“Where do you work?”
“I work from home as a transcriptionist.”
That response almost always elicits a blank stare, requiring explanation. People might feign interest in online transcription jobs because their vision of “working” from home includes sitting around in their PJs with an endless supply of caffeine and Netflix.
But let’s face it. What they want to know is how much money does a transcriptionist make working from home, right?
Well, it depends.
Here are three things to consider:
1. The type of transcription job
Medical transcription work used to command higher wages than general transcription. Unfortunately, medical transcription jobs no longer pay commensurate with the knowledge and skill required.
What happened, you ask?
That’s another post. Suffice it to say, outsourcing, offshoring, a shrinking industry, electronic medical records, and voice recognition contributed to the demise. “Customers demand more for less, and they can find it,” according to Lee Tkachuk, CEO of Keystrokes Transcription Service.
Many of us demoralized MTs were financially forced to put our skills to use elsewhere.
Thankfully, “elsewhere” still exists.
Viable, work-from-home job opportunities are out there if you know where to look. It’s true that some transcription jobs pay more than others. The key is finding what works for you.
Maybe you’re interested in an insurance transcription job, but strict verbatim just isn’t your thing, because no matter how hard you try, you cannot, like, um, train yourself to, like, capture every single, uh, utterance. But if it is your thing, expect a higher wage.
Perhaps you have legal experience, or your niche is focus groups with ten participants who all sound exactly the same (shudder to think). Great. More doors will be open to you.
Depending on the environment and tasks you prefer, there are definitely jobs out there for freelance transcriptionists.
2. How you get paid
Most work-from-home transcription jobs pay per production. How much you earn as a transcriptionist—and your resulting hourly rate—will depend on your skills, the audio quality, and the subject matter.
Cents per line is a common type of pay calculation in the medical transcription industry, while per page or audio hour are more common in legal and insurance transcription fields. You’ll occasionally see companies paying per word, but it seems less common.
The following are production rates one might expect:
A typical per word rate range is .5 cents to .695 cents. So, for example, to earn $10.00 an hour at a rate of 6 cents per word, you’re looking at transcribing 1667 words every hour (approximately 6 to 10 pages, depending on the format and content). Is it possible to do more an hour and make more money? Sure.
As Cynthia Ann Lewis points out, in the late 1990s it was common to see per line rates ranging from 8 to 20 cents. Today, it’s not at all unusual to see job listings for 7-9 cents per line. (Tip: If you’re trying to compare per word and per line rates head-to-head, the average line contains roughly 11 words.)
Now, to make an hourly rate of just $10.00 at 7 cents per line, you’d need to transcribe 143 lines per hour. Good luck if you have a challenging dictator or poor audio quality. And if you’re a freelance transcriptionist, that $10.00 per hour is even less after accounting for taxes and other expenses.
The public forum MT Stars changed their job posting requirements earlier this year in an attempt to fight these low wages. What impact, if any, this might have on the declining pay trend remains to be seen.
Someone not privy to the industry will see “earn $25 per audio hour” and think this means $25 per hour of their time worked.
So, how much does a work-from-home transcriptionist make when transcribing by the audio hour? An experienced professional can transcribe one hour of audio in about three hours for a 1:3 turnaround time. A newer transcriptionist will need even more time. This means $25 per audio hour means that…well, it’s probably not worth your time.
A respectable place to start is somewhere around $50 to $60 per audio hour. Increase that rate for more difficult work or if you have your own clients.
How much can a freelance transcriptionist get paid for per page jobs? Page rates often fall in line with audio hour rates, touting the overestimated “a page per minute” reasoning. Regardless, an absolute minimum place to start is $1.00 per page, preferably more. Most general and insurance transcription companies are in the $1.25 to $1.50 per page range.
Keep in mind that template formats can greatly affect what you earn.
Single-spaced, tiny font, anyone?
3. Are you an employee — or a freelance transcriptionist?
As an employee, you’ll probably still be paid by production instead of hourly. In exchange for your employer determining when and how you work and how much you must produce, you’ll be entitled to certain protections and benefits like insurance.
The self-employed have to provide all of their benefits, which can be quite costly.
Also, as a self-employed freelancer, say hello to your nemesis—the self-employment tax.
That portion of Social Security and Medicare that an employer would normally pay on your behalf? Yep, that’s all you now.
A true freelance transcriptionist with her own clients and no middle man will make need to make more money to compensate for not having benefits provided. A subcontractor won’t have such leeway. But the right position can provide consistent work versus the feast or famine that can come with trying to maintain your own client base.
So, how much does a freelance transcriptionist make?
The bottom line?
Answering exactly how much a transcriptionist can make is more complex than you may have initially anticipated. The type of transcription, per unit pay structure (word/line/hour/page), and worker classification all play a role in how much you can expect to make in a transcription job.
Allegis expects transcription positions to continue trending toward work-at-home positions. According to the company’s Director of Sales & Marketing, “We pay well for quality work. If you convert our per page pay rate to an hourly basis, most see a pay rate in the $13 – $17 range.”
Skilled transcriptionists can still earn a livable income.
Just know your value. Understanding transcription job pay averages and methods takes some of the mystery out of how much YOU, a skilled transcriptionist, can (and should) be earning. Demand your worth.
Psst! We’re hiring. If you’re an awesome transcriptionist looking for something new, click below to see our open positions.