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Transcription work. Is it available? What are the opportunities? What do I need to become a great transcriber?
I asked myself the same questions back in 2012. I then stopped asking myself and decided to ask Google. I Googled the term transcription and came up with this, from Wikipedia:
“Transcription is the first step of gene expression, in which a particular segment of DNA is copied into RNA by the enzyme, RNA polymerase. Both RNA and DNA …blah, blah, blah
I thought no way! This can’t be what I’m looking for. Well, let me ask you this? Do you have good English skills? Do you have a typing speed of at least 40 wpm?
Do you know the difference between stationery and stationary, precedent and president, too and two? Last but not least, do you love to learn new things? You just might be the best person for transcription.
Transcription work is all about converting audio to written text. As simple as that.
All you do is listen to an audio or video file and type out its contents. Transcription services are usually provided for business, legal, or medical purposes.
Is there a market for transcription services? Yes.
Let me give you an example. Pastors need transcription services so that their sermons can reach more people.
When their sermons are transcribed, the transcripts can be put up on the sites and more people are able to access the mesage. Podcasters need transcription services too.
At the moment, search engine bots are not able to crawl audio, and having a transcript helps the search engines understand what the podcast is about.
The same goes for people who record YouTube videos. They can have the videos transcribed and from the transcripts, subtitles can be created.
Brief History of Transcription
Before the introduction of the Dictaphone, transcription was a very difficult job. Back in the 1970’s secretaries would write down the speech as they heard it by using skills such as shorthand.
It was a necessity to be at the location where the service was required. But since the advent of the mp3 based Dictaphone – a software that is used to record sound – transcription work has become much easier.
Once a person has made the recording, it is then uploaded to a PC and emailed to someone to transcribe. The person who does the transcription, thanks to the internet nowadays, can be thousands of miles away, in fact maybe in another continent.
The completed document – the transcript – is then emailed back and printed out or whatever the client chooses to do with it. All this can be done in a matter of hours. Oh, thank God for technology!!
Great English Skills
A transcriptionist must possess an excellent command of the English language. You must have the ability to recognize and differentiate words.
As I stated before, words such as their/there or complement/compliment for example, which are called homophones, can completely change the meaning of the transcript when used incorrectly.
You need to be a linguist, a language professional, one who is familiar with the English language and speech.
Punctuation too, is key. Do you know when to use hyphens? Is it full time or full-time? Low income or low-income? Is it ebook or eBook?
Clients want to hire a transcriber who pays attention to detail, because they do not want to hire someone else to do the editing work.
The final document should read well and make sense to the reader.
If you want to do transcription work, you will need to have excellent listening skills. Each word needs to be heard and typed correctly. Your goal as a transcriptionist is to type as fast as you can with very few errors.
An accuracy rate of 98 to 99% is recommended.
Your good listening skills will come in handy when you encounter speakers who are either nearly inaudible, speaking with a heavy accent, speaking over each other, or when there is background noise in the audio.
Google is your friend. You will come across names of streets, towns, and countries and it will be imperative that you research those terms to limit the number of “inaudible” words in your transcript.
Researching those words also helps to ensure that they are correctly spelled.
In my experience, LinkedIn also comes in handy when you are researching people’s designations and names.
I must add that the more knowledgeable and well-read a transcriber is, the more words that will be recognized in a recording.
But research is a common and necessary component of a high-quality transcript.
Need I say more? A comfortable speed of about 40 wpm and above is needed for you to work as a transcriber.
If your typing speed is 60 wpm and above, you are in a really good place. There are clients who need rush jobs, and if you type fast, that will be a plus.
Starting your transcription business takes very little setup. These are the requisite tools:
Laptop or Desktop
You can purchase a desktop or a laptop. I prefer laptops because I can move around, from my living room to my bedroom. I can even go to the mall when I get tired of staying in the house.
You don’t have to purchase a top-of-the-range laptop. I started out with a basic computer, which served me well, until I was able to purchase a better brand.
Good quality headphones are a must if you want to do transcription work.
This is helpful and vital equipment through which you will hear the audio. You need to hear the speakers well for the final output/ transcript.
And they also need to be comfortable considering you will be wearing them for hours. Buy good quality headphones that will serve you for long.
Transcribing audio or video files can be tedious work, especially when you receive long audio files.
Typically, it takes me three to five hours to transcribe a 60-minute file, and it can take a newbie much longer.
Thankfully, there is software that helps with that.
Express Scribe is a popular software used for transcription work around the world. There is a free version and a paid version.
With the free version, you can load MP3 files, and WAV files but you cannot load videos. That function is only available on the paid version.
Here’s how Express Scribe works. A transcriber loads an audio file to Express Scribe. The transcriber then uses the hot keys to transcribe the file, the hot keys being F4,F7, F8 etc.
That helps the transcriber to be more productive, and to transcribe faster – much faster than if they were typing the audio while listening to it via Windows Media Player.
Good Internet Connection
This is the lifeblood of our business.
You need a reliable internet connection to download audio files.
Sometimes you will need to download large files, upto 300-400 mbs. .mov files are usually huge and this is where having a reliable and fast internet connection comes in handy.
- Have you tried cold pitching as a means of getting transcription work?
- These headphones come highly recommended.
- Tools to help you become a more productive transcriber
I have had some funny moments transcribing.
From those clients who make jokes and leave me unable to type for about five minutes because what they said was so funny, to those who want to blast my ear drums every few minutes by coughing like crazy.
I’ve had moments when I’ve had to reach for a Kleenex too. Such is the transcriber’s life. Quite interesting.
Where To Find Transcription Jobs
As I said before, there is a market for transcription services. Don’t waste any more time. Get some training (because transcription involves much more than ‘just typing’) and then sign up!
- Rev.com – Read a review of the company here.
- Speechpad.com – Pay starts from $15 per audio hour.
- TranscribeMe.com – A very newbie friendly transcription site.
- Scribie.com – Read a review of this site here. Requires that you pass a short test first before you can start working.
- Gotranscript.com – Requires that you pass a short test before becoming their transcriber. There are opportunities for growth in GT. You start off as a transcriber and you can later become an editor. Apply here.
- Other sites include Upwork [formerly called Odesk] Fiverr, PeoplePerHour – a UK company, among others.
All the best in your transcription career!