girl doing transcription on her laptop

Audio transcription has got to be among the most accessible online gigs you can imagine. If you’re an English speaker and have a decent typing speed, chances are you already have what it takes to become a transcriber. And best of all, you can do it online, at your own convenience. There are hundreds of online transcription services that recruit new users every day. Scribie is just one of them. But is it legit? Who can join and how? Last but not least, how much does it pay?

You needn’t worry about their legitimacy. Even though the Internet is chock-full of frauds promising your ginormous pay for easy work, Scribie isn’t one of them. First of all, they don’t promise to make you rich quickly – or ever. Second, the work is easy, but you still have to roll up your sleeves and do it.

Scribie is one of the oldest online transcription services out there, having been in business since 2008. As of this writing, it has nearly 30,000 certified transcribers. This number does instill some confidence, but it still doesn’t say anything about how happy these people are with the work. So let’s dig in and learn for ourselves!

Scribie homepage preview

How to Get in?

The signup process is quite simple. Once you’re on their homepage, scroll down until you see the blue “Apply Now for Transcription Test” button.

join scribie process page

Logging in with PayPal is mandatory, since that’s how all the transactions are done. You needn’t worry that they’ll charge you anything. The registration is free for freelancers, and they’ll only use PayPal to pay you.

Next, you’ll be prompted to type in your email address. They won’t let you through immediately though. Depending on the number of current applicants, you will have to wait for a day or two. Then, you’ll get an email invitation and be able to proceed to the test. Complete it successfully, and there’s your certificate, along with the opportunity to start earning.

Well that’s easy to say, but how difficult is it in reality? Before starting your test assignment, make sure to carefully read and study their Guidelines. There are certain rules you’ll want to be aware of, for example how to tag laughter, when and whether to write or omit fillers and stutters, how to format dates, time, speed, etc. (Or should I write “etcetera”?)

But what if they don’t deem your work good enough to let you pass the test? No worries! You will get a rejection email containing feedback. Read it carefully, re-read the guidelines, and just try again. You can try to get in up to ten times, which is more than enough for most people.

How Does It Work?

The full process consists of four steps.

scribie joining steps

As a beginner, your sole concern is raw transcription. The rest is done by reviewers and proofreaders. If you’re good at transcribing, they might promote you to a reviewer or proofreader down the road. In fact, you won’t be waiting for too long. It only takes ten successful transcriptions to get a bump to another position. Which, of course, means your pay rate will improve a bit.

Now, a piece of good news. You don’t have to write everything word for word. The platform has a transcription software that will provide you with a raw written file, with about 60% accuracy. Your responsibility is to listen and re-listen the audio, compare it to the transcript, and fix all the errors you can track down.

As with most online transcription gigs, you can work as much or as little as you want. Note, however, that the turnaround time (TAT) per project is two hours. So, once you start working on a file, you can’t just quit in the middle and pick it up tomorrow.

Earning Potential

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room right away. The starting rate of $5 per audio hour is very ungenerous. As a transcriptionist or a reviewer, you only stand to earn $5 to $25 per audio hour. Since it takes about four hours of work to transcribe one hour of sound, it means your average hourly rate would start from as little as $1.25.

The math is equal if we put it in their terms. All of their recordings are split into segments six minutes long. It means you need to transcribe ten such segments to be able to earn as little as $5. Therefore, a six-minute file should take about 24 minutes to transcribe, and it would bring you $0.50.

They are, in fact, quite straightforward and honest about your monthly earning potential. As a transcriber, you may hope to earn $200 to $300 per month. If you transcribe and review other people’s work, your earnings can climb up to $500, whereas proofreaders who also transcribe and review can make up to $700. Those who manage to add quality control to their activities can earn up to $1,000 every month. But that’s if you’re ready to spend 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. Which is next to impossible unless your focus and patience are virtually limitless.

potential earnings table on scribie

Yes, that does sound like a case for despair. To alleviate it, they promise to reward you for referring other people to this panel. For every referred customer, you will get 5% off the price they pay for their orders. As for other transcribers, the affiliate commission is lower, at 2.5% off their earnings. 

Plus, you will get a monthly bonus of $5 per every three audio hours that you manage to transcribe successfully. 

What We Like About Scribie

  • Payments go through PayPal, and they go fast. I think there’s no need to overexplain the benefits of receiving your earnings through this service. You can pay for things online, send money to other people within minutes, withdraw cash to your bank account with a single click. And it only takes a single day for your earnings to hit your PayPal balance.
  • If you’re good, it’s easy to get a better position – and better pay rate. The best of all is that this process is automatic. As soon as you complete ten files, you’ll become a reviewer. 
  • The referral program should bump up your earnings a little. 5% of your referee customers’ payments and 2.5% of your referee transcribers’ earnings doesn’t sound like much, but it’s better than nothing. Note, however, that this program is only applicable for reviewers.
  • You’ll get a taste of freedom thanks to the flexible working hours. Work whenever you want, wherever you want, as long as you have a headset and a stable Internet connection and submit your work on time.
  • You don’t need any special skills or work experience. Good English, attention to detail, a decent typing speed, and you’re good to go. There are no medical or other heavily specialized transcription files.

What We Don’t Like About Scribie

  • The pay rate is rather low, even when compared to similar panels. In comparison, the starting rate at TranscribeMe is $15 per audio hour. Still not a brilliant bargain, but it’s definitely better than the measly $5. Plus, both services (as well as any other crowdsourcing platform) treat you as an independent contractor. Which means you have no rights or guarantees whatsoever.
  • Many users complain about the quality of the audio files. Sure, it’s understandable to get a lousy recording every now and then. But if that’s a regular state of affairs, it tends to make your daily work a nightmare.
  • More user complaints… Just check out all the negative user reviews on Facebook. I would single out a common complaint that is particularly troublesome if true. Some of the transcribers claim they got bad reviews as soon as they managed to climb one step up the ladder. Which demoted them back to $5 per audio hour. And once you get demoted, there’s no going back! (So much for motivation…)
  • Is there or is there not a cashout threshold? The site says that “there is no minimum withdrawal limit”. However, I’ve seen user complaints that there is a 2% penalty if you decide to withdraw your earnings before you accrue $30. Even though it’s not much, it’s still a downside.

Final Word – Is Scribie a Good Side Gig?

Working from the comfort of your couch carries a certain level of freedom that none of the 9-5 jobs will ever offer. But it also comes with significant downsides – especially if you don’t have specialized skills that are highly sought-after and well paid.

Scribie is a perfect case in point. Nearly anyone can try it out, regardless of their background and education level. 

However, the reason I don’t recommend it is that there are better transcription panels out there, with more attractive rates. None of them will make you rich. Indeed, very few will be able to replace your day job. But at least you’ll be more content knowing that they aren’t exploiting the heck out of you and feeding you peanuts in return.