What does a transcriber do and what is audio transcription?

Outsource freelance transcriptionist

Recording interviews, conversations, meetings and such like is easier now than it ever has been.  Technology has advanced so far where now we can record on our smartphones at the touch of a button.

Using modern technology in this way, as a back-up for detail discussed in a meeting, for example, or interviewing someone for academic study or a journalist interview.  Most of these recordings are made with the intention of converting them into text, and this is what’s known as audio transcription.  Audio and Video Transcription is the skilled art and process of converting recorded speech into written documents, commonly called transcripts.

Foot pedal for audio or video transcription
Transcriber’s Best Friend the Foot Pedal

Producing a document or transcript can be very time-consuming, even for the quickest of typists, without specialist transcribing software and a foot pedal to avoid taking your hands off the keyboard, rewinding even for a few second to replay can be difficult and frustrating.

This is where outsourcing your recorded audio or video to a general transcriptionist (depending on the subject area) can be very beneficial.  The time it saves you, against the cost of a freelance transcriptionist will be to your benefit.  You will, in an agreed time, receive an accurate transcript that has been transcribed manually, directly from your recording.

The Transcriber’s Role

“A transcriber is someone who writes down what someone else is saying.” 

Initially, a transcriber was a person that wrote things down in shorthand, but this art is dying out.  Technology and the fact it isn’t taught anymore means, unfortunately, this art of note-taking is no-longer used.

Instead, recordings made on your laptop or tablet, for example, can then immediately be uploaded to your transcriptionist, via email or a sharing application like DropBox or Google Drive.  They then download the audio, upload to their professional software player and begin to type what they hear in the speech content into a transcript for you.

As part of the transcriber’s role, unlike years ago where commas, full-stops and new paragraphs were dictated, in today’s advanced world, an experienced transcriber will insert the appropriate grammar for you, as a matter of course during typing.  This is certainly something here at Virtuadmin that I do for clients; it is a natural thing to do.  Without it, I cannot read if the transcript makes sense or not.

How long does transcription take?

A professional touch typist should be able to type in the region of 75 words per minute.  At this speed, the industry standard states a minimum of 4-5 hours to transcribe 1 hours recorded audio or video.  However, there are other factors that the client and transcriptionist need to consider regarding the audio for transcription.  They are:-

– The speed at which the participants of the audio are talking

– The number of participants in the audio talking (cross talking)

– The clarity of the recording (background noise, phone interview, interference)

– The speech clarity of the participating speakers (accents, speaking English as a second language, mumbling, no close enough to the microphone)

These are the variables that will add time to transcribing an hour’s recorded audio.  It is difficult to say how much time should be allowed for these variables, so it is worth keeping in mind that a professional transcriptionist cannot type at the same rate as the average person talking, no matter how fast they are.  People generally speak 4-5 times faster than what an experienced transcriber can type. 

How to hire a professional transcriber?

Professional transcribers can commonly be found on freelance websites, People Per Hour, Fivesquid, UpWork, are examples of these.  Using these types of websites gives you the ability to see the service provider’s feedback, as well as protecting your money against a poor job, or no delivery at all.

There are transcription companies as service providers; they are specialist businesses that only provide the transcription.  The employ teams of transcribers, either remotely on in-house.  (You don’t get the same direct contact with your transcriptionist as compared to using a freelancer.)  These are a self-service type website, you upload your audio and either pay a deposit of invoice after the audio or video has been completed.

Another option is to contact a professional transcriber directly.  Search on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to mention a few social networks as a source to find a transcriptionist.  Search by a hashtag #transcriber or #transcriptionist and up will pop the latest tweets, on Twitter for example.

If you choose to contact directly, saving yourself time and money from not using a 3rd party freelance website like People per Hour, for example, there are some questions you can ask them as tips as to how professional and experienced they are.  Someone may think they can type quickly, but listening to an interview, for example, can be very tricky to rewind a few seconds without a foot pedal and professional transcribing software, like NCH Software, something Virtuadmin has had for many years.  (When I downloaded the free version you couldn’t use a foot pedal with the software, you had to purchase the professional version!)

What rates do transcriptionists charge?

For audio transcription by an experienced transcriber, you would usually pay by the recorded audio minute.  The rates vary from company to company or transcribe to transcribe.  But, charging in this way helps you know the cost from the outset.  Here at Virtuadmin for example, my rate starts at 60p per audio minute for a single speaker audio that is of very good quality.  It is 70p per audio minute for a 2-speaker clear clarity recording.

It is usual for a speech-to-text service, either company or freelancer to add on per minute, 30-minutes or per hour for audios that contain background noise, or the speech clarity is difficult to hear, for example.  For these types of audio to be transcribed the transcriptionist must first get the audio to a quality that is suitable listening volume.  This can take sometimes a few hours for this, so don’t think if you have a difficult audio that they are just looking to increase the cost, it is genuinely time-consuming to repair a recording to suitable levels for a transcript.

Conclusion

A transcriber is a professional touch typist that listens to recorded speech and types what they hear.  A professional will insert the necessary grammar, and intelligently paragraph where necessary within the transcript.  A transcriber will touch type between 50-80 words per minute (WPM) and would usually take 4-5 hours to transcribe one hour of recorded audio, as an approximate guide.

A transcription company that hires typists either remotely or in-house will probably have a higher fee, due to their overheads and profit before paying the transcriptionists.  It is more usual for a professional freelance transcriptionist to be more affordable due to their fewer overheads.

Dealing with a transcription company you don’t always get the direct communication or personalisation as with using a freelancer.  An independent transcriber, either working with them directly or through a freelancing website and working with them, you can expect more flexibility. 

Most freelance transcribers will accommodate a template if you have one, or use their own if you don’t.  If there is noise interference, you can discuss with them.  For another example, let’s say you only wanted a certain part of the audio transcribed, or a certain part time-stamped for ease of reference.

Using a freelance transcription service, like Virtuadmin for example, is the quickest and most affordable way to go.  Work is usually turned around as soon as it is received, therefore, approaching a freelancer offering a transcription service, they are most likely in a position to start it immediately, rather than wait in a queue for one to become available with a transcription service company.

How to Save Valuable Time When Looking For a Transcriber

How to save time for your audio transcription
Save Time when you need a transcriber

Do you regularly use freelance portals like People Per Hour, Fivesquid and Fiverr to name a few of the platforms out there, to economically outsource your audio or video transcription requirements? Then read on there is important information inside!

As a freelancer offering very reasonably priced professional typing and transcription services, I visit daily the freelance platforms that I have active profiles on to search for assignments with potential clients that I can assist with in their typing or transcription projects.

It takes up a lot of my time, but frequently time after time that frustrates the hell out of me, to be honest, is the fact that businesses, entrepreneurs, students, or anyone that requires outsourcing to a transcription service, fail to put four important things that matter most to a transcriptionist: –

  1. Audio quality
  2. Number of speakers
  3. Length of the Audio
  4. Turnaround time/deadline

Quite often people needing audio or video transcribed are under the impression that touch typists can type at the rate of speech, and therefore as an example, a 20-minute audio recording would take a professionally trained transcriptionist, like me, 20 minutes to transcribe into text.  This is in fact not the case, please see my post and Infographic Audio Transcription Time Guidelines for more insight on this.

What Is Not Helpful

This is a typical example that I see day after day when people are advertising to get their audios or videos transcribed into text.

Time saving tips when advertising for a transcription service

This example is better than some, it describes the length of the audio which is a good start, the format they would like the transcript in, which is generally Word anyway unless the transcript it being used for video captioning.

But, this example does not state how many speakers the audio contains, or the quality of the audio.  These two factors will determine combined with the other two points highlighted above, the time it will take to listen and type the recorded speech into text.  There are other factors also, for instance, if it is a two-speaker audio is there a lot of cross-talking?  Are there any additional requirements within the transcript required, time-stamping for example.

Advice on Best Practices

When advertising for a transcription service vendor, or freelance transcriptionist, it is always best practice to give as much information as possible about the audio.  To get the best transcriber for the job, it would be very helpful attach a sample, or the audio itself, but this isn’t always possible for confidentiality reasons.

By doing this it saves the transcription provider time from having to contact you asking these basic transcription questions that they need to ascertain whether they wish to submit a proposal for the work or not.  Advertising the basic details, audio quality, the number of speakers, length and desired deadline, transcription service providers know what they are applying for.

You, as the contractor of transcription services then do not get delayed with your transcription, especially important when you have a deadline to meet.  It will prevent your service provider telling you they cannot fulfil their part of the agreement because of incorrect or missing details about your specifications.  It saves time for both parties concerned and speeds up the whole process with the transcriptionist having a clear understanding of the audio content from the outset.

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