How to Become a Transcriptionist From Home (Detailed Guide)

Looking for a guide that lists the exact steps to become a transcriptionist from home.

Well, here is a comprehensive, beginner-friendly guide that outlines all of the steps required to advance in the transcription industry.

But, before we get into the meat of the matter, let’s go over the basics.

What is Transcription?

It is the process of converting the speech from an audio or visual file to a text format. These types of recordings frequently include interviews, conversations, academic research, and so on.

Transcribing audio recordings is important because it allows you to keep written records of important events. They are easier to access and view, and they save a significant amount of time when compared to listening to the entire audio.

Though transcription may appear to be as simple as listening to audio and typing it out, it is more than that.

A good transcriptionist can recognize individual voices in a conversation and understand different accents. They are also very good at looking up hard-to-find words and making transcripts with correct grammar and punctuation.

What Are The Different Types of Transcription?

There are three main types of transcription:

  • Medical Transcription: It includes the transcription of voice reports dictated by physicians and other healthcare professionals into text format. You have to take a course to get certified, which can be very expensive.
  • Legal Transcription: It includes the transcription of court proceedings into text format. It’s not easy to break into, as you’ll usually need some experience or education in law, as well as a familiarity with legal jargon and formalities.
  • General Transcription: It includes all types of transcription besides legal and medical, and it is much easier to get into. Also, you don’t need any special training.

Who Pays For Transcription Services?

Anyone who requires their audio to be typed. It can be used for interviews, research panels, meetings, podcasts, and more by businesses, marketing firms, non-profits, universities, and even individuals.

As a general transcriptionist, you will not only work on a wide range of projects, but you will also learn about a variety of subjects as you go.

How Transcriptionists Are Paid?

The majority of general transcription companies charge by the audio hour.

Assume a company pays $50 per audio hour, which is on the low side as you gain experience.

This means that you will be paid $50 for transcribing a 60-minute audio file. Generally, most transcriptionists need three to four hours to transcribe and proofread an hour of audio.

Proofing to audio simply means listening to the file at a higher speed after you’ve typed it out to check for errors.

If you’re just starting out as a transcriptionist, one hour of audio may take you six hours or more to complete. But with a few months of practice, you’ll be able to reach the standard industry speed.

So, if it takes you four hours to transcribe an hour of audio and they pay $50 per hour of audio, your hourly rate before taxes is $12.50.

But I would advise avoiding jobs that pay less than $40 per audio hour and aiming for contracts that pay $60 per audio hour on average. This way, you can earn $15 an hour if you complete the job in four hours.

As a beginner, getting projects that pay $60 per hour is difficult. So you’ll need to get some work experience to put on your resume.

In that case, you can accept one or two lower-paying files while aiming for higher-paying contracts as soon as you gain experience.

Traits of a Good Transcriptionist

Transcription is a competitive field, so how do you know if you’re cut out for it?

To be successful as a transcriptionist, you must possess certain traits and skills. Don’t worry if you lack some of these skills. Just practice before you apply for jobs, and keep adding to your skills as you work.

1. Excellent Grammar & Editing Skills

Do you know the difference between its and it’s?

What about the difference between affect and effect?

Should commas be placed inside or outside quotation marks?

Excellent grammar and editing skills are essential for a successful career as a transcriptionist. Even a minor grammatical error can alter the meaning of a sentence. As a result, it’s critical to keep an eye on your grammar.

So, make sure your resume and cover letter are error-free, or you won’t hear back from companies when they go through them.

If you’re a little rusty on grammar, there are plenty of free resources online to help you practice.

2. Research

Finding the correct spelling for spoken names, cities, companies, and other entities is an important part of creating a clean transcript.

Let’s say a speaker mentions the name of a telecommunications company in Texas, you should be able to find the correct spelling online.

To do this, you can use Google or any other search engine.

3. Good Listening Skills

It would have been ideal if all of the audio were perfect, but that is not the case with transcriptionists.

A transcriptionist needs to be a good listener because they will be working with audio that has more than one person talking or focus groups.

As a result, if they don’t have good listening skills, they won’t be able to distinguish between voices and correctly label them. They will also have difficulty understanding different accents.

4. Quick And Accurate Typing

The ability to type quickly and accurately is essential for any transcriptionist. You’ll be able to take on more work and earn more money the faster and more accurately you type.

5. Ability to Follow Company Guidelines

Every transcription company has its own set of guidelines, also known as a style guide. A style guide is essentially a document outlining specific formatting requirements.

Different companies will have different style guides with different formatting rules and preferred spellings.

As a transcriptionist, you must strictly adhere to the guidelines outlined in each company’s style guide.

6. Good Communication

You may need to speak with your company or a client to clear up some issues. As a result, you must know when and how to contact them with your questions or concerns.

7. Professionalism

Even if you’re working from home in your pajamas, you still need to be a professional.

This includes putting forth your best effort on each transcript and devoting time to things like researching terms, adhering to style guides, and re-listening to inaudible audio.

It’s also critical that you notify your company if an emergency arises and you are unable to submit your file on time. Late files, on the other hand, should be extremely rare.

Overall, as a transcriptionist, you should always maintain a professional demeanor and not take your job lightly.

8. Tenacity

Even though most audio files are good, there will be times when you will be very, very upset.

You might have three people talking at the same time, or you might have trouble with someone’s strong accent in the file.

So you must be patient and stay strong even when things become difficult. To advance as a transcriptionist, you must maintain a never give up attitude.

Transcriptionist ToolBox: What Tools Are Required To Get Started

Now, let’s talk about what tools are required to get started and what you might want to buy once you have a contract.

Keep in mind that time is money in transcription. So, the key to purchasing equipment is to invest in things that will boost your productivity and allow you to earn more money.

Also, keep your receipts because items purchased for transcription can be deducted from your taxes.

  • Desktop/Laptop: The first requirement is a laptop or desktop computer. Please avoid using mobile devices as they can reduce your productivity.
  • Pair of Headphones: You should get some headphones before beginning your audio transcription training. That’s because using a computer’s built-in speakers is far less convenient than using headphones. Moreover, you’ll make more errors frequently.
  • Audio Player: You’ll need an audio player, such as Express Scribe. It is free to download, but there is also a paid version. Other free audio players include FTW Transcriber and the FTR Player.
  • Fast Internet Connection: Make sure you have a fast internet connection so that you can download files quickly and easily.
  • Word Processing Program: Microsoft Word is used by the vast majority of transcription companies. There is a free version of Microsoft Word available online, but if you are testing with companies or have landed a contract, you will need to purchase Word.

Tools To Invest In

So, once you’ve landed the contract or a client, here are some tools to consider investing in. Please note that some are optional.

  • Foot Pedal: When you get a contract, one of the first things you should do is buy a foot pedal. It lets you control audio with your foot, freeing up your hands for typing. The more quickly you type, the more money you can make. Although keyboard hotkeys are useful, they are still slower than a foot pedal.
  • Mid-Quality Or High-Quality Headphones: You can also buy high-quality headphones with clear audio. They are expensive, but they are still worthwhile. Try the Koss Porta Pro stereo headphones.
  • Ergonomic Keyboard: You can also invest in an ergonomic keyboard, which is more comfortable than a laptop keyboard.
  • An Extra Monitor: It is not required, but an extra monitor can speed up research activity by allowing you to jump back and forth between screens.
  • A Backup: Many transcriptionists keep backup keyboards, foot pedals, and other equipment on hand in case their main equipment fails. This allows them to work and complete projects on time.

We’re now ready to discuss software investments.

  • Pro Version of Express Scribe: At some point, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version of Express Scribe or another audio player, such as Transcription Buddy, especially if you’re working with video files.
  • Text Expander: Text expanders allow you to use shortcuts for words and phrases, allowing you to type fewer keystrokes. You can start by using Microsoft Word’s built-in AutoCorrect. However, if you want to expand your capabilities, you can use paid expander programs such as ShortKeys, PhraseExpress, or Instant Text.

Always remember to do your own research before making a purchase to ensure that it serves your needs and is within your budget.

And because prolonged use of a keyboard can be physically taxing, it’s worth spending a little more on ergonomic furniture like chairs, desks, etc. Your body will thank you.

Applying to Transcription Companies

1. Gain Experience Before Applying to Companies

To gain experience, you can approach podcasters and other businesses and offer to do one free transcript for them. If they like your work, they might become a paying client or have agreed to be a referral.

Another place to gain experience is by doing overflow work. It happens when you are paid to transcribe a file on a one-time basis. It’s usually for another transcriptionist or a small business that needs extra help when they’re extremely busy.

Getting overflow work isn’t easy, but it’s a great way to get experience without submitting a formal application. It’s a great way to get a referral and gain experience, and it might even result in a contract with the company down the line.

Overflow work is most commonly found in Facebook transcription groups, LinkedIn transcription groups, transcription forums, and work-from-home forums. But to get access to overflow opportunities, you will often need to be an active member of these forums or groups.

Lastly, you can gain experience by working for low-paying freelance sites or transcription companies. If you go this route, it’s important to keep applying for new jobs frequently to avoid getting locked into low-paying contracts.

2. Create a Resume

Because first impressions are everything, put your best foot forward in your resume and cover letter. Make the time now to create a standout resume. Taking the time to write a good resume and cover letter can lead to a job offer.

When creating a resume, include prior transcription-related experience. If your previous job was not related to transcription, you do not need to include it.

You see, companies will want to see that you have transcription or secretarial experience, even if it is from a few years ago. So, adding the experience of a job that isn’t related to transcription is a waste of time.

Next, add the skills that we discussed earlier, such as research, proofreading, and working with word-processing programs.

Keep your resume to one page to keep it simple, error-free, and easy to read. Because if your resume takes too long to look over, the person who looks at it will just skip it.

You can use simple fonts of a size between 10 and 12 points, with enough whitespace to make it appealing. Your email address should have a professional name instead of using funky words.

Once created, have a friend or family member look it over to see if you made any mistakes. Also, keep updating your resume as you get more experience through contracts, free work, or extra work.

3. Create a Cover Letter

After you’ve completed your resume, it’s time to discuss cover letters. So, what exactly is a cover letter?

It is a company’s first impression of you. It’s your chance to introduce yourself to the company.

Although a cover letter should still be professional, it should be less formal than a resume, giving you more room to express your unique personality.

You can explain why you think you would be a good addition to the company, what skills you have that could contribute to the company’s success, and even what tools you currently use or are willing to invest in.

Spend some time on each cover letter to ensure it is a perfect fit for the company you’re writing to. Use your knowledge of their culture and history or the type of transcription they do to impress them.

Spending a few minutes more on each cover letter will pay off in the long run. Be truthful about your qualifications and experience, just as you would in a resume.

4. Finding Companies to Work With

Now that you’ve created your resume and cover letter, you’re ready to apply to companies. But where do you start?

There are many lists of companies that hire transcriptionists on the Internet. You can look at my post to find out about some popular online transcription companies. There are also some transcription companies that don’t require experience.

It’s fairly common for transcription companies to require two or more years of experience, but these companies will hire beginners if you pass their test.

Another place to look for a list of companies that you can work with is the transcription forums like TranscriptionEssentials and TranscriptionHaven. These are private forums that anyone can join for free.

So overall, identify the specific company you’re interested in and do some background reading on it. Although private details such as pay and style guides might be hard to come by, you should be able to get a good idea of how employees feel about working for the company as a whole.

Final Thoughts

I hope I’ve covered everything a beginner needs to know to become a transcriptionist. To conclude, all you need to do is improve your skills, buy the tools and equipment you need, and practice transcribing to get more experience.

When you think you have enough experience, you can make a resume and cover letter and send them to companies that interest you.

If you like to know more about Transcription, I highly recommend enrolling in this free 7-Day General Transcription Mini Course provided by a Professional Transcriptionist, Janet Shaughnessy.

That’s all! If you enjoyed this how-to guide, please share it on social media and help spread the word.

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