“A reasonable sum of money” is a subjective term.
It takes me about 4 hours to transcribe 1 hour of audio, including research and final proofreading. Sometimes the ratio is 3:1. It’s 6:1 at times. However, on average, the ratio is 4:1.
When individuals say “transcribe 1–2 hours a day,” they mean it will take 4–8 hours after you fully understand what you’re doing. But, to be honest, my brain and body aren’t very productive after 6 hours of wriggling my fingers with a lot of focus and attention. After 6 hours, my error rate skyrockets, and my mind begins to wander.
However, that’s 6 hours of pure productivity with strong listening/typing/reading/researching attention – there are also hourly stretch and eye breaks, meal breaks, and so on. It still works out to an 8–10 hour day.
I usually transcribe for 100 minutes per day. If the audios are particularly good, it can take up to 120 minutes. When it’s just garbled, gain-too-high on the mic, for many people with unfamiliar accents, it can take up to 60 minutes. I’m still getting files that say, “I can’t do this job!” Why do I believe I’m capable of hearing this nonsense?! GAH!”
However, the compensation rate is all over the place. I’m in the United States, but I telecommute to Canada and am paid in Canadian dollars, not US dollars. I estimate that I spend roughly $1.25 for each audio minute. (Paying too much attention to such things worries me out, so I just work and hope everything turns out okay…which it generally does.) Uncle Sam gets roughly a third of it, because, you know, we need more aircraft carriers, bombs, and crap… So it’s more likely that $.80 USD every audio minute ends up in my bank account. Multiply by 60 minutes and divide by 4 (it takes 4 hours to transcribe 60 minutes) to get a reasonable estimate of $12-$14 per hour.
So, to be honest, I’ve never made a “reasonable amount of money.” Perhaps it’s my fault. Maybe it’s because the contractor gig economy is a feast or famine situation. I’ve had some fantastic months, but then I’ll have a dry time. Economic pressures are unavoidable. Governments change over time. Grant money is redistributed. Exchange rates can be erratic. Markets go up and down. Technology progresses. Change is required in the industry. Too many variables are beyond my control.
If you can always find decent work, I believe you will be able to make decent money. I’ve tried working with multiple agencies at the same time in different countries. It drove me insane. It is, nonetheless, feasible.
You begin to observe the world from a variety of angles… For the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve transcribed soft-porn… It all creeps into your head, from homeless junkies and prison inmates to CEOs and world leaders, hunter/gatherer people, academics, Wall Street investor/big bank people, and a whole bunch of other people. Many of them are at odds with one another… Many of them don’t even speak the same language, despite the fact that it’s still English.
Then there’s how this project influenced another heinous project involving human trafficking, war, refugee camps, or any other sad event…then there’s volunteer transcription of meditation talks and nonviolence training to help offset some of the heinousness… My mind is a jumbled mess… Does it remind me of a messed-up Matrix — Operator? Why do I have all of Nissan/manuals Inifiti’s owner’s in my head?! Canada is a lovely country.
You must listen without making any judgments, and you must never remark about what you hear…
You’ll go nuts if you don’t do the first. Others will think you’re mad if you do the second.
I believe that transcribing is an excellent part-time job for anyone’s sanity. Not on a full-time basis. If you can do it, it’s a fairly good little moneymaker. Hour-long audio could be completed in 4–5 hours. Then, to make a living, spend the rest of the day doing anything else… As a sole source of income, though… It can be difficult on the mind, body, and spirit. (Writing on Quora and playing music helps me get rid of the voices in my brain… I need to do more exercise…)