Getting Your First Freelance Job as a Music Transcriber

So, if you think you are qualified to be a music transcriber, the next question you will ask is, “Where and how do I get some jobs?” In many ways, getting a job as a music transcriber can be difficult. Given the advances on the Internet, however, it’s never been easier to promote yourself as a music transcriber and apply for jobs.

The Two Most Important Items in Applying for the First Job

The two most important items you will need in your attempt to bag a music transcription job is your portfolio and your resume. Your portfolio should contain a variety of samples of sheet music. You should have at least one of these:

  1. A piano score
  2. A lead sheet (For the uninitiated, a lead sheet only contains melody and chords)
  3. A full score
  4. Guitar notation + tab

I would consider these kinds of sheet music as the most universal. Here are some reasons why you need to have these kinds of

Piano scores can easily demonstrate your attention to detail as well as how well you can translate a way a pianist plays music into the written format.

As for lead sheets, I would say that they can be used by all sorts of musicians. Some groups (such as one of the organizations I’ve worked with named MSE Music Services, an entertainment/orchestra provider in the Philippines) even prefer lead sheets as they are faster to read along. I would call a lead sheet the Swiss knife of sheet music as any musician with considerable sight reading skills can play along, even if it’s just reading the chords.

Full scores tend to serve well in showcasing your transcription skills. It gives the impression that you are knowledgeable with writing and transcribing for a wide array of ensembles.

What I think is the most popular now are guitar notation/tablature and lead sheets. The reason for that is the guitar is a very popular instrument meaning that there are many guitar enthusiasts who’d want to learn how to play like their heroes.

As far as writing your resume, be honest. You don’t want to give your potential clients false impressions. Just show on your resume that you have the skills. If you have a degree in music, you can showcase that to attract clients.

Applying for Freelance Music Transcription Jobs

One of the best (and probably the safest) ways of applying for music transcription jobs is by setting up an account in a freelancing website like oDesk or Elance. Upload your portfolio, write a good description about yourself, set up a profile, look for music transcription jobs and then start applying.

When you start applying or bidding for a transcription job, remember to write a good cover letter. It should be brief but it should highlight your skills, experience and qualifications. Make sure to direct your potential client to your portfolio in order for them to see the quality of your work.

You can also put up your own website or place you ads as a music transcriber in online classifieds. You can get a few leads by putting in some time for that task.

Financial Matters Concerning Your First Music Transcription Job

You should expect that your first job would only have a price of about a few dollars. Remember that at this stage you are trying to establish yourself and so you will need to build up your reputation first. As your reputation improves, you’ll gain some leverage to charge more.

Despite saying that you should try out first some cheap jobs to gain experience, don’t work for free. If a potential client asks you to transcribe a whole song as a test, you need to get paid for the time you spent. If they’re not willing to pay for the test, bargain with them that you will transcribe perhaps a few bars as a sample. If they insist, tell them to take their business elsewhere. Working for free cheapens the profession and gives people the wrong idea that music transcription is easy. Music transcription is definitely not easy and you don’t want to be treated like a slave as they profit from the hours you’ve spent trying to nail those weird piano chords into standard notation.

Final Words

Do some research about transcription rates so that you can set up a competitive rate for yourself. In determining your rate, you have to establish one that will shoulder the costs of your operation and other things while providing the best price possible. In these times, you’ll be lucky to find someone give you a job that allows you to charge your hourly rate, especially if you’re a freelancer on sites like oDesk. There are numerous cases of clients getting ripped off by unscrupulous freelancers, so my advice is do not go that route. If you’re lucky enough to get a transcription job that pays by the hour, make sure to deliver your goods on time and with excellent quality.

That’s all of what I can think of for now on how to bag that first job. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.


  1. Thank you so much. As a job seeking music transcriber, it helps me a lot.

  2. Thank you so much..transcribing music is my favorite thing to do and I want to experience applying just for that job…still looking for opportunities.

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