The General Transcription Guide for Freelancers
Learn General Transcription Basics and Know-How
Freelancing, or independent contract work, is becoming a popular type of employment arrangement nowadays since it gives employees more flexibility than the usual 9 to 5 commitment. There are various freelance work opportunities you can explore and possibly dive into, whether you're a work-at-home parent, retiree, or a student looking for jobs on the side. Working as a transcriptionist, writer, social media manager, data entry/encoder, or a virtual assistant is just a few of the on-demand telecommuting positions out there. Since you are reading this, you're probably looking into the viability of a general transcription career.
In this ultimate guide, we discuss why transcriptions is a good way to earn money as well as various aspects of general transcriptions necessary to help you jump start your career in transcriptions. Scroll down to learn more!
What is General Transcription?
General transcription is the process of converting audio to text by typing the spoken material into print. Businesses and professionals use general transcription services to eliminate the hassle of time-consuming audio playbacks when looking for crucial information. Transcribing all verbal sounds or speech makes vital information more accessible and convenient to archive and analyze.
The most requested type of recordings for transcription in general are in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, dictations, and conference calls - all of which fall under general transcription. Transcriptions can also cater to specific niches where medical professionals or court reporters generate transcripts for particular needs in their field of expertise.
Nowadays, general transcription is used to build a written record of a host of important events, as well as to give you plenty of machine-readable information, which can also be found by researching online or by sending each other emails.
Audio materials cannot be accessed without the aid of software or certain devices. Whenever you make these materials available to the public through text or printed format, the potential audience you can attract for this type of information can significantly expand. Furthermore, the main content of audio materials cannot be effectively read and understood by machines. Algorithms used by search engines, for instance, cannot effectively read the content of audio files which is why these materials cannot be indexed without correct, highly detailed tags or content rundowns. Publishing transcriptions along with audio files would create more traffic to a website and disseminate accurate information in a more effective manner.
There are instances when general transcription gets confused with music transcriptions and RNA transcription.
Music transcription is the process of converting recordings of song performances into music sheets. A music transcriber converts songs from MP3 to PDF files usually delivered to clients via email. There are also music transcription services in the market that accepts hard copy media files such as CDs and cassette tapes sent through a postal mill.
Musicians frequently utilize music transcriptions when composing songs. They simply record themselves in the process, which will then be transcribed into music sheets. If you’re in a group, you could easily generate music sheets for all instruments and vocal ranges, allowing everyone to get up and running as quick as possible. Music transcription is also helpful for music teachers, as this allows them to customize music sheets specific to each lesson or student.
RNA transcription, on the other hand, is far-related to both audio and music transcriptions. In biology, RNA transcription refers to the first step of gene expression in which the DNA sequence of a gene is transcribed or copied into an RNA by the enzyme RNA polymerase. This biosynthesis of RNA fashions a replication of DNA, as the information stored in DNA is used to make RNA. Basically, pure science and lab work and nothing to do with converting audio to text.
Benefits of Working as a Freelance Transcriptionist
Many people are intrigued by the idea of telecommuting and the advantages it offers versus working in a regular office setting. Now, there are many opportunities being offered as work-at-home or remote positions and not only to fully-capable professionals, but to work-at-home moms, retirees, and students looking for part-time jobs across industries worldwide. While many options are available for different skill sets, the many benefits of freelance general transcription make it a very ideal option for many. Here are some of the benefits of becoming a freelance transcriptionist:
- You become your own boss. Working as a freelance transcriptionist lets you be in control of your schedule and balance personal and career responsibilities the way that works for you best.
- You control your earnings. It’s totally up to you if you want to make transcriptions your main source of income or just supplemental for making ends meet. You can accept how many projects you want as long as you persist in generating high quality transcripts.
- You can bring your work anywhere. Transcriptions is one of those jobs where you can go out of town or move to a far state without jeopardizing your career. It’s portable yet gives you career stability at the same time.
- You become more productive. Research has proven that the happier employees are, the more productive they become. Working from home releases you from the stress and pressure of a cut-throat office environment, thus improves your happiness and increases work productivity.
- You don’t need an academic degree. Whether or not you’ve finished a course in higher education, you can still opt for a career in transcription and become successful in it. There are many transcription programs in the market that can earn you transcription certifications, giving you edge and credibility in any transcription career you choose.
How Much Does General Transcription Pay?
Just like any other job, beginner transcriptionists tend to be paid low rates until you become an expert in the field. This is true whether you are working as an independent transcriptionist working on low budget projects directly from clients, or working for small general transcription companies who hire and train beginners in-house. A beginner could earn $8.00 to $10.00 per hour of work which is pretty reasonable for non-specialty, part-time work, all the while earning experience on the side, and especially if you are not a certified transcriptionist and have not undergone intensive training.
Don’t get disheartened though - you can definitely expect to earn more from a career in transcriptions. It is just a matter of practice, experience, and dedication. Give yourself time to grow and everything will follow. Professional transcriptionists tend to earn $10.00 to $20.00 per working hour, while specialized transcriptionists (i.e. legal transcriptionists) can earn up to $25.00 per working hour.
Most general transcription companies pay transcriptionists on an audio-per-minute rate. That means the rates mentioned above may vary depending on how many projects you accept and how fast you actually finish them. Just make sure to do your best on every transcription file assignment. The common practice is bonuses are granted to those who turn in high quality transcripts, and deductions are given to those who submit inferior outputs.
Careers in General Transcription
General transcription services are heavily utilized by various industries, opening various transcribing opportunities to people with any type of expertise. Unlike in legal transcriptions involving stenographers or court reporters, careers in general transcription do not necessarily require a degree or strict qualifications, which opens this opportunity for practically anybody willing to put time into it. But of course, getting certifications would certainly help you gain an edge and strengthen your credibility in the transcription industry. Here are the different careers in general transcription you can explore and evaluate where you’re equipped the most:
Entertainment transcription, also referred as media transcription, is mostly fast-paced as transcription agencies work with huge production houses (i.e. television, radio, or film) and independent producers, who utilize video captioning and multi-language subtitling to attract a wider audience reach and ultimately get higher ratings. The entertainment industry tends to request rush or quick turnaround files or give tight deadlines for transcriptions the most, as writers for documentaries and the like use transcripts as basis for scriptwriting, the same way video editors utilize its timestamps for editing. Thus, transcriptionists must be able to generate accurate transcripts in quick turnarounds to refrain production delays.
Academic Research Transcription
The pressure on the academic community is pretty intense, whether you’re an academic scholar, research assistant, professor, or student. Working under tight, concurrent deadlines is tough, especially when you have to do time-consuming tasks before you can get to the more important ones - like transcribing interviews for your dissertation, before you’re able to analyze the data and formulate findings.
If you’re eyeing a career in academic research transcriptions, you should be a great researcher and a fast learner yourself as you’re probably going to research a multitude of terminologies and facts whilst you’re transcribing in-depth interviews for different research papers, thesis, or dissertations for various academic fields.
Professionals, students, trainees, journalists, and the like often record seminars for transcription. This enables them to take home all the information shared during the event for future references or for writing reports and documentations. Others record and transcribe seminars to share knowledge among colleagues who were not able to attend the seminar. For a transcriptionist however, this may be one of the toughest type of recordings to transcribe as these often have a lot of background noises making them more challenging in comparison.
Many churches use general transcription services to reach more people and build online presence. Not only do they reach people who are unable to attend worship services beyond church borders, transcripts are also a big help to pastors in training, theological students and scholars too! If you’re looking into working for a sermon transcription service, you should have a great foundation knowledge about diverse religions and their terminologies in order to generate sensible transcripts.
Corporate or Conference Call Transcription
An earnings call is a conference call wherein executives, financial analysts, major investors and shareholders, as well as financial advisors discuss the financial performance of the company at the end of every quarter. Several companies have earnings calls and other critical conference calls transcribed to promote data transparency and keep everyone in the loop with crucial information.
It’s most likely that you’ll come across several accounting and financial terminologies while transcribing conference calls. Retirees from the corporate world may find that they have an edge in corporate transcriptions - if you have a background in administration, banking, accountancy or if you’re at least knowledgeable about several financial terminologies, this is familiar, easy work territory. Otherwise, be mindful and meticulous about transcribing conference calls as these are usually very detail-sensitive.
Market Research Transcription
Market research transcription services are heavily utilized by marketing researchers and companies for convenience and to save time, as they conduct countless of in-depth interviews and focus groups per qualitative study. Transcripts are used to easily review and dissect insights for further investigation or data analysis. There are various types of market research recordings that are being requested for transcription such as mystery shopping, audio diaries and patient journeys, usability sessions, and telephone survey transcriptions among many others.
As much as clients want to provide clear recordings for accurate transcription, there are still instances when the requested audio files have audio difficulties due to various factors at the time of recording. Some are required to be recorded outdoors, in public places, and some phone interviews are conducted with respondents from hard to reach locations. In such instances, it is the transcriber’s job to type words as accurate as possible, decipher crosstalks, and identify the speakers by name if need be so that clients can maximize the use of their transcripts.
Podcasts in any type of genre about any topic are requested for transcription for various purposes. Educators might get interesting information that they can integrate in their lessons; students might get interesting tips and tricks for getting through the academe; bloggers and fashion enthusiasts can get the latest trends and styles around the globe, among many others. If you a re to be a podcast transcriptionist, you should be fast learner and a great researcher to transcribe podcast recordings on random topics accurately - that means having to decipher topic-specific proper nouns, acronyms, and specialized terminologies.
Essential Skills of a Transcriptionist
Just like other jobs and professions, you won’t do a terrific job in transcription if you do not have specific qualities or essential skills needed for general transcription. Being a transcriptionist should not be undermined - transcribing is not child’s play. Read through these must-have traits and skills and see if you're cut out for the job:
- Have a great pair of ears and have a sharp memory. Being an attentive listener, and actually remembering long sentences accurately, lets you transcribe faster as you won’t have to constantly playback small parts of the audio over and over.
- Have a typing speed of 60-80 words per minute with minimal errors. If you don’t want to spend more time proofreading your work, then you should probably do your best transcribing the first time, especially if your deadline is just around the corner. Some general transcription vendors even give bonuses to transcribers with zero to minimum errors, so you better give the editors a pleasant time reviewing your work!
- Have great research skills. It’s not strictly required for a transcriptionist be a master of certain fields before they can do transcription in general. What matters the most is you have great research skills that can help you catch terminologies and crucial information you’re unfamiliar with, and that you comprehend diverse topics quickly to be able to provide top-notch outputs.
- Have a strong knowledge foundation in grammar, punctuations, and spelling. While other clients prefer to have their files transcribed in verbatim (word for word), majority still prefer reader-friendly transcripts also known as non-verbatim transcription. This means you’re going to have to rectify minor grammar mistakes (i.e. verb tenses). It is your responsibility to do so without altering the original thoughts and compromising insights.
Essential Transcription Tools
What’s great with starting a career in general transcription is that you are more likely to save big bucks from equipment investment. These are so basic in the digital age that there’s a high probability, if not 100%, that you already have these must-have tools of a freelance transcriptionist:
If you want a career in general transcription, you must always have access to a laptop or desktop computer. Transcribing audio and video files is a long, tedious process. It’s only sensible if you have your own that you can use without anything rushing you.
The time will come when you’re assigned files with different kinds of audio difficulties. Be it background noises, static, or strong regional accents - having great quality headphones will surely make your transcribing job much easier.
- Transcription Software
Using typical audio player software is transcribing calvary. Opt for hotkey-enabled or foot pedal-controlled transcription software to make your task easier and gain better momentum. There are several transcription tools online you can download for free, like Express Scribe - and it can support both audio and video files.
- Word Processing Software like Microsoft Word
You need word processing software in order to deliver finished transcripts - although a Microsoft Word document is the most common file type used, you can also use other software like LibreOffice or OpenOffice. Just make sure that the version you’re using is compliant to your transcription company or client's requirements.
- Internet Connection
Remember, research comes with transcription in general. Whether short or long files, you’re going to want to research names, specialized terms, and other particular information in order to generate superior quality transcripts, and the internet is a vast library of information easily accessible with just a few clicks.
How to Learn General Transcription
General transcription, among other transcription fields, requires relatively little training. However, you need to have some practice of your own and a bucket full knowledge about what being a transcriptionist entails before actually diving in to the industry head on. Never bring a knife to a gunfight; make sure you are adequately equipped and prepared for possible challenges you might face whilst transcribing audio and video files. Curious where and how you can learn to transcribe better? We’ve summarized some of the best ways to learn and practice general transcription:
- Search and transcribe interviews in different formats on YouTube or other websites. Try transcribing one-on-one interviews first, then work your way up to group interviews or focus group discussions about anything under the sun. Practice speaker identification, more with audio than video files where you cannot visually identify the speaker.
- Transcribe on-field radio and television news reports to sharpen your ears when transcribing audio files with background noises.
- Download and transcribe a variety of webinars and podcasts to get yourself accustomed to a variety of accents.
- Familiarize yourself with the different ways of transcribing audio or video recordings such as non-verbatim, smart verbatim, and pure verbatim transcriptions. Then, transcribe the same recording in different ways to master each one.
- Find websites offering general transcription practice files you can use for self-testing. Check your work against the completed transcript and note your mistakes and other elements you tend to overlook. This will help you improve at faster rate.
You will hear people who have not tried doing transcriptions calling the job “easy”, but it is actually harder than most people think. Some recordings are a piece of cake to transcribe, but whether you like it or not, you will receive more challenging projects along the way. You'll come across poor audio with heavy accents, fast speakers, background noises, and/or dialogue overlaps that will take longer for a beginner to transcribe, which is exactly why determination, self-practice and training is imperative to grasp success in general transcription.
Conclusion: Is General Transcription a Good Career?
While general transcription may not be for everyone, anyone looking for a part-time job with fair pay rates should find that general transcription is one of the best freelance options out there. Transcribing long audio files may mean less social interactions and less multitasking which is probably not the ideal setup - but if you think you have what it takes to start a general transcription career, the advantage is you will be able to control your workload, work schedule, and earnings. You would not have to fully commit career-wise unless you choose to, which is why transcriptions have become one of the top “second careers” for stay-at-home parents, retirees, students, and even professionals.