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Why People Don’t Make Money Transcribing & How YOU Can (free mini-course!)


Guest post from Janet Shaughnessy

Working from home as a general transcriptionist can be a lucrative and rewarding career. However, it has somehow managed to get a reputation for being an easy way to make money from home.

Except it’s not easy. At all.

In fact, many folks find it very difficult to earn enough money for it to be worth their effort — so much so that they just quit in a matter of days or weeks.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve been earning a sizeable full-time income from home as a transcriptionist for over 10 years now. With dozens of contacts and colleagues in the industry — and many years spent training my subcontractors — I’ve narrowed it down to three major reasons why so many people fail to make money in transcription.

Reason #1: Lack of Training

Lack of training and practice is the #1 reason people don’t make money as transcriptionists.

Actually, the biggest obstacle I faced when building my transcription business was finding qualified transcriptionists. Having to re-do so many transcripts eventually led to me just training all my new hires myself!

Be very cautious of websites claiming you can easily find work as a general transcriptionist without training: that is not the whole truth. You might be able to “do” transcription without training, but no one can do anything WELL without the proper training and practice.

Yes, there are certain skills you may already possess that will help greatly — the ability to type fast is a must — but transcription involves much more than typing.

Here’s just a handful of things you need to know to perform excellent work as a transcriptionist:

  • How to format a transcript for each type of transcription (there’s more than one!)
  • What “time coding” is and how to use it correctly
  • When to use an em dash and when to use an ellipsis
  • How to properly notate sections with poor audio

And then there’s knowing how to market yourself well, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Just know that marketing yourself as a transcriptionist without training will almost certainly guarantee failure. Excellent transcriptionists get hired again and again — and those who take the time to learn, earn!

Reason #2: It Doesn’t Pay Enough

This one is kind of an excuse more than a reason. Starting out as a transcriptionist, everyone makes less money (I sure did!), but if you know what you’re doing from the get-go instead of just winging it, your excellent work will move you up the ranks much faster. Plus, you’ll feel much more confident to seek your own clients — and that’s where the real money is.

Many people stick with “big box” transcription companies that pay peanuts and end up quitting, frustrated they can’t make it worth the time spent. Thing is — and almost no one talks about this — in our digital world where almost everything is audio and video, there is a lot of transcription work out there that’s not offered by the big transcription companies, but you have to be skilled and confident enough to seek it out. Otherwise, the poor pay from the bigger companies will severely restrict your earning potential — so much so, you’ll probably quit.


Reason #3: Poor Marketing Skills

To get higher-paying work, you need to seek it out. Working for big box companies doesn’t involve a lot of business-to-business marketing, though. Many people, instead of taking the bull by the horns and learning how to market, just stay with big box companies or give up altogether.

Getting training isn’t magical, either. “If you build it, they will come” only happened in the Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams. You can’t just complete your training and expect people to come banging on your door.

You’ve got to get the word out about your services. This involves social media, building a website, SEO tactics, applying to various job sites, transcription companies, and lots more.

Is All Hope Gone?

Not at all! Fortunately, incredibly thorough training resources now exist that can turn you into a polished, professional transcriptionist — one who not only knows how to perform excellent work, but one who also knows how to get work. You can learn the ins and outs of transcription, how to properly market on social media, build a website, pass hiring tests, and find your own clients.

You can learn the skills you need to make more money as a transcriptionist.


Just Get Started

Transcription Foundations is our free introductory mini-course. This mini-course will help you learn more about what it takes to be a transcriptionist and help you decide if transcription is the right home-based career move for you. If you decide you want to pursue it further, we offer the most complete online training available.

Sign up for the free course here.

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  • This is a lot of great information. I am so thankful that you talk about how it isn’t easy work as a transcriptionist. I think that people have this notion that working online is somehow not real work and shouldn’t be that hard. I’m glad you are setting people straight about it.

  • Chris says:

    I was a medical transcriptionist for about 25 years but haven’t worked for several years. I feel like I need some brushing up on computer skills. What types of things would you recommend?

  • Ane says:

    Very true!!!

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