If you’re looking for work you can do from home, the odds are you’ve probably heard of doing freelance transcription online. If not, transcription is where workers type out audio files to create written documents. Many industries need audio files transcribed, from recorded interviews to corporate meetings to academic lectures. This guide to online transcription jobs for beginners will tell you exactly how to get started.
Thanks to modern technology, anyone can make a recording right on their laptop or smartphone. Then, you can easily download the recording, play it, and type out the transcript at home. This makes for the perfect work-from-home opportunity. Below we’ll cover how to get started in this industry and where to find online transcription jobs.
How to Begin a Freelance Transcription Career
The number one skill you’ll need as a freelance transcriptionist is a fast typing speed. This is because the core part of the job is typing what you hear. Fast and accurate typing skill ensures that you can finish the work quickly, which usually equates to higher hourly pay. Most transcription work pays per project in some fashion.
The industry doesn’t have an official standard typing speed. However, a good speed to aim for is around 70 words per minute (or wpm). That’s fast enough to complete the work fairly quickly. You can practice your typing and boost your speed with online typing tools, like this one right here.
Next, you’ll need a desktop or laptop for actually typing out the recordings. It’s arguably much easier and faster if you’re using a more traditional keyboard setup. Plus, you can send more professional, secure documents if you have Microsoft Word set up on your computer. (You can read about the technical essentials for freelancers here).
In order to play the recordings, you’ll usually need a recording player like VLC or Windows Media Player. To transcribe audio from dictation machines, you may also need DSS Player. You may also find that some transcription service providers use their own custom software.
Finding Online Transcription Jobs for Beginners
There are two main ways you can go about finding transcription jobs.
The first is the more traditional freelance route, where you find your own clients. For instance, you may sign up with sites like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, which allow you to bid on freelance projects. The downside to this method is that you often have to bid low to beat your competition, especially when you are new and less proven. (You’ll find some tips for using these freelance platforms here).
You could also network with anyone you know to see if they need some recordings transcribed. Many people also find freelance clients by going to local business meetups, such as Chamber of Commerce meetings.
If you plan to network, get some professional business cards printed up to advertise yourself as a professional transcriber. You can often find deals online where you can get hundreds for as little as $10.
You should also update your resumé to reflect your transcribing skills. Even if you haven’t done any work yet, you can still list the relevant skills for a transcriber. Think about listing what software you’re proficient in, and your typing speed in wpm. Then as you gain clients, you can list who you’ve worked for on your resumé too.
Working with Transcription Companies
The second way of finding online transcription jobs for beginners is by working with transcription companies. These hire contractors to work for the company. The companies then provide their workers with recordings that need transcribing.
Basically, you cut out the hassle of having to find your own clients. While rates may perhaps seem lower, it’s worth remembering that the time you’re finding clients is time you’re not working on paying jobs.
There are several major companies out there that hire beginner transcribers for legit transcription jobs:
What’s involved: Rev is the top company that pops up when you’re searching for transcription work. The company allows you to work as little or as much as you want. You choose from available projects in the system. It pays weekly via PayPal, and you receive feedback on your work to boost your skills. Anyone can apply from any country.
Pay: $0.40 – $0.65 per audio minute
Qualifications required: You must pass a grammar and transcription test. The company lets you know within 48 hours if you’re approved to begin work.
Pros: Highly flexible, no minimums on work. The company advertises that it has hundreds of transcription jobs to choose from.
Cons: Pay is at the low end of the scale, making this best as a supplemental income. The highest earning monthly salary advertised on the company’s site is $1,495. You certainly won’t get rich doing this, with average monthly earnings at $245.
What’s involved: Scribie employs freelance transcribers from all around the world. Payments are made once per day through PayPal with no minimum withdraw limit. There are no obligations or monthly commitments. Files are short, usually 6 minutes or less.
Pay: $5 to $25/audio hour rate
Qualifications required: Good communication skills, proficiency in English, and the ability to comprehend multiple accents. The company requires you to pass a transcription test.
Pros: The system comes with an automated transcript. Workers can gain promotions based on their performance. You can pick the files to work on, with no forced assignments.
Cons: Reviewers on Indeed state that sometimes they have trouble with jobs being cancelled after they complete the transcription due to poor audio quality. Pay can end up being below minimum wage depending on how fast you work. Sometimes there’s a shortage of work.
What’s involved: This UK-based online-only company hires freelancers for transcription services. You can work as much or as little as you want. The company pays weekly via PayPal or Payoneer. There’s a support team and you get regular feedback on your work. You can choose which jobs you select from the steady stream of projects – according to the company’s site.
Pay: Pay is up to $0.60 per audio or video minute. Average earnings are $150 per month and top monthly earnings are $1,215 per month.
Qualifications required: You just need to have strong English language skills. The application process requires candidates to do a test job following the guidelines. Even if you fail the test job, you can try again a few days later.
Pros: Even though it’s UK based, the company hires anyone anywhere in the world. You don’t need to meet any typing speed requirements, as people have around six hours to complete 10 minutes of audio.
Cons: The pay is quite low. This gig will most likely be for side money. You tend to have to move quickly in the system to grab a job before someone else does, according to Indeed reviewers.
What’s involved: This service only requires a reliable internet connection and computer. People from all over the world can work as much as they want. This service is a little different in that it specializes in one-to-two-minute clips. After one is completed, you can do another transcription micro-task, and unlimited jobs can be processed at once. The company pays through PayPal weekly or on request.
Pay: Starts at $20 per audio hour. Top monthly earnings are at $2,200, with average monthly earnings at $250. You can get higher rates if you have a medical or legal background in. This is a good place to look for online medical transcriptionist jobs or legal transcription jobs from home.
Qualifications: No qualifications required. The site has a training program introducing you to the system, and a style guide. You then complete an exam detailing your proficiency.
Pros: The company advertises that they have a strong “promote-from-within” policy. Workers can gain higher paying jobs and move up to other positions within the company. It’s one of the higher payers in the industry.
Cons: If you like to focus on one larger project in one go, filtering quickly through one-to-two-minute audio clips can get tiring. Reviewers on Indeed express concern that the pay is for audio hour, not time worked (although in fairness, this is fairly typical for the industry). As always, fast typing speed is key. Work can dry up in the system, so you may need to wait for more, depending on the time of day.
Above are some of the most well-known companies that offer online transcription jobs for beginners. As you can see, the most common barrier to entry is to pass a skills test focused on grammar and typing. However, since pay is always by audio time, your earnings are entirely dependent on how fast you can type and transcribe.
If you enjoy listening to a variety of audio snippets, can type fast, and have a passion for grammar, freelance transcription online can be a fairly relaxed home working option that’s great for earning extra money.
Transcribing Like a Pro
If you really want to take transcription to the next level and bash quickly through the audio hours, it’s well worth investing in a transcription foot pedal like this one, which will quickly improve your typing speed by freeing up your hands.
Michelle Lovrine Honeyager is a freelance writer who has written features for a number of consumer and industry print magazines, as well as stories for niche websites, digital lifestyle magazines and general news sites.