How to Become a Transcriptionist - Woman Typing on Laptop

In this article, we’re going to talk you through the steps you can take to become a successful transcriptionist. We will begin by giving you some basic background information, allowing you to decide whether this job is a good match for you, and will then work through the different steps you could take in preparing yourself for your new career in transcription, as well as how to go about finding your first client.

How to Become a Transcriptionist

It’s time to take a deep dive and learn how to become a transcriptionist. Let’s start at the top…

Is Transcription Work a Good Fit For You?

There are a few different things you will probably want to take into consideration when deciding whether transcription seems like a good fit for you.

The first thing is the working environment. Although not always the case, the majority of transcriptionists do work remotely rather than in a traditional office setting. If you’re someone that loves the hustle and bustle of a busy office and likes to work surrounded by others, then this is definitely something to think about in advance. Of course, there are transcription jobs out there that will allow you to work from an office, but these do tend to be less common than the plethora of remote transcription jobs available.

Secondly, do you enjoy completing tasks independently? Most of the time, transcriptionists are assigned a specific job or project and will be given some basic guidelines, but beyond this, there will be little intervention from the client or colleagues. For those who prefer to work as part of a team or in group settings, this might be an issue.

Finally, are you someone that craves routine and structure, or are you happy to work on a project-to-project basis on a flexible time schedule? Every transcription job is likely to be different and you might not have a consistent or regular workload.

Once you have considered each of these points and decided that transcription work would fit well with your lifestyle, goals, and interests, it’s time to think about how you might get started on your transcription career path.

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Getting Started

Here, we’re going to look at the skills you should be aiming to develop when looking for a career in transcription as well as some basic training options that are available to you.

What Skills Will You Need to Become a Transcriptionist?

To secure well-paid work as a transcriptionist, you will need to have an excellent understanding of the English language (or any other language you will be working in – bilingual transcriptionists are also in very high demand). You’ll need to have excellent spelling and grammar skills, as well as the ability to understand tone and conversational colloquialisms.

Your listening skills should be next to none, since a huge part of the job involves listening to audio files and effectively deciphering what is being said and by whom.

You will also need to be computer-literate. You should be comfortable using different computer software and must be able to effectively communicate with others via digital means. This might be clients, employers, or colleagues.

Finally, you will need to have outstanding typing skills. This means being able to type quickly and with minimal mistakes to maximize efficiency. Some employers or clients will ask that you have a specific minimum typing speed – usually around 60-70 words per minute – but this isn’t always the case. Regardless, if you want to complete a high number of jobs successfully, you should be working on developing your typing skills continually. 

Related: Learn How to Type Faster and More Accurately

Test Your Typing Skills

Before taking any further steps, it’s a good idea to test your typing speed in order to gauge how much progress is needed and to see how you compare to other typists.

There is a wide range of free online typing tests available that can be completed for free. These let you practice your typing skills while also being tested to tell you your speed in words per minute. Lots of these tests will also tell you what mistakes were made, which means you can easily identify points of weakness and work on these while practicing.

Having a basic understanding of your own typing speed also lets you know what kind of jobs you should be striving for and the jobs that you should apply to. For example, if you regularly take online typing tests and achieve scores higher than 70 wpm, you can confidently apply to more complex, well-paid jobs.

Take an Online Transcription Course

Online transcription courses can provide invaluable knowledge and training when it comes to transcription work. The work can be pretty complex and you might have to work with complicated software or clients might ask you to follow specific formats that you’re not familiar with.

By completing an online training course, you’ll most likely learn how to use the most common software, how to format your typing, and how to work more efficiently and accurately. Not only will this give you the confidence to approach clients and begin applying for transcription jobs, but it will also look great on your resume and might give you that much-needed edge over a competing typist.

Often, transcriptionists will choose to specialize in a specific area of transcription such as legal, medical, or financial transcription. If you’re looking to do this, then it might be worth looking for courses relevant to that particular field. However, there are plenty of great courses available that will cover all areas of transcription in more general terms.

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Practice Using Online Resources or Software

There are also lots of great online resources that can be accessed for free and provide valuable knowledge to anyone looking into a career in transcription. A quick Google search will uncover numerous e-books, worksheets, and practice sessions to let you develop your knowledge and skills in this area.

Finding Work as a Transcriptionist

Now that you’ve acquired all of the necessary skills and you have a solid understanding of what type of work you are looking to take on, it’s time to start looking for your first transcription job.

You have a few different options here.

If you’re looking for full-time employment with employee benefits, you’ll need to look for companies that are hiring transcriptionists specifically.

If you’re looking for a more flexible work schedule and like the idea of working more independently but are unsure of how to effectively market your services, you could join one of the many online transcription platforms for freelancers.

Alternatively, if you want to work entirely for yourself and avoid the fees that come along with online work platforms, you could set up your own business and find your clients independently.

We’re going to take a look at each of these options to see which is likely to best suit you.

Look for Companies That Are Hiring Full or Part-Time Transcriptionists

So, if you’re looking for a more structured work-life and want a reliable, consistent workload, you could seek out companies that are hiring transcription employees. To find this kind of work, check out local newspapers, bulletin boards, job groups on Facebook and online job listing sites. You could also do some research and find companies in your area that use transcriptionists and enquire directly about any employment opportunities.

The obvious benefits of this option are the security that it gives. As a company employee, you’re likely to have a consistent salary, employee benefits such as healthcare and holiday pay, as well as the added social benefits that might come along with working as part of a larger team.

The downside, of course, is that the work will probably be less flexible, meaning it might not work so well for people will other commitments such as childcare, housework, or other jobs.

Sign Up to an Online Transcription Platform

Your second option is to sign up to one of the many online job platforms that let transcriptionists connect with potential clients and complete jobs in a secure setting. This is probably the more popular option and it works really well for lots of people.

Because these platforms are set up specifically to allow clients and freelancers to connect and network, it can be much easier to find work in this way than if you were to work independently or if you’re looking for full-time employment. In most cases, the client will advertise the specific project or job and freelancers will submit applications or proposals for the jobs that they feel fit their area of expertise.

Sites like TranscribeMe, GoTranscript, and Transcription Outsourcing are popular platforms and you can find a wide range of transcription jobs on each, from entry-level jobs to more complex, long-term work. 

The disadvantage with this option is that the work tends to be pretty low paid and the job market on each platform can be extremely competitive.

For beginners, it can be difficult to find work since they are competing with much more experienced transcriptionists. This means they’re often forced to take on extremely low-paid work simply to gain some initial experience and even the more advanced jobs tend to be pretty low-paid on these sites.

Be sure to see our list of recommended transcription equipment that will help you to get started.

Finally, arguably the most lucrative option is to set up your own transcription business and find your clients independently.

The prospect of setting up a new business might seem intimidating or scary, but in the long run, you could end up earning significantly more than with either of the other options listed here, and you get the freedom to choose your own working hours and the jobs that you take on.

By advertising your services directly to potential clients, you remove the middle man, whether that be your employer or the job platform. This means all of the profits are yours and you can build effective relationships with your clients, meaning more consistent work and higher rates of pay.

To get started, carry out some market research to find out if anyone else is offering transcription services in your area and get an idea of how much they are charging. This will let you know what kind of services are in demand, whether there is a gap in the market that you are able to fill, and how much you should be charging for your services.

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How can I work as a transcriptionist?

It might seem like there are lots of things to consider when looking to become a transcriptionist, and it’s true that there are. But all in all, it’s a pretty easy industry to break into, you just have to be willing to put in the work and take the time to develop your skills and experience. The great news is that primarily, this is a typing job and with consistent practice, typing is a pretty easy skill to develop and improve.

What equipment do I need to work in transcription?

You won’t necessarily need any specific equipment right away, although having a good quality foot pedal and headset are likely to greatly improve the efficiency and accuracy with which you are able to complete jobs. If you’re not looking to invest in expensive versions right now, there are lots of affordable options to be found online. Once your career takes off and you have an abundance of jobs rolling in, an ergonomic chair and keyboard might also be beneficial.

Do I need specific training to qualify?

In short, no! Transcriptionists are not required to sit any exams or to complete any specific training before practicing as professional typists, although there are courses available that will give you relevant qualifications. Whether or not you feel these are worth your time or money is entirely up to you. They might look good on your resume and could provide some useful information, but again, they’re not essential.

Final Thoughts on How to Become a Transcriptionist

Transcription work is in high demand and can become a lucrative earning opportunity with plenty of hard work and a good understanding of the industry itself.

With that being said, it’s also highly competitive and there are lots of traps to fall into that could leave you earning way less than minimum wage and struggling to make a sufficient amount of money for your work.

By following these tips and steps, you now know how to become a transcriptionist and uncover a new way of making money.

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