How to Become a Freelance Transcriptionist

In this age of outsourcing and crowdsourcing, there is tremendous prospect for the work at home types. Freelance work is more attractive than even before.

As I myself turn to freelance work from being a fulltime transcriptionist I thought it’d be useful if I jot down some thoughts on becoming a transcriptionist.

What is transcription: Transcription is the process of converting recorded audios or videos into text. A transcriptionist is one who types out these recordings into word processors. There are many types of transcriptions depending on the industries they serve – podcast transcription, legal transcription, general transcription, medical transcription, business transcription, etc.

Skills required for a good transcriptionist or transcriber are:

  • Typing speed – the more you can type with high accuracy the more you earn. Anywhere between 90 – 150 wpm (words per minute) is ideal.
  • Listening skills – as you will be typing out whatever is recorded, your listening skill has to be excellent.
  • English comprehension – you must be able to comprehend and understand the context of words used and have some idea at least of the subject spoken about.
  • Patience – a huge reserve of patience is required to sit and type for hours on end. Of course, it is good practice to leave your desk once in a while.
  • English grammar – basic knowledge of English grammar is required to use punctuations correctly and know when to use which form of verbs etc.

Exposure to different accents is also useful when the speaker is of a non-English speaking background.

Turning Pro
It is highly recommended to work for a transcription company before turning pro and going freelance. There are no strict requirements to become a transcriptionist. All you need is a good grasp of English and compentent use of computers and internet. Once you decided to go freelance, it is a must to have at least one client to provide you with ongoing work.

Never stop selling your services : Blog on!
Market yourself and your services by setting up a blog or website and using Twitter and Facebook to connect with potential clients and businesses. You must not stop selling your services. One of the best ways of doing that is to write a blog. Write consistently and try to connect with potential customers everyday.

Essential Tools of the trade

  • An up-to-date computer with internet connection is a must.
  • Install your computer with a word processor like MS Word or OpenOffice.
  • Philip’s SpeechMike or Express Scribe: To play the audio files you need an audio player like Philip’s SpeechMike, which is not free or Express Scribe, which is free.
  • An email account is necessary to send and receive files or an FTP account where client can upload and download files would be essential.
  • Foot pedal: While you transcibe an audio file, both your hands are busy typing so it is essential to have a foot pedal to control the audio player. It is not possible to listen to an audio and type everything out simultaneously, so the rewind and playback on the player is controlled by the foot pedal without the need for your hands!
  • Headphone: You may have a speaker set up with you computer but it is common practice to listen to audios using headphones.

How much can you earn: It is not unusual for a transcriptionist to charge anything between $0.50 to $3 per minute of recorded audio or video file. This rate is dependent on many factors like -

  • the quality of the recordings also known as dictations – if it is poor, you could charge higher rates.
  • number of speakers – the more the speakers the more you can charge.
  • turn around time (TAT) – TAT refers to the time by which client requires the file returned. A TAT of 24 – 48 hours is normal in legal transcription. TAT of 4 or 2 hours is deemed urgent or priority and can be charged more.

It is quite possible to complete 90 minutes of audio a day by a good transcriptionist. Therefore, his earning could be anywhere between $45 to $270 per day working as a freelance transcriptionist.



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