Recently, I was asked how to get into the transcription business.
This is a question that I’ve been asked multiple times. Here are some of the
What Skills Do You Need?
You need to be able to transcribe over 200 lines per hour at
98% accuracy. This equals to roughly to being able to transcribe 20 minutes of
audio per hour. I currently average 25 minutes of audio per hour.
You need to be able to type over 65 words per minute.
You need to type with accuracy, using grammar and correct
spelling. There are several resources to help you with this aspect.
Test your typing speed and accuracy. There are several web
sites where you can do this, such as typingtest.com. I just tested my speed and
got a result of 88 words per minute, with only 1 error.
Improve Your Typing Skills
There are several ways you can improve your skills if they
don’t measure up.
Take a typing class at your local community college. Often,
such classes are free or low-cost.
Spend as much time practicing as possible. Try transcribing a
television show or a YouTube video. Pretty much anything will help.
Test yourself frequently to measure your progress.
Necessary Equipment and Software
There are a few key things that will help you improve your speed
Transcription software and a foot pedal allow you to control
the audio without having to flip back and forth between programs to pause the
You also will need a program to type the transcript in. I
currently use Microsoft Word.
I also recommend a high-quality headset with noise-canceling capabilities. This allows you to hear the audio accurately.
What Field Do You Want to Work In?
It’s best to focus on one field at first. Some of them require additional training, such as medical or legal transcription. I focus on general transcription, but sometimes I do some legal or medical-related work, but I first started in medical transcription. Understanding specific industries helps you to recognize technical terms and industry-specific lingo.
Enroll in a transcription course, specific to the field you’ve
chosen to focus on. This will allow you to learn some of the industry specifics
and helps you to increase your speed and accuracy, as you won’t have to spend
as much time researching. It will also allow you to learn any specific
formatting that the industries may use.
You may also want to enroll in a general transcription
course. This will allow you to learn the finer points of transcription that are
common in every industry.
You can enroll in an online course, or a course at your
local college. Many community colleges have certificate programs in
Some fields require you to be certified. If not, it will
still give you an edge over competitors. Often, just completing a transcription
course will be adequate certification.
There are several ways you can find work.
Find a full-time transcription job in an office setting. My
first job was in a local ENT physician’s office.
Seek out work online. There are several freelance sites where
you can find transcription jobs, although I wouldn’t expect a high rate of pay
when you first start out.
Seek out work in your community. Keep an eye on your local
want ads, advertise in publications dealing with your chosen field.
Make It Official
Give your business a name! A lot of businesses will only work with other “businesses,” not individuals. This is for tax purposes. Check your local laws to see if you need a business license and if there are any zoning laws.
Make sure you pay attention to your tax obligations. You
will be self-employed, and this is a different tax situation than what you may
be used to. Learn what this means on the IRS website, or speak to a tax
Where to Work From
There are several options, such as renting a space or
working from home. Your operating costs will be lower if you work from home. A
small office space in your home will be sufficient. If you have other people in
your house, I would recommend a room in which you can close the door for
privacy and minimizing distractions.
Promoting Your Business
Create a website. Most online hosting companies, such as
GoDaddy, provide templates that you can set up and maintain relatively easily.
Print brochures and business cards. Send these to potential
clients and leave them at local businesses.
Research competitors to find out what a competitive rate for
If you can afford it, running ads on social media can help
gain more business. Make sure to make a business page on these sites.
Don’t Give Up
It is tough at first to make a lot of money, but with
persistence, you can build a successful transcription business. Don’t give up!