How to work from home as a transcriptionist

Guest post by April

Hundreds of thousands of people are searching for a legitimate way to earn an income from home. Sadly, an overwhelming majority of what they run into is a scam, produces minuscule amounts of money or requires a considerable investment in training programs and/or years of experience.

Home-based transcription is a work-at-home job which allows people to make a real living without special education or experience required. Granted, just like any real job, it takes practice and study to become efficient, but the pay and flexibility of the job can be very rewarding.

I began my own transcription career at age 18. My mom was a small town court reporter from North Carolina and she taught me how to create legal documents. I was able to use the knowledge she gave me to start my own business as a legal transcriptionist.

I quickly discovered that the field of home-based transcription had many available opportunities. It wasn’t just for people with a medical certification, or even just for those with legal training. There were great general transcription positions available open to anyone with a strong work ethic, speedy typing, and good grammar and spelling abilities. Before I knew it, I had several different companies willing to provide me with work!

This proved to be a tremendous blessing for my family. It financially supported us through three years of my husband’s education and an additional two years through some pretty huge life changes. I took my job with me from North Carolina to California and back again to North Carolina, and was even able to work while caring for two precious babies.

Interested in working from home as a transcriptionist? Here are some qualifications needed:

1. Fast Typer: As a transcriptionist, you specialize in converting audio that you hear into specially formatted documents called transcripts. While you have a foot pedal to start and stop the audio when you need to, you will still need an absolute minimum typing speed of 60 words per minute, by hiring company standardsand to make the job worth your time and energy. If you’re not already a fast typist, don’t worry! Practice is all it takes to get your speed up.

2. Skilled Writer: Proper grammar usage, spelling and punctuation are very important in translating the spoken word to written. You can change the meaning completely by simply misplacing a period or comma. If you need to brush up on your writing skills, I recommend reviewing the guidelines and taking the quizzes by The Basic Elements of English Grammar Guide – University of Calgary.

3. Detailed Reseacher: As a transcriptionist, you are frequently exposed to new ideas, people, places and words you’ve not heard of before. This is a fun part about the job, but it can also be challenging to understand and spell correctly unless you’re skilled at researching.

You can expect to be paid anywhere from $6 to $60 per hour. When I first started and was learning the ropes, I was able to make about $12-$15 per hour. Knowing what I know now, and having increased my typing speed to 90-100 WPM, I am able to make about $25-$30 per hour. The more you practice and work on improving, generally, the more you’re going to make.

Steps of action to starting out as a transcriptionist:

  • Create a winning resume and cover letter.
  • Make sure you have the tools necessary to perform your work. Many companies require you to type a small transcript as part of your employment application, so it’s best to be ready before applying.
  • Start applying to any and all transcription companies you can. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back regarding your first few applications. I applied to nearly 60 companies before I was hired. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, it’s often easier to be accepted by more companies.

Working as a transcriptionist does take a lot of work and discipline, but it’s also a super, straightforward way to earn income from home with refreshingly honest wages for your valuable time and effort.

Happily married and delighted to be the stay-at-home mom of three munchkins (so far), April still enjoys transcribing part-time in addition to caring for her home and family. For more information on getting started as a transcriptionist, get her Home-Based Transcriptionist ebook.

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Comments

  1. says

    I have done this for years! I started out by getting jobs through oDesk, and got to the point where I wrote an eBook about it, as well as compiled an extensive book on companies hiring general transcriptionists and medical transcriptionists. Also, as a work-at-home mom, I also dabble in freelance writing, desktop publishing, graphic design, etc. ;)

    Here is a link to my work-at-home series:
    http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.asp?m=101223

  2. Sharon Peterson says

    I clicked on the Typing and Transcription Practice link and it seems to be broken. I got the following message:
    Internal Server Error
    The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

    Please contact the server administrator, webmaster@aprilhodson.com and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

    More information about this error may be available in the server error log.

    Additionally, a 500 Internal Server Error error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

    Thanks for the article. I’m excited to see how this would work out for me.

    • says

      Which link did you click on? It looks like it was just a little overloaded with traffic for a bit, but I think it’s working again now.

      • Sharon Peterson says

        I clicked the link under bullet point number 1. Just tried it again and it’s not loading at all. Probably just a combination of a lot of traffic and a very sloooooow internet connection. Thanks for checking.

        • says

          I’m afraid I can’t even access my own site right now. LOL I’m guessing it’s just getting an overload of traffic. I have much more detailed posts about transcription and where to find hiring companies on the site. If you want to look into it more, I guess giving a little time for the traffic to calm down might be best!

  3. Sandi Luciano says

    How many hours a week do you have to work? Can you make your own hours? Do you have to commit to a certain amount of hours per week?

    • says

      I used to work 6 hours a day at about $25 per hour. It was enough for $2800 to $3000 a month. I had to work up in my company to be able to get such a steady work flow, though. Yes, you make your own hours. The more you’re willing to do, often the more companies will provide after you have proved yourself.

        • Kris says

          I’ve done some freelance writing/editing, and you keep track of your income and file quarterly taxes. It’s not really that complex, and there are sites out there that specialize in helping you keep track of the accounting end of being self-employed.

  4. Alicia says

    I’ve always been interested and looked into doing this but everywhere I’ve seen has been one scam after another…. hopefully I can find something good from your tips! thank you!

  5. April says

    Thanks so much for posting this. I used to do transcription as part of my receptionist job years ago. I loved it! I hadn’t really considered it as an independent business! Great info!

  6. Agnes says

    Great post! Didnt realized how well it can potentially pay! Market it tight and I’ve been thinking/praying about a Plan B and they is right up my alley — i’m a good typist 70 wpm ;)

  7. Chris says

    Just a few things: As a retired medical transcriptionist with over 20 years of experience, I will have to say that one cannot usually get a good job in the medical field without training and/or experience. You will have to learn medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, etc. These are precise documents. Certain types of transcription allow for no mistakes at all, such as pathology and radiology, as it could cause someone to have unnecessary surgery, etc., Someone might be able to get a small job with a doctor’s office but a hospital is very highly unlikely to hire someone without experience. I guess the legal field is as mentioned in the article, but definitely not the medical field. All this aside though, it is a great way to make an income from home. If you are a fast typist combined with the right job, you can make over $25 an hour. I believe a lot of the transcriptionist jobs are being turned over to national companies though, that are not as good to work for.

    • Julie says

      I fully agree with Chris on this one. I have worked at home as a medical transcriptionist for over 15 years now. Although I don’t know much about other transcription services, I do know that medical transcription is a much more difficult field to get into, requiring medical training. I had previously been a surgical assistant for over 15 years before doing at-home transcription. My particular company requires three years of previous medical transcription experience. Not only is this due to malpractice reasons but, as stated by Chris, not being knowledgeable about the medical field can lead to a medical disaster for the patient.

      As far as I know, MOST at-home transcription services do not pay by the hour, they pay by the line. So, the faster typist you are, the more you will make an hour. You also have to type a minimum amount of lines per day. The benefit, however, is that you can do this anywhere in a 24 hour period, so you can pick and choose your own hours.

      Hope this helps some of you!

      • Lindsay says

        Great points Chris and Julie! Also, something that helped me when I was looking is that generally when you are an independent contractor, you are usually able to pick and choose your own hours. I did that during my first 3 years. I had a ton of flexibility. I began with a new company this last year where I am considered an employee and must work a set schedule every week with a minimum of 20 hours and set minimum lines per hour. There is also the difference of VR editing (voice recorded editing) that is popular now, which is mainly editing reports that the system transcribes when the doctor dictates. This is usually less per line. Standard transcription always pays more. That may vary with different companies, but hope that gives you all a general guidline.

    • Tasha says

      I agree with the above. As someone in medical school, I appreciate the work that they do (and recognize the importance of the typist to know medical lingo). My only warning is that with the advent of mandated Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) by the end of next year, many hospitals and clinics will be getting rid of medical transcriptionists because of available technology that will automatically transcribe the words without a third party. Most clinics are opting for this despite the high start up cost because it will save a significant amount of money in the end (my University is paying $80 million for their EMRs!). So I would recommend that those interested in doing this do a little research in your location to see if it would be worthwhile to take the classes as the job market may not be as promising in the medical area of transcription.

    • Sue says

      I am a former RN but left nursing many years ago to become a stay at home mom. Since I already know the terminology and have had A & P etc. do you think I have a chance of being able to get into medical transcription? I am a very good speller and fast typist, although I’ve never timed myself.

      • mturner says

        Hey Sue,

        I too am a nurse, but unfortunatley most MT companies didn’t care. They wouldn’t even consider me as long as I did not have the formal MT training and certificate to back it up. :( After working for almost 2 years now, I truly understand why.

        This is just my experience though! :D I hope this helps!

      • says

        Sue, my mom was the same – she was a RN, but became a stay-at-home mom. She still had to go through a 2-year program to become a medical transcriptionist.

        However, as Tasha mentioned above, many medical programs are going electronic. My mom actually left her transcription job awhile ago. She now works in a doctor’s office and works directly with the new electronic systems.

        I would be interested in finding out more about the long-term viability of non-medical transcriptioning – that could be interesting!

  8. HokieKate says

    I work as a researcher at a university, and we frequently hire freelance transcriptionists to transcribe interviews. If you have any contacts in academia, especially education-type researchers, you can definitely work on an as needed basis.

    • Rachael says

      I agree–I hired a transcriptionist to assist with my dissertation work, and she transcribed several hours of interviews for me. It was a win-win as she saved me a ton of time and she was able to make some additional money while working from home. I have found that editors and transcriptionists are very hard to find, so contacting a university would most likely be a welcome gesture!

      • Risha says

        Is there a specific department you would recommend to begin checking into something like this? Thanks for the suggestion!

        • Rachael says

          I would recommend departments with a strong qualitative focus (interviews and observations rather than statistics). Some ideas might be education or sociology.

  9. Courtney says

    I took a course on medical transcription & was able to find a job that worked great with my current full-time job. Just as I was getting excited about possibly leaving my full-time job the company stopped paying me & totally stopped communicating with me. I never receive over $1,000 that I billed them for. We have had MANY changes since then (over a year & a half ag0) & I am now lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom. However, I would love to get back into transcribing. The problem is most companies require at least 2 years experience. Any suggestions??

    • Lindsay says

      Courtney,

      There is a website called mtjobs.com. This website lists jobs for lots of nationwide MT companies. Overall most of them that I have seen or applied for are reputable. What a crummy experience! I have worked as an MT for 4-1/2 years and the 2 companies I have worked for have been great. You are right that most of them require 2 years of experience, many in mostly acute care. How long did you work before that happened? If it was 6 mons to a year, and depending on the type of work you did, someone might be willing to “re-train” you depending on the course you took. I did a course with Career Step (www.careerstep.com), one of the very few that are favored by a lot of MT companies and a lot of them are willing to train you out of the school. The Career Step website has a listing somewhere of some of the companies they are “affiliated” with. Maybe applying with some of those might lead you to something??? Hope that helps. MT work is really a great job to have to work at home. I am thankful for it every day!

      • Courtney says

        I trained with Career Step too!! I work for about 8 months. It was a crummy experience & after so much work I was burnt out. I have looked very little since then. I have checked mtjobs before. I think something in a different field of transcribing would be great. Maybe I will look into that.
        THANKS!!

  10. says

    I used to do medical transcription and currently do general transcription (typing interviews, conferences, etc.). I agree that the medical transcription requires a bit of training. I took a 6-month course for it. The general transcription is easier to get into, however. I work for a small company so my pay is $15 per hour. Medical transcription companies usually pay per line, but general transcription is usually per hour.

  11. says

    there is alot of work available for people who want to write articles from home. You can always go to freelancer.com and find article writing jobs there. I have a girl that writes for me. She usually does 10 articles in 1 day and i pay around $70.
    To be honest it’s not fun work, but its a good way to make extra money from your house.

    Also watch out for alot of work from home sites. Be careful about giving your credit card to them, always look at the Terms and Conditions at the bottom. Alot of them will start charging your card $60-$100 every month and are hard to cancel.

  12. Erin says

    As part of the Health Care bill that was past several months ago, doctors offices are now having to computerize records in their office. This is a “deadline” change meaning that by a particular date, all doctors offices must be on a computerized system or they will be fined.

    Do you know much about this and how medical transcription will be effected? I have a friend who will be losing her job in July due to the immediate changes taking place in our area.
    Thanks!

  13. says

    I have a law degree, although I haven’t worked in the legal field in almost 7 years and am not licensed in the state where we live. I’ve been wondering if there is something I could do to earn money and use the knowledge I have! Thanks!

  14. says

    Hi, everyone! Wow, I didn’t realize this would be posted so quickly. You’ll have to excuse the glitches of my developing blog. :-) I just started AprilHodson.com a few weeks ago as I just recently have been able to be a full-time stay-at-home mom!

    Thanks so much for the sweet comments. I hope you all find the info helpful. If you have more questions, I think the FAQ section is pretty helpful, but there is a form at the bottom to contact me with further inquiries.

    As to the comments about needing training for medical, that is totally true! I addressed that as well in the FAQ About Home-Based Transcription. Thankfully, medical transcription is only one of the many types out there.

    Blessings!

    April

    • Chris says

      I’m the Chris that posted above :)
      Thank you for the informative article. And also putting that information about MT’s in your FAQ’s section. It was a great blessing to me to be able to work at home all the years I did.

  15. mturner says

    I have been a medical transcriptionist for 2 years now. I was formerly a nurse, but I quite my job as a nurse 9 years ago when I had my first child. While my husband and I were ready for a 2nd income, we weren’t quite ready for me to go back to working in an office.

    I would suggest Career Step if you are interested in an MT career. They also helped me find a job! I would highly recommend this program as they have a WONDERFUL reputation with hundreds of MT companies around the nation! :D

    • says

      I second the Career Step recommendation! I’ve heard nothing but good things about their program. I tried Penn Foster at a time I thought medical transcription would be more interesting than legal or general transcription. Penn Foster’s program was WAY cheaper, but also WAY less helpful.

  16. mturner says

    Oh, and by the way…..after proofreading the above comment….I quit my job as a nurse….LOL

  17. Melissa says

    I am so blessed to be a work-at-home Mom. I began my medical career as a nursing student and when I realized that was not a good fit, I transitioned very easily into medical transcription (MT). There are quite a few changes going on in the medical field as well as the MT field. There is a great organization, Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), (hope I can mention that here)…they used to be American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT), but with the implentation of editing so widespread now, they changed their name. They have approved schools/courses as well as certification information. I found them to be very helpful when I began my MT career. However, some of the changes being implemented are causing tighter restrictions on companies and transcription services, so it is not as easy to get into this industry as it once was. With the right connections, or training this can be a legitimate opportunity for someone who wants to stay at home. What a wonderful post to encourage moms who want to be home with their little ones!

  18. Kristine says

    Thanks for the informative post. I worked as a transcriptionist for an insurance company (in an office) for two years and have recently started considering getting a part-time job now that my kids are in school. It’s good to know more about the requirements and options for doing transcription work from home.

  19. says

    I also work from home as a transcriptionist. I work for several court reporters. They go to the depositions and court cases, record them, and I transcribe. I am paid by the page, not the line. We use a program called StenoScribe. It’s a great way to earn some money from home — make my own hours!!!

  20. Jen says

    I worked for a physican doing transcription from homefor 7 years and it just ended.
    With all the new medical care going forward…clinics are being fined if they don’t switch over to everything being done by digital/computers. The entire clinic switched systems, which now eliminated the need for transcription. There is a template for everything and the Dr. just enters in the basic information. It is sad that there is less and less of a personal touch in medical care.
    I agree with the above, you do need to have medical training to be hired and there are a lot of scams out there so be careful.

  21. Megan says

    Not trying to be rude, but – kind-of disheartening to find out that what I have shelled out money for college over the last two years can be done from home without formal training… *sigh*

    • says

      Did you pay for medical transcription training? I’m sure it will be worth it, if so! Medical cannot be done without training, but it’s also higher paying.

  22. says

    Thanks for this post! I’ve tossed the idea of transcription around in my head for about a year now. I’ve been an inpatient hospital pharmacy technician for the last 5 years, and am proficient in medical terminology and deciphering physician orders. I figured I’d need some official training, so the information here about where to train is great!

    But I’m also wondering if maybe another area of transcription might be a good idea? I’ve always been a super fast typist ( about 90 wpm) and my grammar and spelling skills are good. Would I be able to get into a different area of transcription faster than, say, medical? I’m just not sure which avenue to pursue.

  23. Chelsea says

    Great article. I have just started working from home as a general transcriptionist this year. It has been an incredible blessing with my husband in school.

  24. Adrienne says

    Thank you so much for the article! I have been tossing this idea around in my head but had no idea how to go about it! I am pregnant with my first child and would really like to do this. Any tips for getting into the general side of it? I don’t really want to do the medical transcription.

    • says

      Adrienne, congrats on your first pregnancy! I have to tell you that, while I was able to work as a transcriptionist with my little ones, it was very challenging. In my experience, every time you sit down to type, your fingers have to warm up and pick up speed. It’s best if you can work in solid blocks of 2-3 hours. It’s also best to have a quiet environment to be able to carefully listen and record sometimes difficult audio. But if you’re just looking for a little side income, rather than a steady cash flow your family will rely on, it might not be too big of a deal to fit in some work here and there. :-) See the links in the above post for more details on skills required, tools required, resume and cover letter help, and hiring transcription companies. Just a tip: From what I’ve been told, Quicktate is a general transcription company most people don’t have a hard time getting into. Their pay is less than a lot of other companies, but it’s a place to start and get your feet wet.

      • Adrienne says

        Thank you so much! I don’t need a huge income, just a small one and I would like to do this in the early evenings, therefore my husband can watch the little one while I work :D!

  25. Tami says

    Hi, I was just wondering what the difference was in general transcription and medical transcription. Is the general transcription in your local town or are there companies that hire for that? Thanks
    Tami

    • says

      Tami, that’s a really great question. I better incorporate that into my FAQ! There are many kinds of transcription, including medical, legal, general, business, entertainment, etcetera. The companies listed in my “hiring companies” post contract work out to transcriptionists who work from home and live within the U.S. (mostly).

      The difference is in the terms used. See here: http://www.aprilhodson.com/research-resources/

      Medical Transcription :: Type doctors’ dictated notes, hospital records, medical conferences and other audio containing a large amount of medical terminology. You need to complete a certification program for this since the layman is unfamiliar with medical terms.

      General Transcription :: Sermons, conferences, interviews, radio shows, and lots of other types of audio fall into this category. General just means there’s no special terminology you need to know to type the audio.

      Business Transcription :: Business meetings, business seminars, recorded phone conversations within finance companies, and other audio including a considerable amount of business and financial terms.

      Legal Transcription :: Court hearings, depositions, police undercover operations, and other audio including legal/courtroom terminology. The hardest part about legal is actually understanding how to fill out the templates with case information. See templates here: http://www.aprilhodson.com/transcription-typing-practice/