Many of these tips will aid you in speeding up your transcribing and make you more efficient and accurate. These tips act as advice for the context of transcription. They are not a complete, comprehensive guide of all English spelling, punctuation and grammar. However, there are plenty of pointers to discover here.
1. Pass All The Tests
Even after you pass the initial test for basic work, there are various other advanced exams to complete in order to access new types of assignments. Nailing these will allow you to work on the more difficult but higher paying jobs.
2. Perfect Spelling & Grammar
A lot of these companies only accept very high standards of spelling and grammar. This means it has to be almost perfect in order for them to accept it. I’m talking about getting at least 97% accuracy or higher consistently in order to stay safe from getting booted from the workforce.
3. Reviewer Feedback
We are all human and we all make mistakes. It would be silly for companies to expect everything to be perfect all the time which is why they usually give you another chance to resubmit a transcription that wasn’t up to standard. If they do give you this opportunity then don’t squander it.
You will normally be sent feedback from the reviewer on what you need to fix, so look at what you did wrong and rectify it to the best of your abilities. It’s very unlikely that you will be given a third chance after this.
Even the feedback you get from past and recent successful jobs is equally valuable. If you make a habit of doing this then it will allow you to can constantly improve your work and learn from your errors.
4. Set Aside Plenty Of Time
It’s best to divide your time in a way that means you will have more time than you could possibly need. This extra time will be used as a safety net in case the work takes a long time and things don’t go as planned. Try and get it all done in one sitting.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a 30 minute audio file will take you exactly 30 minutes to transcribe properly. Ultimately, the sad reality is that it won’t. As a matter of fact, for absolute beginners it can take up to 10 times the length of the file to complete. You will shave this time off as you become more experienced.
5. Specialist Equipment
You can buy different pieces of equipment to aid you in you transcription work such as high quality, noise-cancelling headphones and foot pedals. The foot pedal is to make it easier to play and pause the audio/video that you are listening to.
Furthermore, it is highly recommended that you do use headphones when you transcribe, the higher audio quality the better. I suggest you check out my review of the Cewaal Pro Headset.
6. Report Problems
Occasionally, you will come across transcription jobs with really poor audio. Correspondingly, it could be because the recording is really old or produced with faulty equipment.
It could also be because of the general speaking ability of the person you’re listening too. For instance, they could be mumbling/slurring their words, have a heavy accent or speech impediment. #1 New York Times Bestseller – “Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook” at TonyRobbins.com
If you really can’t understand what is being said then it is probably best to not attempt it and report the audio problem to the website.
Notably, even the best and most experienced transcribers can’t decipher some of these poor quality recordings. For this reason, don’t assume that it’s your fault. You will also be helping out your fellow transcribers by shining a light on the problem so they don’t have to suffer too.
7. Increase Your Reputation
Websites usually give you a quality rating depending on how accurate your work is. As a result, if you have a very good rating then you will have access to highest paying jobs. Obviously, they will judge your spelling and grammar too.
The best way to boost your credentials is to consistently produce accurate transcripts and a good standard of work.
8. Edit Other Submissions
In contrast, there is also the opportunity to edit and quality check other people’s work. Although, this is mostly only available to the most competent workers. They will pay you more for this because they expect you to be better than the original transcriber in order for you to spot any mistakes.
Don’t try to rephrase what is being said, you need to transcribe it exactly how it’s said, word for word and in the correct order. Having said that, you may be asked to refine it if you’re doing a clean verbatim job.
10. Learn the lingo
If you want to earn the big bucks then it may pay to become fluent in multiple languages. It may even be an advantage if you are from a remote country as transcripts sometimes need to be done in certain languages. The more unusual the language, the higher the pay will be.
11. Filler Words
I would normally advise against cutting out any words but some companies will want you to exclude what they like to call ‘filler words’. These ‘filler words’ are seen as irrelevant by some because they aren’t required in a sentence for it to be understood.
In some cases, you can apply the same rule to stuttering, interruptions and unfinished sentences. An example might be, ‘The grass is green, you know.” You would remove “you know” because it isn’t really necessary for people to understand what is being said.
Time-stamps are tags in the transcript that let people know when they reach a specific point in time. They are used so anyone including the client and reviewer can quickly flick to a particular part of the audio.
You may be asked to time-stamp 30 second intervals for instance or you may need to time-stamp other event tags.
It’s simpler to leave this as your final task after you have typed it all out so you don’t get your words jumbled up.
When you are making up your time-stamps, they need to be done in a certain format. It needs to be hours, minutes and then seconds [00:00:00]. Let’s say you want to insert a time-stamp at one hour, forty-seven minutes and thirteen seconds. It would look exactly like this [01:47:13].
In order to make your transcript more accessible, you should separate your text into paragraphs, the shorter the better. Your paragraphs should reflect a change in subject matter or a new speaker chipping in.
14. Bonus Payment
You may be able to earn a bonus depending how good your work is. The better your completed work is graded, the higher the bonus will be. Some companies work things out by offering a base payment for the core work and then an extra something if you go above and beyond.
If you’re trying to figure out a word then it is advised that you can research online based on the names or brands within the audio you are listening to in order to find clues.
You may be able to find the official website of the speaker in order to discover the correct spelling of their name for example or the correct name of technical piece of equipment mentioned in the transcript.
Some companies have a ‘streak’ feature which means that you will be rewarded with more money for your loyalty if you complete lots of jobs consecutively, linking them all together.
17. Best Guess
You might be able to make an educated decision so you will have to use your intuition. You can make your best educated guess at sketchy words if you are not 100% sure.
If you are going to this you need to put a [?] or [SP] in front of or behind the guessed word. You can always put forward at your best guess of a word if you are pretty confident. If you think the word is ‘lemon’ then you would insert the tag [lemon?] to show that you tried.
Remember, if your guessed word don’t make sense in the context of the sentence or paragraph then you probably guessed the wrong word.
Check for repetition as it may well be a word that has already been said several times prior in the transcript.
18. Fill in your profile
You should be able to edit your profile and say a little something about yourself including things like experience and qualifications.
This is useful to complete because you can make it attractive for potential customers who may want to offer work directly to you which then may lead to more money coming your way.
19. Inaudible Words
Most of the audio you will be listening to will be clear and easy to understand. There is a protocol for certain indecipherable words that may trip you up. When this occurs you should try to play that part of the tape over several times to see if you can catch what is being said.
If that fails and you are completely unsure then instead of guessing, companies like you to label it as ‘[inaudible]’, ‘[?]’, [?], [****] or ‘[xx]’. Sometimes you will be asked to time-stamp it too.
It’s up to the editor to pay special attention to words that have been deemed ‘inaudible’. If it still can’t be figured out with a second opinion then it is the editor ‘s job to change the tag to [indecipherable].
As an editor, you can even delete certain words that you think that the transcriber got wrong and mark it down as [inaudible].
In any case [inaudible] tags of any variation need to be replaced with correct words or [indecipherable] tag otherwise your editing work will be rejected.
After you finish editing a transcript then it needs to be of a good enough standard to send straight to the customer, if it isn’t then there is the obvious chance of rejection.
20. Return Jobs
If you assign yourself to a job but you aren’t happy with the contents then there should be a button you can click to return it and then it will be available to someone else. You can move on to something else and there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this for any reason you see fit.
21. Assigning Speakers
Many of the transcripts you work on will be of interviews between two or more people. You will need to label whoever is speaking with a name although if you aren’t told their name then you can use more general term like ‘Speaker 1’.
If you listen hard enough you may figure this out by yourself if the people talking call each other by name. Labeling speakers is vital because it makes things more straight forward for the client and also the person reviewing your work.
After you have named the speaker you should type out a colon and then a space. Colons are usually only ever used for this sole purpose when doing transcription apart from bible verses, ratios and times. It can confuse people if you use colons in other places on top of speaker labels.
When you have done that you can start writing speech. It’s good practice to name the speaker even if they are the only person in the conversation.
22. Prime time
If you want a good chance of snagging an assignment then you really need to pick your moments. Evenings and weekends are particularly tricky for transcribers as there will be a lot less work, you can also apply this to public holidays.
There won’t be much of a supply of work with so little orders coming in. When you think about it, lots of people will be online scraping the bottom of the barrel for jobs at peak times so try a time when you know things will be quiet.
You may be a master of spelling and grammar but it is also useful to double-check your text with a spell check program. There should be one that comes built-in with whichever word document you’re using.
There are a few grammar and spell checking programs out there that you can download for free such as grammarly and tinyspell. This should point out any mistakes that you make and will only improve your transcription work.
24. Word Context
Context is crucial when it comes down to things written down in different formats. You would clearly type out a website as ‘google.com’ not ‘google dot com’ because that wouldn’t make any sense. This isn’t just about website addresses, it can encompass other things including twitter handles and so on.
Take your time and try your best not to fail too many jobs as this will affect your profile and you may be stripped of some of your credentials. If you fail time after time then step aside instead of attempting more doomed jobs.
Set some time apart to study the craft of transcription until you have reached an adequate level.
26. Short Jobs
If you are a beginner then I would suggest you stick to the short 2-3 minute jobs to start off with. These are quick and simple, it will mean you aren’t wasting too much time on a job that you may not be ready for.
They are also great if you have a short period of time to squeeze an assignment in before you have to go do something else.
You are mostly encouraged not to take note of acknowledgements when somebody finishes a sentence, this is seen by many as filler or fluff.
An example of this might be “yeah”, “mm-hmm”, “right”, “ah” or “I see” whenever the other person makes a point or statement. It doesn’t add to the flow of conversation so there is no need to include it.
28. Customer Notes
The customer may leave you special notes or instructions on how they want the job done before and while you are completing it. Don’t forget to read these as they will more often than not contain something important that will need your full attention.
Customer notes will usually override everything else including the style guide so pay close attention to that.
You should only really include new, relevant information in your transcript that moves the conversation along. You can cut out unnecessary repetitions as long as the flavor of the dialogue remains intact.
30. Save Your Progress
It’s a good idea to type out your transcript on to a word document as it will allow you to save and back up regularly and then copy and paste on to the browser later.
Imagine how crushing it would be to lose all your work because your computer decided to go on the fritz. Some sites have an auto-save feature although it may benefit you to work offline for safety.
31. Lip Reading
If you are good at lip-reading then it may benefit you to receive a video instead of an audio file in terms of understanding poorly pronounced words or bad sound quality. You don’t always get the choice of having a video over just sound but it’s still something you can take advantage of.
It’s worth it to proofread your work a few times after you have finished your first draft. You should really do this while playing the audio tape over it as you read through.
Sometimes there may be grammatical errors that have slipped through the net of your spell checker. Finally, do it again one last time before you click the ‘submit’ button.
When the people in the audio make a noise then you are meant to use something called ‘tags’ in order to point that out.
For example, if I am doing a transcription then I might use [laughing], [music] or [coughing] tags with time-stamps to indicate the action or event. Always use square brackets when you place tags like [this].
34. Time Extension
You should try to be organised and get the job done within the original time parameter. However, if you run out of time and still have work left then you can always request an extension although this may impact your reputation.
If the extension isn’t enough then there isn’t much else you can do other than improve the speed of your work.
You shouldn’t make a habit of relying on extensions as they will not always be available. They exist to use in an emergency only as customers ideally want their work done within the time limit. Use this first and foremost as a safety net.
If you are listening to a dialogue where two people are interrupting or talking over each other, then you can use the [crosstalk] tag on each occasion as well as time-stamping it.
It can be tough but try your best to type out everything you hear from all parties in chronological order even if it means having to switch between speakers very erratically.
If a speaker suddenly gets cut off by a noise or interruption from another speaker then add a ‘dash (-)’ where they stop talking. Afterwards, you can add the ‘dash (-)’ in front of the sentence where they resume speaking.
36. Stay the course
You need to stick with it if you want to be rewarded. Usually, the more jobs that you complete, the more money you will earn per job.
All the jobs that you do need to be consistently good. You will constantly be improving as your finished work piles up which is another benefit.
It’s a great opportunity to gain skills and experience in transcription. All of this will build up to you earning more money.
You may earn a bonus payment if you complete over a certain number of audio hours per month but not all sites do this. Some companies judge you on how much work you have done so you may find more higher paying jobs at your disposal after you grind through so many audio minutes.
If you ever come across a pause then you would conventionally place an ellipsis (…) there. Although, if the pause is unusually long then you may be asked to put in a time-stamped [pause] or [silence] tag.
You can put forward a dispute if you believe that your work has been reviewed unfairly. Don’t abuse this feature, you should only use it if you truly think that an obvious mistake has been made during approval.
You need to be brutally honest with yourself when it comes down to it as you can’t just bring it up for debate if you know that deep down your transcript wasn’t up to scratch. If you do go forward with it then a second opinion will then take a look at it and then act accordingly.
39. Foreign Languages
If you are English-speaking then most of the work you attempt will be in English language. However, if you ever stumble upon a foreign tongue in an otherwise mostly English transcript then you will need to use a special tag. This would be a [foreign] or [non-english] tag with time-stamps.
Nobody expects you to understand exactly which language is being spoken (unless of course you have made it known you are bilingual) so you can be vague when specifying a country (maybe Scandinavian?) if you want to.
40. Style Guides
The transcription company that you decide to work for will have something called a ‘style guide’ which is essentially an instruction manual for the work that you will be doing. It will cover every scenario you should happen upon while working and show you exactly how to deal with it.
As a transcriber, you should view it as a bible for the work that you will be doing. It is even more important than this very list that you’re reading right now so consult the style guide first and foremost instead of my scribblings.
Style guides will vary between websites as companies will want transcripts done in different ways. For instance, one style guide will ask you to write ‘percent’ while the other one will need you to type ‘%’ instead. It is vital you know these little distinctions when switching between sites.
You should make a habit of rereading style guides on a regular basis so that you don’t become rusty.
Events and actions come with their very own specific tags including [fire alarm], [phone ringing], [applause] or whatever else is happening at the time. Occasionally, you may have to dedicate an entirely new line on the page for such occasions.
42. Honor Privacy
Your clients will expect strict confidentiality so it is important that you avoid sharing any audio files or text with anyone else. It is even frowned upon to hold on to downloaded files or written material a long time after the job has been finished.
If you get caught doing any of these things then your pay could be forfeited and you may find yourself in trouble with the law.
These are pretty rarely used but tags can also reflect tone such as [angrily], [sarcastically], [jokingly] etc.
There is only really a need to use these if the client specifically instructs you to use it on a particular portion of the audio. You would only have need for it if something happens out-of-the-blue.
It’s pointless acknowledging that the speaker said something [normally].
You need to use proper, coherent English which means leaving out slang and other abbreviations. You would write ‘want to’ rather than ‘wanna’ unless you are doing a full verbatim assignment.
It may be appropriate to shorten down speaker names after you have mentioned them for the first time. By this I mean initially introducing a speaker as ‘Mr Mickey Mouse’ but then afterwards going for the more casual ‘Mickey’ because we already know their full name prior to this.
It also means you less work for you as you won’t be constantly typing out long-winded names.
46. Dialects & Different Wording
You need to be able to distinguish the difference between language variations such as US English and UK English. People across the world spell the same word different ways so you need to know which particular spelling the client wants. An example might be ‘color’ (US spelling) or ‘colour’ (British spelling).
47. Expletives & Profanity
Audio may contain foul language but it still needs to be typed out as every word is important. It is your job to perform an accurate and full-bodied transcription so you shouldn’t feel morally obligated to be a good Samaritan by removing any swear words.
If you aren’t comfortable with this then you can always turn the job down or even report it to the site if you believe it over steps the mark.
The rules are a little complex when it comes down to numbers. Companies normally want numbers 9 or under to be transcribed in word form. For instance, the number ‘3’ needs to be typed out as ‘three’.
Very large numbers can be inconvenient to type out in full, numerical form. This means that it is better to transcribe as ‘million’ instead of ‘1,000,000,000’ for example.
49. Check Equipment
If you are having sound problems then check if it is the fault of your audio equipment or not before you make a complaint. Sometimes it could be just a case of a loose wire.
Clients can make a special request to only ask for certain portions of a transcript in which you can omit speakers. They may only need to hear from certain people so it would be a waste of time transcribe other speakers who don’t need to be transcribed.
You would go about this by inserting a tag in place of any speech from a speaker. If they want you to exclude the interviewer then you would put [interviewer speaks] as a substitute for their actual words and you would treat all the other speakers as normal.
Look at this as a good thing because it saves you time too.
If you are editing or reviewing somebody else’s work then it is important that you don’t change it to too great an extent. There is a good chance that they have done a good job albeit a handful of mistakes.
The last thing anyone wants is for you to amend something that they got right in the first place. You will just be creating new problems.
This is the polar opposite of what your role as an editor entails and the punishments for this are severe. If this happens on too many occasions the they could ban you from editing anything else since you have proved that aren’t any better than the original transcriber.
Being an editor or holding any other position higher than transcriber means being more skilled than those at the bottom of the ladder which is why it’s so tough. Learn the secrets to true wealth, abundance and financial freedom at TonyRobbins.com.
You should try to put media titles within quotation marks. A valid example would be “Return of the Jedi” because it is the name of a famous movie or “Nevermind” as it is the title of an album from the band “Nirvana”.
53. The same name
If you have two or more people with the same name then it is standard practice to include all last names or even numbers throughout the entire transcript. This might look something like ‘Steve Smith’ and ‘Steve Jones’, or ‘Steve 1’, ‘Steve 2’ and ‘Steve 3’.
54. Employment References
A handful of transcription agencies may ask for employment references but this is pretty uncommon. Some sites enlist transcribers in the form of a job vacancy where you upload a resume like any other employer. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s pretty rare.
The majority of companies will just make you take a few tests and you’ll be on your way.
55. Spell it out
If someone in the audio is spelling out a word instead of saying it as normal then you need to spell it out in your transcript too. For instance, you wouldn’t type ‘bingo’ if they are spelling it out. On the contrary, you would transcribe it as ‘B-I-N-G-O’.
Certain agencies like you to translate mathematical symbols into different characters. For example, ‘plus’ is ‘+’, ‘minus’ is ‘-‘, ‘equals’ is ‘=’, ‘times (x)’ is ‘*’ and ‘divided’ is ‘/’.
57. Phonetic Spelling
If you don’t recognize a word or can’t understand what is being vocalized then try to spell the word out phonetically. This means if you can’t spell it then writing it out how it sounds to you may be the best way forward other than consulting a dictionary or spell checker.
58. Paragraph & Single Spacing
You text will need to be single spaced as you conventionally would do anyway unless instructed otherwise. Your paragraphs will normally need to have an empty line between them too with no indentations.
59. Affiliate Marketing
Many transcription services offer affiliate programs that you can utilize in order to give you an extra earner on top of standard transcription work. This is especially lucrative if you run a website/blog *wink wink* or have a large social media following.
You could potentially make anywhere above or below 5% of the income a transcriber earns who you have successfully referred. You can also capitalize by referring clients who need things transcribed too.
60. Starting a sentence
It’s always fine to start sentences with unusual starting words or conjunction words like ‘And’ or ‘But’. You have to do this sometimes as most people don’t speak in a nature that fits a good, readable sentence structure.
Don’t be afraid to do this as you may be forced to in order to break up sentences that are overlong anyway.
When you are searching for jobs, it’s best to filter your search by ‘pay per audio minute’ in order to find assignments that give you the most money for your work. This should be common sense as we all want to get the highest possible hourly rate.
Think about comparing assignment rewards between agencies too. You can also search by audio file length if you want to squeeze in a nice, short assignment if you find yourself at a loose end.
62. Audio Enhancement
To give you an extra helping hand there are audio enhancers available to download that will reduce background noise and improve clarity. Breakaway, DFX, Clarity and Simple Magic are decent shortlist of programs to consider.
63. It’s going to be ‘okay’ & ‘all right’
You should use ‘okay’ and ‘all right’, instead of ‘OK’ or ‘alright’. This is much better English. eToro: Copy other people’s success
64. Keyboard Shortcuts
It may help you with speed to assign hot-keys so that you can quickly perform a command on your keyboard. This beats reaching for the mouse while you’re already tapping away at the keyboard. You might be able to press a key in order to play and pause the audio or increase/decrease the volume.
This will shave a surprising amount of work time off and can be way easier than doing it the conventional way.
If you are stuck on a word then it is useful to have a dictionary by your side or at least have an online dictionary bookmarked on your browser.
Make sure that you are prepared before you do the first qualification transcript and tests.
You only get a handful of chances to get it right and if you fail, you will be locked out. Some companies have a three strikes policy but you will need to check this site by site. This lock out period may a specific span of time or forever if you aren’t lucky.
Any money symbols need to be spelled out as a word when combined with a low number. You would say ‘nine dollars’ instead of ‘$9’ if the number is nine or below.
If it’s a ridiculously high price like ‘two million, nine hundred and fifty-six thousand pounds’ then you would shorten it down into number form as ‘£2,956,000’.
Fractions need to be in word form with a hyphen rather than numerals. It would be ‘three-quarters’ instead of ‘3/4’.
69. Speaker Roles
You can also divide the speakers up by gender. For example, you might label them as ‘Man 1’ or ‘Woman 2’ depending on the quantity of people talking. It is really unnecessary to use numbers if there is just one woman, one man or one child.
If you are listening in on a mental health interview the you would label people by their roles. For instance, one person may be the ‘Psychiatrist’ and the other the ‘Patient’. There could also be an ‘Interviewer’ and an ‘Interviewee’.
If you really want to be specific then you can combine gender and role such as ‘Female Doctor’ which might make things simpler.
If you are listening to a seminar, classroom or a question and answer session in front of a large audience then the speakers tags work slightly differently.
Normally, if a member of the audience asks a question then they aren’t treated as an individual. They are just labelled as ‘audience’, the same applies for an other person in the audience who contributes.
BONUS – Full-time or part-time
You will be at a slight advantage if you choose to pursue this as a full-time vocation as opposed to part-time. You will be able to choose anytime of the day to transcribe as more work in the middle of the day will be freed up because part-timers will be grinding at their 9 to 5.
There is a lot to take in here, I know. Rules between transcription companies vary so much because a lot of them want completely different things or work done in a different way.
For this reason, you need to take a lot of this information with a pinch of salt as some of it may be sound but some of it may the opposite of what is required.
These are generalized points based on lots of transcription companies so I would definitely suggest that you trust the specific sites rules rather than the ones above. Please don’t forget to share this with your friends and comment below. Thanks for reading!