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Transcription is easy – right?

Posted on 21st April 2015 • Categories: Transcription

Transcription is easy right?

Transcription certainly sounds easy.  After all, how hard could it be to listen to an audio file, put fingers to the keyboard and start typing? Well, it’s actually a lot harder and more involved than you think. Firstly, not all audio files are the same. Some may be a breeze to type out while others will be a lot more complicated.  Sometimes you will be listening to people talking over one another, strong accents that you can’t understand and poor audio that isn’t clear to make out. Files like these will take a lot longer and require concentration and a lot of re-winding to listen to the same bit over and over again. It can be pretty stressful and frustrating at times.

You might want to let people know that you won’t be available for a while and that you will be switching off your email and turning your mobile phone to silent, as concentration is a must!  But once you’ve been doing it for a while, it will become a lot easier and you’ll get better at it.  At first it can be really intimidating and you may feel like giving up.  But if you’re determined to stick it out, you’re likely to find it’s something you can master over time with enough practice.

Just remember, an hours’ worth of audio can take anything from four to six hours to type.  A lot of companies who will contact you don’t realise this, so please make sure when you are speaking to them, you tell them this.  A lot of the work you will get will be very urgent and the customer generally wants the work back like “Yesterday”. Someone who isn’t conversant with this line of work tends to think:

Mmm, I’ve recorded 1 hour of dictation, therefore it will take 1 hour to type, allow an extra thirty minutes for spell check etc.  So I should have my completed document back within the next couple of hours or so.”


As mentioned above, it all depends on the audio file.  You may have one person who maybe dictating a report, letters or emails and they will talk slowly and clearly, then again you may have a large focus group meeting or a disciplinary hearing where there can be between five and twenty people speaking.  Some may speak clear, others will mutter, and where there are strong accents, these can slow you down quite a lot.  In group discussions you need to identify who is talking and sometimes people tend to talk over one another when they get worked up whilst having a heated debate about a subject that means a lot to them.  You will have to pick out the important points and try to ignore irrelevant bits of the conversation without leaving anything significant out.

To summarize, always get as much information as you possible can from the person instructing you to carry out this important task for them, in order to quote them accurately and give them a reasonable timescale in which you can complete the work.  Also, make sure the customer is happy with all the information you have provided to them.  But more importantly, you too need to be comfortable with the timescale you have given, allowing enough time to check through the work at least twice and backtrack on any words that you didn’t catch the first time round.

Good luck and keep at it.  Don’t give up at the first obstacle.