortly for more work and thank you for working with TranscribeMe." Get used to these two sentences. You're going to be seeing them a lot.
The biggest problem I've found with TranscribeMe is that there is never any work available. When you log in, you are thrown into a queue behind all the other transcribers who are currently online and working. If they logged in first, they get first dibs on the work that's available. You have to wait until someone else logs out and leaves work on the table. Sure, technically you can work as much or as little as you want, but they don't bother to tell you that they like to keep all of their transcribers fighting for crumbs.
I log in daily, first thing in the morning. There is rarely any work available at that point, so I go about my other business and check back later. I usually check several times a day. It is not uncommon to go an entire day or even several days without ever being able to get any work at TranscribeMe.
When am lucky enough to actually get some work upon logging in, I drop everything and power through it. I work until there is no more work available. I have never been assigned more than eight files in one sitting before I get that dreaded message that all work has been assigned. At that point, I have to log back off and try again later.
Help and Guidance
If you happen to need some help with your account, or if you have a problem of any kind, you're on your own. TranscribeMe does have a support desk set up for users to submit help tickets, although I'm not sure what for. Over the few months I've been using TranscribeMe, I've submitted several help tickets (many of which involve missing payments), and I have never received a response from them.
Let me repeat that. I have never, ever, received a single response from TranscribeMe to any of the many help tickets I have submitted. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I have been cursed with invisible emails. Either way, it's incredibly frustrating that they have such a disregard for their transcriptionists.
If you happen to need any help, you're better off checking out the forums. The community of transcribers on TranscribeMe's forums is very helpful and eager to offer advice. You're much more likely to get help from them if you find yourself in that position.
Is It Really Worth It?
So, is transcribing for TranscribeMe really worth it? In my humble opinion, no. I say this because, as I mentioned before, the pay per hour spent is below the minimum wage in my area. Considering it's a work-from-home job, though, I would be happy to overlook that if they actually offered a consistent flow of work. I don't think I've ever made more than $30 a day from TranscribeMe. It's much more common that I'll make nothing in a day because of the lack of work available.
Last week, I decided to try treating TranscribeMe like a full-time job. I took on as much work as possible to try to fill eight hours per day for five days. Of course, there was not enough work to even come close to meeting that goal. Can you guess how much money I made that week? I totaled out at a measly $42.00. So much for making it a full-time gig! I kept getting that dreaded "All work is assigned" message and had to keep checking back.
TranscribeMe is an okay side-hustle if you really need to turn your free time into a few dollars, but don't expect to actually make any kind of decent money doing this. Until this company actually has a steady flow of work for their transcribers, I give them a big thumbs-down.
What Do You Think?
What about you? Do you have any experience working with TranscribeMe? What about another online-transcribing company? I'd love to hear your story in the comments!
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.