Freelance writing is one of the best jobs out there. You get to be your own boss, stay home, and create your own hours.

It’s a job that you likely started at the bottom and worked hard to make it to where you are now. You’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into every word you wrote to please your clients and stand apart from the competition.

At some point, after many years of writing, you may start to get tired and consider a career change. While freelance writing is an excellent job, other options can provide you with the same lifestyle.

  • Could you be a virtual assistant?
  • How about a social media manager?
  • Could you do data entry?
  • Would you consider becoming a transcriptionist?

If being a transcriptionist rings a bell, it’s a career path that many freelance writers should consider. Likewise, you get to work from home, be your own boss, and choose your hours.

If you have outstanding attention to detail, a love for the work at home life and the will to learn something new, becoming a transcriptionist may be the right career change for you.

Requirements to become a transcriptionist

The first thing to take note of is there are several kinds of transcriptionists. Each type is skilled in different areas. Some transcriptionists will have certifications a few of which are:

  • Medical transcription certificate
  • An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in the field of transcription work
  • Licensure/certification for legal transcription work

You may be thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa I’m not going back to school and spending thousands on a degree to become a transcriptionist.”

It’s important to be aware that while some employers do require post-secondary education (mostly in medical and legal transcription), it’s not always the case. Jobs often don’t expect anything.

Below we’ll go over the different kinds of transcriptionists and the specific requirements for each.


Medical transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists convert medical provider’s (physicians, physical therapists, therapists…) dictations into typed documents. The transcriptionist has to interpret medical abbreviations and understand medical terminology. The reports created by a medical transcriptionist will become part of a patient’s file or kept in the physician’s records.

As a medical transcriptionist, you could also work for insurance companies to help support medical claims.


The minimum educational requirement for a medical transcriptionist is graduation from a certificate program in medical transcription or the equivalent in hands-on experience in a medical office. After you’ve received the certificate or necessary experience, you’ll qualify for most entry-level medical transcription jobs. Obtaining the certificate can take anywhere between 6 months and 2 years, depending on the program.

Some employers prefer transcriptionists who have graduated with an associate’s degree in medical transcription for more specialized work. Many medical transcriptionists were once medical assistants, nurses, or in another position related to the medical field.


Legal transcriptionist

Legal transcriptionists transcribe the dictated recordings given by lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals to create official legal documents. Likewise to medical transcription, a legal transcriptionist must understand the lingo.


The only requirements for an entry-level legal transcription job is a high school diploma and experience in an office or legal setting. However, undergoing a training program will help you get better jobs. It’s all about standing out from the competition, right?

You can take your legal transcription course at a community college, technical school, online, or a vocational school in under 5 months.


General transcriptionist

The work of a general transcriptionist doesn’t fall into the field of medical or legal. Instead, general transcriptionists are in charge of everything else, including business conferences, audio recordings of school lectures, a handwritten memoir, etc.

A general transcriptionist can also help make marketing campaigns more accessible to disabled audiences by transcribing videos and podcasts.

Sounds like fun? It’s also easier to get into than medical and legal transcription. Employers look for experience more than knowledge of specific topics.


Of course, if you take a general transcription course, you’ll have the edge over people without training. However, it’s not required, and many employers care more about your experience and your proficiency. Here are some skills that will help you be a successful general transcriptionist:

  • Fast typing
  • Proficiency in the English Language
  • Punctuation and grammar skills
  • Listening skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Patience
  • Use of software and a foot pedal

Got those? What else do you need?

Are your English writing skills good enough?

There’s one more skill that’s crucial to emphasize: Command of the English language.

As a freelance writer, you’re surely very familiar with writing, grammar, and editing of content. However, many underestimate the level of proficiency transcriptionists need.

Transcriptionists go through a tough test with grammar, spelling, punctuation, homophones, and other components that people bomb all the time because they aren’t nearly as good as they think with the basics of the English language.

The reason transcriptionists undergo such acute testing is because contractors don’t want to be put on the spot for bad work. That’s why trustworthy transcription companies pay more to their independent contractor transcriptionists because they have extreme proficiency of the English language.

Writers make for very good transcriptionists because they’re already grammar police. It’s likely, though, some more studying will need to be done in order to pass the tests US-based transcription companies will administer prior to being brought on with them as an independent contractor.

Do you have what it takes to be a transcriptionist? It’s still a significant transition from your current job. The change can seem scary if you don’t know what to expect. An excellent place to start is to analyze the key differences between your current job and a transcriptionist’s job.

Transitioning from writing to transcribing: the similarities and the differences

As writing and transcribing are two different jobs, the transition naturally comes with some changes. What can you keep from your current writing job, and what can you expect to be different?

What is similar?

Possibly the reason why you chose freelance writing as your initial career path is the work from home lifestyle. Whether you decide to be a freelance transcriptionist or work for a transcription company, you can do so from the comfort of your home.

If you choose the freelance route, you’ll also get to pick your clients and be your own boss. You can take work when you want and take a vacation when necessary.

You’ll use the same old laptop and mouse. You’ll still be responsible for your own taxes and need to put money aside to pay on a monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual basis.

What is different?

Other than the apparent career difference, you’ll need a few extra tools like a foot pedal, transcription software, a quality headset, time tracking software, and a text expander.

Your payment method may change, as well. Freelance writers often charge per word. As a transcriptionist, you’ll benefit more by charging per minute.

And, finally, you’ll need to learn to organize your time appropriately. While you may be able to write a 1,000-word article in just over an hour or two, 1 hour of audio will take you 6 hours to transcribe at the beginning of your new career. That means you’ll likely be able to complete about one project per day, depending on the length of the audio or video files. If you’re asked to transcribe a 3-hour file, that’s going to be likely several days working away on the same file.

man typing on an Apple laptop with phone an orange and a pen surrounding the laptop on a white table.

What to expect being a transcriptionist

What can you expect from being a transcriptionist in terms of demand and wages? Also, is transcription a good side job option?

Work demand

Most people know about transcription and have no idea of how big it is in our day to day life. Transcription services play a role in the success of businesses across every industry.

That means, as a transcriptionist, you won’t be short of work.

Technological advancements like voice recognition are indeed making people question the future of transcription. It’s predicted that the work demand for medical and legal transcriptionists decreases in the coming years. However, technology still has many faults and may take time to develop to match what a human transcriptionist is capable of.

As a general transcriptionist, however, there’s plenty of job availability in the forecast. It’s because general transcriptionists work with more industries. More companies are investing in video marketing and using transcription to make their marketing efforts more accessible to reach the largest audience possible.

It also helps if you can speak multiple languages, as many companies expand to foreign markets. As companies rely on context, they know technology doesn’t capture the words that are spoken but also the meaning and intent behind the words.

Wages: Will transcription cover the bills?

The short answer is yes (if you don’t fly first class or dine out every day). The average general transcriptionist makes $45,000 per year. Legal and medical transcriptionists can earn around $60,000 per year. Of course, the amount you make depends on your experience and how much you charge clients.

As a freelance writer, you know you make as much as you want to make. If you work less, you make less. If you work a lot, you make more. The same applies to transcription, and that’s the beauty of freelancing. There’s a lot of flexibility.

Can you transcribe as a side job?

Are you ready to be a transcriptionist and don’t want to give up writing as a whole? If so, can you do both?

Transcribing and writing are both ideal side jobs. You can split your time and write for half the day or week and transcribe the rest. You’ll need to be very organized with your clients and your time. If you can manage, why not? It’s a nice break from doing the same thing all the time.

Is a career in transcription right for you?

The first step in deciding whether or not to make the big leap is determining if transcribing is right for you. After reading all the requirements and things that will change, where is your head at?

  • Are you nervous?
  • Is it too hard?
  • Do you know where to start?

Transitioning between any career is difficult. However, the best thing about this transition is you’ll keep the same lifestyle: work from home, choose your hours and clients. Like freelance writing, being a transcriptionist is one of the best jobs in the world.

If you have the motivation to make the change and learn as you go, you have everything it takes to start your new transcription career now.

Continue Reading: Everything You Need to Know to Start a Career in Copywriting