From Listener to Transcriber: A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Transcriptionist In 2024

By Joseph Nyambura                
Last updated on May 24, 2023  
A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Transcriptionist

When you buy something through one of the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Are you a good listener?

Do you enjoy hearing the nuances of people's voices and deciphering what they mean?

If so, you might have what it takes to become a transcriptionist.

Transcriptionists are skilled professionals who listen to audio recordings and convert them into written documents.

It's a challenging and rewarding career that requires unique skills, including attention to detail, fast typing speed, and the ability to focus for long periods.

But why become a transcriptionist? It's a flexible and in-demand career you can do from anywhere with an internet connection. 

Plus, it offers the satisfaction of turning audio recordings into written documents used for various purposes, from legal proceedings to medical research.

In this article, we'll deeply dive into transcription and explore everything you need to know to get started as a professional transcriber. 

We'll cover everything from the skills you'll need to the tools you'll use.

So if you're ready to turn your listening skills into a lucrative career, keep reading!

Who is a transcriptionist?

A transcriber is an individual that converts spoken language or recordings into written form while ensuring proper punctuation and formatting.

They are also known as transcriptionists.

They listen to audio files such as interviews, sermons, lectures, meetings, or dictations and accurately transcribe the content into written text.

A transcriber possesses an exceptional ear for detail and a knack for deciphering even the most complex conversations.

They are proficient in understanding different accents, dialects, and speech patterns, allowing them to type into written content.

They often work with various audio formats, ranging from clear and well-recorded files to challenging recordings with background noise, overlapping conversations, or low-quality audio.

To ensure accuracy, transcribers may need to perform research or use context clues to fill in any gaps or unclear sections of the audio.

They follow specific formatting guidelines and may add timestamps or speaker identifications to enhance the readability of the transcript.

Transcribers are essential in various industries, such as legal, medical, academic, and media, by providing written records of interviews, meetings, lectures, and more.

With countless industries relying on accurate transcription services, mastering this skill opens doors to many opportunities.

Transcribers may specialize in specific fields requiring additional knowledge of specialized terminology.

They must maintain confidentiality and adhere to professional standards, especially when working with sensitive or confidential information.

In recent years, technological advancements have introduced automated transcription tools to assist transcribers in their work.

These tools use speech recognition software to generate initial transcriptions, which human transcribers then review and edit to ensure accuracy and quality.

Is it hard to become a transcriber?

It is easy to become a transcriber.

Being a transcriber involves:

  • Excellent typing and listening skills.
  • Attention to detail.
  • The ability to work independently.

With practice and determination, anyone can develop the necessary skills to become a proficient transcriber.

While these skills can be developed with practice, becoming a proficient transcriber may take time and experience.

Starting with straightforward audio recordings and gradually taking on more challenging projects can help build skills and confidence.

Technology has also introduced automated transcription tools to aid with transcription making transcription work better.

However, output from the software requires human transcribers to edit and maintain high accuracy.

The demand for skilled transcribers remains high in various industries, making it a viable career option for those interested in transcription work.

What do I need to become a transcriptionist?

To become a transcriptionist, you will need tools and specific skills.

The tools you need include:

  • A reliable computer or laptop with high-speed internet access
  • Transcription software or a word-processing program
  • Quality headphones or earphones
  • A comfortable and quiet workspace
  • Foot pedal

The skills required for a transcriber are:

  • Listening skills to accurately understand and interpret spoken words
  • Fast typing speed
  • Accuracy while typing to minimize errors
  • A strong command of the language being transcribed
  • Research skills to verify unfamiliar terms, acronyms, or jargon.
  • Attention to detail to capture speech and follow formatting guidelines.
  • Time management skills to meet deadlines and maintain productivity.

Can I do transcription jobs on my phone?

Yes, it is possible to do transcription jobs on your phone, although it may have some limitations. It is recommended to use a computer or laptop for transcription work.

The small screen size and limited functionality of mobile devices can make it challenging to transcribe accurately and efficiently.

With a phone, you’ll also encounter challenges managing audio. You require a good audio quality player that supports the playback of various audio formats.

Investing in a dedicated computer setup will greatly enhance your productivity and overall transcription experience.

How much do transcribers make?

As a transcriber, you can be paid per project, monthly, per audio minute, or per hour.

According to ZipRecruiter, a transcriptionist in the USA earns an average hourly pay of $16.24.  

This is only a fraction of professionals who are paid by the hour.

The earning potential depends on experience, specialization, and the complexity of the transcription work.

Experienced transcribers who have built a reputation for accuracy and efficiency may be able to command higher rates compared to those who are just starting.

You can potentially negotiate higher pay rates as you gain more experience and demonstrate your skills.

Certain industries, such as legal or medical transcription, may offer higher rates due to the specialized knowledge and terminology required.

These rates can vary significantly based on the complexity and sensitivity of the content being transcribed.

Transcribers can work as freelancers or be employed by transcription companies or organizations.

As a freelance transcriber, you can set your rates and negotiate with clients based on specific project requirements.

Are transcriptionists in high demand?

Yes, transcriptionists are in high demand. The need for accurate and timely transcriptions has increased with the growing audio and video content volume.

Many industries require transcribers to convert recordings into written documents as they are more accessible and better managed.

As a result, there are ample opportunities for skilled transcribers in various fields.

Looking at Google Trends data, there has been a rise in interest in transcription in the last five years.

The demand has grown substantially in the last few years.

From my research on renowned job platforms, it is evident that many employers are actively seeking individuals for different transcription jobs.

On Indeed, a search for transcription opportunities shows over 3,000 job listings.

With transcription, numerous specialized companies offer work opportunities to freelancers. With transcription, numerous specialized companies offer work 

Making use of more than one platform increases your earning potential.

Can I be a transcriber from home?

Yes, you can work as a transcriber from home. Numerous remote transcribing opportunities are available, offering both part-time and full-time positions.

However, specific specialized transcription roles, such as legal transcription, may require you to be physically present.

Due to the sensitive nature of the content and the need for accuracy, some legal firms may prefer transcribers to be physically present in the office or courtrooms.

You can always find out the nature of the job before engaging with a client.

From my observation, most companies are flexible in sharing recordings with signed agreements to maintain confidentiality.

Working as a transcriber from home allows you to determine your schedule.

You only need to invest time and money to gain the skills, tools, and clients that will allow you to generate an income from home.

The Road to Transcription: A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Your Career

You can become a transcriber when you take the time to build your skills and set up your business.

The steps to becoming a transcriber include the following:

1) Learn about transcription

Before you offer your services, you need to learn about transcription.

Becoming a transcriber involves more than just listening to audio and typing what you hear.

You need to understand the basics. Start by familiarizing yourself with the fundamentals of transcription.

Learn about transcription formats, symbols, and guidelines. Understand the importance of accuracy, formatting, and time coding.

You can learn transcription fundamentals through free transcription courses available on platforms like Coursera, Udemy, or edX.

These courses provide basic lessons, practical exercises, and assessments to help you grasp the transcription process.

You can also opt to pay for a more comprehensive course with all the necessary tools, information, and support.

A transcription school I would recommend is Transcribe Anywhere.

It is approved by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers.

The courses are taught by Janet Shaughnessy, a professional transcriptionist who has been in the industry for over 10 years.

They offer general and legal transcription courses that include theory and practice.

They also have a package where you can learn both general and legal transcription at a discounted rate.  

Aside from the introductory course, you’ll get resources to help set up your transcription career.

You’ll enjoy tutorials on using products, information on deals when buying essential tools, cheat sheets and templates on text expanders, shortcuts, and style guides.

The courses also feature lifetime access to course materials, updates, and support forums.

This ensures that you find your way anytime you feel stuck when working as a transcriber.

Finally, the most important benefit of enrolling is the guidance to find clients and apply for transcription jobs in different companies.   

With this paid course, you can earn a substantial income as a transcriber.

However, you must put in the effort to follow what you are taught in the course.

Learning a skill is not a get-rich-quick scheme; it may take months to reap the benefits.

2) Choose the transcription jobs that you will specialize in

Now that you have the skills and confidence, it’s time to choose which jobs to specialize in.

Identify a couple of industries that pique your interest. This will help you choose the specific services you will offer.

When searching for transcription opportunities, there are different transcription jobs available.  

Transcription jobs can be categorized into three broad categories. They include legal, medical, and general transcription.

i) Legal transcription

Legal transcription focuses on transcribing legal proceedings, court hearings, witness statements, dictations, depositions, and other legal dictations.

The transcriptions produced by legal transcriptionists are used by attorneys, law firms, courts, and other legal professionals for documentation, research, and reference purposes.

Legal transcriptionists are trained to accurately transcribe legal terminology, court procedures, and specific formatting requirements.

They must maintain strict confidentiality and adhere to legal guidelines while transcribing sensitive information.

Transcribers working in this field ensure accurate record-keeping and support legal processes.

ii) Medical transcription

Medical transcription involves converting voice recordings made by healthcare professionals, such as physicians, surgeons, or medical practitioners, into written documents.

These recordings contain patient medical histories, physical examinations, diagnostic test results, treatment plans, and other healthcare-related information.

Medical transcriptionists must possess strong knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and pharmacology to accurately transcribe and interpret the recorded information.

They also need to be familiar with various medical documentation styles and formatting guidelines, such as those specified by the American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT).

The transcriptions produced by medical transcriptionists are an essential part of the patient's medical record.

They serve as a reference for future medical treatments, insurance claims, and legal documentation.

Accuracy and attention to detail are crucial in medical transcription to ensure patient safety and effective communication among healthcare professionals.

iii) General transcription

General transcription involves the conversion of audio or video recordings into written text across various industries.

General transcription is utilized by businesses, researchers, media companies, educational institutions, and individuals who require written documentation of their audio or video recordings.

In research and academia, transcriptions are valuable for qualitative research, interviews, and focus groups, aiding in data analysis and interpretation.

The media and entertainment industry relies on transcriptions for subtitles, closed captions, and searchable transcripts to enhance accessibility and comply with regulations.

Transcriptions also find application in the business and corporate sectors.

They are used for meetings, conferences, interviews, and training sessions, enabling accurate record-keeping and facilitating knowledge sharing.

Unlike legal or medical transcription, general transcription doesn't require specialized knowledge of legal or medical terminology.

Instead, it focuses on accurately transcribing everyday conversations, interviews, podcasts, seminars, business meetings, sermons, academic lectures, and related content.

Understanding the different types of transcription jobs will help you determine your niche and target clients accordingly.

If you’re a beginner with no prior knowledge in the medical or legal field, it’s recommended to start as a general transcriber.

This will allow you to develop your listening and typing skills. It also exposes you to different accents, formats, and industries.

3) Practice your typing and listening skills

Typing speed and accuracy are crucial for a transcriber.

Practice regularly to improve your typing speed while maintaining accuracy. There are many typing tests available online to gauge yourself.

Aim to have a typing speed of at least 60 words per minute. Expert transcribers have speeds of up to 100 words per minute.

You can use online typing tutorials or software to enhance your skills.

Remember that typing speed goes hand in hand with accuracy. A fast-typing speed is useless if you are not accurate with what you are typing.

Finally, develop excellent listening skills, which are essential for accurately transcribing.

You will come across jobs with speakers with different accents and pronunciations. Familiarize yourself by practicing active listening.

Find and transcribe different short clips online and compare your transcriptions with the original text.

You can find a variety of audio and video on YouTube or podcast platforms such as Spotify.

Gradually increase the difficulty level to challenge yourself and improve your transcription abilities.

4) Get the necessary transcribing tools

To excel as a transcriber, you'll need certain tools and software.

First, you need reliable transcription software or a word processing program.

This tool should allow you to control playback speed, adjust volume, and easily manage your transcripts.

Popular transcription software options include Express ScribeInqscribe, and oTranscribe.

You will also need to invest in quality headphones or earphones. These enhance the clarity of your listening and minimize external noise distractions.

Finally, consider using a foot pedal.

Although not a requirement, it allows you to control audio playback, greatly improving your productivity and efficiency.

5) Decide your transcribing rates

Determining your rates as a transcriber is an important step in establishing your business.

This, as a beginner, can be a bit challenging. There are several factors to consider when determining your rates.

Begin by researching the prevailing rates in the industry.

Look at the rates charged by other transcribers with similar experiences. This will give you a general idea of what to charge.

The next consideration is your skills and experience level. If you're a beginner with limited experience, it's reasonable to charge a lower rate initially.

You can gradually increase your rates as you gain more expertise and build a portfolio. You can also offer introductory discounts or package deals to attract clients.

Another thing to consider before charging a client is the complexity of the work.

Transcription projects vary in complexity.

Some might involve clear audio recordings and straightforward language, while others could be more challenging.

Complex projects often warrant higher rates due to the additional effort, time, and expertise required.

Time commitment is another factor. The length of the audio or video, the number of speakers, and the audio quality can affect the time it takes to transcribe.

If a project requires urgent delivery or has tight deadlines, you may consider charging a higher rate.

While setting rates that reflect your skills and value is important, it's also crucial to stay competitive.

Charging exorbitantly high rates as a beginner might deter potential clients. Strive for a balance between fair compensation and attracting clients.

Finally, take into account your target clients' budgets. Create several packages as clients have varying financial capabilities.

Larger companies or clients with more extensive projects might be willing to pay higher rates than individuals and smaller businesses.

6) Create your resume and portfolio

A professional resume and portfolio will help you showcase your skills and experience to potential clients or transcription job platforms.

Your resume should include relevant information about you, such as your education, specialized training or certifications, and typing speed.

The portfolio details examples of your previous transcription work.

If you're just starting, consider offering your services at a discounted rate or completing sample transcriptions to build your portfolio.

One or two samples to showcase your skills are good enough for a start. You can always add more samples to your portfolio as you gain more experience.

7) Create your social media pages

Establishing a presence on social media platforms can help you connect with potential clients and network with other professionals.

It is also a great way to showcase your expertise in transcription.

Create professional profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook platforms, and regularly share valuable transcription-related content.

You can also share language tips and discuss industry-specific topics.

To benefit from social media, engaging with your audience and building a strong online presence to attract clients and opportunities is important.

Also, join relevant groups or communities where other transcribers and people in the industry are to learn the latest news and trends.  

8) Build your business blog

Creating a business blog or website is another effective way to establish your online presence.

A blog also allows you to attract organic traffic and gain potential clients.

You can share valuable information, tips, and insights related to transcription on your blog.

Optimize your content for relevant keywords to improve your search engine rankings and visibility.

Make sure also to create a page that details your services. Anyone visiting your blog should be able to identify that you offer transcription services.

Include all relevant information, such as your contact information, area of specialization, rates, and testimonials from previous clients.

Building a blog may sound difficult. However, some advancements have made the process easier.

You can create a fully functional blog within a few hours. Read this detailed article that explains all the steps to follow.

In case you want to bypass the time and effort it takes to create a blog, you can hire my web design services.

I offer affordable services to create professional and SEO-optimized websites to meet client needs.

9) Apply to transcription jobs and market your services

There are various platforms and websites where you can find transcription job opportunities.

Sign up on reputable freelance platforms like Upwork, People Per Hour, or Fiverr to browse and apply for transcription projects.

Also, contact transcription agencies or companies offering transcription services and inquire about potential job openings or freelance opportunities.

It's also essential to market your services independently. Your website and social media pages have great potential for finding work opportunities.

i) Network

Networking plays a vital role in building a successful transcription career.

Connect with professionals in your target industries, such as legal professionals, healthcare providers, podcasters, or content creators.

Attend industry events, conferences, or webinars to meet potential clients and build valuable relationships.

Join transcription forums or communities (on or off social media) to exchange knowledge, learn from experienced transcribers, and stay updated with industry trends.

ii) Keep improving your transcribing skills

Transcription is a skill that can always be improved.

Continuously work on enhancing your typing speed, accuracy, and listening skills.

Based on my observation, I have noticed that staying updated with industry terminology and advancements sets you apart.

You get to learn by regularly attending relevant workshops, webinars, or online courses.

Another great way to grow is through feedback. Seek feedback from clients to identify areas for improvement.

The more you invest in honing your transcribing skills, the better equipped you will be to provide high-quality work and attract higher-paying clients.

Where to find transcription jobs

When searching for transcription jobs, it's essential to tailor your approach based on your skills, experience, and personal preferences.

Combining these methods can increase your chances of finding suitable transcription opportunities.

To find transcription jobs, consider the following options:

ii) Freelance platforms

Freelance platforms are online marketplaces where clients and freelancers connect and collaborate.

Platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr allow you to create a profile, showcase your skills, and land jobs.

The freelance platforms have different ways of operation.

In some, you can search for transcription jobs, submit proposals, negotiate terms, and get hired directly through these platforms.

For others, you create a profile, state your services and skills, and clients reach out to you.

Study each platform you use to understand its procedures and make the most out of it.  

ii) Transcription companies

Transcription companies are businesses that specialize in providing transcription services to clients.

These companies often have a pool of transcribers who work on different projects.

You can find transcription jobs by directly applying to these companies.

They may have open positions listed on their websites, and you can submit your resume or fill out an application form to be considered for transcription work.

iii) Job boards

Job boards are websites or online platforms listing job openings across various industries.

Websites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn often feature job postings for transcriptionists.

You can search for transcription jobs on these platforms to find what is available.

Most of these platforms allow you to filter the results to find what you like based on your preferences.

For example, you can filter jobs based on rates, location, and project duration.

You can then apply directly to the job postings that interest you.

iv) Networking

Networking can be a valuable way to find transcription jobs.

Connect with professionals in the transcription industry through social media, industry-specific forums, or local business events.

By networking, you can learn about job opportunities that might not be publicly advertised.

Building relationships with other transcriptionists, clients, or industry insiders can lead to referrals or direct job offers.

v) Cold calling

Cold calling involves reaching out directly to potential clients or transcription companies to inquire about job opportunities.

You can research and compile a list of companies that might require transcription services or contact businesses that regularly deal with audio or video content.

Introduce yourself, explain your skills and experience, and express your interest in any transcription work they may have available.

Cold calling can be an effective way to proactively seek out job opportunities, although it may require persistence and resilience.

Tips for Becoming a successful transcriber

  1. Prioritize and maintain accuracy

Accuracy is paramount in transcription—Double-check spelling, grammar, and punctuation to ensure error-free transcripts.

i) Meet deadlines

Timely delivery of transcripts is crucial for client satisfaction. Manage your time effectively and prioritize deadlines.

ii) Continuous learning

Stay updated with industry trends, technologies, and new transcription tools. Attend workshops or courses to enhance your skills.

iii) Specialize if possible

Consider specializing in a specific field like legal or medical transcription to stand out and attract clients in those industries.

iv) Practice active listening

Develop active listening skills to transcribe content accurately, even in challenging audio situations.

v) Maintain confidentiality

Respect client confidentiality and ensure that sensitive information remains secure and protected.

vi) Communication skills

Effective communication with clients is key. Understand project requirements, ask clarifying questions, and provide regular updates.

vii) Attention to detail

Pay attention to the smallest details, including timestamps, speaker identification, and formatting, to deliver transcripts as required.

viii) Professionalism

Maintain a professional approach in all interactions with clients, colleagues, or industry professionals.

ix) Seek feedback

Seek client feedback and incorporate it into your work to improve your transcription skills.

Becoming a transcriptionist is a challenging but rewarding career path that requires a unique set of skills.

With fast typing speed and excellent listening skills, you can succeed in this field and enjoy its many benefits.

As a transcriptionist, you can work from anywhere, set your own hours, and use your language skills to help others.

Plus, you’ll be part of a growing field in high demand across various industries.

Following the steps outlined in this article, you can start your journey toward becoming a professional transcriptionist today.

Whether you’re looking to work for a company or create your own business, there’s no limit to what you can achieve in this exciting field.

So if you’re ready to turn your love of language into a rewarding career, start practicing your typing skills and get prepared to listen closely.

Your future as a transcriptionist is waiting!

About the author

Joseph Nyambura

I started this website to help bloggers by sharing everything I’ve learned in the past decade working as a professional digital marketer, web designer & developer. I help passionate bloggers like YOU start and supercharge their own glossy blogging journey and enjoy the flexibility to work from home. I will help you master content creation, making money, and build an audience blogging online.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

A simple free step by step guide to start a successful blog in 2024

Want to start a blog, but feeling overwhelmed? This step-by-step email guide will help you:-

  • Plan & Set Up your blog
  • Launch your blog
  • Grow your blog traffic
  • Earn your first income 
  • Faster without any blogging experience!

Enroll in the free email course now!
You will get one short email per week. You can unsubscribe anytime.