woman transcribing on laptop

How To Become A WFM Transcriptionist

Work-from-home jobs are becoming more and more popular.

Whether people want a more comfortable work environment, a healthier balance of family and work, or experienced an unexpected layoff, at-home jobs are a great option.

While there are numerous available work-from-home jobs available, transcriptionist jobs are on the rise.

Working as a transcriptionist can be a great way to earn money, and the field requires little to no experience to get started.

Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about how to become a transcriptionist so you can decide if an exciting career in transcription is right for you.

What Is Transcription?

Transcription is the process of typing out what’s being said in audio clips.

Many different fields require a transcriptionist, including medical, legal, entertainment. 

Different Types of Transcription

  • General – This type of transcription is ideal for beginners, and it doesn’t require prior experience or industry knowledge. Most general transcription involves turning interviews, speeches, and other general communication into text.
  • Medical – Doctors will often record critical medical and patient information to be transcribed and included in a patient’s file. Medical transcription is a bit more specialized, and it requires some experience with medical terminology.
  • Legal – Legal transcription is relatively specialized, and it’s typically the work of seasoned professionals. Live transcription in the courtroom, known as stenography, is the most technical form of transcription and requires specialized equipment and training.
  • Closed Captioning – This form of transcription involves transcribing entertainment content like movies, shows, or online videos for hearing-impaired viewers.
  • Live Captioning – Live captioning is the same as closed captioning, except the audio is transcribed in real-time for a live audience. Excellent listening and typing skills are required, and this work is typically left to experienced and highly talented transcriptionists.

Transcription Styles

Depending on the type of transcription you’re doing and the client you’re working with, there are a few different styles you may find yourself using. 

  • Verbatim – Verbatim transcription is the most challenging form, and it involves providing a word-for-word record of an audio recording. With verbatim transcriptions, everything must be transcribed exactly as it appears on the audio file.
  • Intelligent Transcription – This style is a bit easier as it doesn’t require an exact transcription. Instead, pieces of the conversation that are difficult to hear or don’t affect the overall tone or meaning of what’s being said can be omitted.
  • Transcription Editing – Transcription editing is the process of taking an existing transcription and cleaning it up to make it perfect. This process is critical if the final text is going to be read by the public or if it needs to be translated into other languages. 

What Skills Do Transcriptionists Need? 

While anyone can learn to become a capable transcriptionist, there are some skills you should possess that will make it much easier for you to thrive in the field. 

  • Strong typing skills (minimum of 70 words per minute) 
  • Accuracy 
  • Strong listening skills
  • Excellent computer literacy
  • Multitasking skills
  • Strong research skills

At the core of a transcriptionist’s duties are strong typing abilities.

If you aren’t a fast typer, you’ll quickly fall behind. When it comes to transcribing, time is money, so it’s critical you can type quickly. 

Perhaps more important than your ability to type fast is to type accurately.

If you aren’t an accurate typer, you’ll frequently need to double back to fix errors, which will cost you time and hamstring your effectiveness. 

These are the most critical skills to possess for most transcriptionists, but additional skills, such as computer literacy and multitasking ability, are also necessary.

Most transcriptionists use some specialized programs and equipment, so you’ll need to use those tools fluently in your work.

Depending on the industry you’re working in, you may need some additional skills that are specific to the industry.

For example, medical transcriptionists will need experience with the specialized language of the medical industry. 

Required Equipment for Transcriptionists

While you can get started as a transcriptionist without any equipment besides your computer, it’s challenging to do so.

Most companies require their transcriptionists to have specific tools to do the job.

It’s in your best interest to use these tools since you’ll be able to work much faster and more efficiently. 

To start, you’ll need a capable computer with a high-speed internet connection and a comfortable keyboard. 

You’ll also want to invest in a foot pedal.

A transcriptionist’s foot pedal allows you to start, stop, fast-forward and rewind the audio file with your foot, allowing you to keep your hands free so you can continue typing. 

Aspiring transcriptionists will also want to download the Express Scribe software, which is available for free.

This software allows you to use your foot pedal to control the audio file you’re transcribing.

Some additional features in the program will enable you to change playback speeds, split audio channels, and more. 

Express Scribe doesn’t work with every foot pedal.

It’s a software almost every transcriptionist relies on, so you’ll want to visit the Express Scribe site and ensure that the model you’re considering is compatible with the software. 

The final thing you’ll need to invest in is a headset that’s designed for transcription.

Technically, any pair of comfortable headphones will get the job done.

Still, headphones that are made for transcription are best, as they usually have some features specific to the field. 

For example, most transcription headsets have specially designed sound cards that help ensure you hear the clearest audio possible in your headset.

Some also provide controls for fast-forward, rewind, and playback, which you can use instead of a foot pedal if you prefer.

Training and Practice for Aspiring Transcriptionists

Most beginners who are getting started as transcriptionists have the basic framework in place to excel in their new position.

Still, there are plenty of adequate training and practice opportunities to further hone your skills.

TCI – Transcription Certification Institute

TCI has been one of the top certification courses for transcriptionists for over 15 years, and this online-only course is ideal for anyone looking to get their start as a general transcriptionist.

The institute is recognized by many of the top transcription companies, and with a single three-week course, they can help take your skills to the next level. 


CareerStep offers career training in a variety of different fields, including courses for medical transcription.

They’re an exceptionally reputable career training organization with over 25 years of experience and many satisfied former students.

Transcribe Anywhere

Transcribe Anywhere is the top choice for busy professionals looking to begin a new transcription industry career.

They offer a seven-day intro course you can take for free, and it’s the perfect way to see if a future as a transcriptionist is right for you.

Practice Opportunities

There are plenty of online resources that can help you get transcription practice.

The free Express Scribe software we mentioned above is a great resource, and they provide plenty of different audio files for you to work from and hone your craft. 

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program is also a great low-pressure way to start transcribing.

It provides you with small tasks to do for money, and while they don’t pay well, it’s an ideal way to improve your transcription skills. 

Becoming a WFH Transcriptionist 

Some companies have in-house transcriptionists that work from an office, and in some cases, the transcriptionist is working on site, like in a courtroom, for example.

But, a large portion of transcription jobs allows you to work from home. 

How Much Can Transcriptionists Make?

There’s a reasonably large salary range for transcription work because there are so many variables at play.

Depending on the job, where the work is being completed, and your working arrangement with the employer, it can differ significantly. 

Most transcriptionists work as independent contractors and are paid per piece they complete or per minute of audio they transcribe.

Some transcriptionists work in-house for a business and are paid a salary or hourly wage.

As a rough estimate, you can expect to make about $15 an hour as a transcriptionist with minimal experience.

More specialized transcriptions command a higher wage, with legal and medical transcription usually commanding $20 or more per hour.

High-level transcriptionists that have turned it into a career typically make in the realm of $50-60,000 per year.

Where to Find Work as a Transcriptionist

Today, transcriptionists can find work in a variety of different ways, thanks to the internet.

The list below is a small sample of the places you’ll be able to find work from home as a transcriptionist. 

Get Your Start Today! 

Learning how to become a transcriptionist can be fulfilling work and an excellent way to earn some extra money.

In our ever-changing world, being able to find flexible work that fits with your busy home and family life is becoming increasingly necessary. 

With a few tools of the trade, a bit of practice, and a desire to work hard, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an in-demand transcriptionist! 

image: Pexels

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