Work From Home Transcription
There are a lot of different work from home transcription opportunities available. Whether you’re looking for part-time, full-time, or supplemental monthly income, there never seems to be a shortage of typing jobs. In fact, working as a transcriber can fit with just about any schedule and can be a great way to earn a little (or a lot) of extra money each month.
So if you’ve always thought you’d make a great typist or if you’re looking for something flexible to fit into your schedule, work from home transcription may just be your perfect opportunity.
What it takes to be a typist
To be a great typist, you need to be able to type quickly and accurately all while simultaneously listening to audio — not exactly an easy feat!
Generally speaking, this means being able to type in the neighborhood of 75 WPM with at least 98% accuracy. Not sure how fast you can type? You can take a typing test here. The quicker you can type with a high-degree of accuracy, the more you’ll earn!
And even though you’ll be typing what you hear, you still need to format transcripts using proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Although you shouldn’t solely rely on spelling and grammar checkers, it is a good idea to use a free tool like Grammarly.
Equipment You’ll Need
The industry-standard software for audio transcription is called Express Scribe. You can download a free version of it from NCH Software. In the free version, you’ll be able to play wav, mp3, wma, and dct audio files. For most beginners, this is exactly what you’ll need.
A good pair of headphones is a must! Since you can download the required software for free, you’ll want to use those savings and invest them into a decent headset. You may think that the ear buds you use when listening to music on your iPhone will work just fine, and they might get the job done, but they’re built for listening to music and not for transcription.
Trust me, a good pair of headphones will save you a lot of time and frustration! Plus, they’ll help you more easily discern audio, which is particularly handy when dealing with a poor quality recording or a file with multiple speakers!
So what should you look for in a headset? Something that is worn under the chin and is comfortable is a good start. From there, it’s personal preference. Whether you want a Y-shape set that looks like a stethoscope or the rounded U-shape, is up to you. Similarly, some people like a really long cord and others prefer ones that are on the shorter side.
Options aside, Olympus and Spectra are two well known brands in the transcription headset world. I’ve used various models from both over the years, and have never had a bad experience. You can pick up a transcription headset from Amazon for around $30.00. I always read reviews before I make a headset purchase–honest feedback from your fellow typists on their experiences can help you make a more informed purchase.
While I certainly recommend purchasing a foot pedal, you technically don’t need one when you’re first starting out. In fact, when I got my first typing job, I did not have a foot pedal. And since my first assignment needed to be submitted within 24 hours, I did not have time to purchase one. Instead, I used the hot-key options in Express Scribe to play back the audio.
Fortunately, Express Scribe runs in the background while you’re typing. This allows you to control the audio playback through various hot-keys. For example, if you hit F4 you can pause the recording, F3 will speed it up at 150%, F7 rewinds it, and F8 is fast forward.
Eventually, I bought a foot pedal and use it most of the time, but there are still instances where I simply use hot-keys to control audio. Familiarizing yourself with Express Scribe and learning how to control it from your keyboard will take some time to get used to. However, doing so will give you an opportunity to try your hand at transcription before investing money in an expensive foot pedal.
If you decide to purchase a foot pedal right out the gate, please keep in mind that the free version of Express Scribe is only compatible with AltoEdge Foot Pedals. The Pro version is compatible with many more, but the free version is ONLY compatible with AltoEdge. I’ve heard many beginners complain about purchasing a foot pedal only to find it was not compatible with the free Express Scribe software.
With that being said, you can pick up an AltoEdge foot pedal anywhere from $75.00 to $100.00. If you keep your eye out, you might be able to get a used one on Ebay for a little less expensive, but I’ve seen these auctions get so high for a used pedal that it seems worth it to buy a brand new one for a few more bucks. If you end up purchasing the Pro Express Scribe, you’ll have many more pedal options available to you but many of them will be in the same price range as the AltoEdge.
The company you contract with will dictate the word processor program you need to use. Most of the companies I have freelanced for use Microsoft Word. Although, when working in Word, the way in which the document is saved has varied–sometimes companies prefer .doc, .docx, .txt or .rtf. If you don’t have Word, you might be able to use Open Officer Writer as long as you can save your documents in the appropriate format.
What Transcription Jobs are Out There?
Too many to name! Seriously, there are a lot of different typist opportunities out there. For example, some companies focus entirely on legal or medical transcription while others specialize in closed captioning or focus groups. Most beginner opportunities will fall in the realm of “general” transcription which could consist of market research, lectures, seminars, and utterances (to name a few).
Medical and legal transcription jobs will typically require a couple of years of experience. Actually, medical transcription opportunities may even require completion of a certification program.
I’ve yet to encounter a medical transcription job that didn’t require experience. So if you think you may be interested in eventually pursuing a medical transcription career, you’ll want to find a reputable program that will help you find gainful employment post-graduation.
What Else Should I know About Transcription Jobs for Beginners?
Every transcription company will have a different turnaround time or TAT as they are commonly referred to. The turnaround time could be 24 hours, a week, or anywhere in between. If you are unable to complete a job within the specified TAT, do not accept it!
Meeting or exceeding deadlines is important. The company you type for is promising their clients that they will have a completed transcript within a certain window–it’s your job to make sure you can deliver it on time, every time. If not, you’ll likely find that your services will be terminated.
An audio hour and an actual hour are two very different things. You’ll likely come across a work from home transcription job that promises a pay rate of $15.00 per audio hour. And as a beginner, you’ll think, “Wow, $15.00 an hour is a pretty good rate of pay with no experience!” And, you’d be correct, if it was actually $15.00 an hour, but it’s not. An audio hour is an hour of recorded audio.
When you’re first starting out, it will likely take you in the neighborhood of four hours to complete one hour of audio. So if your client sends you a recording that is an hour in length, plan on spending roughly four actual hours typing it out.
This means that a pay rate of $15.00 per every audio hour translates to $3.75 per hour–not so good! As you get faster and become more experienced, you may find that you’re able to complete an hour of audio in three hours’ time, but still, at a rate of $15.00 per audio hour is only $5.00 an actual hour–better, but still not great.
I’ve seen many beginning typists confuse audio hour rates of pay with actual hours. The last thing you want to do is spend hours and hours on a file for pay that is far below minimum wage. You’ll likely burn out quickly and give up on pursuing transcription work in the future.
Speaking of pay…
So, you ask, “What is a fair rate of pay?” Depending to whom you pose this question, you’ll get a variety of answers.
A fair rate of pay is whatever amount you’re willing to work for. Always try to gauge what you’ll make an hour on a project or assignment (based on the the three to four hours per audio hour rule) and decide whether it’s an amount you’re okay with. If it is great! If it’s not, don’t accept it.
You’ll find that some projects or assignments will base their pay by the word, character, line, or even page. Often, you will encounter these types of pay as you gain experience and work in a particular niche. For example, whenever I’ve done insurance transcription work, I’ve been paid by the page. And when I did legal transcription work, I was paid per every 65-character line.
When pay is broken down like this, it can be difficult to determine your hourly pay rate right off the bat. You likely won’t know from the get-go what an average page count or character count is per audio hour. To help you get a rough estimate, an average minute of audio will contain about 140 words. So, let’s say a company offers beginning typists a rate of $0.005 per typed word. You could estimate your likely earnings this way:
60 minutes of audio x 140 words x .005 = $42.00.
Remember, this is $42.00 per audio hour.
So, if it takes you four hours to type this, you would be making $10.50 per hour.
Working as an Independent Contractor
Nine times of out ten, transcription jobs will hold independent contractor (IC) status. In fact, most work from home job opportunities require you to work as an independent contractor. If you’ve never worked as an IC before, you might be confused about what that really means:
- The company that pays you will not take out taxes from your pay. It is your responsibility to pay the appropriate taxes on income earned as an independent contractor.
- You are not an employee of the company and are not entitled to benefits from the company.
- You are simply providing your services to the company as a typist.
- As an independent contractor, you are considered to be self-employed and are therefore subject to Self-Employment Tax.
- You will likely be issued a 1099-MISC at the end of the tax year IF you provided services for a company and were paid more than $600.00 for those services.
Don’t worry! I know it sounds a bit daunting when people start talking taxes. However, if you plan accordingly and understand from the start that you are responsible for paying your own taxes on income earned, you’ll be better prepared to take on the financial responsibilities of being an independent contractor.
Fortunately, the IRS provides a lot of helpful resources specifically for the self-employed.
Ready to type?
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably pretty anxious to finally learn where you can begin to source work from home transcription opportunities. Check out my Transcription Jobs For Beginners post to learn about three beginner-friendly companies hiring now.
Train to Become a General Transcriptionist
If you are truly interested in working from home as a typist, visit Transcribe Anywhere where you can learn how to start a lucrative transcription career from scratch — they even have a free mini course that shows you what it takes to be successful as a home-based typist!
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