Skip to content

How to Become a Freelance Transcriptionist

World of Freelancers contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

One of the best things you can ever do for yourself is to work in a career you love. Many people think they cannot make this happen, but that’s not true. You can find a career you will love.

For many people, a freelance career is the right choice. Anyone can become a freelancer, no matter your age, location or education.

One of the top freelance careers in the world is transcription. When you learn how to become a transcriptionist, you’ll be entering a growing and lucrative field. You’ll be able to work from home or wherever you want to work. You’ll also be able to work when you want to work. 

Sound appealing? Keep reading. This article will tell you everything you need to know about how to become a freelance transcriptionist.

Transcriptionist definition

A transcriptionist is someone who listens to various types of audio or video recordings, usually through headphones, while simultaneously typing up the words spoken into text documents, either digital or print.

Types of transcription 

There are three main types of transcription.

General transcription

General transcription is the typing up into written documents words spoken on any subject except for legal and medical matters. General transcription includes academia, interviews, business, finance and much more.

Legal transcription

Legal transcription is the typing up into written documents the words spoken by judges, lawyers, paralegals and other legal professionals. Legal transcription does not include typing up legal matters recorded by a court reporter on a steno machine. 

Medical transcription

Medical transcription is the typing up into written documents the words spoken by doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

In the United States medical transcription is being outsourced to countries in the developing world now. If you live in the U.S. you probably will not be able to find medical transcription work.

Transcriptionist qualities and skills

Certain qualities and skills are a big help when you work as a transcriptionist. In order to succeed as a transcriptionist, it is very good if you:

  • have native or completely fluent language skills in the language being transcribed
  • are comfortable working on a computer
  • are a good typist
  • have good spelling and punctuation skills
  • have good hearing
  • have patience

Q&A with Janet Shaughnessey, creator of the Transcribe Anywhere transcription courses 

Janet Shaughnessy is a veteran transcriptionist who saw the emerging popularity of this field along with a real need for proper transcription training for people whether or not they have a degree. This led her to create the Transcribe Anywhere training program.

Janet Shaughnessy, who founded Trancribe Anywhere, a program which teaches people how to work online as a freelance transcriptionist
Janet Shaughnessy, founder of Transcribe Anywhere

Q. What do transcriptionists do?

A. Transcriptionists convert audio and video content into text documents. Too many people think that all we do is type, but typing is the easy part. Sure, it’s an essential skill, but it’s not the only skill required to provide quality transcripts. Punctuation, spelling, and critical thinking skills are equally as important. You must also possess a good ear to capture the spoken word and type it verbatim.

Q. How much do transcriptionists make?

A. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, general transcriptionists earn $45K/year and legal transcriptionists earn $65K/year. These are averages and will vary depending on region, experience, and number of hours worked.

Q. Do I need a degree in order to become a transcriptionist?

A. The answer is no! You do not need any type of degree to work as a transcriptionist. 

Q. Do Transcribe Anywhere graduates receive a transcription certificate?

A. Yes, everyone who completes the Transcribe Anywhere general or legal transcription course receives a transcription certificate.

Q. What type of equipment do freelance transcriptionists need?

A. You need:

Q. What do people get from the Transcribe Anywhere transcription courses?

A. My program offers both general transcription training and legal transcription training. We also give you a certificate when you complete our course or courses. You can view the online course syllabi at the website

In short, we take them from the very beginning of explaining what transcription is, the equipment needed, typing and punctuation drills, practice dictations of all sorts (there’s a LOT of practice in my courses) and finally, after passing the final exam, training in marketing transcription services and obtaining work is provided.

In fact, we’ve recently upgraded both our general and our legal transcription training programs. People can still choose the basic training to learn either legal transcription or both legal and general transcription. They now also have the option to choose a total package where they learn both types of transcription plus receive everything they need in order to start working as a transcriptionist plus lifetime support. 

Specifically, the upgrade includes everything in the basic training plus:

  • equipment (a transcription bundle including software, headset, and a foot pedal)
  • priority email support
  • lifetime access to live one-on-one coaching with our team
  • a done-for-you professionally designed website (using the Transcriptionist Pro theme) + email support from our developer (upon passing the final exam)

Q. How long does it take to complete the Transcribe Anywhere course?

A. On average, it takes students about four months to complete either of our transcription courses.

Q. How do freelance transcriptionists find clients?

A. I only share that information with people who’ve completed training and passed the final exam.

No one without training or experience will pass a transcription test, so there’s no point in perpetuating the myth that “anyone can be a transcriptionist.” It simply isn’t true and people will be sorely disappointed when they find that they don’t know what they thought they knew. I hear it all the time.

People find Transcribe Anywhere after failing to find work on their own because they weren’t prepared.

How to become a transcriptionist

Q. Is transcription a recession-proof freelance career? 

A. As some people know and some need to know, medical transcription is no longer a viable option. The adoption of the electronic medical record and outsourcing have depleted the demand, along with the pay, for qualified MTs. Transcribe Anywhere is working closely with AAERT (American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers) to help struggling MTs transition into general and/or legal transcription.

As a whole, the amount of work available to transcribers is growing all the time.

I’ve been asked several times recently whether or not transcription is a recession-proof industry. My answer is I have no crystal ball and I don’t believe most of what the mainstream media says. I’m not an economics expert, so we’ll see what happens.

What I do know is this: I started my work-at-home business in 2006. The 2008 recession hit just two years into my self-employment and I was continuing to grow it.

Even in a down economy, content is produced that needs to be transcribed. Litigation doesn’t stop. Business doesn’t stop. Authors don’t stop writing. Podcasters don’t stop “podding.” Marketers don’t stop marketing. Conferences don’t stop. Finance doesn’t stop. Insurance doesn’t stop. I can go on and on, but you get the picture. So recession proof? I can’t guarantee that. What I can say is that it hasn’t stopped us before and with the amount of content being produced on a daily basis, I can’t imagine that trend not to continue.

Q. What are the pros and cons of being a freelance transcriptionist rather than an employee transcriptionist?

A. I’m the wrong person to ask because I’m completely pro freelancing. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and I wouldn’t go back to a regular j-o-b no matter what was being offered.

The idea that there’s security in a regular job is a very false sense of security. It may have been true one or two generations ago, but it isn’t any longer. No one works for the same company for 30 years and retires with a gold watch and nice pension.

It’s a freelance revolution. Companies are realizing the benefits of outsourcing versus hiring employees. In the digital age, so many jobs that once had to be done in the office can be done anywhere with a computer and internet connection. Transcription is a perfect example. My advice: Build marketable skills!

Q. What are some of the biggest challenges transcriptionists face?

A. It’s a lot more difficult than people imagine. Proper punctuation seems to be the biggest hurdle, but once you get it, you’re good. A few, but not many, have found that they just don’t enjoy it. They’re definitely in the minority, but there are some who’ve decided they’d rather stick with a regular job. It could be that whole false sense of security thing I spoke about earlier.

I happen to love what I do, but it isn’t for everybody. If you’re not self-disciplined and/or like the office work environment, then transcription probably isn’t the right choice for you.

Q. Why should someone become a transcriptionist?

A. For many reasons, including:

  • To take control of your time and moneyEarn 45K a year working from home as a freelance transcriptionist plus free transcription mini-course
  • To spend more time with family and friends
  • To have the ability to work when and where you want
  • To learn a new skill! Skills = $$$
  • To be your own boss
  • To gain confidence in your abilities
  • To be a role model for your children
  • To learn new things every single day through the transcripts we provide for such a wide variety of clients
  • To stop wearing suits, ties, dresses, and pantyhose
  • To stop paying for commuting, lunches out, and work clothes
  • TIME FREEDOM is the number one reason on my list for loving what I do.

Now you know all about how to become a transcriptionist. Start your freelance transcription training now with this free workshop.

(This updated post was originally published in September 2019.)




Cover image by BUMIPUTRA


Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. I liked that you explained that there are a lot of industries that could use a transcriptionist. The medical and business industries seem like the ones that would need the most help. It does seem like a good idea to look for a transcriptionist that has some experience as well.

  2. Very Nice Explanation! Transcription industry offers a very promising carrier if you have the proficiency in your work> Thanks for sharing this great content with us.

  3. A transcriptionist job is a textbook model of work that offers great flexibility. Often, qualified transcriptionists can work remotely and in some cases have the option to set their own hours—as long as the work gets done by deadline. Freelance transcription jobs rank high on the list of flexible work options in this category.

  4. Hi Sabina,

    Transcribing is a remarkable way to make money online as a freelance writer. Many audio and video content get transcribed into text materials, and businesses are looking for writers who can make their lives easy. The interview is helpful and a valuable resource.

  5. All good points Sabina. Self-discipline reigns supreme methinks because desiring freedom comes with strengthening your will power. Being a freelance transcriptionist can be fun and freeing but one needs to put in the work, diligently. Great post.


      1. Trying to follow my own advice Sabina, I am attempting to display self-discipline by checking in and connecting with you via a comment reply one month later LOL. Keep up the great work; I see you on Twitter regularly my friend.

Leave a comment!

Back To Top