What does a transcriber do and what is audio transcription?

Outsource freelance transcriptionist
What a transcribers job is in relation to audo transcription


Recording interviews, conversations, meetings and such like is easier now than it ever has been.  Technology has advanced so far we can now 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.

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 (see left picture) to avoid taking your hands off the keyboard, rewinding even for a few seconds to replay what was spoken can be difficult and frustrating when using the keyboard.

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.” 

A transcriber is someone who writes down what someone else is saying. Click To Tweet

Initially, a transcriber was a person that wrote things down in shorthand, but this art is dying out.  Technological advancements combined with the fact it isn’t taught any more 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 be required to insert the appropriate grammar for you, as a matter of course during typing.  This is certainly something here at Virtuadmin that we do for clients; it is a natural thing to do as a native English-speaking transcriber.  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 hour of 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 is talking, no matter how fast they are.  People generally speak 4-5 times faster than what an experienced transcriber can type.   For more information see our Infographic “Audio Transcription Guidelines” that illustrates the times quoted to help you understand audio transcription transcribing times.

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 that are solely a transcription service provider, these are specialist businesses that only provide audio or video transcription.  They 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 self-service type websites, you upload your audio and either pay a deposit of invoice after the audio or video has been completed.

Another option is to contract 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 contract directly, saving yourself time and money by not using a 3rd party freelance website like People per Hour, for example, there are some questions you can ask them as tips for you to ascertain how professional and experienced they are.  Someone may think they can type quickly, listen to an interview and type what is being said, for example. However, this method can be very tricky to rewind even for just a few seconds without a foot pedal and professional transcribing software, like NCH Software, something Virtuadmin has been using for many years.

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 transcriber to transcriber.  But, charging in this way helps you know the cost from the outset of hiring your transcriber.  The rate for Virtuadmin, for example, rates start at 60p per audio minute for a single-speaker audio that is of clear audio quality.  It is 70p per audio minute for 2-speaker audios with a good clear clarity recording.

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


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 applicable within the transcript.  A transcriber that can touch type between 50-80 words per minute (WPM) would usually take 4-5 hours to transcribe one hour of recorded audio, as an approximate guide.

A transcriber that can touch type between 50-80 words per minute (WPM) would usually take 4-5 hours to transcribe one hour of recorded audio Click To Tweet

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 their transcriptionists.  It is more common for a professional freelance transcriptionist to be more affordable due to their fewer overheads.

Hiring a transcription company you won’t get the direct communication or personalisation you might want. There is more flexibility with an independent transcriber. Contracting direct or via a freelancing website to work with them, you can expect more flexibility and communication. With Virtuadmin we definitely provide you with that. Flexibility, it is your transcript, you have it your way. From the font, font size and format, it is your choice. Communication, we always update you at every stage of the process. From the successful download of your audio file to confirming where we are in the process.

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.

By Virtuadmin

A touch typist and transcriptionist working from home providing affordable online administration solutions.