What Does a Home Typist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a boy at a computer desk working on a desktop. Text reads:

Image by Katie Kerpel © The Balance 2019 

A home typist or word processor types documents from their home office, frequently using audio files as the source. These home-based jobs cover many types of transcription—from micro jobs in data entry to specializations that require additional training such as medical transcription.

Not every type of transcriptionist job is suitable for at-home work; for instance, court reporting is usually done on-site. However, the skills developed in on-site situations can be valuable in gaining some of the lucrative home-based work such as real-time transcription and captioning.

Home Typist Duties & Responsibilities

Home typist and word processing jobs usually require the ability to do the following work:

  • Communicate with the client or employer about job specs and questions.
  • Know the ins and outs of a variety of word processing apps.
  • Use a computer to key in assignments.
  • Proofread finished work and correct errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Print and make copies of finished work.
  • Mail, deliver, or electronically transmit completed assignments to the client or employer.
  • File finished documents.
  • Invoice clients or submit a time report to an employer.
  • Meet client or employer deadlines.

Besides the basics of communicating, using the proper tools of the trade, and returning or uploading the finished piece on time, additional responsibilities may include developing a method to accurately track income and expenses, creating a filing system that's easy to use, understanding how to follow a style sheet, and working with different types of source material, including rough drafts, corrected hard copy, and voice recordings.

Home Typist Salary

Typist and transcriptionist compensation varies based on the client or employer, industry or area of expertise, and level of experience. Home typists are usually paid per piece or by the hour, although some may be paid per audio minute or per word.

  • Median Wages: $19.11/hour
  • Top 10% Wages: More than $27.93/hour
  • Bottom 10% Wages: Less than $13.02/hour

Home typists who contract with clients must factor in costs for a desktop or laptop computer, word processing software, internet service, ergonomically designed keyboard and chair, time-tracking software, an online or paper dictionary, income taxes, health insurance, and, for audio transcribers, headphones, transcription software, and a transcription foot pedal for hands-free audio control.

Education, Training, & Certification

It's helpful to have had at least two years of on-site experience, but most home-based transcription jobs don't require post-secondary education or special certification. However, for medical transcription jobs, certification or advanced training may be needed, depending on the client's or employer's requirements.

  • Basic Classes: Local vocational schools and community colleges offer typing and English grammar courses for those who need a refresher course or additional training. There are also free online courses offered by organizations such as Alison that has courses in touch typing, the fundamentals of English grammar, and more. Training in the fundamentals of office software is helpful for any home typist, especially those who are reentering the field after several years.
  • Medical Transcription Certification and/or Advanced Training: Obtaining certification or advanced training in medical transcription is optional but is likely to help when searching for clients. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offers two types of certificates for medical transcriptionists and approves programs that provide advanced training in the field, for example, Ivy Tech's Medical Transcription Editor program.

    Home Typist Skills & Competencies

    A number of skills and traits are crucial to becoming a successful home typist:

    • Computer skills: Knowing how to do more with a computer than using word processing software is necessary for the home typist. This job also requires the ability to install new software, log in to a company's system remotely, upload files, and troubleshoot home computer and connectivity issues.
    • Fast, accurate typing skills: Typing speed for different types of typing and transcription jobs may vary considerably. For example, a speed as low as 60 words per minute may be sufficient for an entry-level data entry job, whereas real-time transcription or at-home captioning jobs may require speeds of up to 300 words per minute.
    • Good hearing and listening skills: The ability to understand accents is important when speaking with a client or transcribing audio files.
    • Proofreading skills: Knowledge of proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar is a must when finalizing a project or emailing a client.
    • Communication skills: Whether composing a memo, writing a proposal, or talking with a client over chat or video conference, at-home typists need to express ideas and directions clearly and succinctly.
    • Organizing/prioritizing skills, self-discipline, and focus: At-home typists don't have a boss who tells them what to do and when to do it. It's important to work smart, be organized and disciplined, and tenaciously hone in on the project that's due, rather than perusing upcoming work or checking sports scores, weather forecasts, or social media.
    • Ability to maintain confidentiality: Keeping client information secure and confidential is critical, especially when sensitive data, such as patient information, is involved.

    Job Outlook

    According to the BLS, word processors and typists are among the fastest-declining occupations, along with data entry keyers and computer operators. During the period 2016–2026, the number of word processing and typing jobs is expected to decrease by 24,800 or 33% because of advances in technology and the proliferation of outsourcing. Medical transcription employment is projected to decline as well but at a much slower rate of 3% over the 2016–2026 period.

    On the other hand, the booming freelance or gig economy, more than 53 million Americans strong as of 2015 according to the BLS, could be an advantage to home typists and transcribers. As a member of the gig economy, these workers are in a position to snag typing and transcribing gigs that were once done in-house by employees.

    Work Environment

    Transcribers or typists who work from home spend most of their work time sitting in front of a computer in a home office or another area set up for work such as a kitchen table.

    Home typists are often hired as freelancers or independent contractors, although there may be opportunities for temporary employment or on-site freelance work. Some companies post available work for their contractors to claim on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Home medical transcriptionists typically work for transcription-service companies that provide services to health care establishments.

    Work Schedule

    Home typists work flexible hours, but many keep a regular schedule that offers flexibility for last-minute rush projects and home emergencies. Many set work hours that suit the needs of clients and start at the same time every day.

    Home typists also schedule a time to take a short break every few hours to walk around and stretch, and only take on as much work as they can realistically handle.

    How to Get the Job

    FIND A GIG AND APPLY FOR IT

    Network with friends, family members, and associates and ask for introductions to potential clients. Check out resources such as Upwork, Indeed, and Flexjobs to build a client base.

    PREP FOR SKILL TESTS

    Potential clients generally use skill tests as an initial screening tool. Improve typing speed and accuracy skills with free typing tests and practice files for transcriptionists.

    ACE THE INTERVIEW

    Be ready to field interview questions from potential clients.

    Comparing Similar Jobs

    People interested in working from home as a typist or transcriptionist also explore these freelance opportunities. Here's a list of similar jobs, along with the median annual salary: