Freelance Transcription Jobs: How Much Can You Make?

“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:

Word

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.

Line

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.)

Ouch.

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.

Audio Hour

Someone not privy to the industry will see “earn $25 per audio hour” and think this means $25 per hour of their time worked.

Yeah, no.

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.

Page

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?

Yikes.

 

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.

 

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Psst! We’re hiring. If you’re an awesome transcriptionist looking for something new, click below to see our open positions.

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15 Comments

  1. I have heard of the title ‘freelance transcriptionist’ before, but like you mentioned, it just turned into a blank stare from me. I’m glad you explained very clearly what exactly these specialists do. I think it’s interesting that the pay can be based off of words, lines, or audio hours. That probably makes pay pretty flexible, and since you are working from home, you get to choose whatever you’d like. Thanks for the information! http://www.transcriptionhousela.com/

    Reply
  2. Thank you for this amazing article! I’m just starting my medical transcription courses and wanted more detail on how to best use the new skills that I will be acquiring.

    Reply
  3. I’m pleased to read this blog as it is something which needs be said for a long time. Transcription is not typing, as many people seem to think. One needs certain skills and perfect grammar in order to perform this work satisfactorily. However, it irks me to no end reading websites where people offer absolute peanuts to work on their projects. It irks me even further still to see transcriptionists accepting and/or bidding (as per Freelancer.com), soooo much lower than their efforts should command. If we continue to undervalue our capabilities and accept the handouts or mere pittance that we are offered, our services will never garner their true worth. It’s time for us transcriptionists to stop accepting ridiculous offerings in lieu of pay-per-worth.

    Reply
  4. Thank you so much for breaking it down for us! I’m a medical transcriptionist and thinking of getting into freelance work. This really helped me a lot!

    Reply
  5. Yeah, good article since it helps to clear the “fog” a bit and see what the real deal is. “Look before you leap”. Maybe not what I thought but now I know!

    Reply
  6. Hi, I am a freelance IME transcriptionist. I get paid per report, and I am wondering what is a respectable average rate to charge per report?

    Reply
  7. Hi, I am a freelance IME Transcriptionist. I get paid per report and I would like to know what is the average respectable rate to charge per report. Thank you 🙂

    Reply
  8. Unfortunately this is now 2018…..speech recognition has taken over and now the medical transcription field is almost obsolete. I have 30 years experience and the last transcription company I worked for 5 years ago barely paid 7.5 to 8 cents a line for typed text and 3.5 to 4 cents a line for speech… and they keep raising their production rate, and getting even more stringent when it comes to quality. The owners are the ones making the money and us peons are making them rich. Its a real shame. So us older ones that have done this most of our life and could really produce were pretty much done for when they started the speech recognition. It is not as great as they make it sound…for them maybe but not the transcriptionist. You are lucky you can make $10-12/hr nowadays. It just isn’t worth it anymore

    Reply
  9. Worked for Rev. l type 60wpm with little rewinding. They pay .50-.75 per minute and advertise you can make 25/hr. It’s a scam. I hardly made $5/hr. The audio recordings are so horrid. I suspect people are speeding up recordings and saving them faster to pay less for transcription because the number of English as second language files that l had to slow due to human speed was insane. Then l was fired with no cause. The editor reported l didn’t complete a file. That is FALSE. I was scoring perfect in all my reviews and submitting hours early. When a random person grades you a 1, you get booted and they will not talk to you. Stay away.

    Reply
  10. If you’re considering working as a transcriptionist, think hard before you do. I was a transcriptionist for 15 years, but finally quit in 2009 when things started changing. Too much competition from outsourcing to other countries, voice recognition and terrible companies not wanting to pay well for quality work made realize I had to get out. Yes, I made very good money as a subcontractor and contractor. I was fast and good, making around 6,500.00 per month at 10-12 cents per line. But I am paying for it now. I started losing my hearing in 2009 (a lot of transcriptionists end up with hearing loss). I have severe carpal tunnel, and sitting in a chair for hours at a time ruined my health, not to mention the stress level you constantly have to operate with trying to meet turnaround times. There are very few companies out there, big or small, that will treat you like a human.

    Reply
  11. If this is true, then Transcriptors must be homeless.
    The normal rate is $1 per minute of transcription. Therefore, for a 60 minutes transcription is at least $60. However, prices ranges from 1 to 2 per minute, based on the subject.

    Reply

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