The following is a guest post by one of our visitors Sarah Dillingham who is an aspiring writer. Judging by the article below, I think she has a great career ahead of her. In any event, she read our review about Amazon Mturk Work At Home Program and took action! As a result she’s already making money! A lot of you have had the same success there but some of you may still be on the fence about Mturk or some other work at home opportunity. My hope is that after you read this article, you’ll learn how to take action because that’s the only way people make money from home. They act! (Assuming you’ve done your research. lol)
Like so many of my fellow WAHNS readers, I recently changed careers and found myself in need of part-time work I could do from home. After a little research, I figured that with my administrative experience and fast typing skills, my best bet would be some form of typing for pay. As many of you in the same boat have discovered, legitimate typing and data-entry jobs of the non-scam-you-into-bankruptcy variety are almost non-existent, which is probably why the question “how can I find a typing from home job?” is one of Eddy’s top pet peeves. However, there is one loophole in the Give Up Your Pipedream of Typing for Pay rule: transcription.
Trans – Who?
Transcription is the conversion of recorded speech into written documents, which requires not only fast and accurate typing, but also the ability to correctly interpret and edit all kinds of recordings into comprehensible, grammatically correct text. At the moment no software can do this as well as humans, so there is still a magnitude of medical records, insurance documents, and quarterly meeting minutes being transcribed by people every day. (Humans 1, Robots 0.) Realizing my hopes of one day becoming an at-home typist weren’t completely crushed, I decided remote transcription is the perfect job for me . . . even though my transcription experience amounted to a week-long temp job back in 1998, I mean, who’s counting? I can speak English better than most robots I know.
But like all pipedreams, this one comes with a catch: it turns out everyone on the planet with good typing skills, and their sister and mother-in-law, also decided remote transcription is the perfect opportunity—which is why these jobs are so scarce and in demand. Many of them require costly specialized training, and most employers demand a minimum of several years prior experience. The few firms who accept entry-level candidates require long application forms online, and I mean long. Get ready to spend several hours on each one of these applications, which usually include a series of multiple-choice questions to test spelling, grammar, and editing skills, and one or more audio files to download and transcribe. These are obviously designed to weed out the duds, and the files will inevitably include some weird background noise, eccentric accents and mumbling, and at least one completely inaudible passage to see if you’ll note it correctly or just take a guess. (Hint: don’t do that.) Even if you test really well, you might not get a response from these firms for weeks or even months—if you hear back at all. So we have a problem: how can talented, attractive, potentially great transcribers like us gain the necessary experience to land one of these jobs?
Rising To The Top…
If you’re willing to start at the bottom and be patient, there are some lower-paying jobs available immediately on the Amazon Mechanical Turk site (mTurk). Even if you’re the fastest typist in the West, you’re likely to end up earning less than minimum wage for each hour you transcribe using this site. But you will probably earn a little more than you would completing surveys, watching ads, or just clicking randomly, and better yet, you’ll immediately be realizing your dream of typing online, for pay!
(Eddy Commentary: That being said it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try those other opportunities as well. Multiple streams of income are always better than just one source of income! )
You’ll also notice your earning power start to increase quickly as you become familiar with the specific guidelines for each mTurk employer (requester). Most importantly, mTurk is a great environment to learn the ropes and make those unavoidable rookie mistakes before applying for the higher-paying independent contract jobs. And in addition to some extra cash, you’ll be banking that coin of the realm for transcription work—experience.
What I’ve Earned Typing on Amazon?
I started working with mTurk several weeks ago, and I’ve been averaging between $3-$10 per day for working anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours each day. You’re probably chomping at the bit to get started by now, but I strongly suggest you learn from my mistakes and go through the steps below before you dive in:
How Can You Do It?
1. First, know your typing speed.
Every potential employer will want to know your current typing speed and accuracy. You can test yourself for free here. If you type less than 65-70 WPM with less than 95% accuracy, you may want to get some more practice before taking qualification tests.
2. Familiarize yourself with the basics of professional transcription.
If you’re new to the industry, it may help you to learn some basics before taking any tests. Transcribers are expected to be familiar with concepts such as proper use of speaker tags, verbatim transcription versus editing for clarity, and standard indications of non-verbal sounds. Each industry has slightly different requirements, so most employers publish a unique style guide and many are posted online. Here are some examples:
3. Gather the necessary equipment and start practicing.
You’ll need a digital audio player and a good set of headphones to get started. You can use any audio player you’re comfortable with, but I suggest downloading the free version of Express Scribe, which includes some useful features specifically for transcription. Once you have chosen an audio player, load up your favorite podcast or audio book and practice until you’re comfortable with the software. If you’ve downloaded Express Scribe for the first time, I suggest reviewing the tutorial, and taking the time to set up a few hot-keysii if you’re not using a foot pedal.
A few words about foot pedals: You may notice after reading a few job postings that most potential employers don’t seem to want to touch anyone who doesn’t own a digital foot pedal. In fact if you’re like me, you might jump to the conclusion that thousands of recently-released violent felons and/or marginally literate toddlers who did NOT own foot pedals all applied for these jobs on the same day . . . in other words, employers may be using this criteria to distinguish the serious candidates. Fair enough. It’s true that using a foot pedal can greatly increase speed and accuracy by eliminating mouse-clicking to perform common tasks, such as speeding up or rewinding a recording while you type. But they’re also expensive, and I’ve found it’s almost as effective to set up custom hot-keys in Express Scribe. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on foot pedals, having only ever used one for a week back in the ‘90’s, but I’ve decided not to make this investment until I have a more consistent source of work. Some folks may decide to purchase a pedal upfront and that makes sense, but I suggest you work on mTurk for a few weeks first and use your earnings to buy one. This way, you’ll at least get a realistic sense of your enjoyment and aptitude for the work before shelling out any cash.
4. Create a free account on mTurk and start transcribing for pay.
Now that you’ve mastered the tools and standards of transcription, you’re ready to set up a free mTurk account and get started. Once your account is activated, you can find paid transcription tasks (HITs) by searching on the words “transcription” and “transcribe” in the “HITs” tab. At first you might see a number of jobs with the hyperlinked message “you are not qualified to perform this HIT – why?” Clicking that link will lead you to the correct page to take the requester’s qualification test. You can also click directly on the “Qualifications” tab and search on “transcription” to see the qualification tests available.
A few employers will start you out with a very easy test and award you a low score, such as 80 out of 100. This will give you access to their entry-level jobs, and as you complete those accurately, your score will improve and you’ll gain access to more jobs. Other employers will give you a harder test upfront and award access to jobs based on your test results.
Tips For Success
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Look for a style guide on the instruction page of every qualification test, and review it carefully before you start.
- Once you start working, try to work for one requester at a time. Many requesters have conflicting style requirements, and it’s easy to become confused and make mistakes if you switch back and forth constantly. Remember to review the instructions or style guide before starting the HIT.
- Complete one HIT for an unfamiliar requester and wait to be paid before accepting more HITs from that source. Requesters can reject your HIT and refuse to pay for it without much consequence from Amazon, even after you complete the HIT. This is one major drawback of mTurk. Most reputable requesters don’t do this—they want quality workers to take their HITs—but a rejected HIT can prevent you from getting future jobs in addition to ripping you off, so exercise caution.
- Review the Turker Nation message board, especially the Requesters Hall of Fame/Shame, if you have any doubt about a requester. This site is the official user forum Amazon has set up for mTurk workers (turkers), and has a rating system in place so turkers can rate requesters as “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” and describe their experiences. As with all message boards, some comments should be taken with a grain of salt because, well, message boards can be magnets for the bitter and disenfranchised (present company excluded, lol). But on the whole, this site is full of useful information for transcription jobs as well as a lot of other interesting HITs you might find on mTurk. The basic guidelines here provide a good launching point.
After several weeks, I’ve found that my favorite requester for transcription work is SpeechInk. They have the highest pay rate among frequent requesters per minute of audio, and their bonus system is consistent and fair. They also take the time to post your work with corrections for you to review, so you can improve your bonus pay quickly. But there are several requesters who pay promptly and offer consistent work, so your preference will depend on your particular skills and the kind of work you find most interesting. That’s one of the big advantages of transcription—there’s a wide variety of pretty fascinating stuff out there that someone said, and someone else wants you to type.
5. Now you’re ready to apply for permanent employment as an experienced transcriber.
I strongly recommend waiting until this stage to apply for permanent jobs, even though you may feel like opportunities are slipping away by the minute. After just a few days of practice, you’ll notice your ability to decipher garbled speech starting to improve, and you’ll develop ways to listen and edit more effectively. Every week that goes by without a response from potential employers is one more week of transcription experience you can claim on your next application, because you’ll be gaining access to more HITs every day.
When you’re ready to start submitting applications, you can Google current jobs or try this site. Once you start doing some research, you’ll be amazed at just how many resources and information are available for free, so I suggest holding off on expensive training and equipment until you’ve done some looking around. Meanwhile those pennies you’re earning on mTurk will start to add up. Good luck, and happy hunting!
Hey it’s Eddy again. So what did you think of Sarah’s article above? I even learned some new things. That Hall of Shame forum was an ah ha moment for me. Now I know where to refer people when they want to research an employer (requester) on MTurk. In any event, let me know what you folks think. I personally thought the article was informative and entertaining. You might be hearing more from Sarah in the future.
P.S. If any of you want to get some shine on this blog or possibly paid, please feel free to email me privately with a unique article. But the article has to do the following:
Add value: No one wants to read a pitch fest. Someone should be able to walk away from your article feeling they learned something new even without having to buy or sign up for something. I don’t mind linking to your site if you want exposure so you can pitch to them from there.
Be entertaining: No one wants to fall asleep reading dry content. You can be informative without sounding up tight. Think conversation and not a term paper. Think about why many of you like this blog. For better or worst, I write how I would talk to you.
Be Unique: Don’t send me stuff already on the web or on your site. You can cover the same topic you’ve discussed else where. But make it unique for this site.
By the way if you’re an aspiring affiliate marketer, my requirements above are a winning formula to get you more conversions for whatever you’re promoting. You’re welcome!
Shout out to Sarah again for a great article! I’m still rolling about this part of her article:
“(Humans 1, Robots 0.) … I can speak English better than most robots I know.” LMAO.