Many articles talk about starting a home-based transcription business, but few talk about how much someone can realistically expect to earn. Although legal and medical transcription requires training, general transcription builds on existing typing and language skills. Therefore, general transcription is a quick, low cost business start-up, and earnings are generally dependent on just a few key factors.
Typically, transcriptionists that work from home are independent contractors, so they do not receive benefits, and are required to pay self-employment and other taxes. These considerations are not reflected in the earnings referenced below. Also, please note, it takes approximately 3-4 work hours to transcribe 1 hour of audio recording for an experienced transcriptionist, and 6-7 (or more) work hours for beginners. Therefore, in this business it is important to know the difference between “work hour” and “audio hour.”
As for gross earnings, most general transcriptionists make between $10 and $30 per work hour. This roughly breaks down into the following three groups:
Top-tier earners ($25-30 per work hour or more)
These are fast typists (80+ wpm) with excellent English language skills. They are strong self-starters, organized, disciplined, and computer-savvy. They utilize various methods to improve productivity, including computer automation techniques such as autocorrect, text expanders, macros, and speech recognition. They also use excellent equipment such as noise-canceling headphones, good quality computer soundcards, headphone amplifiers, and a foot pedal. This group may be well read across a wide variety of topics, or may have a strong educational background.
In addition, this group will be effective at marketing for direct clients, or have an existing direct client base. They charge the same rates as large transcription companies, generally $90-120 per audio hour or more.
This group has usually been transcribing regularly for more than 3 years.
Average-tier earners ($15-20 per work hour)
This group types around 65+ wpm. They are disciplined and organized, transcribe on a regular basis, and will use some computer automation or special equipment. This group will typically be self-starters and work for a large transcription company that pays better than average. They may also have a few direct clients and charge between $60-80 per audio hour.
This group has usually been transcribing regularly for more than 1 year, and will identify and meet improvement goals.
Lower-tier earners ($10 per work hour or less)
These are usually beginners with typing skills of 50 wpm or less, and may transcribe only occasionally. When starting out they may work for a lower paying transcription company or do overflow work from other transcriptionists. If this group has direct clients, they usually charge around $50 per audio hour or less.
This group can move up rapidly in earnings through regular practice, as well as the use of a foot pedal, headphones, and a quiet work environment. Application of text expanders and autocorrect would also improve productivity substantially.
The groupings above are only generalizations, and exceptions are to be expected. However, as you can see, most factors that determine how much you make are within your control. If you start at the lower tier, it is realistic to move up with just 6-12 months of regular practice, goal setting, and determination.
If you think a home-based general transcription business is a good option for you, hook up with one of the many Internet transcription forums to get started.