When searching for remote jobs, transcription is bound to pop up as one of the many options. But can you really make money as a freelance transcriptionist?
Freelance transcriptionists can earn anywhere from $5-$20 per hour, depending on whether you do general, medical, or legal transcription. You can work for generic transcription sites, specific companies, or your own clientele. Who you work for will also influence how much you earn.
Read on to find out what transcription is all about, how you can get started, and how much you can expect to make!
What Is Transcription?
By definition, transcription is the written form in which speech or sound is represented, and the process of doing transcription is the process of turning audio into a readable text.
In more relatable terms, it looks like a person with a headset sitting in front of a desk, stopping and starting audio with their foot pedal, and typing what they hear to the best of their abilities.
There are three main categories of transcription:
- General transcription
- Medical transcription
- Legal transcription
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
When you look up what general transcription is, you’ll probably come across the answer of “anything that’s not legal or medical transcription.”
And although that might not seem very helpful, it’s actually the most accurate definition there could be.
As a general transcriptionist, you might be typing up things like:
- Insurance Investigations
If you’re looking at bursting onto the transcription scene, but don’t have any prior experience or college degrees, this is probably the focus of the industry that you’ll start in.
Medical transcription is the process of converting confidential dictations made by nurses, doctors, or other healthcare workers.
Within this field, you’re dealing with a lot of personal, confidential information, as most audios are going to be relating to a specific patient and their health history.
While you might not need prior transcription experience when searching for a job in this industry niche, it will prove helpful.
Plus, you’re going to want to be, at the very least, knowledgeable about medical terminology before you get started. Otherwise you’re going to be spending a lot of time relistening to and looking up complex medical terms.
And while not always the case, it would be best to get a certificate from a medical transcription course to better your chances of getting hired.
Some clients or companies will also require some sort of college degree or medical training to be qualified.
Legal transcription is arguably the most difficult of the three, and it involves transcribing things like:
- Court proceedings
- Client letters
Most companies and clients are looking for experienced transcriptionists, sometimes requiring 5 years’ experience for an entry-level position.
And that’s with good reason, because legal transcription will almost always be verbatim. That means that every filler word, stutter, false start, and non-word utterance will need to be put into text exactly as it happened.
And it’s worth noting that legal transcriptionists differ from court reporters (also called stenographers).
Stenographers are in court transcribing the conversation real-time, legal transcriptionists still use audio/video files, and it can be done remotely.
And, as with medical transcription, you should probably have a strong grasp of legal terminology before you start applying.
How Do You Become a Transcriptionist?
There are three main avenues you can take when starting out as a transcriptionist. Those are:
- Join a transcription site
- Get hired by a company
- Build your own clientele
Let’s dive in and see what each one entails.
Joining a Transcription Site
The first and most common way when you’re just starting out without experience is by joining a transcription site, like Rev, Speechpad, or TranscribeMe for example.
The sign-up process for the vast majority of these is very similar, and it looks something like this:
- Create an account on their website
- Fill out basic information
- Take (and pass) a grammar skills and English language test
- Submit a short transcription sample
- Get approved and start working
With most of these sites, there are no minimum work requirements – you can do as much or as little as you want.
Transcription sites are a great way to test the waters, but if you’re looking to make this more than just a semi-lucrative pastime, this should act more as your stepping-stone to one of the other two options.
Get Hired by a Company
If you’re looking to move your transcribing gig to the next level, you could always try getting hired by a company.
This differs from generic transcription sites because specific companies generally have a steady clientele, can promise a steady stream of work, aren’t always hiring, and generally require some sort of minimum work commitment.
To find openings, you can search job sites like Indeed or ZipRecruiter.
The application process will probably be a little stricter, and you’ll probably be required to send a copy of your resume.
As with the others, you can expect to complete some grammar skill quiz and a test transcription file.
If you get hired, you’ll still be an independent contractor. So, you’ll still be your own boss working from home in your pajamas whenever you feel like it, you’ll just have to meet some deadlines and take on a minimum amount of work.
Build Your Own Clientele
If you want to completely cut out the middleman – and maximize your earning potential – you’re going to want to build your own clientele.
But keep in mind that this route, while it might be the most financially rewarding, will be the most difficult.
This is also best suited for legal and medical transcriptionists.
That’s because you’re going to be going out and actually finding your (potential) clients. This includes sending letters offering your services to individual doctors or lawyers.
You can also get a list of emails of physicians/lawyers in your area and email a marketing piece to them, although in my personal opinion, it might be better to mail something physically so it won’t automatically go to a spam folder.
This avenue ventures into the territory of business owner in the fullest sense of the term. You’ll be dealing directly with clients, keeping track of your own invoicing system, and being completely responsible for tight deadlines and rush files.
How Much Money Can You Make?
How much you can earn as a transcriptionist depends on which type you do and what avenue you chose to pursue.
For example, the average transcriptionist in each field earns:
- General: $28,343 per year, or $13.42 per hour
- Medical: $33,380 per year, or $16.05 per hour
- Legal: $34,209 per year, or $16.20 per hour
Even though these numbers represent the differences between the respective industries (and are the most accurate data I could find by research), this is no way accurately represents each individual’s experience.
When you do a quick google search to find out how much a transcriptionist can make, you’ll find anywhere between $5 an hour to $60,000 a year or more.
A lot of it depends on which avenue you take to get your work.
If you work with general sites like Rev or TranscribeMe, you can expect to earn a lot less for the same amount of work – sometimes not even $10 per hour.
But if you work for specific companies (like Allegis, for example), you could earn between $15-$20 per hour for general transcription.
I even know someone who built her own clientele doing medical transcription and consistently earned over $10,000 a month – no joke!
So, as you can see, how much you can earn is variable, but you definitely can earn more than enough to substantiate a part-time or full-time job.
Is Freelance Transcription Work Legit?
Being a transcriptionist stands out to me as one of those jobs that sees an unnecessarily high amount of people claiming it’s a scam, as well as a lot of people trying to use transcription as a ruse for scamming job seekers.
Addressing the first issue: I think a lot of people associate freelance transcription with a scam because they’ve probably signed up for a generic website that paid next to nothing for copious amounts of work, just to never see a penny of it because of “technical issues.”
That’s happened to me, and I can attest to the fact that it’s tempting to write off all the legitimate opportunities that are out there.
Unfortunately, some (not all) of the well-known generic transcription sites have that story, which is in part why I would only recommend it as a money making pastime or a stepping stone to an avenue where your work and time will be more appropriately valued.
Addressing the second issue: this seems to be one of those jobs with a disproportionate amount of people setting up work-from-home scams.
Because of that, if you’re starting to look into this as a career opportunity, make sure you know how to spot work-from-home scams so you won’t become just another victim.
In the end, transcription can be a very lucrative job that has all the added benefits of working from home as an independent contractor.
It might be a process that takes a few weeks (or even months) to really get going, but the reward is well worth the effort!
Just be cautious when you’re applying for jobs – use common sense so as to avoid scams. Hopefully this article gave you some helpful insights!