If you’re a fast typist looking for a side hustle, you may want to try transcription, a work-at-home job that pays as much as $25 an hour.
Transcription jobs involve typing a written record of what you hear on audio and video recordings. These recordings can be from 911 calls, court hearings, medical and academic notes, business meetings or movies.
You need to be a lightning-fast typist for the jobs to pay well. That’s because most jobs pay by the word or the “audio minute.” Depending on the complexity of the audio and how fast you type, an audio minute can take between two and six minutes to transcribe.
So if a company pays 85 cents per audio minute and you can transcribe each minute of audio in two minutes, you’ll earn $25.50 per hour. But if it takes you four minutes for every minute of audio, your hourly rate drops to $12.75. If it takes you six, you’re down to $8.50 per hour.
To make good money, you’ll also need good spelling and English grammar skills. That’s because the best-paying jobs in transcription require the completed product to be nearly perfect, free of typos and grammatical errors. If perfect spelling and grammar come naturally to you, that shouldn’t be difficult. If not, you’ll spend a lot of time reviewing documents. And few transcription jobs pay extra for that additional time.
That said, for the right candidates, transcription can be a great side hustle. In most cases, transcriptionists work remotely on their own schedule. And, aside from an internet connection and computer, you don’t need much to get started.
Several experts suggested that you get a $50 foot pedal and free text-extender software that automatically fills in frequently used names and terms. Most sites don’t require these items. But a foot pedal and text-extender software should speed accurate transcriptions, which means you’d earn a higher hourly rate.
Where can a fast typist try transcription?
Here are half a dozen platforms that encourage fast typists to try transcription. The list starts with those that offer the best opportunity. Although SideHusl.com does not recommend some of the companies at the end of this list, they’re included because you’ll surely hear about them if you’re looking for transcription work. You should know why they’re unlikely to deliver a living wage, even for fast typists.
Transcription Outsourcing: This platform does two things that make it attractive for freelancers. It pays among the highest rates in the industry (between 85 cents and $5 per audio minute). And it makes a point of connecting transcriptionists with regular clients so the workers become familiar with the names, places and speech patterns those clients commonly use. That helps workers transcribe faster and more accurately, says Ben Walker, Transcription Outsourcing’s chief executive. Walker says most of his transcriptionists earn between $20 and $30 an hour. The site is swamped with work and is looking for transcriptionists who can work a near full-time schedule.
Rev: With pay ranging from 30 cents to $3 per audio minute, it sounds like Rev pays generously. But the highest rates go to people with tons of experience working with Rev and to those who can caption movies (including sounds) and/or translate while they transcribe. That said, if you are a blistering-fast typist and get the hang of it, you can make decent money working from home with this company. Note that because of a huge increase in interest due to the pandemic, Rev could take as long as three months to process new applications.
SpeakWrite: This site enlists freelance transcriptionists who can work at least four hours a week doing fast-turnaround transcriptions. SpeakWrite promises its clients three-hour service at all hours of the day and night. That suggests it has transcriptionists working around the clock. Typists are paid half a cent per word, with some shifts offering a 10% bonus. That should translate to $18 per hour for someone who types 60 words a minute. But the audio quality is sometimes poor, which can hamper typists.
GMR Transcription: This company enlists only U.S. residents as freelance typists and translators. That generally means GMR Transcription pays higher-than-average rates. And freelancers who have worked with the company rate it highly. However, GMR is cagey about disclosing freelancer pay or its pay formula. Its FAQ says pay rates are disclosed only after you’re hired.
Moreover, the site mentions a “probationary period,” saying that “all new typists must complete 2 hours worth of audio before receiving paid work.” Other sites require transcriptionists to take a test to be accepted. However, this appears to say that the first two audio hours that you transcribe for GMR’s paying clients are unpaid. Given that each audio hour could take a transcriptionist two to six hours to complete, this is a significant amount of unpaid work. Calls and emails to GMR asking for clarification were not returned.
Scribie: This site says it pays $10 per audio hour. But if it takes two to six minutes to transcribe each minute of audio, Scribie’s pay range works out to between $1.67 and $5 per hour of work. Transcribers say that the company’s audio files are hard to hear and often include multiple speakers — the toughest type to transcribe. Scribie also grades transcriptionists on a five-point scale. If you get less than an average score, you get booted from the platform.
CastingWords: This platform’s pay structure also nearly guarantees below-minimum-wage work. CastingWords pays a base rate that starts at 8.5 cents per audio minute. In a best-case scenario, that works out to about $2.50 per hour of work. Completed transcriptions and tapes go to graders, who then pay — or don’t pay — bonuses based on how well the transcription was done. If you get an average grade, you get only the base rate. If you a lower grade, you don’t get paid at all. Those who get top scores get triple the base rate. Even at that multiple, the pay is probably less than the U.S. minimum wage.
Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent site that reviews hundreds of money-making opportunities in the gig economy.