Making Money on the Road: Transcribing

One of the more stable jobs we’ve been doing over the last few years has been our transcription work. Transcribing on the road is a really simple but profitable way to be able to work from anywhere in the world while giving you similar security of a regular job that you might not get from seasonal work or something we do a lot of like matched betting.

We’re not going to sit here and tell you that we’ve discovered secret methods to make money in our sleep that means we’re able to travel full time in our van and simply relax 24/7, everything we do requires an investment of time, however of the last few years we’ve sussed out the best ways to make transcription work as easy as possible so that we don’t have to trade as much of our time to be able to reap the rewards of this paid work.

What is transcribing?

Transcription work is simply putting audio or video into a written form; people may want this for any number of reasons. Clients I’ve transcribed for over the years include podcasts who want a written version of their episodes, businesses who want minutes of their recorded meetings, focus groups who need a script to review what has been said and even YouTubers who want to be able to add accurate captions to their videos.

I get sent an audio file or a video file and I play it and type down verbatim what is being said in the file, I send it back to the client and am paid a rate based on how long the audio file I send is. Over 2020 my average rate came in at about £73.20 for every hour of recorded audio I needed to transcribe. The expectation is that an hour of recorded audio takes about 5 hours to transcribe accurately however thanks to some software I will share with you below as well as some tips I’ve picked up along the way I’ve got this down to about 2 hours work, therefore in 2020 I was making about £36.60 per hour doing transcribing. With the low cost of living in my van as well as the fact all I needed to do this was a laptop and an internet connection, transcription work became the backbone of the ways I make money on the road.

How to get started transcribing?

The reality is that all you need to get started with transcribing is a laptop, an internet connection and the ability to type quickly but accurately. You simply sign up to one of the many transcription services such as TranscribeMe, Transcript Divas, University Transcriptions or even via marketplaces such as Fiverr or Upwork where you list your service as a transcriber for anyone who might need you.

Most of the transcription services have a test for you to undertake in order to show that you are able to both type quickly as well as accurately but these are very easy and the benefits of joining one or all of these services by far out weighs the effort you have to put in to complete the application. Once you have been accepted it is a simple as logging in each day you wish to work and selecting from the list of available audio/video files you wish to work on. You download the file and begin transcribing it, once you’re finished you upload the finished transcription and at the end of the month you are paid the amount you’ve earnt like any other job.

The rate of pay for transcription is based on the length of the file you are transcribing and the subject matter of the file, medical files or those which require some specialist knowledge pay best however the going rate for normal files is still competitive. The downside to this method of payment is that regardless of how long it takes you to complete the transcription, you will be paid the rate based on the length of the audio; therefore if you are a slow typer, or have difficulties hearing or understanding the audio, it can take you longer to complete the work and thus you earn less per hour.

There are ways however, to speed up this process so much that most of the work can be done for you meaning you are able to complete these transcripts far quicker and earn much more money for the amount of work you put in.

How to earn more money transcribing?

Over the years I’ve tried a number of ways of speeding up my process so that it takes me less time to transcribe the audio files and thus I earn more money for each hour I spend working. I’ve bought specialist equipment such as a foot pedal that meant I was able to hands free stop and rewind the recording to go over the transcription saving me a bit of time.

However by far the best method to speed up transcription time was to use software to do the heavy lifting for me, automatically transcribing the audio and leaving me to simply go through and double check, making slight edits here and there. By utilising software I was able to cut the time taken to transcribe an hours worth of audio from 5 hours, down to just 2 hours. That meant that if I wanted to work for 10 hours in a day I was able to be paid for 5 jobs rather than just 2, that was enough for me to be able to live all week while only working for 1 day leaving me plenty of time for travelling.

The software I use for my transcribing is otter.ai which is an online portal that allows you to upload your audio file and it will punch out a transcript for you in a matter of minutes. The reason that otter.ai is a fantastic tool is because of how quickly it can transcribe for you; because it doesn’t have to actively listen to the audio file you have uploaded it doesn’t have to play the audio completely in order to be able to transcribe and as such it can provide a transcript of an hour long file in about 2 minutes. This is a huge change from a lot of the other software I’ve used which essentially plays the audio in full and uses text to speech in order to transcribe it.

Not only does otter.ai give you a transcript quickly, it also has the ability to identify different speakers in the audio and include titles and separate different speakers onto a new line saving you a tonne of time in the editing process.

Once I’ve uploaded my audio file to otter.ai I will then run through the audio on x2 speed, following along on the screen and double checking that everything has been transcribed accurately and making any necessary edits. Generally speaking the software gets it about 95% correct and even includes punctuation for you which is a rarity in transcription software. Once I’ve finished my checking process it’s a simple case of exporting the file and uploading it to the transcription company and marking it as correct. The whole process usually takes me about 1 to 2 hours and is made painless by otter.ai.

Previously I have used free software to help my transcription work, such as using the text to speech function on Google Docs, however the fact that I had to play the audio through in its entirety as well as then go through and add the different speakers and all of the punctuation just made this method unworkable.

Why do transcribing to make money on the road?

When it comes to methods of making money on the road that literally anyone can do without any skills or knowledge, transcription work takes the crown for me. It’s so simple to get started and it is a steady stream of income that you can rely on. Whereas work like matched betting has been more profitable for us it certainly is more involved than the transcription work that we do. The fact that I can automate so much of the work means that I have to spend far less time at my van desk and can spend more time enjoying travelling and living in a van.

I’d recommend transcription work to anyone, whether you want to make it your sole form of income or, like we do, use it as just one of many ways we make money on the road. Using transcription to form the safe backbone of our monthly income and topping it up with only the most profitable offers in matched betting has meant we have been able to make a good monthly income working 1 to 2 days a week, leaving us 5 or 6 days to spend actually living our lives.

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