In my article about why we still need humans to do transcription work, I promised to give you some insights into transcription as a career. Here are some pointers to give you an idea of what you need to know in advance, the skills and software you need, and ways to get work in this field – plus some pitfalls to avoid.
What is transcription?
I cover this in detail in another article, but basically transcription is what we used to call audio-typing – turning recordings of spoken words into documents containing those words written down. There is quite a lot of call for transcription work of various kinds as we’ll see in a moment. But the work basically involves putting on a headset or ear phones, and typing out what you can hear on a tape.
What kinds of transcription job are available?
Personally, I’ve worked on the following kinds of transcription job, which just shows how varied it can be:
- Journalists interviewing musicians and actors
- Someone interviewing their elderly parent in order to write a memoir for them
- Academics and students interviewing subjects for their research
- Students’ role-plays for learning how to provide phone counselling
- Presentations at international conferences
- Panels at conferences including questions
- Discussion panels for market research companies
- Podcasts by one person so they can provide transcriptions to their listeners
- Podcasts of one person interviewing another
- Free and paid-for telecasts (phone-in sessions where people listen to a speaker)
- Free and paid-for teleseminars (as above but with questions and discussion)
- Content for a book, dictated in the first instance before being edited
There are also specific roles that people can take on who have particular specialised skills such as legal proceedings or letters and medical transcription.
All of these clients have had different requirements in terms of the level of detail, time stamping, etc. but all have provided variety and interest!
Am I suited for transcription work?
In essence, the answer comes down to these three points:
- How fast do you type? You need to be able to type really fast to be able to make enough money (see below)
- How careful are you with your posture? (sounds odd, but sitting in one position typing like mad for hours is the highest risk part of my job for RSI)
- How good are you at using Word and its autocorrect features? (this makes a lot of difference to your speed – see the section on technology below)
The best way to find out if you’re suitable for this kind of work is to practise before you’re doing a paid job. Learn from me, here! I did train as an audio typist, with a foot pedal and a tape player back in the old days. So when a journalist I followed on Twitter asked if anyone offered transcription, I went for and got the job. Fine, I did lovely fast typing but I was using Windows Media Player to play the tape, switching windows to start, pause and rewind it. That first tape took me hours! I wish I’d known what I know now about technology and how to actually do it!
Technology for transcription work
There’s quite a lot to the technology for transcription, so I’ve written a separate article about working as a professional transcriber which includes loads of detail on this and other aspects.
In essence, you will need:
- a word-processing package
- software to manage your recordings
- ways to receive large files – you need to know about dropbox, yousendit and other services
How do I work out if I’m suitable for transcription work?
If anyone asks me about how to find out if they’re suitable for transcription work I tell them to do this:
- Record an hour of general conversation, interviews, etc. from the radio
- Get the technology set up (see separate article) and transcribe it
- Work out how many minutes it takes you to transcribe one audio minute
I’d say you’re looking for at least a 1:3 relationship here. That’s 3 minutes to transcribe one minute of tape. Not long! you cry. But that means it will take 45 minutes to transcribe a 15-minute tape, or 3 hours to transcribe a 1-hour tape. Build in the fact that you need to take a break at least once an hour, and good old cash rears its ugly head.
Can I make money doing transcription?
Here’s the thing it all boils down to:
If you can’t type fast and use the technology to boost your speed, it’s not financially worthwhile to take on transcription work.
The standard industry rate for transcription is around £0.85 per audio minute. That’s £8.50 for a 10-minute file. If it takes you 1 hour to type out a 10-minute file, you’re going to make £8.50. Before tax. But if you can get two of those done in an hour, you’re getting £17.00 an hour – not so bad.
Some companies have standard rates and pay more. Personally, I stick to that rate for one to two speakers speaking clear English in a relatively quiet room, with a turnaround time that allows me some room for manoeuvre, and I add £0.10 per minute for urgent work, extra speakers, noisy tapes, etc. And if any of my music journalist clients are reading this, yes, I give fellow freelancers a discount (and other people a discount at my discretion, based on the quality of the tapes and the time it takes me to transcribe them).
There are internet job boards out there trying to hire transcribers for £0.10 per audio minute – honestly. The more people accept these prices, the more they will stay. I have more self-worth than that, and even when I was starting out, I’d rather do a transcription for free in return for a reference than do hack work for a corporation paying peanuts. Rant over!
How do I get transcription work?
There are loads of sources of transcription work. I have to say that my main one is personal recommendation – strings of journalists, etc. But it’s also worth trying the following:
- Set up a saved Twitter search for “need transcriber” and contact people with an offer. This can work – it’s how I got my first transcription client!
- If you are near a university that has a lot of research going on, ask to put up some posters offering your services. A lot of researchers conduct interviews and need them to be transcribed.
- Tell your editing or other clients that you’re offering this new service – I’ve transitioned clients to and from transcription services.
- Join reputable job sites like Proz which advertise transcription jobs at decent prices.
- Use social media and tell all your contacts what you’re doing
- Join transcribers’ groups on LinkedIn, etc. – there are often people looking to pass on overflow work
I would strongly suggest that you don’t just do transcription work full time. It’s very physically tiring, you can get RSI from all the typing and sore ears from the earphones (I’ve got a sore ear at the moment and I’ve been doing this for years!) so add it into the mix, and remember to take a break every hour of typing!
This article has helped you work out if you’re suited for transcription work and given you some hints and tips. Have you found it useful? Please comment if you have, and let me know how you get on!
If you want to learn more about Transcription as a career, buy my book: A Quick Guide to Transcription as a Career – buy from Amazon UK or visit the book’s web page for worldwide links and news.
Related posts in the series:
Why you need a human to do your transcription
Being a professional transcriber – software to use to help
March 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm
Very informative! I would say – having given it a go and found it wasn’t for me (as you know) – it’s a lot more intense than I expected!
So yes, the ‘test yourself’ tip is well worth doing – what I didn’t account for when I was testing, was that the first hour or so seems like a cake walk. When I then did it for real I found myself, 6 or so hours in, fingertips bleeding (not really) and tears shorting my keyboard (not really, but almost), kicking myself for being so blase and over confident!
It’s definitely interesting work – you get to hear about/learn all sorts of fascinating stuff! But you do need a lot of stamina and focus. I now see it more as a superpower than a mere skill! 😉
Liz at Libro
March 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm
Thank you for your report from the transcription face, Lyndsey, and yes, you have a point there. Stamina is all!
July 31, 2013 at 10:42 am
This is a nicely write-up. I really like your informative tips and Implement because I agree with you odesk test is an ever changing, as what you learn today maybe outdated tomorrow. I am very glad to here. Good job. Thanks.
Liz at Libro
July 31, 2013 at 10:45 am
Thank you for your comment and for sharing your thoughts. We certainly need to keep up to date with changes in our industries!
August 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm
I find this very interesting as I was asked to do some transcription work and I didn’t know what it really involves. What brings a question, can this be done with a partner?
Liz at Libro
August 14, 2013 at 8:27 pm
Thanks for your comment! I’m not quite sure what you mean about doing it with a partner – I don’t think two people could work on the same transcription as you get used to the voices you are hearing and that efficiency would get lost. If that’s not what you meant, do clarify and I will be happy to try to answer your question.
January 10, 2014 at 2:46 am
Thank you for the info. I will be getting laid off at the end of February and I was looking into doing transcribing. I have been researching a lot of websites and You give a lot more in depth info than the other websites. I thought I would have to take classes in transcribing but maybe not. Thank you
Liz at Libro
January 10, 2014 at 3:38 pm
Thank you for your comment. You might benefit from having a look at my book, which gathers all of this information into one place and suggests how to set yourself up, get trained and progress in your career. Best of luck with your new career.
February 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm
The article was good and it made me to look at the drawbacks I had and it was like good advice for me. Wow! wonderful. Keep it up!
February 10, 2014 at 6:09 pm
How much would you say is a good rate for a beginner transcriber to request/accept?
Liz at Libro
February 10, 2014 at 6:12 pm
Thank you for your comment. It depends on the industry, customer and type of work you are looking at doing. I present industry-standard rates on my website for the kind of work I do, and many people do this, so it should be possible to search for a similar type of work to what you plan to do, see what others are charging, and base your rates on that.
March 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm
Thank you this was very useful info I have gotten from you
March 10, 2014 at 9:44 am
I am retired & am going to start a transcription business. I think the most important thing to remember when you do transcription is to realize any job will tire you out, but transcription has a lot of benefits that far outweigh being tired. If you do it with the right attitude, you can learn to really enjoy typing & you get a lot of wonderful ideas & information you would not get otherwise. The business is not as stressful as some of these writers tend to make you believe. It can really be quite rewarding & I suggest when you transcribe, to be rested, motivated & type realizing you have a gift that a lot of people do not possess.
I did transcription for local law enforcement for several years & really felt I made a worthwhile contribution to society as a whole. I love transcription & hope others will find it to be a awesome experience!
Liz at Libro
March 10, 2014 at 9:47 am
I agree that it can be a very worthwhile and fulfilling job; you do have to be careful of the physical aspects that risk RSI, though, and make sure that you look after yourself and take frequent breaks. My transcription clients are some of my favourite clients, and I learn all sorts of things from the tapes I work on; I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. But I think sometimes people think if they can type and they don’t know what career to go into, this will be an easy one, and it’s not particularly easy if you’re not skilled, fast and careful to look after yourself. I’d rather prevent people hurting themselves by giving them a realistic idea of this, because I know at least two people who have rushed into this kind of work and hurt their wrists and backs. I hope you enjoy your new business!
March 10, 2014 at 6:43 pm
I’ve been doing transcription for about 8 years now, and honestly, it’s not a business where you can just “start” doing it. It takes a lot of patience, a lot of scrutiny from others, and a lot of time to learn how to use grammar properly, a lot of time to figure out spellings of certain words, and how certain words are used. When I first started, I took a course on Medical Transcription. I thought oh, this is going to be great, I can work from home, all I have to do is take this course and get a job from home. Doesn’t quite work like that. If you do get your certificate for MT, that does not guarantee you a job right away. I was so frustrated my first year, absolutely no one would hire me. If you wanted to work from a company online, you had to have in-house work experience either in a hospital or doctor’s office. I tried so many different companies, and it was hopeless, nobody was interested in me, period. Then, when I went to get a job in-house at a hospital, guess what? They wouldn’t hire me either! You could imagine my frustration at this point. Finally, after applying to job after job I found Guru.com. I found different jobs that were available…but at a very low cost, I’m talking $16 per audio hour. So if it takes you an hour to complete 20 minutes, you’re making literally less than minimum wage, like $4.00 an hour (I’m not certain on the math, but I think that’s what it boils down to, I can spell, not do math!). And when I first started, I was slow as molasses. My husband wanted to kill me, he kept telling me I was wasting my time. Eventually, I was told about general transcription. You don’t even need a certificate to do general transcription work, and it’s easier to get jobs this way. You can look up general transcription work in Google and find tons of companies. After this many years of doing this work, I finally have found a company that pays very reasonably, gives out plenty of work (but allows you to pick and choose how much you want and when it’s due), and I’m not as worried about whether anything will be coming in that month. The only problem is, if something comes up and you can’t do the work, they will charge you! And seriously, I do not blame them one bit because a lot of transcribers have a problem meeting deadlines, and it can be costly to the company. So as long as you do your work and get it on time, the company treats you really well. It’s Law Enforcement transcription, which can be really fun, really sad, or really boring, but it’s way better than transcribing a doctor speaking medical jargon that you can’t really fully understand.
The point is, if this is what you’re passionate about and you think you can do the work, and also realize that it’s not as easy as it looks, you can definitely find a type of transcription that works for you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it! I’ve had horrible transcription companies tell me I was the worst transcriptionist they had ever seen, but yet several others tell me I was the best they had ever seen. It might just be that that person was having a bad day, or that you really are horrible! Just keep trying, and don’t give up. I didn’t and now I make about 20 to sometimes 30 an hour, but sometimes less depending on the quality of the audio. Something that might normally take you an hour to transcribe could take you 4 hours to transcribe. It just depends on how well you understand people and accents, how fast you can follow along, and how long you can sit in front of a computer screen. My advice is to get up at least every half hour and walk around, take a deep breath, maybe work on a different assignment; all of these things can help you get through an audio, especially a bad one!
Good luck, everyone!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Liz at Libro
March 10, 2014 at 6:51 pm
Thanks so much for sharing your experience in such a clear-headed and useful way – I really appreciate that. I’ve never gone down the medical route, but I know it’s specialised and you need particular qualifications. But it’s amazing how many companies contact you out of the blue to try to get you to do that kind of work – no thank you! Best wishes for a good on-going career and no RSI!
February 18, 2018 at 5:36 pm
Wonderful journey to make a good pay per hour. Thanks for sharing.
April 1, 2014 at 9:25 am
When you ‘test yourself’, as you suggest above, should you be typing everything perfectly i.e. pausing to go back and correct typos, etc, or do you just type away, and then correct any errors later? Should you format correctly as you go or, again, it that usually done later? Thanks!
Liz at Libro
April 1, 2014 at 9:28 am
Good question. I would say do as I do when I’m transcribing – correct things you see that you can pop back easily and see, set up shortcuts for anything you find you’re mistyping a lot, and then go back over and check what you’ve done, run a spell-check etc.
I usually format afterwards, so if the client wants their questions in italics, that gets done after the piece is typed out.
April 1, 2014 at 10:12 am
April 26, 2014 at 6:14 am
Good Information and very helpful for new comers
July 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm
Hi! Just stumbled upon this article and enjoyed it. I do have a question or two for you though, if you don’t mind. I just got accepted to a general transcription company as a freelancer (rev.com) as well as Appen Online and have one application pending with Scribie. These are all work from home over the internet jobs where they need a minimum amount of hours per week or month but basically you make your own schedule. I figured that I should apply and hope to get accepted to as many as 3 to 5 different companies in order to secure enough work to make the money I need. I would love for this to potentially be my main source of income and I have a great knowledge of the English language and can deal well with understanding English spoken with multiple foreign accents. Do you think that I could make this work or is transcribing a much more stable job for those with certification? My other question is, do you know how often the need for general transcription fluctuates and what steps could I take after getting this experience to get my foot in the door with a potentially permanent position with a company or business? Thanks for taking the time to read this, I really appreciate it.
Liz at Libro
July 6, 2014 at 8:59 am
Hello Kali, and thanks for your comment. First of all, I must comment that my experience is as a freelancer rather than as someone who has worked in a permanent position; this gives me flexibility but a slightly different perspective.
If you are working from home for transcription agencies, I would be careful about how much they pay you. Practise first to see how long it takes you to translate x minutes of tape, then work out if the per-minute rate they are offering you will make you enough per hour to pay your bills and cover your living expenses. As you get more experienced and get more work from the agencies, keep reviewing what you are making from them per hour, and concentrate on the best-paying (or the most quick-paying and easiest to work with). Keep reviewing and changing until you have a good suite of clients.
I would also suggest building a simple website (even just one page) detailing your experience (check from the agencies whether you can mention working for them and keep it as general as you can) and the types of work you cover (there’s information on this blog about using WordPress to build that, just search WordPress in the search box or look at the category). Then you can take some private clients as well – working direct will give you the client’s full fee, not the agency fee minus their cut.
I don’t find that the need for transcription fluctuates, but I work in lots of different fields. There are transcription discussion lists in the US and it’s worth joining a couple to get support and information there, too. Once you are building experience and good feedback (try to get references from as many clients as possible, check that you can use them on your website and CV and make the most of them), that will help you to get ahead in this business area.
if you’re new to transcription, do look at my other articles in the series (or my book, link on this article) to make sure you look after yourself and don’t strain or exhaust yourself.
Good luck and let me know how you get on!
July 7, 2014 at 9:05 am
Thank you for the information. Can you also help me on current project? please add me on skype iannox1
Liz at Libro
July 7, 2014 at 9:18 am
Thanks for your comment, if you need to get in touch about something specific, please use my contact form on the website. Many thanks.
July 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm
I’m about to start training with a transcription agency who have steadily built a strong reputation for itself. However, the pay stands at 0.42p per minute. I’ve worked out that their pay covers the national minimum for England, £6.31. I’ve realised that this is lower than what you charge. As I’m young (fresh out of uni as an English graduate), I was wondering if you agreed with it making sense that I still sign up with this agency, given I pass all of the required tests, and then after a few months, or as soon as I feel consistent and competent enough with my transcribing skills, to then branch and seek private clients via the methods you’ve listed: adverts in universities, twitter etc.
Many thanks for your help,
Liz at Libro
July 31, 2014 at 6:31 am
Thanks for your question, Aneesa. If you have passed the tests and don’t have any other transcription work, then I don’t see a problem with this, provided the agency pays on time and the amount they say. They may charge (thus pay) more for urgent work or specialist texts, so that might help you build your income, plus you’ll get faster as you go along. I usually transcribe at about 20 minutes in an hour, which would give me £8.40 an hour. Make sure they give you a variety of texts and note down the subject areas you work on for your website (esp if you get any legal or medical). Go for it, and good luck!
September 19, 2014 at 11:59 pm
Agreed except for the fact that if you can’t find work that doesn’t require references and all you have are your high school teachers and your family priest, then you HAVE to work for that $.10 per audio minute if you have to work to survive. And you have a Macintosh. And you’re relying on public internet coffee shop wi-fi for your internet. And, and, and. I have a law degree and get turned down regularly for legal transcription even though I type fast enough because they assume that that law degree didn’t confer with it legal terminology knowledge. And yada yada yada……
Liz at Libro
September 20, 2014 at 5:35 am
Sorry to hear about your difficult situation, Pamela. If you can privately send me your transcription CV, if I get offered legal work I will give them your details although I don’t get offered it very often and I can’t promise anything, obviously. And yes, in extremis, we all take jobs with low rates or bad conditions, and I’d never criticise someone for doing that, I just try to offer means to escape those traps, too.
September 20, 2014 at 3:35 pm
Pamela, email me at email@example.com. If you’ve got everything, I can get you work as a general transcriptionist, which is way more fun than medical!
Liz at Libro
September 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm
Thanks so much for stopping by and offering Pamela this opportunity. Let me know when you’ve heard from her and I’ll delete your email from the comment so you don’t get it harvested and get all the spam in the world.
LikeLiked by 1 person
October 21, 2014 at 7:07 am
Great post! Love the part about a personal test on suitability for transcription work. Got some few questions here.
You mentioned to have undergone an audio typist training. Would i need to get into any related training too? I’m really curious. I hear about medical transcription training but nothing on other fields like legal and the like.
I first learned about transcription on http://resets.org and got really interested to start a transcription career. I’m having trouble with my typing speed. What should be the ideal typing speed for beginners? How can i improve my speed? Currently, i’m about 30-35wpm. Is that good enough?
The article says £0.85 is the standard rate. As a startup should i charge at that rate or lower it down a bit? BTW, I wouldn’t like too low of a pay too.
Thanks in advance. 🙂
Liz at Libro
October 21, 2014 at 7:21 am
Thanks for your comment, Sarah – you might be interested in the whole book I’ve written on transcription as a career http://lizbroomfieldbooks.com/read-my-books/quick-guide-to-your-career-in-transcription/
To answer your points …
1. Training. It’s a good idea to do an audio typing course at some stage so you know the most ergonomic way to type and get your speed up
2. Typing speed – the way to test this is to tape something off the radio or TV and see how long it takes you to type half an hour of speech. That will give you the rate at which you’ll earn. If that’s OK, your speed’s OK. You will get faster, too, naturally.
3. I would stick with standard rates for paid work and do some work for free if you want to build up your portfolio of work and references. Actually, I should adjust that level up a little, as I wrote the article a little while ago. But I do find that offering a lower price can make clients trust you less.
I hope that helps!
October 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm
These are some great tips that Liz gave, but I also wanted to add some myself. I started out doing medical transcription, well, at least went to school for it, but found out the hard way that no hospital or doctor’s office will allow you to work at home unless you have experience at a hospital or doctor’s office. General transcription is way more lenient when it comes to working from home.
.85 is pretty good for a beginner, you probably won’t reach that level until you have a little more experience. The more experience you have, and the faster you can type, and with minimal errors, the more money you will get. The company that hires you will set the rate that you get paid, unless you start your own company, which is really difficult I have found. You can start out by joining Guru.com, and you find little side jobs, but just as a warning, these companies pay hardly anything, but on the bright side, it is a great way to practice. Then you can start testing for companies.
The best thing to do is find a company who is willing to take on beginners, which can also be very difficult. They are out there, ANP is one that I started out with and they pay pretty well, and also have a variety of subjects to choose from. The bad side about this company is that they pay you once a month, and they also are always late on their pay. They can also be very rude, so be prepared.
I work for a company now that I make nearly $20 or more an hour depending on the project. The best field to get into is insurance, for sure. For instance, this morning I had a project that was only 9.50 minutes long, I typed it in less than 20 minutes, and made 15.95. But on the downside, if you’re getting paid by the page like I currently am, if a person speaks throughout the whole thing, you could only end up with one page and get paid 1.45 for it! I had that happen one time, however, normally it’s a two-way conversation that ends up being several pages.
http://learn2type.com/ — this helped me greatly when I first began transcribing.
Another thing, don’t give up! I’ve tried to get so many people into this, and they give up either before they start, or they cannot take criticism on their work. Take all the criticism you can and learn from it, don’t get upset when someone tells you that you have made a mistake! I had that problem at the beginning, too, but have overcome my ego! 🙂
Good luck to you!
Liz at Libro
October 21, 2014 at 4:56 pm
Thanks for this valuable insight, Cassie – I don’t work for any transcription agencies, just for individuals and agencies that get the odd bit of transcription, so that’s quite a different model and I happily am able to set my own rates. I appreciate you taking the time to post these hints!
November 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm
Hi Liz, I live at Brampton, Canada. I am newcommer at Canada and wanted to start a career in transcription. I have 65 wpm speed, good knowledge of computer and knowledge of Stenography. I have ‘Administrative Assistant” experience at my back home. I wanted to know that for starting as Independent transcriptionist do I need to be trained and having certification? I have no idea how to get start and train myself according to the position, where should I contact at primary stage. Please advice me. Believe me, I have so much value for you about your comment in this hour of need.
November 21, 2014 at 4:16 pm
Thanks for your comment, Sadev, if you read the article this is attached to, that gives you the starting points on how to train yourself, etc. You can take audiotyping courses or get a few clients and get some recommendations, either way is acceptable and will start you off. You might want to pick up my book which has everything about transcription in one place in an e-book – see the link on this article. Good luck with your new career!
December 23, 2014 at 11:20 pm
Hi I am currently a legal secretary with over 10 years experience. I recently became a new mother and therefore need to find a more flexible work schedule. I type very fast and love to type and was wondering if this would be a good career for me. Working in law firms has given me exposure to both legal and medical terminology. How can I get started and is it worth it?
December 24, 2014 at 10:09 pm
Thanks for your comment Crystal, hopefully reading the article will give you some ideas on how to get started – also take a look at the linked posts. If you have legal or medical experience, make sure you make that known, as you can command higher rates for specialised work. It’s worth looking at agencies who do that kind of work and seeing if they can help you get started. Best of luck!
January 30, 2015 at 12:24 am
Hello, Liz – Thank you for such an informative piece! I have been doing transcription as an independent contractor for four months now and I love it. Like others have said, the subject matter varies from day to day so it can be interesting, humorous, you name it. My speed has increased greatly, and I’ve got the company’s formatting down to a science so I find I refer less and less to the binder I printed when I first started. Now I’ve reached the point where I’m starting to consider branching out on my own – although it’s a great comfort knowing someone else is worrying about the bookkeeping, the audio downloading, the billing, the marketing, advertising, etc., I’m no longer as excited at making a measly 25% of what I’m making the company. I take pride in my work and I’m fairly certain my finished products don’t leave anything at all for the company’s proofreader or editor to take care of – I’m a stickler for details!
I’m hoping to find a reference book that can explain to me everything – not just transcription itself, but the actual ins and outs of starting my own company. Everything from domain name to business license (is that even needed in an online setting?) to contracts to when payment happens on a job to confidentiality agreements – you name it. Would your ebook happen to have that sort of information for those in the United States interested in starting a home-based transcription business? I do general and medical and learned both “on the fly.” I’m averaging about $10 an hour right now (I can format and transcribe about 15 minutes per hour) but the company for whom I’m working is pulling in $37.50 for that – I want more of the action!
Thank you for any information you can provide. I have browsed the Small Business Administration Web site as well as other Google links, but all I seem to be finding are ebooks on transcription itself. Maybe I’m trying to make too much out of it, but when it comes to the legal issues (Social Security, claiming income and paying taxes, etc), I believe these are things I want to research sooner rather than later when considering starting my own business.
Best of luck to you and take care!
January 30, 2015 at 11:53 am
Hello Cherstin, and thanks for your comment. It sounds like it is time for you to strike out on your own a little, yes – you already have the skillset and you just need the business side and the confidence to go for it.
My transcription book covers more of the practicalities of being a transcriber, with some information on how to build your career. I’ve emailed you a pdf of that one as a little gift. My careers books, which you can find on Amazon, with an omnibus to give the best value possible ( http://www.amazon.com/Your-Guide-Starting-Building-Business-ebook/dp/B00IUOLOLW/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1422618721&sr=8-4&keywords=liz+broomfield ) has a lot more about starting a business and business development in general, but for the specifics of setting up, I’d recommend looking for a specific small business book with a US orientation, to fill in those details. I hope this helps, and good luck with your career – let us know how you get on!
February 4, 2015 at 12:11 am
Like so many others, I’m considering general transcription to help make ends meet. I’ve passed two basic qualifications tests from transcription websites that offer work to beginners, but to be honest, those tests seem too easy! They don’t seem to accurately portray how difficult the work can be.
In any case, I have a few questions:
Things like background noise, foreign accents, and multiple speakers — especially speakers in interviews, in front of a laughing audience, who talk over or interrupt each other — I struggle with these.
Is this something one can develop an ear for and get better at, or are those intrinsic abilities that one either has, or doesn’t have?
I don’t consider my grammar to be poor, but I’m a bit overwhelmed, too, by the unique rules set forth by each company for how to denote false starts, multiple speakers, and so forth. But this, I’m sure, will just take time and practice.
Any input, whether positive or critical, is much appreciated! 🙂
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February 4, 2015 at 8:24 am
Thanks for your comment! To answer your questions …
– Yes, I think you do get your ear in to a certain extent through a tape and in general, although I know I’ve been helped with non-British accents by working for years with people from all over the globe and also editing a lot of non-native English, so much so that I have ended up having this as a speciality in my transcription, too.
– Those rules! I don’t know which is worse – the standard linguistics recording ones which are really complicated or the in-house ones which differ wildly and are hard to learn. I tend to work for individuals (try putting up ads at universities for researchers who need transcription), so that becomes less of an issue.
I hope that helps a little, and good luck with your transcription career.
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February 4, 2015 at 2:15 pm
The first thing you absolutely need to purchase is a transcriptionist headset. They’re around $60 but they make a heck of a difference when it comes to deciphering between speakers when they’re talking over each other. As for the foreign accents, that’s a little more difficult. There are some accents I’m okay with, but then others, like, French, for instance, that I just cannot understand a word they are saying. I think this is individual, and when you can’t understand it, you just can’t! But don’t give up!
February 10, 2015 at 6:02 pm
Yes, indeed, a headset that suits you does make a difference, and some accents are very difficult indeed – that’s why some of us specialise in non-native English speakers, to save the other transcribers from struggling with them!
April 26, 2018 at 2:57 pm
I’m with emyallyandy060713. In life, I have extreme difficulty with accents. Put them in a noisy room with people talking over one another and the problem is magnified. This is my concern when looking for transcribing work. It doesn’t seem to have gotten any easier over the decades. I’m hoping to focus on work from native English speakers as I really don’t think I’d do well with the rest.
April 26, 2018 at 3:02 pm
I’d say try listening to a few radio plays and try to take them down as practice. With time, you can specify but if you have journalist clients, for example, sometimes they will just be in a noisy place with a French person …
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February 5, 2015 at 7:50 pm
Hi Liz! I just found your blog. I have been interested in transcribing for some years now. I have not officially gotten involved with it however. Although I have tried throughout the years, I could never fully secure a legitimate place in this field. I have been excellent in English, grammar, and spelling my entire life. I am a psychology major (B.A.) and have more than 10+ years case worker experience. I have always been acknowledged for having properly written reports from various different supervisors. However, this is in the field of social services.
A few years ago, I decided to get a Masters in Information Systems and Technology as I enjoy technology as well. I have since attained that degree, but currently still working in the field of social services. Now, I am on the bandwagon again to maybe land some work transcribing some videos or audio for businesses and/or individuals. I have recently applied for Inteleants and Speechpad. I’m not sure if they are legitimate or not. I also asked a health professional (that I met via social media) who makes videos about natural and organic foods if he would be interested in letting me transcribe a couple of his short videos for him just for experience. He sent me a 1 minute video for me to transcribe for him. I plan on working on that later.
So with all of that being said, do you know any legitimate people or companies that may be interested in giving me some paid work to simply get my foot in the door? I would appreciate any assistance. Additionally, I am very apologetic if I am repeating what others have already said or asking a question you have answered a million times over. I know your job is not to offer jobs. I just see you have been doing this quite awhile and realize you are a wealth of knowledge. You never know if you don’t go for what you want.
Lastly, I am certified (from the Mobile County [AL] personnel board to type 65 words per minute. That is from a couple of years ago. It may be faster now.
Thank you again for any and all assistance.
February 6, 2015 at 9:03 am
Thanks for your comment, Keri. Unfortunately, I can’t introduce you to any agencies, as I tend to do this work for either individuals or organisations that don’t work through agencies, or for translation agencies who offer this service on the side. It sounds like you’re doing well with reaching out to people who might be able to use – and recommend – you and I recommend my posts on finding work through social media, too (or my book on transcription). It’s also worth seeking out discussion groups in the US on transcription, which may include recommendations on good agencies to work with. Best of luck with your career!
February 14, 2015 at 6:24 am
Thank you Liz. I know I’m all late. I have been doing a little bit with Amazon mechanical turk. And also for my peer on social media for my resume. But thank you for all your assistance. I appreciate your blog.
February 7, 2015 at 7:19 pm
any particular headphones that one should use for this kind of work?
February 8, 2015 at 10:19 am
Thanks for your question, Edana. My answer is, whatever you feel comfortable with. I use large over-ear ones now with padding round, but some people prefer the in-ear ones. You will end up experimenting before you find what suits you, or even swapping between different kinds.
June 20, 2015 at 7:36 am
This was great, practical yet inspiring advice
August 31, 2015 at 9:17 am
How many words a minute do I need to be typing at, and are there any tricks to increasing typing speed please.?
August 31, 2015 at 9:31 am
Thanks for your question, Christian. It’s not a clear case of words per minute as it depends on how good your ear is and how quick your reaction times in getting the words down and in using the software. So I’d say try it out as I mention in the article and see how you do with actual transcription rather than typing tests. Being able to do “proper” touch typing is a must, though. As for speeding up, you can get drills from touch typing training companies (look out for the books in second hand bookshops) but I found that actually doing the work sped things up for me. Good luck!
August 31, 2015 at 12:19 pm
Thank you very much Liz
September 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm
hi there. Thank you so much for your useful advice and support. As an ex student of linguistics I’ve done a lot of transcription for my research projects. I really (blush) love doing it…(is one supposed to ?) I usually use Express Scribe.I’d like to get freelance work off the internet. I see you suggest general transcription work, and a number of platforms….. I’ve been on ProZ for a month and not had a single offer, or response to my applications. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and its very discouraging. As a student I’ve mainly transcribed interviews thus far and I go for an extreme level of detail for sociolinguistics data, which I’m used to. I think clients will not want that… the constant recording of the time slot, all the ums, ahs false starts and repetitions… not doing this should speed up the process a lot. I can survive off four dollars an hour for a while as I live in a country where that is ample.It should integrate well with freelance translation that I do. a tip for new transcribers, trying for perfection from the start involves tonnes of replaying and slows you down a lot. I slow the speed to about half, then your typing can just about keep up and you don’t have to stop so often which always creates a disjuncture. get as much as you can down in one sweep, then go over it again from the beginning correcting and filling gaps, do all finicky work like formats afterwards.
September 21, 2015 at 7:29 am
Thanks for your comment and yes, lots of us like doing transcription – it would be a pretty horrible job if you didn’t like it!
To answer a couple of points:
– time stamping and detail – I have a set of questions I ask clients when I first work with them and I work to their preferences
– Proz – try registering for the Kudoz points, once you get some of those you get up the list of people on offer when clients search. Also when you have paid membership (there’s a partial Jobs membership), your name gets put in front of potential clients without you having to apply for jobs. I’ve got all of my work that way – it’s worth paying for one year and then keeping a note of how much you work to check on the return on investment
– that’s an interesting way to do it, slowing it right down – I keep it at the normal speed but have been doing it so long that it’s natural to hit the F keys to stop and start without thinking about it. I often go back to stuff I didn’t catch at the beginning once I’ve settled into the voice and accent and am better at understanding the tape.
Best of luck with your transcribing career.
November 24, 2016 at 1:19 am
Try doing a search for other avenues, like, police transcription, legal, insurance, medical conference style (like board meetings). There are quite a few companies out there in need of help!
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November 30, 2016 at 5:12 pm
That’s good advice, although people do usually need specialist training and experience in those areas.
September 25, 2015 at 3:28 pm
wow ,I am totally in Awe of the bulk of information you put there for free, thanks a lot .
I am brand new to transcribing, I am soaking up as much information as I can before landing my first official job.
thanks a lot
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October 29, 2015 at 1:51 pm
Thank you for these wonderful tips.
December 17, 2015 at 1:59 pm
Oh my, you are such an awesome lady, that’s so kind of you. how could you give all that info. love you!!!
June 18, 2016 at 1:01 pm
very informative. I got what i need to know thanks
June 28, 2016 at 2:47 pm
i am delighted to learn from your article. i will follow up on the necessary steps to become a freelance transcriber. thank you.
November 24, 2016 at 1:22 am
I love checking in with your website, Liz, you’re really doing great work here by putting up so much great information for people. 🙂 I’ve been a general transcriptionist for about ten years and I absolutely love it. Thanks for your service!
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November 30, 2016 at 5:11 pm
Thanks, Cassie, it’s always good to know that people in the industry think the information I provide is useful! I like doing it a lot, too, although I prefer to have other less RSI-inducing work on the go, too!
December 4, 2016 at 12:00 am
Say you live on a Caribbean island – like I do – and have plenty of time. Why is typing speed the benchmark for transcription success. If there is a workable deadline, it really doesn’t matter how fast you type. Unless, transcription is really stenographer’s work. Nobody has said that yet.
December 5, 2016 at 8:59 am
The speed at which you type (partly) determines the number of audio minutes you can transcribe per hour, etc. As transcription work is normally charged by the audio minute, this boosts the amount you will get paid per hour. So that’s why that’s mentioned. Stenography is a specialised type of shorthand typing which is not something I offer or have experience with, hence not writing about it. I’d welcome a guest post on working in that way from someone with direct experience, though!
Nina Katrina Valenzona
April 2, 2017 at 2:40 pm
Hello Liv! Glad that i found this article of yours since i’m doing some research about the nature of a transcriber. It’s really informative especially for me as a newbie.
July 20, 2017 at 5:10 pm
Thanks a lot,in few days I will start practising once I purchase a laptop
July 20, 2017 at 5:12 pm
Good luck! I would actually not recommend using a laptop to do transcription – see if you can get one you can attach a full-size keyboard to via USB. Otherwise you are risking getting a repetitive strain injury.
August 17, 2017 at 7:42 pm
Thank you for the information. It was very helpful and when I did my transcription it was Medical and I strictly used tapes with the transcriber so the Tate went into the transcriber. I will continue to get more information because I do have an interest in this and I might be getting back with you for some more of the information as well
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August 18, 2017 at 5:23 am
I share what I can on this blog, so if you have specific questions on areas I’ve not covered, do drop me a line so I can answer them and consider writing an article, too!
August 25, 2017 at 12:59 am
Very informative post. Last I checked i was at 46 words per minute. Is that good enough to try my hands at transcription?
August 25, 2017 at 5:18 am
It really depends on how you work with spoken text – if you try typing out some tapes and see how much you get done per hour and what you would charge, as I say in the article, that’s the best way of finding out. For example, you may be super-good at hearing and retaining speech and not have to keep stopping and starting the tape, or you may struggle to make out non-native speakers of your language. Impossible to tell until you try. Good luck, though!
November 8, 2017 at 11:01 am
Nice one Lyn, this is very informing.
Im going to work on my speed then I will continue from there. Thanks so much.
November 8, 2017 at 1:28 pm
You’re welcome. It’s a good idea to work on your typing speed first.
November 14, 2017 at 2:12 am
Excellent article. I just started at Rev but I’m already convinced that I like the work, but not the pay. It also seems to be mostly poor audio. Thank you! I think I’ll be putting up notices at our university and college.
November 14, 2017 at 8:42 am
Lots more articles on transcription on the blog which should help you, too. I do find that the agency websites don’t pay as well as individuals or smaller agencies where you have a personal contact, but it’s good for finding out what you think of the work, and I’m glad you’re liking it.
November 16, 2017 at 1:19 pm
Thank you so much for the post, it clarified so much for me! I’ve been working on my transcription portfolio for a couple of days but I’m not sure about what kind of audio/video should I pick. I’ve already defined my areas of interest but I don’t know if I should pick something hard to understand, maybe an audio spoken with thick accent so that I can better display my listening skills? This may seem silly to somebody with experience but I really can’t figure this out… 😥 🤣 Anyway, I’d really appreciate it if you could give me some insights into that or even a link. Thanks again. Have a good one!
November 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm
Thank you for your comment and question. I would suggest a range of audios for your portfolio, and a difficult accent, if you can do it, would be useful there. Many clients will require a test rather than a portfolio, so any practice you can get in now on a range of voices would be useful.
Felucia Kim Samantha
November 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm
I love your article. I have being researching on how to work online for months and this is the most fulfilling article i have come across.I have to buy your book for more info.
November 26, 2017 at 10:24 pm
You’re welcome, glad I could help. I hope you enjoy the book, too!
November 27, 2017 at 3:42 pm
I too have decided to try my worth at being a freelance audio typist. My history is Intelligent Verbatim, producing transcripts for Interviews Under Police Caution. However I do find that the police prefer their work in house due to sensitive data. Also councils now have had their work transferred to the DWP who use large outsourcing companies rather than freelancers.
I have done timestamp, accent and dialect differences, intelligent verbatim (word for word, including stutters, pauses, etc) and done interviews that have had up to 6 speakers in the room, showing interruptions, talk-overs. Many of my transcripts went to court. So I know the quality and accuracy to the highest standards.
I have not given up yet, and don’t intend on doing so. I am currently signed up to temping agencies to fill the shortfall of cash flow.
I guess if anyone is worried about cash flow – then be prepared to make yourself available for temp work until you start finding clients.
November 27, 2017 at 3:54 pm
Good for you. Legal work does come over to me occasionally and I’m going to send you the contact details for a person at the company that tries to send me most of that – I can’t take on legal work as I’m not trained to do it. I wish you the best of luck in your continuing career.
January 29, 2018 at 12:31 am
Hi, this was really very helpful, thank you. I especially appreciated the idea of trying transcription out before committing to it, as courses etc can often cost a chunk of money and if you’re not good enough at the core skills, it would be a waste. Regards Alex
January 29, 2018 at 6:42 am
I’m glad you found it helpful, and thank you. I’m all for NOT investing huge amounts in something untested.
Online Typing Test
April 2, 2018 at 1:41 am
You are right that if you can’t type fast, it’s not financially worthwhile to take on transcription work.
April 26, 2018 at 2:36 pm
I was pleased to find your highly informative site. Now retired, I’m looking for extra income. For 25 years, I did dicta-typing for top management and loved it. Going online today is slightly different in that my old dicta machine (still in new condition) would be a bit difficult to use as it takes small mini-cassettes. In the past 20+ years, I was a journalist taking notes by hand mostly. That experience has convinced me that I would be an even better transcriber today considering my updated grammar and editing skills.
It’s been some time since I did dicta but, surprisingly, I’m just as good as I ever was.
I’m looking forward to getting started again, although the rates I’ve seen so far have been around $24 an audio hour. As you know, it’ll take at least 3x that to transcribe it, putting the rate verging on ridiculous.
Being retired doesn’t mean working for peanuts, does it?
Thank you for providing such in-depth guidance. Now I know how to add phrases to the auto correct feature in Word (I only knew 2-3 words before). I’d learned a bit about using Macros some time back, but couldn’t figure them out in the new Word for Windows 10. They’ve sure complicated what was once a very user-friendly program, haven’t they?
April 26, 2018 at 3:03 pm
It sounds like you’ve got good skills to start you off – I would suggest downloading the software and having a practise to see if it suits. I charge a lot more than that but it’s tricky at first until you’ve built up some clients. I’m sure there are reputable agencies out there and also as you build your reputation, that will help you. Good luck!
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September 19, 2018 at 2:29 am
I’m new to transcription. What software should I download to try it so I can determine if its worthwhile? I’m looking for a way to make extra income. Willing to work just a few hours per week.
September 20, 2018 at 7:37 am
Thank you for your question, Kayla. If you read the article and the related ones you will get lots of information about what software I recommend and this article explains how to check if it’s worth your while. You do need to be flexible though and you’re not going to make your fortune working a few hours per week on it. I hope my resources help you work out if it’s for you, anyway, and best of luck.
July 11, 2018 at 11:09 am
Hi liz, im just beginning to learn transcription to land a job as transcriptionist after retirement. I worked as court stenographer for 30 years. Now am trying to transcribe podcast to master transcription without a foot pedal. Is it an effective way to practice without foot pedal. Finances is not ready to purchase the same. Thanks, nelia
July 11, 2018 at 4:49 pm
That sounds an ideal thing to practice on as it’s often a conversation between two people. I don’t use a foot pedal, but I did remap the function keys to make it as ergonomic as possible.
You can do well with legal experience, by the way, so make sure you make that very clear on any applications or when promoting your services.