Sometimes, you just want a bit more jingle in your pocket for fun on the weekends.

Perhaps you have a major financial goal that you could more easily achieve if you had more income. Whatever the reason, a side hustle may be something you want.

If you think you don’t have any skills to apply to part-time work, you’re wrong. In all likelihood, you already have what it takes to be a transcriber, also called a transcriptionist.

What is a transcriber?

A transcriber takes an audio recording and types out the words people speak. The resulting document is called a transcript. A transcriber may also provide captions for videos, sometimes in real time.

Who needs transcripts?

Many people and organizations need audio turned into transcripts:

  • Marketing agencies make recordings of focus group interviews.
  • Businesses have voicemail and conference calls.
  • Social science researchers collect individual and group interviews.
  • Law firms record depositions.
  • Media companies have podcasts, broadcasts, and videos.

Does a transcriber need formal training?

Not usually. Many companies need general (that is, nonspecialist) transcribers. In the case of general transcribers, a company will hire anyone who demonstrates strong typing ability and good grammar and spelling skills.

Formal training for transcribers does exist, however, for specializations such as medical and legal transcription.

What are the working conditions of a transcriber?

Generally, transcribers work from home and use their own computers and high-speed internet connections.

Sometimes, a business will require the transcriber to own specialized transcription software and equipment such as a foot pedal for controlling audio playback.

Oftentimes, however, a transcriber simply needs word processing software and an audio app. Transcribers tend to set their own hours, though sometimes the customer will have tight deadlines that the transcriber must meet. 

What kind of person makes a good transcriber?

Overall, a transcriber must be patient, meticulous, and curious. Transcribers often must listen to the same snippet of audio several times to make sure they are typing all the words spoken.

Sometimes, the audio quality is poor. Also, many kinds of accents can be expected; a transcriber must thus be prepared to handle repetition. A transcriber must also be willing to do research on words to confirm spelling and correctness.

What is the pay like?

Transcribers tend to get paid by the number of words transcribed or by hour of audio. The pay for a beginner is not extraordinary — often minimum wage.

Over time, though, the money can add up — especially without the heavy investment in equipment that other freelancers must contend with. Experienced transcribers can expect higher rates of pay.

How does a transcriber find work?

Word of mouth is not a bad way to find clients: Tell everyone you know that you are offering transcription services. The internet, however, contains numerous websites for businesses worldwide that are seeking transcribers.

Transcription agencies hire transcribers, translators, and editors to work with the agencies’ clients. Sometimes, an employer wants the transcriber to have a minimum typing speed (oftentimes around 60 to 70 words per minute). Note that a transcriber should expect to do a skills test before being hired.

The bottom line

Although advances in artificial intelligence may seem to put the need for human transcribers at risk, people are still more accurate at transcribing human voices than computers are. The future of transcription, in other words, is favorable for now.

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