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.

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

Janet 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.

→ Related reading: Ways to Make Money: 150+ Side Hustle Ideas for Your Spare Time

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 great support for our students. It’s challenging, but we make it enjoyable and fun.”

How long does it take for most students to go through the course and start making money?

“The average is four to six months. But like I said, everyone’s situation is different, so there are no time limits imposed on completing the course(s).”

Do you help your students find work?

“We give our students all the of the tools and resources needed to land their first transcription jobs. However, we’re not an employment service and people will get out of the course what they put into it. We can’t do the work for you.”

If any readers have questions about your courses, how can they get their questions answered?

“The first step is to enroll in our free mini-course. That’ll answer many questions and help folks decide whether or not transcription is the right choice for them. My contact information is available on the website and in the mini-course. Once enrolled, we have support systems in place and are very quick to reply.”

→ Related reading: Transcription Equipment

Why Become a Transcriptionist?

Even with plenty of different ways to make money, transcribing stands out as an excellent opportunity. Here are just a few reasons why I think it makes a great opportunity for the right person.

Flexible Schedule

A flexible schedule is something that everyone wants, but few have. As a transcriptionist, you have control over how much work you accept, and you can set your own hours. You’ll have the ability to schedule work around your life, which can be extremely valuable.

Work from Home

Janet mentioned in the interview that one of the reasons she got started with transcription work was because of her husband’s disability. Instead of going to a job every day, Janet was able to work from home.

I’ve been working from home for more than 10 years now, and I know it’s been a huge blessing to me and my family.

Part-Time or Full-Time

Due to the flexible nature of transcribing, you can do it on a part-time or full-time basis.

If you have already have a part-time or full-time job and you’re looking for a side hustle that will allow you to make some extra money, this is an option.

And if you’re looking for a full-time income, that’s possible too.

A lot of side hustles don’t give you a realistic option to grow to a full-time income, but transcription does.

Work is Available

In the interview, Janet mentioned that while medical transcription is no longer a good option, there is plenty of work available in legal and general transcription.

Think about the number of podcasts that exist. Many podcasters also publish a text version of the recording, and most of those have been typed by transcriptionists. With the number of podcasts continuing to increase, the demand for transcription should increase as well. And this is just one situation that creates a demand for transcriptionists.

Good Income Potential

With a national average of $45,000 per year for general transcription work, and a national average of $65,000 per year for legal transcription work, this field offers good earning potential. Consider that you’re also getting the benefits of working from home and having a flexible schedule, and you can see why this would be an attractive opportunity.

The Skills Can Be Learned

If you’re not great at typing, that is a skill that can be learned and improved. Language skills can also be learned and improved.

So just because you don’t have the ability to get transcription work today doesn’t mean that it’s not a viable option for you.

You Can Get Started Relatively Quickly

If you have the necessary skills, you may be able to find transcription work right away. Janet mentioned that most students take about 4 – 6 months to complete her course and to be ready to start working. That’s much, much faster than just about any degree or certification that you can get. And you can also do it faster if you want to.

How to Get Started

If you’re interested in learning about transcription work, I recommend taking one (or both) of Janet’s free mini-courses. She offers a free 7-lesson general transcription mini-course and a free 4-day mini-course on legal transcription.

How to Become a Transcriptionist