I love typing, but I have zero creative writing ability. ZERO. I’ve blogged before, but it usually means sitting for hours at my computer with a few clumsy sentences written and no ideas for how to proceed.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I wanted to take something I knew I was really good at — typing, grammar and punctuation — and turn it into an income-generating side gig that I could do at home.
I found a course, Transcribe Anywhere, and quickly knew that I had found something that was going to work for me. (Here’s The Write Life’s review of the Transcribe Anywhere course if you want details.)
Typing exactly what I hear from audio requires no creativity, unless you count the creative punctuation required to break up someone’s looooong run-on sentence into smaller chunks.
What it does require is all of the things that I already knew I was good at, and the course taught me to how to use those skills to build a business.
Now two years later, I have three kids (yep… a two year old, a one year old, and a newborn. No, we don’t get much sleep). I’m still doing transcription jobs from home, and even though my family is growing and keeping me busier than ever, I’m also making more money from transcription than ever before as I get better at my work and find great clients.
I work part time, about 20 hours a week, and I’m consistently able to bring in around $2,000 per month for my family.
Where to look for transcription jobs
If you’re looking to get into the world of transcription, I’ve put together a list of companies where you should consider looking for work, including several options for legal transcription jobs.
They’re loosely ordered according to how much experience you need to work there and how much you can expect to earn through those jobs. So if you’re aiming for online transcription jobs for beginners, the first few items on this list are the best place to start.
Keep in mind that most of these companies pay on a per audio minute rate, which does not translate to how long it takes to transcribe it.
The general standard in the transcription industry is a 4:1 ratio, meaning it usually takes around four minutes to transcribe one minute of audio.
Here’s where to look for online transcription jobs:
One of the biggest and most well-known transcription companies, Rev always seems to be hiring new applicants. They have tests that you have to complete before you’re hired — the Rev transcription test and grammar quiz — but they seem to always have work available.
Typically, you can choose your own schedule and do as much or as little work as you want.
Rev has a reputation for low pay, about 36 cents to 65 cents per audio minute. But if you want to get started and have a completely flexible schedule while you’re learning and building your skills, this might be a good fit. It’s also a way to try out transcription and earn some money to see if you enjoy it before you invest in training.
No experience is required, although you do have to pass a test. Rev also has options for video captioning work, which pays at 45 cents to 75 cents per video minute, and if you know a foreign language, subtitle work for $1.50 to $3 per video minute.
My friend and colleague Kristie Cooley started out working for Rev and says: “I enjoyed being able to log on at any time of the day to pick work. Their system is also super user friendly!” On the flip side, however, she also reported that the people who grade your completed transcripts can be inconsistent and give different instructions or feedback.
TranscribeMe is another good option if you’re looking for online transcription jobs for beginners.
The company only pays 25 cents per audio minute, but they break all of their work up into smaller chunks of two to four minutes. That makes this company a nice choice if you have only a limited amount of time to spend on transcription or if you want to gain experience with a large variety of audio materials.
SyncScript’s pay rate still isn’t impressive, but it’s higher than the first two options on this list, about 53 cents to 63 cents per audio minute. This is another company to consider if you’re looking to get your feet wet in the transcription industry.
SyncScript is almost always running ads to hire new transcriptionists. The company requires a typing speed of 70+ words per minute and 98 percent accuracy. They also require new candidates to transcribe a seven-minute test audio and pass a grammar test. Once you’re on their team, they ask you to be available to transcribe three audio hours per week.
Cooley says about working for SyncScript: “Their communication is awesome! Every single one of the files that I’ve gotten are super clear audio.”
Fast Forward is another transcription company that lets you work as much or as little as you choose. They do all kinds of transcription, from focus groups, meetings and TV logging.The company pays 40 cents to 65 cents per audio minute, paid biweekly via PayPal. They, too, require applicants to pass a transcription test to quality.
Daily Transcription frequently advertises for new transcriptionists to join their team, and they pay a higher rate than some of the companies described above, about 75 cents to 85 cents per audio minute.
They provide training so you can learn as you go, and they pay weekly via check. Their work tends to focus on video and television transcription, but they also offer some legal work.
Daily Transcription requires a transcription test to get started, and you need to have typing skills of at least 50 words per minute.
I spent some time working for Ubiqus when I first got started, so I can confirm this is a good company to work for. The company offers opportunities for general, legal and medical transcription.
Ubiqus’ pay structure is a little different than most other companies; they pay per word instead of per audio minute. The rate of pay varies depending on the content of the audio.
It’s hard to compare a per-word rate with a per-minute rate, and there are a lot of variables such as how quickly or slowly someone talks, but it roughly averages out to around $1 per audio minute, give or take. I personally prefer a per-minute rate because then you know exactly how much a job will pay you before you start it. With a per-word rate, you really have no idea how much you’re going to make on a job until you’ve already completed it.
Allegis specializes in insurance and legal transcription (so this company would be a good fit if you decide to take the legal version of the Transcribe Anywhere course, where I did my training).
The company sometimes posts openings for novices with no transcription experience. You just have to keep an eye on their job postings.
Allegis pays a per-page rate, which is pretty standard when it comes to legal work. Their rate is around $1.20 to $1.50 per page, which is within the typical range for legal transcription jobs.
It’s challenging to compare a per-page rate with a per-audio-minute rate, but generally you have more earning power as a legal transcriptionist than a general transcriptionist because it is a specialized field. Legal transcription jobs are typically formatted very precisely, with specific margins, a set number of lines per page, and a specific number of characters per line, so each page is the same amount of typing.
I haven’t worked with Allegis personally, but transcriptionist friends of mine say they require a weekly quota from their transcriptionists, so you don’t have quite the same degree of flexibility. They also have periods of time with less work available, so it’s not always consistent.
This is another option for finding legal transcription jobs. Deposition Services, Inc. provides a two-week online training program for their legal transcription work. They specialize in transcribing depositions, hearings, conferences and seminars.
They a pay per-page rate, but they don’t specify publicly what that rate is, only that it equals out to about $15 to $20 per hour.
The Audio Transcription Center has a higher pay rate than many of the previously listed companies: $1 per audio minute.
Their transcription test is challenging, and you’ll likely need a decent amount of experience — especially with focus groups involving multiple speakers — to pass it.
Much of their work focuses on oral history interviews and focus groups. They have an online application and require a resume and cover letter as well. They also require a screenshot of a typing test showing a performance of 75 words per minute or more with at least 98 percent accuracy.
A bonus: Here’s how to get the best transcription jobs
I’ve shared lots of companies that are solid options when you’re just getting started as a transcriptionist. But I’ve had the most success — and definitely made the best money — finding my own clients to work for.
This can include so many different people and professions: pastors, public speakers, podcasters, lawyers, doctors, writers, journalists, research companies.
Marketing yourself and looking for clients is a time-consuming process, but once you find the right ones, your earning potential is much higher working for yourself rather than as a subcontractor for someone else.
For example, Rev charges their clients $1 per minute for transcription, and they pay their subcontractors about half of those earnings. If you have your own clients and charge them the same rate, you’d keep that entire $1/minute to yourself.
When I calculate my hourly rate for transcription, I typically make between $30 to 45 per hour. It’s a broad range because some audios take much longer to do than others, depending on the content and the quality. I’ve increased my hourly rate by having high standards about the type of audio material I accept and using tricks to increase my speed, such as having a multitude of autocorrects.
Just keep in mind that when you work for yourself, you’re responsible for all of the go-between with your clients and all of the business management aspects of the job, whereas as a subcontractor, all you really have to focus on is the actual transcription work.
A few places to look for your own clients include LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and even Craigslist — I found my very best client there, as well as many smaller one-off jobs. You might want to share information about your services on your own website as well, like I do for my company, Q Transcription.
If this sounds totally overwhelming, the Transcribe Anywhere course where I did my training includes a module on marketing and building your business. Pro tip: Start with their free transcription mini-course to see if this industry is a good fit for you.
A final note of encouragement
As you start out, remember that it’s okay to start small.
I began as a subcontractor for a couple of big transcription companies, and initially I was thrilled to make around $200 a month. As I got faster and more skillful doing transcription jobs from home, I was able to earn more.
After a few months, I knew my abilities were worth more, and I started looking for clients of my own so that I could charge a higher rate.
I currently have four clients who keep me extremely busy, and I no longer work for any of the companies I started out with. I’m able to make a good income each month while staying home with my children, which is exactly why I got into transcription in the first place.
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