When I first started searching for work-at-home positions, one of the first things I landed on was transcription. I thought this would be a good fit for me because I am a quick typist and the nature of the work was completely done online, so it wouldn't matter that I had the kids at home while I was working.
There are several types of transcription, including medical, legal and general. I do general transcription. Unlike the other types, which require (often expensive) training, there is no specific terminology involved with general transcription. You can transcribe anything from teleseminars to insurance recordings to House and Senate Hearings and beyond.
What is it? Transcription involves recieving an audio file, often from an FTP transfer, then listening to it and typing (usually a word document) in the format the company uses. Typically when you're hired on with a company, they will give you the information on how to recieve the files they give you, as well as their guidelines for creating the document. Different companies have different rules for everything - abbreviations, font, spacing, etc.
What equipment do I need to start? Transcriptionists use a special program to listen to the audio that has the ability to stop and start the audio as you need to. I use Express Scribe, which is a free program you can download. It has instructions on how to download audio with the function keys or if you choose to purchase a footpedal (which you typically do not need to start with), it is compatible with that. You will also need a good pair of quality noise-cancelling headphones. You can get a good pair at any Radio Shack or Wal-Mart. I am currently using this set, which I love! They are wireless, which is an added bonus. Do not try to do transcription with earbuds. Your ears will not thank you!
What else do I need to know? Transcription is not for everyone. If you don't type close to 80 words per minute, it may be difficult to meet turnaround times, which can vary from a couple of hours to 48 hours or more. The general rule of thumb is that it takes a beginning transcriptionist 1 hour to transcribe 15 minutes of audio. Tigerfish has a transcription test available on their website, which you can check out to see if this might be an option for you.
How do I get started? First you'll want to set up a resume that you'll use specifically for transcription positions. For more on that, read my post here. I also recommend you set up an account on Guru.com, which is where I got my first transcription position.
In addition to people who will browse on Guru looking for freelance transcriptionists, here is a list of companies that sometimes hire people with little or no experience.
My biggest advice is to just jump in and get your feet wet! The beauty of transcription is that it's something that can be done any time of the day. Companies don't care if you're up at 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. doing work, as long as you have it to them by their deadline. That said, I am often just picking up work to do at naptime. It's a simple way to earn income even if you're still working full-time. If you find that you do well with it, you can turn it into your full-time job and enjoy the benefits of a more flexible schedule.
MoneySavingMom - one of my favorite blogs - also did a post about getting started with transcription. Check that out here.