Can I make $5000 a month from transcription jobs?

Certainly, in theory.

On paper, I thought I could easily make $2200 each month. A hundred dollars a day, 22 days a month. It appears to be entirely feasible. Isn’t it a simple target? But in reality, it’s often half or a third of that. When my body isn’t complaining and I have enough work to keep me busy, I’ll occasionally reach over $3000. I rarely see $2000 per month.

The reality is that maintaining that level of concentration for more than 6 hours in a day is quite difficult. We’re talking about a zen-like intensity and attention to detail, where the concept of Self is erased and relegated to another realm, leaving just a drooling, nearly lifeless, intensely listening body with twitching fingers and the ego whimpering in loneliness.

It’s difficult to stay focused when there are no external or internal distractions. It’s difficult to regain that focus once it’s been shattered.

The last two hours of work are riddled with errors and take me twice as long as it does first thing in the morning. I’ve tried setting aside that time late in the day for proofreading, email writing, and other tasks. Except… after a long day of creating words, my head is a little jumbled, fatigued, and ruminating somewhere else. On the monitor, the words become jiggly, and I’m spending time trying to get stuff done. I turned off the computer when the words stopped making sense. My body is urging me to get up and move.

16,000-20,000 words a day is a good pace for me if everything goes smoothly. If I go far beyond that, it’s a huge challenge to get going the next day when I sit down at the computer.

Furthermore, workloads are never consistent, and if I take vacation days, I lose my job. When things are hectic, I work as much as I can, and when things are slow, I bite my nails. I have yet to attain a constant workload with good rates to the point where I could arrange my days off.

Let’s take a new approach to this. Also, please bear with me because the math side of my brain isn’t always working these days.

Humans communicate at a rate of about 200 words per minute. A one-hour audio recording will contain approximately 12,000 words. Some people say 120 words per minute, while others speak up to 320. Because an hour of audio can contain anywhere from 8000 to 18000 words, I don’t like to include audio length in my self-audit metrics because it doesn’t tell me much. (It’s a good idea to audit yourself every now and again.) Make a list of what you have and where you can improve. That’s something I need to do…)

I was making roughly $.007 per word the last time I ran a word/rate study. However, I’ve been getting several jobs that are definitely closer to $.009 and higher; I simply haven’t done a quarterly review in a while. A cent per word…those are reasonable charges.

For the sake of precision —

To earn $5040 per month at $.007 per word, you’d have to transcribe 720,000 words in a month. That’s 24,000 words per day for 30 days. A 400-page novel contains 100,000 words on average.

To earn $5130 at $.009 per word, you’d have to transcribe 570,000 words. That’s 19,000 words per day for 30 days.

“Yeah, I can do that,” I think to myself. Sure.” My body, on the other hand, would revolt if I treated it that way. I can only keep up that pace for two weeks at most, and then I’ll need a long time to recover — perhaps another two weeks.

It can be challenging to push past that “But I don’t want to go to work today!” feeling. And sometimes, when I push through it, it hurts me a lot. I try to pay attention to what my body is telling me and remind myself that taking pauses is beneficial. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to write enough words to fill 3–4 novels in a month.

Calculate how many words you can transcribe in an hour and how long it will take you to reach the required word limit…

Then go out and look for work, but don’t take on too much or you’ll miss deadlines. Maybe your body is capable of it. Mine, I’m sure, won’t be able to.

Another point to consider is that transcribing speed differs from typing speed. Researching unusual terms and name spellings, responding to work-related emails, and proofing — making sure all the commas and end-quotation marks are in the appropriate locations and nothing has weird capitalization — all contribute to transcription speed.

I transcribe at a rate of 50–60 words per minute, but “type” at a rate of 100–110 words per minute. I’m always trying to improve that number, and one time I transcribed 14,000 words in just over 3 hours while maintaining a speed of 70–80 words per minute. I’ve done it before, but I’ve never been able to duplicate it. It was just a wonderful soundscape, and my body was having a good time, despite the fact that it had consumed a lot of caffeine earlier in the day.

I believe that earning $5000 per month as a transcriptionist would transform you into an endurance athlete who would pay close attention to food and ergonomics while utilising technology to boost productivity, and you would become an extraordinary human being.

But we’re not machines.

There’s the human element of comprehending the speaker’s knowledge and emotion, punctuating everything in such a way that it’s understandable, readable, and allows the reader to mirror that emotion and gain that information. That human aspect is something I don’t believe algorithms will be able to achieve anytime soon.

It takes a lot of energy to be able to do it.

Transcribing the human voice into human writing necessitates the use of a human brain. However, we are frail people with limitations.

You might be able to make $5000 every month. On paper, I know it’s possible. I’d like to believe that some folks are doing precisely that. If you can get there, I’d like to know how you got there so that I can figure out what I’m having trouble with…

$2500 is more reasonable (and what I wish I could do), but if you have a significant other who also transcribes, that’s definitely the healthiest way to go to $5000.

My wife attempted to transcribe but was unsuccessful. Every single person I know who has attempted it has failed miserably.

You can only try, right?

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