young man transcribing audio

Have you heard of people who make a living as transcriptionists? Yes, there are people and companies willing to pay you to turn their audio recordings into written text. But if you think it’s an easy way to make money in your PJs, think again. This job requires serious attention to detail, fluency in English, and of course, a lightning-fast typing speed.

TranscribeMe is one of these sites, and we’re here to determine whether it’s worth your time. If you look up TranscribeMe reviews, you’ll find both positive and negative experiences. Which ones should you trust? Read on to find out!

transcribeme homepage preview

How Does It Work?

Registering for an account with TranscribeMe isn’t difficult at all. All you need to do is enter your name, email address, country, and phone number. Confirm your account from email and bam – you’re a member.

But not a transcriptionist yet, alas. It’s only natural that they should test your knowledge, right?

transcribeme test page layout

As you can see from the above screenshot, you will be prompted to take an English Entrance Exam. Before you enter, make sure to do your homework and read their Style Guidelines and Exam Instructions, both of which are available for download on their site. Remember: this is not a test of your English grammar knowledge. It’s only supposed to assert your understanding of their transcription rules. For example, if the speaker uses really lousy English, you are not supposed to correct their errors or edit their text. Your task is to provide a clean yet authentic version of what they said.

This exam is not all there is though. Just like the name says, it’s only an introductory exam that is supposed to test your basic understanding of how the work is supposed to be done. It typically consists of three stages:

  1. Multiple choice – Sample Sentences. You’ll get a sentence as-is, packed full of idiosyncrasies, incorrect grammar, contractions, and other “deviations” typical of spoken language. Along with it, you’ll get three options for transcribing the sentence. You are to choose the one that follows their guidelines most accurately. Hint: don’t act like an English teacher here! You are to transcribe someone’s speech, not edit it.
  2. Three audio files. Your duty here is to listen to 2-4 minute audio recordings and transcribe them according to the rules. You shouldn’t transcribe it word for word. Instead, you should know when to omit filler words, crutch phrases, as well as feedback words. Also, make sure to know your tags that mark inaudible talk, crosstalk, foreign language phrases, etc.
  3. Finally, you will get 10 style guide questions. Feel free to consult your PDF manuals while tackling those!

Once you’re done with this initial exam, it will take a few business days for them to approve or reject your submission. If you fail the first time, don’t let it discourage you. You’ll have one more attempt per 30 days – more than enough to learn what’s what.

Pro Tip #1

You never know what kind of sound quality you’ll have to deal with in the exam. So, make sure to download the Ears Chrome extension, which will let you easily modify the EQ of any sound. You will be surprised how effective these little alterations are! Also, the best method to transcribe a text is to listen to the entire recording before you type a single letter. Once you’ve grasped the topic and the speaker’s style, you’ll find it that much easier to accurately transcribe what they said. Since none of their recordings exceed 3-4 minutes in duration, this initial listening won’t take up much of your time.

Pro Tip #2

Make sure to pass as many exams as you can. It often happens that there aren’t any assignments for American English, but plenty for Aussie or Kiwi. If you’re fluent with any of these, it’ll maximize your earning potential.

Pro Tip #3

Don’t spend too much time on any of the recordings. Perfectionism is an enemy here! Your aim is to minimize your time per task, and not to prolong it to eternity. The editors will (or at least they should) tolerate a certain amount of errors. And if they decide to reject your submission, you’d better make sure not to regret having spent hours on it!

How Profitable is It?

Currently, the starting rate is $15 to $22 per audio hour. But it doesn’t mean you will get that amount per hour worked. It’s the recordings’ duration that counts, and not the amount of time it may take you to transcribe them.

So, how much cash would you get per hour of work here?

The math is far from promising. According to this article, an average person needs four hours of work to transcribe one hour of speech. It all depends on a number of variables, e.g. the speaker’s diction and accent, background noise (or lack thereof), complexity of topic, etc. You may need to research the exact spelling of a company name or a place you’ve never heard of, which would take up even more time.

But let’s assume that the above equation is correct. If your starting rate is $15 per audio hour and it takes four hours to complete that, it means you stand to earn just $3.75 per hour of work. Might be enough if you live in the developing countries – but it’s a paltry sum if you’re in the US.

Of course, your earning potential will rise if you’re stubborn and persistent. Firstly, you will get much faster and more efficient. Secondly, you can always apply for higher positions, once you get enough reputation and experience.

Finally, the payments go through PayPal every week, as soon as you amass $20.

Pros

  • Don’t have a BA in English? That’s fine! All you need is a little more than basic knowledge of English grammar and punctuation rules. And of course, you should carefully study their transcription guidelines.
  • No experience required. Nobody will ask you if you’ve ever transcribed a single word in your life. The quality of your final product is all that counts here, which makes it a great opportunity for students or anyone who’s just starting out.
  • There is potential for growth, be it on the platform itself or elsewhere. If you like it here, you can maybe specialize in legal or medical transcription, which pays better. Or you can apply for a QA (Quality Assurance) specialist, which could even serve as a full-time job that you can do remotely.
  • No investment necessary! If you’re reading this article from a desktop computer, you’re all set for the transcription work. Having a pair of high-quality headphones would be nice, but it’s not necessary, especially at the beginning. Later on, you can also purchase a foot pedal so you can easily pause, resume, or tweak the speed of the recording as needed.

Cons

  • The pay rate is far below the US minimum hourly rate. But there’s a silver lining here. If you’re a rookie in the online workforce, it’s a great way to pick up the ropes. Later on, with some serious transcriptionist experience up your sleeve, you may hope to get a decent paying full-time job. And professional transcriptionists don’t work for peanuts!
  • Sometimes, there isn’t enough work to get you going. Which is why you can’t exactly rely on this gig to allow for a full subsistence.
  • It can be quite difficult to understand the recordings. Don’t take this personally – we’re not implying that you’re incompetent or anything like that. It’s just that some of the speakers are not native. Others are but mumble as they speak. Whatever their speaking style, it’s up to you to decipher it – and that’s not always easy! Needless to say that the editors always have the right to evaluate your work as wanting in quality, turning your payday into disappointment.

Final Word – Should You Trust the Positive TranscribeMe Reviews?

Right now, TranscribeMe boasts 4.1 out of 5 stars on Glassdoor, from over 150 user reviews. It paints a pretty picture – but is it too pretty to be true?

It all depends on your expectations and, frankly, your location. You shouldn’t expect to cash in thousands of bucks every month. Instead, it’s better to hope for a small supplemental income, taking into account the feast and famine cycles. If you decide to give it a shot, the most advisable thing is to combine this with some other get-paid-to site, so that you can spice things up and never run out of work.