At-Home Transcriber 101: Getting Started

By: April Baity

At Speechpad, we get hundreds of applicants each week. Some hopefuls present resumes full of previous transcription experience, others are new but eager and ready to get started. Whether a newbie or a veteran, Speechpad’s At-Home Transcriber 101 series will take a dive into the freelance transcriber profession. Want to be a transcriber? Start taking notes. Already a transcriber? What you learn may surprise you!


Getting Started:

You know what transcription is about, but now you have to start somewhere, right? These days, the most alluring aspect of becoming an online freelance transcriber is that you can work from just about anywhere you have an internet connection. In this edition of At-Home Transcriber 101, we’ll look at some things to watch out for and keep in mind when getting started.

Anonymity and Fake Opportunities:

As a newbie, this will be one of the number one things you need to watch out for. Especially if you’ve never done work online, learning how to spot a scam may not be as easy as it seems.

You’ll most likely be starting out on a freelance site, like Upwork or Mturk since these sites do not require you to have prior experience to get your foot in the door. While these kind of sites do often have certain vetting processes in place to help make sure a potential project or offer is legit, they may not completely police their requesters and/or have very specific terms for their payment guarantees. This means you’ll have some homework to do before accepting every offer that comes across the table.

Check out the requester’s profile if the freelance site allows you to. How many projects have they requested and paid for in the past? How much was their average payout? Did previous workers leave any comments? If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

What if you do accidentally fall for a scam? Don’t worry, most of us have been there (myself included!). If your project’s payment can be guaranteed based on the site’s Terms or Service, get in touch with them. Unfortunately, sometimes the only thing you can do is report the requester, learn from your mistakes and move on.

Account Buying/Selling:


As a beginner, this may sound very tempting, especially as you encounter transcription companies that require experience in order to apply. No matter how tempting this may sound, never, ever purchase an account.

Most transcription companies you would want to buy an account for already know that people are engaging in this practice and may have multiple layers of identity checks in place to flag when an account has changed hands. If you buy an account, the odds are quite high that you’ll get found out. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, you’ll lose both the money you paid for it and the account itself. At Speechpad, even allowing someone other than you (whose legal name must be signed to the account) to use your account is a violation of Terms of Service. Aside from giving companies a bad impression, once found out, you can’t expect them to trust you and give you another chance.

Moral of the story? Making At-Home Transcription a career isn’t a get rich quick scheme. You need to be willing to put in your own hard work to succeed.

Working online isn’t all warning signs, though. A stark difference you may notice and enjoy right off the bat is the freedom to work from where you choose.

Mobility: Freedom of Location

As a freelancer, most sites will not restrict how or where you work. This means you can work from just about anywhere you can take your PC, although we do have some suggestions.


  • Quiet places: Whether at home or at a local coffee shop, try to make sure you’re working somewhere where the ambient noise is pretty low. More advanced equipment such as high-quality gamer headphones are really handy if your environment isn’t ideal, but we’ll get into that in a later blog.
  • Reliable Wi-Fi: Fighting spotty wi-fi is only going to stress you out when each individual assignment has its own deadline and you may need to communicate back and forth. Stick to places with reliable wi-fi or invest in your own hub.
  • Avoid working on mobile: A PC or laptop should be your preferred device for completing transcription work. Mobile phones are great to keep by for any urgent communication, but much less so for transcribing and navigating an audio or video at the same time.

Remember, quality of deliverable and punctuality in your delivery are going to be the two biggest factors you want to consider when thinking about where, when, and how you can work. Trying to crank out a few minutes during your morning train commute? Probably not the best idea. Want to roll right out of bed and transcribe in your PJs with your morning coffee? No shame. We’ve probably done that at least twice this week.