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What are the required skills for a general transcriptionist?

Here is the surprise – typing speed is not critical when considering the general transcription profession; especially for work-from-home job opportunities which generally pay based on production of transcripts.

Customers only care for accuracy, proper transcript formatting & timely turnaround. A slow-typing transcriptionist will earn less in the beginning, and increase their hourly earnings as their typing speed improves. Customers will never know or care about the typing speed.

Successful transcriptionists need to have the following skills:

  • Good Ears
  • Fast Fingers – don’t worry if you don’t have them now, it’s not a must-have to start. You will have them once you start working
  • Recognition of Terms
  • Knowledge of Punctuation
  • Patience
  • Responsibility
  • Be smart and informed
  • Good grammar and spelling skills
  • And lastly, a decent typing speed  

Most people think that all one needs to become a successful transcriptionist are good ears and fast fingers. You do need good ears and your typing speed will improve, but you also have to be well rounded enough to know to transcribe “Bear Market”, not “Bare Market”.

You must be able to recognize the difference between "discreet" and "discrete". And you must be afflicted with an enthusiasm for punctuation that borders on fetish in order to make people read as they sound. 

  • Good listening and attention to detail

These skills should be obvious, given the job. Very often transcriptionists encounter recordings spoken with different accents and a varied level of clarity. Good listeners will complete transcriptions faster and more accurately. Given that the earnings in this profession is determined by performance, this skill will result in highest income for a general transcriptionist. Also, typically transcription fees for “bad recordings” are higher, which means that a transcriptionist can make more money for the same amount of work if they can pay attention to details.

  • Patience  

Patience is a real virtue for a good transcriptionist. Very often (almost always for bad recordings), transcriptionists will need to go back few times to understand exact words. Patient transcriptionists typically have higher accuracy, resulting in more regular customers and fewer returns. 

  • Discipline & Responsibility  

Transcriptionists need to meet deadlines. Clients will not meet their deadline if transcripts are late. Transcription is a profession that requires discipline and responsibility to complete work on time and follow client instructions. 

  • Smart and informed  

Transcriptionists need to understand the context of recordings in order to consistently generate above average quality transcripts. A transcriptionist will often need to make a judgment call because the recording is not clear.

  • Good grammar, spelling & vocabulary

Transcribers may need to fix the grammar & spelling of the recording. Good grammar and spelling skills will increase the transcript quality, resulting in loyal & higher paying customers. 
Transcriptionists will encounter not-so-common words while transcribing. Thus, a good vocabulary will help complete the transcription quickly.  

  • Microsoft Word knowledge  

Proficiency in MS Word is required for a good transcriptionist. Clients not only expect accurate transcripts in MS Word format, they quite often ask that the transcript to be sent in the specific format that they use. Transcriptionists will need to be able to convert transcripts to customer preferred formats.  

  • And lastly, typing skills  

This may come as a surprise that this is listed last because of the conventional wisdom that a transcriptionist needs to be a fast typist. Fast typing helps earn more per hour, but this skill is NOT needed to start as a transcriptionist. Transcriptionists are paid by production, so slow typing will result in less income, but will still be a decent income so long as transcripts are accurate and speed is moderate. 

What tools are needed to become a general transcriptionist?

The following tools are needed to become a work from home general transcriptionists

Computer, Software, & Work Station

A computer with a printer hookup and a comfortable space for working is needed to become a work from home general transcriptionists. The computer needs to either have speakers or high quality headphones for listening to the recording. We suggest headphones, because it will not disturb other people.

The computer should have at least Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel software. MS Outlook is desired for communication with client and for setting alerts about the impending deadlines of projects.

Windows Media Player or similar software is needed to play the recordings for transcription. This is usually available at no cost.

High Speed Internet Access

Transcriptionists will be downloading and uploading files from the client websites and other FTP sources. Many of the files will be large. Transcriptionists will be unable to download voice files and transcribe them in time, especially with tight deadlines, without access to high speed internet connection.

Transcribing Equipment  

  • Foot pedal to control speed, reverse, and fast forward digital recordings.
  • Headphones  
What training is required to become a general transcriptionist?

If you are diligent and patient, then you may not need any specific training to become a general transcriptionist.

You can self-train by purchasing transcription equipment and practicing transcribing different voice recordings. You will need someone else to judge your work.

There are several free online websites that helps people learn how to type fast and accurately. Many transcription companies either have their own training program, or will pay for the training of transcriptionists.

The best option is to take lessons and get certified. If you have never transcribed before, or if your work was rejected by any professional transcription company when you took their test, then you probably require training.

Get complete online training to become a successful work from home general transcriptionist, for a modest fee, at www.transcriptioncertificationinstitute.org. Become an intern after certification to build credibility and gain access to the transcription industry.

How to find transcription work?

There are several choices when starting out in the work from home transcription business. 

  • Become an independent contractor transcriptionist for end users – businesses, research companies, etc.
  • Work for brick & mortar transcription companies
  • Work from home for online transcription companies worldwide
  • Become a virtual-transcriptionist for end users worldwide
  • Start a transcription business  

Become an Independent Contractor Transcriptionist

Many clients want to hire transcriptionists as independent contractors (IC), and pay by performance. It could be a work from home or client’s location job opportunity.

Transcriptionists will need to demonstrate their qualification and experience in order to get hired as an IC transcriptionist. A profile highlighting experience on professional networking websites like linkedin.com, in social media sites like facebook.com, and on transcription oriented websites like TranscriptionVendors.com should be done by every transcriptionist who want to work from home.

Certification from Transcription Certification Institute will help build credibility as a qualified General Transcriptionist.

Work for Brick & Mortar Transcription Companies

There are brick and mortar transcription companies looking for general transcriptionists. There are directories of transcriptionists available on the web that may help identify any transcription company in the area of transcriptionist choice. A completed profile, certification of typing speed and accuracy, and certification as a General Transcriptionist from TCI would help compete with other candidates.

A job that pays an hourly wage will be hired based on your typing speed and accuracy. Free typing practice is available at www.typingweb.com. These companies usually test for speed and accuracy before hiring.

Work for Online Transcription Companies Worldwide

A new transcriptionist may have a better shot at finding transcription work as an IC transcriptionist at online transcription companies. These are typically work-from-home jobs, where companies pay by performance. The only thing that counts here is accuracy and timely delivery.

Most successful online transcription companies are always looking for qualified transcriptionists. An online profile at websites like linkedin.com, facebook.com etc could be helpful when applying for an IC transcriptionist position at online transcription companies.

Transcriptionists will typically need to take their test and pass it in order to get work from online transcription companies.

Become a Virtual Transcriptionist for Clients Worldwide

A good portion of transcription customers prefer to work with one transcriptionist instead of dealing with a company, so that the transcriptionist gets used to their style and special requirements.

Chances of getting a Virtual Transcriptionist job will increase dramatically if a transcriptionist can also provide Virtual Assistant services to their client. 

Start Your Own Transcription Business

The following is required to start a transcription service business:

  1. Website
  2. Marketing
    1. Web marketing
    2. Local direct marketing by mail and phone
  3. Execution of work

Starting your own transcription business requires juggling several balls at a time. It requires business plan, a website, internet and offline marketing, actual execution of work, and perhaps a need to hire qualified transcriptionists depending on how much you want your business to grow.

Transcriptionists should think about starting your own business only if they plan to become a large transcription services provider. 
Contact companies that help build transcription website and market it. These companies could be found by searching for online consultants at search portals like Google, Yahoo or MSN. Make sure that the company has developed and marketed transcription websites. One company that has built several transcription websites is www.gmrwebteam.com.


Whether working from home as a general transcriptionist, or running a full-service transcription business, below are some marketing activities that will bring more customers: 

  1. Start with aggressive rates and offer 100% satisfaction or money back guarantees.
  2. Advertise transcription services on Google, Yahoo & MSN. Local level advertising can be inexpensive and could cost as little as $100 a month or even less for certain areas.
  3. List the business on search engines like Google, Yahoo & MSN.
  4. List the services on craigslist.org.
  5. Create profile on social media sites like linkedin.com, ling.com, facebook.com, etc.
  6. Direct mail to the target customers.
  7. Register with freelance services like elance.com, guru.com, etc. and bid for jobs posted on those sites.
  8. Ask existing clients for referral.  

We suggest that you allocate a marketing budget when you start your transcription business, and let professionals like onlinebizhq.org handle your marketing. A professional marketing company will help you accelerate your revenue dramatically.

What are the expected earnings of a work-from-home general transcriptionist?

How much you earn as a general transcriptionist will depend on your skills, marketing success, and perseverance.

Below are some earnings estimates for general transcription work (PLEASE NOTE – THESE ARE JUST ESTIMATES, NOT GUARANTEES)

Work-from-home Transcriptionist

Pay-by-Hour transcriptionist:

Pay hour fees could be anywhere from $10 to $35 and up, depending on skill set and client. Transcriptionists will need to demonstrate superior typing speed and accuracy of typing in order to get transcription jobs that pay hourly.

Pay-by-Performance transcriptionist:

Pay-by-Performance transcriptionist gets paid for the work completed. Below are some typical general transcription rates: 

  • By minute of recording – $75 to $200 for one-hour of recording transcribed.
  • By lines of the final transcript – 5 cents to 10 cents per line transcribed.  

A good transcriptionist will normally take 2-4 hours to transcribe one-hour of recording. A new transcriber could take up to four hours. However, we have noticed that transcribers start to get close to the two-hour level after some experience.

The rates assume that transcriptionists are working directly for the end-user. The rate will be about 50% of the amount if working for a transcription company.