How to Become a Transcriptionist

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If you’re looking for a way to make money from home, working as a transcriptionist is an excellent option. There is plenty of transcribing work available, the schedule and hours are flexible, and the pay can be pretty good.

There is a lot to love about the possibilities of working in transcription.

One of the biggest challenges of most work-from-home opportunities is simply knowing where to get started. If you think it sounds interesting but you have no idea how you can get paid to work as a transcriptionist, this article and interview will put you on the right path.

Janet Shaughnessy started working as a medical transcriptionist in 2007. Later, she branched out to both legal and general transcription. When her workload grew to the point that she couldn’t handle it on her own, she founded her own company, Zoom Transcription Services.

Now Janet offers courses through Transcribe Anywhere to help others who want to learn how to make money transcribing. Transcribe Anywhere offers the most complete training of it’s kind, so if you’re interested in becoming a transcriptionist, you should definitely check it out.

Janet offers a General Transcription Course and a Legal Transcription Course, that teaches students everything needed to become a successful transcriptionist.

She also offers a Free General Transcription Mini-Course and a Free Legal Transcription Mini-Course that are great introductions.

I reached out to Janet to see if she would be willing to answer some questions about working in transcription, and she graciously agreed. Below you’ll see my questions and her responses.

If you have any interest in transcription, or if you’re looking for a way to make money from home, I think you’ll appreciate the insight that Janet provides.

Why and How to Become a Transcriptionist

Can you tell us about your background as a transcriptionist and how you got started?

“I actually learned to transcribe back in the stone age using shorthand and typewriters. I began my transcription business when my husband became disabled and couldn’t work. I couldn’t keep up with the demands of my job and taking care of my husband’s medical needs. So I had to look at my skillset and determine what I could do from home.

“I started with medical transcription since I was experienced in that field and started working as a subcontractor for a large transcription company. It became apparent pretty quickly that the demand for MTs, along with the pay, was diminishing with the adoption of the electronic medical record. I transitioned into general and legal transcription, which I also had experience in.

“I built up my own clientele and started hiring subcontractors to handle the overflow work. That’s how Zoom Transcription Services was born.”

Janet Shaughnessy

What do you like most about working as a transcriptionist?

“I love to type and learn new things, both of which are part of a transcriptionist’s job. But what I love the most is the time freedom that being self-employed brings. It’s priceless.”

What type of person would be well suited to work in transcription?

“Introverts make great transcriptionists! You have to enjoy working alone and be self-disciplined.

The skills can be learned, but the personality type isn’t going to change. If you LOVE going to the office, then transcription probably isn’t a good fit for you.

“That’s not to say that extroverts won’t be happy as well. It’s not so bad to have more time for family and friends.”

How many words per minute does someone need to type in order to be able to work in this field?

“Some transcription companies will accept less, but I suggest 70 wpm. However, and I can’t stress this enough, typing is a skill that’s easily mastered with practice and repetition.

“Too much focus is placed on typing speed by those who don’t truly understand what we do. Producing quality transcripts requires many skills besides typing. What’s more important and what our students find most challenging is English grammar and punctuation. ‘Comma Trauma’ is a real thing!”

What are the other requirements?

“Degrees aren’t necessary, but certification is a plus. A mastery of the English language and punctuation are also important. Being comfortable with word processing software and transcription software is obviously important. We provide training and certification in our courses.”

If someone has the necessary skills, how would they go about finding work?

“They can do an internet search for transcription companies and apply to work as a subcontractor. We provide other resources for finding work, but that information is only given to graduates of our courses.”

How hard is it for someone with no experience to find work?

“It’s possible to find work with companies that pay less than minimum wage. That’s not the market we target.

“It’s impossible to pass a transcription test without training and practice. I hear from students every day who’ve gone this route, only to fail. I reassure them that they didn’t fail. You just can’t know what you just don’t know. Once trained, our grads are fully qualified and confident in their abilities.”

Are most transcribing jobs full-time, part-time, or flexible?

“Very flexible. We’re self-employed and choose when, where, and how often we work. YAY! We have to meet client deadlines, of course, but we choose how much work to take on.”

→ Related reading: Best Transcription Jobs for Beginners and Pros

Aside from medical and legal, what other industries hire transcriptionists?

“As I mentioned earlier, please don’t think there’s work to be found in medical transcription. That’s just about gone. I don’t even understand how any ethical person or institution can still tout it as a great career choice. I stopped offering those services and training years ago.

Both general and legal transcription, however, are growing fields. The volume of digital recordings, both audio and video, being produced on a daily basis is astounding. Besides the legal field, general transcription encompasses almost any industry. We have conferences, interviews, training, marketers, bloggers, podcasters… just to name a few.”

How is the pay determined for most transcribing jobs

“It can be by line or per audio minute. My preference, and what most of us prefer, is to charge per audio minute. It’s more accurate and the client knows up front what the fee for our services will be.”

How much money could someone new to the industry expect to make?

“There’s a lot of variance. Rates depend on factors like number of speakers, audio quality, and expected turnaround time.

“Realistically, newbie transcriptionists should expect to make in the $15/hour range. That increases as your skill level increases. It’s production work. The more accurate and faster you become, the more you’ll make.

The national average for GTs is $45K/year. The national average for LTs is $65K/year.”

Can you tell us about the courses that you offer at Transcribe Anywhere?

“We offer courses in both general transcription and legal transcription.

“Our courses are very comprehensive and are designed to take a person from complete newbie to qualified transcriptionist in a short amount of time and at an affordable price.

“I always say it’s a journey and not a race, so our courses are self-paced. I don’t want anyone to rush through it. It’s all about skill building.

“We have a multi-media e-learning platform with gr