Interested in Working as a Home-Based Transcriptionist? Try This Test First.


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As my regular readers already know, I run my own home-based transcription business. I love my work, and it’s been a great career choice for me. I’ve tried to share as much as I can with my readers about how I established myself as a home-based transcriptionist, to try and make the process a little easier for others wanting to make a similar career transition (You can read my two-part blog post about exactly how I established myself as a home-based transcriptionist here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).  One of the things that I’ve really tried to make clear when blogging about working as a transcriptionist is that it’s surprisingly challenging work, and demands quite a specific skill set, without which you’re simply not going to make any money (or, nowhere near enough money to justify the hours you’ll be putting in).


Every second article/blog post/list you read about work from home job ideas generally has some eye-grabbing headline along the lines of ‘Make $70,000 a Year Working from Home!’ and generally has a couple of lines about transcription, saying something along the lines of: Listen carefully, type fast, make lots of money. Now, firstly, let me tell you that I don’t make $70,000 a year from my transcription work, and I personally highly doubt there are many (if any) home-based transcriptionists out there making anything close to $70,000 a year. And, sure (of course) listening carefully and typing fast are essential to being a transcriptionist, and those skills (along with the research skills required for transcription) are ones that most people can develop and improve pretty quickly. However, the biggest roadblock (and the one that for some reason none of these lists/articles/posts ever mention!) for a successful career as a transcriptionist is without doubt language and grammar knowledge and skills. Whatever language you speak and will be transcribing in, you need to have a masterful, rock-solid understanding of that language, its grammar, and its peculiarities. As I’ve mentioned previously, my grammar is pretty decent, I’d place my English language knowledge and skills at somewhere moderately/well above average. But, even though my skills are pretty solid, I can honestly say they are only just good enough for me to work profitably as a transcriptionist.


I know that one of the many awesome things about the world today is that there’s limitless information at our fingertips, you can pretty much find anything you’re looking for with a few quick keystrokes. And so, if you’ve got your heart set on home-based transcription work, I know it’s easy to think ‘Oh, I’ll just look up whatever I don’t know.’ That’s certainly what I thought when I started out. And, yes, you’ll certainly be able to do some searching online and pretty quickly find the answer to almost any grammar question you may have. But, firstly, your knowledge needs to be good enough to know what you don’t know, otherwise you’ll unknowingly be submitting error-riddled work. And secondly, if your grammar skills aren’t pretty solid, you’ll be spending so long looking up and checking things that an hour of audio will be taking you eight or more hours to transcribe, and you’ll be earning so little per actual hour worked that it simply won’t be worth your time.


Now of course, when you apply to work for/contract with a transcription company, they’ll almost certainly give you a test/tests to assess your skills. The test/list I’ve complied for you below is not intended to be representative of the type of test you’ll undertake with a transcription company, it’s just to give you an idea of the grammar questions and challenges a working transcriptionist will most likely come across countless times in pretty much every single file they transcribe. If you go through the list below and know most/all of the answers pretty easily, transcription might be for you. if you’re not confident and have to look up many/most of the answers, transcription might not be your thing.


Which of the following are correct?

  1.       double check, double-check, or doublecheck?
  2.       non-work related, or non-work-related?
  3.       timeline, time line, or time-line?
  4.       blow-back, blowback, or blow back?
  5.       per se or per say?
  6.       ad hoc or adhoc?
  7.       bear with me, or bare with me?
  8.       tyres or tires?
  9.       effect or affect?
  10.       enquiry or inquiry?
  11.       step up or step-up?
  12.       lead up or lead-up?
  13.       teamwork, team-work, or team work?
  14.       air bags, air-bags, or airbags?
  15.       log on, logon, or log-on?
  16.       timeframe, time-frame, or time frame?
  17.       grey or gray?


Bonus Questions:

18.      Should north, south, east and west be capitalised?

19.      What is an Oxford comma? Should you use one in transcription?

20.      When should you use ‘Single quotation marks?’ When should you use “Doubles?”


Now, the 20 questions outlined above are just a small sample of the many challenges most transcriptionists will come across every time they open a file. I haven’t provided the answers to these questions for a couple of reasons:

A) You already know if you know the answers or not. If you’re not sure you know the right answer, it’s definitely something you’d have to be looking up before you submitted a file including any of the above terms.

B) The answers for some of the above questions are context dependent. For example, whether or not you capitalise north, south, east, and west, depends on how they are being used.

C) The answers for some of the questions are location dependent. As an Australian transcriptionist I am generally transcribing in Australian (British) English, but when I was working for an online American company, I of course had to use American English.

D) The weird and wonderful world of open, closed and hyphenated compound words needs far, far more than a few examples and a few lines at the bottom of this blog post to even begin to explain it.

E) Some of the questions don’t have a definitive answer. In those cases, after you spend ages searching for the answer and discover that there isn’t one, you then spend even longer deliberating on which version of the word/phrase you should use. (SO frustrating!)


That’s it for this post. I hope it has given you a little more insight into the reality of working as a home-based transcriptionist. And, if after reading this you’re thinking that maybe transcription isn’t for you, please don’t despair! The work from home world is one that is constantly expanding, and there are lots of other great options out there. Hop over to the Jobs Hub, or scroll through some of my other blog posts and check out what’s out there!


Happy job hunting,

Cate XX



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