What is transcribing?
Before we talk about whether you can really make money transcribing online, let’s look at what transcribing actually is.
Transcribing is basically listening to a recording of something and typing out what you hear word for word into a document.
Examples of such recordings could be personal conversations, business meetings, court hearings, college lectures or interviews.
Who pays for transcribing services?
It might be a business which wants to get all its Board meetings and brainstorming sessions transcribed. Or it could be an educational body’s lectures or training sessions that they want to get transcribed.
These companies turn to transcribing company like Rev.com for example or to specialist transcribers who market themselves directly to companies in particular industries.
That where the freelancers (that’s you!) to complete transcribing work for them.
What’s the appeal of being a transcriber?
You get to be a freelancer!
That means you can be your own boss and choose you own work hours.
In fact, you will find that most companies that employ transcribers allow them to work from home.
Isn’t that the dream of many workers who are stuck behind the checkout or in their cubicle? Who wants to spend hours commuting into the city each day?
But the real reason transcribing is such a popular way to make money online is that many companies will consider beginners with no experience.
This usually means that if you can pass a preliminary transcription test, you can be on your way to a sweet freelancing gig.
This is great news because it means you need to go take out a student loan and go to college for a degree before you can start earning money.
But what kind of money can you ACTUALLY make from being a transcriptionist?
Transcribing rates are almost always paid in audio hours. This is NOT your hourly pay rate.
This confused me when I first started looking at transcribing jobs.
So let me explain.
So if a company says they will pay you $60 per audio hour, what is your actual per hour rate?
Well, it depends on how long you take to transcribe an hour of audio.
Let’s say you take 6 hours, so that will mean you get paid $10/hour.
But how long you take will depend firstly on your level of experience but it can also depend on various factors such as:
- How fast the people are speaking
- The number of people talking
- How clear the recording is (is there background noise, is it a phone interview which is a bit muffled)
- How clear the speakers are (is the person mumbling, are they using technical jargon, do they have a strong accent)
So not all audio files are not created equally. Those with many people talking over each other and poor recording quality mean you spend a lot of time hitting the rewind button and listening to the same bit over and over before you can decipher what on earth they are trying to say!
You can probably sense a bit of my frustration here.
So, get the gear if you don’t want to be slow and frustrated
I was reluctant to make any investment when I was first starting out. Big mistake. Took much longer than I should have and it was soon frustrating.
If you are going to give transcribing a real go, save yourself some frustration and invest in the following:
A computer with a high-speed internet connection
Let’s face it, having a laggy computer or dial up will just slow you down and in transcription time is money.
The free version is sufficient to connect your foot pedal to your computer. This controls audio playback and comes with other features like variable speed playback and is compatible with the main types of audio files like MP3, WAV, WMA, AIFF, MP2, and M4A.
3. Foot Pedal
However, you will need to fork out money for an AltoEdge Foot Pedal that is the only foot pedal that is compatible with the free software.
You will also need a Transcription Headset so you can focus on the sound and block out other distractions around you.
Or you do it primitive styles like I did as I was a bit reluctant to invest anything when I was first trying out transcribing.
I put my speaker up on semi high (because my baby was napping), would type what I hear then have to flick the screen from my word document back to the audio file and manually drag the button back to rewind, press play then flick back to the document.
In the meantime I might have missed the first few words as I was flicking screens from the audio file to the document.
As you can imagine, that was a painfully slow process and you can get much faster transcribing results if you have the right gear – remember getting the job done faster means a higher per hour rate. That means more money.
The Myths I found about transcribing
Myth #1: To be good at transcribing you just need to type really fast
It’s true you need to type fast – preferable around 60 words per minute. If you aren’t sure how fast you can type, take the free test here.
But there is much more to transcribing than just being a fast typist. In addition to you also need to be:
- Self-motivated and self-disciplined: This goes for most online work. The freedom to pick your hours means that you are personally responsible for making sure you do productive work. No productive work = no money.
- Well versed in English grammar and punctuation. While most companies don’t require any previous experience, you will be required to pass an initial assessment before you are given any jobs.
In addition to fast typing, you will need a deep vocabulary and understanding of professional versus common or colloquial usage of terminology and structure to do well in these assessments.
- Be able to transcribe in accordance with the company’s particular style guide. This I found difficult as its just not the normal way you would usually type. It certainly takes a bit of practice to get used to it.
Here is an example from Transcribe.com’s style guide. Can you see how the strict the style guidelines are?
You might be able to transcribe without any experience but you cannot do it WELL without practice.
So, where can you get practice?
I previously mentioned that, there are many companies that consider beginners if you can pass their initial assessments.
I would highly recommend getting some practice before diving into those initial tests.
Here are some ways to get practice:
- Download Express Scribe and practice with their practice files located here.
- Companies like Scribie, Quicktate, Transcribe Me, and Rev don’t pay well at all for transcription, but it’s easier to get accepted. So you can use those platforms as practice and get a bit of money while you are at it. Once you are more confidence, you can approach higher paying companies for better gigs.
Myth #2: Transcribing is an easy, low stress job
Ummm… not in my experience. No it’s not.
While many transcribing freelancers enjoy the benefit of working from home, being their own boss etc, it takes one gig with some poor audio quality or an audio with a group of people talking over each other to really put you over the edge.
I used to imagine transcribing to be a relaxing activity. A nice break when my baby was sleeping. Ha! It certainly wasn’t quite relaxing.
It actually took a lot of focus, which was quite difficult as a sleep deprived new mom.
If you are thinking this is a mindless relaxing task that makes money roll in, think again. It is a respectable profession and takes focus and skill to be a transcriber.
Myth #3: Transcribing is an easy no-brainer way to make a side income
I realized that top transcribers aren’t just skilled at the art of transcribing but they are also great at marketing. That’s how they stand out from the crowd and get top dollar.
In order to make more than minimum wage transcribing, you have to know how to market yourself as a transcriber and get the word out about your services.
This involves social media, building a website and SEO tactics. Having these skills give you an edge against the rest of the transcribers in the market.
Having excellent marketing skills can increase your exposure to potential clients AND skyrocket your earning potential.
If you are serious about becoming a successful transcriber but don’t know how to build a website or market yourself online, I suggest you take a good look at the online community where I got my training.
Learn how to build a website (you’ll be surprised how easy it is even with no experience) and learn SEO tactics and social media marketing to get an edge you’re your competition.
I think you will find that surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals looking to help and support you along with the best training I’ve found online will take you further than you could ever imagine. Create your free account and start now!