Expectations Versus Reality on Working in the Transcription World

Not judging a book by its cover is something I’ve truly never done. In fact, I think the way something is presented is exactly the way it is. However, I have quickly learned that in the world of transcription employment world that is not the case. Having worked loosely around transcription for years in the journalism world, I found myself thrown into a world of legal depositions or other recordings, all of which were (and sometimes still are) confusing.

I have learned countless things in my position, one of the most important lessons has been exceptions versus reality within the transcription employment world.

transcription employment world

Expectation:   An hour long recording will take me an hour to transcribe.

Reality:            Whoever told this lie to me, first of all, needs to be reprimanded and secondly should apologize for giving me false hope. I quickly learned that transcribing audio generally takes three times longer than how long the file is. Plus there are many components in an audio file that affect the transcription time and make it even longer to transcribe.

If there are multiple speakers it can often be difficult to determine who is who and when they speak, they don’t always identify who they are.  And the more speakers there are the more time it takes to identify them. Another factor is if the speakers have accents or unique dialect. These are often difficult for a transcriptionist even if they are from the same area. I’ve learned that accents can be difficult to understand based on the speaker’s pace, tone and inflection.

There are also several confirmation stages to go through once the transcript is done. Once I complete the transcript, I listen to it again to make sure that everything is correct, and then pass it on to a second Quality Assurance editor in my office who will do the same. This ensures that the transcript is ultimately correct and meets our accuracy standards. A second party that has not been working the transcript is crucial because their fresh eyes may find mistakes that I have missed.

Expectation:   I need to be able to type fast.

Reality:            Let’s be real, typing fast is a good skill to have, but in the transcription world it’s not about how fast you type but about how well you listen. Sure typing fast allows me to type more lines in a short amount of time, but this is also how mistakes happen. There have been countless times where I am flying through a recording and need to go back to and fix phrases that are said or words that are spelled wrong. Learning to balance working quickly and working with accuracy is something I’ve learned to embrace when doing transcription work.

Expectation:   This is really easy work.

Reality:            Transcription, like any work, gets easier over time. But, listening, hearing and documenting what you have heard are by no means easy. We often get half-finished documents from people who have tried to transcribe recordings themselves – and gave up.

There is also a great deal of research that goes into each transcription. Fact-checking the name of every place, person, and other terminologies to ensure that everything is correct also takes time, but greatly improves a transcript’s accuracy. That means if someone mentions the name of a restaurant that they went to 20 years ago that closed down 10 years ago, it’s my responsibility to look it up and get the correct spelling.

As you can tell transcription is no easy job, but it is fascinating work that I look forward to everyday. Not too often can I read about different legal situations, which can be both boring and extreme, making the transcription truly unique.

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