Tips for Success as a Transcriptionist

There are certain qualities that make one person a better transcriptionist than another, and really some of these do not vary too much from any other job.

To many people, copying from a recording seems like a great and simple work-at-home job that anyone could do, but it is not as easy as it seems.

We at Singapore Transcription have many years’ experience in this field and would like to share a few tips with budding transcriptionists:

  1. Practice, practice and practice until you get fast at typing from recordings. Try simply transcribing the lyrics from songs to get experience, and this also lets you see how long it takes you to write 3 minutes of recording. You will also discover another problem – when the recording plays faster than you can type you will have to stop it, but that means rewinding a little to be sure you didn’t miss a part.
  2. As any rewind often signifies you have to listen to the same part again before reaching a new place, this is also wasted time, (You will check the finished product later, and listen to it as a whole again.)

This is why an investment of a foot pedal before undertaking serious work for payment is nearly an essential item. This allows you to pause and play without lifting your hands from the keyboard.

  1. A programme or app that cleans up audio is another near essential as this reduces noise and interference to let you better hear the spoken words.

Neither of these things involves huge expense, but both are worth having.

  1. You will need to be fast and accurate at typing.
  2. You must be able to hear well, not just ‘hear’ but really hear every work, sigh, pause and anything else that happens on the recording. Good headphones could be an advantage as this lets you hear clearer audio and eliminates outside interference, but this is a question of personal choice rather than an absolute necessity.
  3. You will have to do research on the internet, (or in a library) to check spelling and terms used in certain fields.
  4. If you intend to buy and use transcription software, use it before looking for paid work. Familiarise yourself with how it works until using it is second nature. The same applies to foot pedals.
  5. You need to be accurate and able to thoroughly check your finished work. Proofreading is one of the necessary skills.
  6. You require the ability to listen to clients and fulfil their needs accurately. At times this could mean reading between the lines, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about any part of the job you do not understand.
  7. Keep a careful record of times, and list them when relevant on the transcript, for instance, if there is a word you cannot make out, explain it is ‘unintelligible at minute 1.23’.
  8. It is a good idea to listen to the whole audio once before you start transcribing to get a general picture of tone, who is speaking and the topic.
  9. When you have finished, listen again to check your writing is an exact match for the recording.

Yes, this job isn’t hard in certain aspects, but in others it is difficult. Make sure you can deliver what you promised and what the client wants on time. Transcribing 10 minutes of audio rarely, if ever, takes 10 minutes, so have a rough idea of how long it will take you. And remember, listening to it again to check your text will take at least another 10 minutes, probably longer.

Start with an easy job. Remember the old adage – it takes years to gain a good reputation but only seconds to lose it – well it is true.