Transcription: (definition in dictionary) a written or printed version of something;
a transcript. 

When you are a freelance content writer, a freelance writer or a transcriber, transcription means to convert a piece of audio or video into text. These audio and video files can be almost everything, namely: 

  • Interviews
  • Seminars
  • Speeches
  • Classes
  • Memos and Personal Reminders
  • YouTube and Social Media Videos, and anything else possible.

The easiest way to transcribe something would be the regular way: listen to each word, write them down in a MsWord File or Doc file. But that would be tedious, take a long-time and frankly, exhausting.

My Experience With Transcription

My first job on Upwork was to transcribe a 45-minute audio file for a Philippine client. The job was only for $5, and it took me around 8 hours to complete. Since I was completely new to Upwork and extremely excited about getting a job, I accepted the deadline (12 hours) and the budget ($5), not knowing they were both inadequate.

It was very difficult to complete the project as I neither knew the technique nor the right software to use. However, my work was appreciated by the client and I got more work from her in the future, at a much higher rate. 

Only 6 months later, I slowly increased to $45 per project for the same kind of 45-minute to 50-minute files. Later, it became $65. If the transcriber is from USA, UK, Australia or any European country, they can charge up to $100 for the same project. 

The last time I worked as a transcriber was back in 2016. I concentrated more on writing after that and outsourced a few transcription jobs to the other freelance writers who worked with me. 

My Mistakes as a Transcriber

The reason for reminiscing about my first experiences as a transcriber was to make everyone aware of my mistake. There were several:

1. I was completely inexperienced. 

The client was aware of it, and she took advantage of my ignorance. Instead of negotiating a much higher rate, I agreed at the rate she offered. If I had known that the ongoing rate for a 45-minute transcription was at least $30, I would have – as a beginner – at least asked for $15. Instead, I agreed at a rate of $5, for a project that took me hours to finish.

2. I had no idea about the task. 

Also, I didn’t know just how long it would take me to complete the task, or what software or method I can use. I completed the project in the hardest way possible and it took me a whole night, only for $5. 

3. I nothing to show the client beforehand.

Because I had never transcribed anything in my life. I had nothing to show as experience, and therefore, completely vulnerable to the situation. If I had a few samples ready, I could have charged a higher rate.

So if anyone reading this blog post want to start their writing career as a transcriber, I hope they learn from my mistakes. 

Some Tips for Transcription Projects

Transcription can be great for your first writing job on Upwork. It requires very little command of English, very little writing skill but a lot of patience.

1. A good typing speed helps in transcription. 

50 to 70 words per minute is considered to be an average typing speed; anything above that is considered to be good. If you have a good typing speed, mention that in your application. It will help the client know how fast you can finish the project. You can check your typing speed online. 

2. Always keep samples ready. 

Transcription samples are very easy to create. Simply choose different videos from YouTube and transcribe them in separate files. Be sure to choose content of different types, i.e. seminar videos, monologues, cooking videos, interviews, product review videos, etc. Choose videos of all lengths, and mention how long it took you to transcribe them.  It can be great for practice, as well. 

3. Use the Right Software. 

Transcription will become easier if you use certain software instead of just writing them down in a Doc file. Some great software for transcription are: 

  • OTranscribe
  • Express Scribe
  • The FTW Trancriber
  • F4
  • InqScribe

These software are mostly free to download and use on the Internet, but the paid versions give you features.

3. It helps if you can understand different accents. 

There are usually a lot of accents to transcribe. Some accents are extremely hard to understand and transcribe, i.e. Scottish accents, Australian accents or Irish accents. Other accents are easier, as we are more or less used to hearing them: American accent, Indian accents or British accents. You can practice with different accents from YouTube as well. 

4. Always take notice of the number of speakers. 

Audio/video files can have more than one speaker. Sometimes, if it is a discussion or a group interview, there can be up to 5 or 6 people speaking. It’s hard to distinguish between them. You can charge more for files with multiple speakers and they can be a good practice for the harder projects later. 

5. Always ask questions about the quality of the transcription. 

Transcription can actually be of a few types; it is a good idea to ask the client what exactly they are looking for. These are the three types of transcription you might have to do: 

Verbatim Transcription: 

This kind of transcription means writing down everything that goes on the file, including stammersfalse starts, emotions in brackets, grammatical mistakes, wrong facts, slang and bad words, etc. If there’s anything on the audio/video file, it should be in writing.

Edited Transcription

This kind of transcription only includes words spoken by the people in the file, nothing else. Only whole words can be in the text, no stammers or false starts. If the speakers make any grammatical mistakes or give out any wrong information, you cannot change them. it needs to be transcribed as it is.

Intelligent Transcription

This kind of transcription needs to be grammatically correct and sometimes, the facts need to be cross checked as well. Writing skill are handy in this kind of transcription. If a client is looking for Intelligent Transcription, it is a good idea to mention that you “are a writer” and that you “are very careful with spelling and grammar”

This is all I could think of about transcription. Please comment if you want to know something else, and I will include them in the blog. 

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