How to Earn Money as a General Transcriptionist

How to Start as a General Transcriptionist

Three years ago my husband decided to go back to school for an MBA. I was great at saving money, but now I needed to find a way to earn money. None of the income-earning ideas that I read about online intrigued me until I stumbled upon something called general transcription.

What is Transcription?

Transcription is turning audio or video into a written, typed format. A general transcriptionist works on interviews, podcasts, speeches, forums, sermons, financial calls, etc. There is also legal and medical transcription, but those require either prior legal experience or taking a medical transcription course.

How To Get Started as a Transcriptionist

First, ask yourself a few quick questions.

  • Are you the go-to person for editing and proofreading?
  • Are you a whiz at researching online and finding obscure facts?
  • Do you have an ear for accents and are you able to identify people by the sound of their voice?
  • Can you follow explicit directions?
  • Finally, are you prepared to be a professional and to turn in your best work, spend extra time on hard files if needed, and commit to deadlines? If so, keep reading.

Where to Find Transcription Work

Most transcriptionists contract with large transcription companies. In order to gain a contract with a company, you need to submit a resume with a cover letter and then pass their audio test. Many transcription companies require prior transcription experience, but there are a few companies that will hire someone without prior experience including:

Before you jump into testing for companies, you’ll want to prepare so that you'll have the best chance of being accepted.

Tools To Start Working as a Transcriptionist

  • Headphones
    I started off with a $10 earbud set from Wal-Mart and upgraded later.
  • Audio Player
    Express Scribe and The Record Player are two free audio players that will let you use text expanders and hot keys on your keyboard to control the audio.
  • Foot Pedal
    I bought the Infinity foot pedal after I had landed a contract, but some people recommend buying one before you land a contract so that you can practice with it.
  • High-Speed Internet
  • Microsoft Word (or other word processing program)


The best way to learn something is to just do it. Download a podcast or a speech from online and play it with your new audio player. Type what you hear, using correct grammar and punctuation. Don’t be discouraged if your first run-through takes a long time. The industry standard is completing an hour of audio in three to four hours, but for beginners it may take six or seven hours.

Look for podcasts or sources of audio that have transcripts attached so that you can check your practice work such as Freakonomics, NPR, or Brain Science Podcast.


Unfortunately, some people will try to take advantage of those who desire to work from home. I recommend joining one or two transcription forums where transcriptionists discuss which companies to avoid, the average pay a beginner should accept (hint: try not to accept things below $40 an audio hour), how a transcription resume differs from other resumes, how to become more efficient, and many other topics. It is not unusual for companies to pass along that they're hiring through the forums.

Two forums that I recommend are Transcription Essentials and Transcription Haven.

Obtain Volunteer or Overflow Work

You will be more confident applying for companies once you have some experience to put on your resume.

Sometimes people on the forums will post volunteer opportunities, usually for a nonprofit. This is a good way for you to gain feedback and a potential referral. Since your time is valuable, I recommend only doing volunteer work once or twice, but it can give you good experience. There is also occasional overflow work opportunities that are posted on the forums for active, contributing members.

You can also look for transcription opportunities on Elance or oDesk, but be warned that the pay may be low and the competition high.

Start Applying for Transcription Work

Once you feel prepared, start applying to some of the larger companies. Don't give up if you're not accepted by the first few companies that you apply to. Keep trying. If you're determined and you're skilled then you will eventually land a contract and become a general transcriptionist.

Chelsea Flint is a full-time mother and a part-time transcriptionist. She enjoys reading, going on walks, and helping others earn money from home. She shares her learnings on her blog,

If you have a unique way that you earn money from home, please share it with us.
I would love to include your experience with our readers!

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Disclosure: This post contains a link to an affiliate and support this site. See my Disclaimer Policy for additional information.

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