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Jan 11, 2021

Want to Work in Transcription? On a Budget or the Sky's the Limit?

So, there you are! Thinking to make a booming career out of transcription services or even setting up a moneymaking transcription business. You might have heard people making a handsome yet stable income with transcription services, or that you have already worked for a few transcription giants, eventually to find it interesting enough to start your own venture.

But now, you have a lot of questions – where to begin from, what skills are required, what the initial cost would be and whether you can start on a budget! You might be even concerned about software and tools that you would need to smoothly run your business. What challenges you would face along your journey can be just another random question that might be bothering you.

Well, fret not as we bring here answers to all such obvious questions that would probably guide you through your journey of establishing a successful transcription business. Presuming that you have just heard about transcription services on the grapevine, let’s begin by exploring what exactly it is.

Transcription Service: An overview

At some point in time, we all have had converted audio or video recordings of sorts into text documents; maybe because we wanted to quote from a speech or interview. For such tasks, you usually need to prep voice memos and then, pen everything down in a comprehensible and readable form. What ever may be the case, the process can be pretty taxing and take up a whole lot of your time. Here, translation services come to your aid!

A transcription service is primarily a type of business, which involves processing speech – either pre-recorded or live – to text. Generally, such services are offered to legal firms, healthcare service organizations and government agencies. The most common type of transcription encompasses converting a source of spoken language into text, usually in the form of a downloadable/printable computer file.

Typical examples of transcriptions are a court hearing and physician’s recorded consultation. While some transcription businesses send their transcription workers to conferences, seminars, etc. to convert speech content into text, there are some that accept recorded audio/video files that are converted and delivered back to clients.

Types of Transcription Services:

  • Based on the type of content that needs to be transcribed, transcription services can be broadly classified as:
  • General Transcription: It may include a variety of source materials; ranging from pre-recorded/live interviews, speeches, simple dictation, lectures and telephonic conversations to video webinars and podcasts.
  • Legal Transcription: This is a bit more difficult as you need to be aware of technical jargons and nuances of legal language. The source of content could be court hearings, criminal trials, depositions and more.
  • Medical Transcription:This might need you having a certificate to directly work for a healthcare service provider or hospital. These organizations usually ensure that you hold a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) certificate. The source content may be a telephonic interview of a nurse, doctor’s consultation, among other things.

Technically, it is in fact less about transcribing the whole content and more of extracting the essence of the source content. Every phrase, word or noise aren’t required to be captured, but the converted text should convey the same meaning as expected while being crisp, readable and comprehensible.

  • Besides, on the basis of formatting versions, there are three other types of transcription that are discussed below:
  • Verbatim Transcription: This requires transcribing and time-coding every single word, laughter, noise and so on. Despite any confusing phrases or heavy accents, this type of transcription should be extremely accurate and descriptive. It is perhaps the most time-taking and difficult one.
  • Edited Transcription: This type of transcription gives some liberty to transcribers as in they can obliterate some parts of the audio content as long as they are able to preserve the integrity and intended meaning of the converted file.

    Here, transcribers should very well know about the file, so that he can clear the clutter by removing confusing sentences and background noise while keeping the content meaningful and intact.

  • Intelligent Transcription: For this type of transcription, a transcriber is expected to possess excellent analytical skills. He should have complete understanding of the intent and meaning of the source file.

Transcription Services Business: All You Need to Know

A transcription business can offer services to a wide range of sectors, such as medicine, law and business. In the beginning, you can do it in your spare time or consider it as a part-time job. If everything goes well, you can later undertake it as a full-time profession.

The Right Candidate

Transcription services business is an ideal choice for those, who want to work at their own pace and as per their own schedule – in simpler terms, people who want to be their own boss. However, some legal transcription work might require you follow strict schedules. As a job, it is also a great option for professionals, who have a great typing speed, and are computer friendly and tech savvy.

Target Market

A major advantage of transcription business is availability of a wide spectrum of clients. Having said that, the target market majorly depends on your area of specialization. Usually, large corporate houses and businesses turn out to be stable clients in the long run. Needless to say, your wok quality and consistency are also important to ensure a steady volume of assignments from clients.

How a Transcription Business Generates Income?

As a transcription service provider, you can charge clients for the job you do for them. The payment arrangement could vary depending on how you negotiate with your client. It could be on the basis of the time you take to complete the project or the length of the source file you transcribe.

Growth Prospects of a Translation Business

This might vary too. Specializing in some areas, such as medical transcription, can guarantee a much stable income along with job security. However, in general, a lot depends on your marketing skills, work quality, consistency, and typing speed, i.e., faster you work, more you earn.

Later on, with growing volume of assignments and client base, you can definitely consider collaborating with other transcriptionists and even hiring a few, eventually to create a transcription company.

Skills Required to Run a Transcription Service Business

  • The four basic skills that a transcription professional should possess are as follows:
  • Listening Skills: If a file contains multiple voices, you should know how to differentiate between all the speakers. Also, in case of heavy accents and poor audio quality, you could be able to clearly understand every single word or phrase. Obviously, poor audio quality means more payout. So, if you have great listening skills, just make sure to have the right tools.
  • Excellent Typing Skills: While there are no such restrictions, it is always a great idea to brush up your typing skills; because more typing means more money. Ideally, a transcriber is expected to deliver a 6-minute audio file in a span of 3-5 hours. You can consider taking online/offline classes for the same.
  • Superb Command Over Grammar: Whether it is about verbatim or non-verbatim, a grammatically correct, well-formatted transcript will always be pleasing to the eyes of your clients. Online tools, such as Grammarly can come in handy here. Remember that the quality of your work is the only thing that could bring more assignments at your desk while keeping your clients coming back to you.
  • Basic Internet-Research Skills: Web-based research is just another skill that a transcription professional should possess to stand out. You don’t need to be a pro, but you should know how to google any unclear or wrongly pronounced name of some company or speaker in the source file.

Cost of Establishing a Transcription Business

Th initial cost totally depends on the level of your setup. At the basic level, i.e., when you are starting from home, you will need just a computer with an active internet connection. However, if you really want to establish yourself as a successful transcriber, you will require some more tools and software to ease up your work and scale up your productivity.

At this point, you should bear in mind that everything you are doing to set up your business is aimed at getting your very first client. So, you would need to market yourself as a transcription professional and for that, you have to bear some extra cost.

Creating a professional website is indisputably a great idea. You can further consider calling and mailing your potential clients, or even visiting them personally and dropping a business card on their table.

Besides, on the basis of your field of specialization, you may be required to fork out some more bucks. For instance, if you want to become a medical transcription professional, you should have an associate degree in this field along with a registration certificate, both of which can cost you around a few thousand dollars. However, a general transcriber doesn’t require to undergo such professional formalities.

Now when you have got a general picture of all possible costs, let’s find whether you can start a transcription services business with minimal investments.

Is It Possible to Start a Transcription Business on a Budget?

To be true, sky is the limit when it comes to investing in businesses and transcription services is no different. In this case, an investment could be made either to establish a basic home-based set up or to boost your productivity by adding some advanced tools and software to the existing one.

At a later stage, when transcription professionals find it difficult to manage large volumes of work single-handedly, they do consider investing generously in giving their business the shape of a brick and mortar organization, wherein they hire talents too to ensure smooth workflow.

However, as mentioned above, you just need some equipment and applications to run your transcription business from home as a beginner. Keep reading to know more about such tools.

Basic Transcription Tools and Applications:

Product Price (Approximate)
Dell Inspiron All-in-One 23.8" FHD Anti-Glare Touchscreen Desktop 750 USD
Acer Aspire C24-865-ACi5NT AIO Desktop, 23.8" Full HD laptop with Microsoft Office 365 Home 700 USD
HP 23.8" FHD Touchscreen IPS-WLED Backlit Micro Edge Display AIO Desktop Computer 600 USD


Product Price (Approximate)
Olympus Transcription Foot Pedal Bundle 120 USD
Philips Transcription Foot Control 72 USD
Infinity USB Digital Foot Control with Computer plug (IN-USB2) 49 USD


Product Price (Approximate)
ECS OHUSB WordSlinger Deluxe Overhead USB Transcription Headset 50 USD
Spectra USB PC Stereo Transcription Headset with Extra 5 Pair Antimicrobial Ear Cushions 50 USD
Philips 2236 Stereo Headphones for Transcription 24 USD

In case you are using a laptop/notebook computer, you can also go for a good pair of speakers.

Product Price (Approximate)
WorkPro Quantum 9000 Series Ergonomic Mid-Back Mesh/Mesh Chair 400 USD
Ergonomic High Swivel Executive Chair with Adjustable Height 400 USD
Flash Furniture Mid-Back Black Mesh Swivel Task Chair 105 USD

The list above represents things when you just need to kick off your transcription business as an individual. However, to boost your daily productivity and efficiency as well as to make your work easier and accurate, you might be required to upgrade with some of the best available applications and software for transcription on the market.

So, when you are all set, you will need some projects or assignments to start making earnings. Keep reading to know how to get work and continue getting more of it.

Finding Business or Work

Broadly, there are two ways to get transcription work or projects – either you join a reputed online platform for freelance work or directly approach a potential client. While the former is just perfect if you are expecting a regular income, the latter is for those who are thinking of making it big in future.

Needless to say, you have to put in some extra effort and money if you want to take your home-based business to the next level. Let’s discuss both the approaches.

  • Here is a basic list of applications and tools that you would require to establish your very own transcription services business at home.
  • Computer: Although a computer is something that can be easily found in some corner or other of almost every home today, it is the most important transcription tool.

    In the beginning, you don’t need to go for a pricey one, but you can buy a branded one with a descent configuration, costing you less than 800 USD. You may consider the following:

  • Hi-Speed Internet Connection: You need a fast internet connection to download digital audio/video files to be transcribed. DSL broadband connections are pretty cheaper now, and if you are really serious about your business, you must go for a permanent internet connection.
  • Word Processing Software: Many Window PCs come with a pre-installed version of MS office. You can also opt for WordPerfect. Having both of these on your system can ease up your work while making it much better.
  • Audio Playback Software: There are several applications (some of which are free too!) that can be used to start, pause, rewind or stop running audio files. Go for free versions in the beginning.
  • Digital Foot Pedal: This is another important piece of gadget that can make your task easy. Using this tool, you can keep your hands free and foot engaged to play, rewind and stop running audio files.

    The best way to get this instrument is purchasing it from an online retailer. The price is usually around 100 USD. Here are our recommendations:

  • Headphones: Remember that you can write perfectly only when you can hear perfectly. So, get the best possible headphones depending on your budget. It is a general recommendation not to compromise on quality while spending on this device since a wrong choice might seriously hamper your performance and workflow. Here are our picks:
  • Ergonomic Chair: Although a chair might not directly be related to your mainstream transcription work, you will need one to keep yourself working comfortably for hours on your computer. Go for ergonomic ones as these are intelligently designed to understand a human body and postures.

    An ergonomic chair gives you lower back support, promotes rights posture, prevents muscle fatigue, and ensure proper blood flow. A wrong seat may hurt your back and ups the risk of cardiovascular ailments. We recommend you the following:

  • Transcription Workflow Software: Even when you are setting out at the most basic level, it is never a bad idea to get a workflow software as it can help you remain organized while minimizing the chances of any possible human errors. For example, it can automatically perform all invoicing task and allow you to receive large audio files. The popular ones are Winscribe and ScribeManager.

    For your convenience, you can also consider installing text expander application, such as FastFox as this will help you instantly type frequently used words and phrases.

However, chances are there that you might be mislead or swindled by some sites while searching for such opportunities on the internet. Therefore, to keep you at a fair distance from such deceptive sites, we have handpicked a couple of popular yet reliable freelance platforms, with which you can easily kickstart your home-based transcription work.

  1. Getting Business: This would need some additional expenditures to market yourself as a transcription professional.
    • Develop a Professional Website: As a major part of your marketing activities, this is a very important step because your prospective client will always want to know more about your work, business and level of expertise before taking things forward. Clients are most likely to reject you if your website is not going to impress them.

      Thus, creating a professional website is inevitably crucial. You can start with WordPress, wherein you get the advantage of using professional themes from ThemeForest and adding chat and ecommerce plugins.

      Nevertheless, you have other options too, such as SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix.

    • What More You can do To Lure Clients You are not alone out there in the market! So, you need to stand out from the competition. While a professional website can be of great help, you will still require going the extra mile. Listed below are some tips that can give you an edge over your competitors while bring more business to your desk.

      In today’s age of internet, it is utterly important to take complete advantage of your online presence to sell yourself as whichever profession you are into; be it a transcriber or anything else. So, try growing your network to grow your business by leaps and bounds.

      • Offering free content to the people you serve. This is called ‘content marketing’
      • Complimentary offerings may work in your favor, such as reviewing podcasts for free
      • Offering money-back guarantee to assure your clients of the service quality
      • Giving special discounts to regular/stable clients
      • Showing your prowess in the transcription domain and educating customers about the same by creating blogs on your website and YouTube videos. This is basically a part of your content marketing efforts.
      • Sharing your web content or its link on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest is also a great way to market yourself
      • Writing on LinkedIn and popular online forums
      • Getting referrals from existing clients or asking them to write a testimonial
      • Any surprise accompanied with deliverables like a free guide or access to specific portion of your website
      • Creating webinars for your target market
      • Offering holistic support to your existing customers, so that they keep coming back to you
      • Building relationships with industry influencers
  2. Getting Assignments: If you just want to ensure a stable income with regular work and have no recent plans to expand, online freelance platforms can be your best bet.
    • Upwork: Here, you can develop a profile here and choose to opt for a free membership too. Then, you can mention your skills, select a category of your interest, and start finding some work.
    • Acutran: This website exclusively works with Americans and Canadians. You have to select the currency here for the payouts, and then you can get access to available work.

      Even novices can apply here until and unless they have a typing speed of 70 words per minute.

    • Tigerfish: Freelance work on this website is only available to legal citizens of the U.S. It is probably the world’s largest transcription service platform.

      You will be required to take a test by downloading an audio file to transcribe. Once you clear it, you will be directed to the next phase.

    • GMR Transcription: This platform openly accepts new talents. Its major requirement is having a typing speed of 48 words per minute with an accuracy of 98%.
    • Rev: This website is open for transcribes with all levels of experience. To get in, you would be required to pass here a grammar test, writing sample test and finally a transcription sample test. If you pass all the three, you will be contacted for work. This website also has a specific review style guide.
    • oDesk:Unlike many other platforms, it gives the advantage of working under multiple categories at a time. You need to upload a picture, fill the profile section and update your skills.

      Next, you can start looking for work. The clients here pay you on the basis of audio hour time and type of project.

Common Advantages and Challenges of a Transcription Business

Establishing a translation services company can be an all-new business venture or a mere expansion of your home-based transcription work. Interestingly, advancements in telecommunications and adoption of new technologies has remarkably revolutionized this sector.

As a result, most transcription companies today work on a unique business model, which gives them the freedom to offer services to remotely located clients by making use of the skills of home-based transcribers.

While such a model can be advantageous in many ways, it may pose several operational and technical challenges too.

  1. Benefits of Transcription Business:
    • Low Monthly Operational Cost:Since a major chunk of your staff work from home, it is obvious that you will save on the cost of renting a large office space, expenses on furnishing and utilities along with other associated costs.

      Usually, employee benefits and perks do not exist since most home-based transcribers work as an independent contractors or freelancers.

    • High Growth Potential: Here, expanding your business is chiefly about getting more clients and subsequently more work. However, to meet the demand of increasing client base, you may require bringing a few more transcriptionist onboard, but for that, you just need to expand your server and processing capabilities.
    • Possibility of Global Outreach: The fact that transcription companies operate in a virtual environment adds the possibility of expanding the business to any nook and corner of the world. Regardless of their location, clients can be easily served by home-based professionals. Just everyone needs to be connected virtually.
  2. Challenges of Transcription Business : The fact that transcription companies operate in a virtual environment adds the possibility of expanding the business to any nook and corner of the world. Regardless of their location, clients can be easily served by home-based professionals. Just everyone needs to be connected virtually.
    • Huge Investments in the Beginning: In the initial phase, you may need to make huge investments on technology. Although home-based professionals may make use of their own computers, you have to bear the massive cost of data storage facilities, communications servers and telecommunication facilities. Getting transcription software licenses for multiple users can also be burdensome. However, it all depends on the level of your startup.
    • Limited Control Over Workforce: Physically controlling work habits of work-based individuals can be really difficult. While company’s guidelines policies may direct them about rules, work schedules and requirements, it can be really hard to impose on someone, who is just virtually connected.
    • Technical Glitches: Like any other technology-dependent business, transcription companies are highly susceptible to all sorts of technical problems. Such problems may vary from temporary application/hardware malfunction and communication breakdowns to serious issues like data drive malfunctions and server failures.

      Technical faults may disrupt your business operations for a short duration or bring it to a halt for an extended period of time.

    • Burden of Regulatory Compliance: Assignments that contain sensitive and classified information, such as medical and legal records, might expose your business to state, federal or any other regulations. Regulatory compliance can be frustrating as it needs regular reporting as well as accountability.

Final Words

Given the virtual nature of the work and low initial cost, transcription services business is a great option if you want to become your own boss. In the beginning, you can start on a budget by creating a small home-based setup using some basic tools and software.

As you move forward, you can upgrade to boost productivity and smooth your workflow. At a more advanced stage, wherein you have managed to establish a huge client base and you are unable to handle your assignments all by yourself, you can *consider transforming your home-based setup into a company.

Nonetheless, there are some online freelance platforms that give you the opportunity to work on your own terms. You can create a decent yet regular income by registering to these websites.

However, if you have some great plans for future and want to start your own transcription venture, you would need to approach your prospective clients directly and market yourself as a seasoned transcription expert, especially in the online space.

Establishing your own transcription business might bring several challenges to you, but these come with every business out there. And, you know that nothing come easy in life!

Well, how soon you would be able to transform your dreams into reality will completely depend on your dedication, quality of your work, and last but not the least, marketing and client-service skills.

Happy transcribing and all the best for your future endeavors!

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