Anyone who knows how to listen, type, and read can probably transcribe audio in their native language. It isn’t rocket science.
I remember thinking I knew how to transcribe audio my first day on the job. I was the fastest transcriptionist the company had tested, and admittedly, when they told me, I got a bit overconfident. I skimmed the large style and format manuals and started cranking out pages. I didn’t proof my work for accuracy because, hey, how hard could typing in my first language be? I had just started my transcription job, but I was super fast and the work was easy!
Looking back, it’s difficult not to cringe.
The phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know” comes to mind. It wasn’t until I moved to a new unit — one that required extremely fast turnaround (as little as 30 minutes) and near-perfect accuracy — that my work was proofread immediately by my boss.
And then I knew.
Audio transcription is not easy, and my transcripts were mediocre to just plain bad. I technically knew how to transcribe, but I wasn’t very good at it. Aside from questionable punctuation, I was dropping words, especially during crosstalk (bad!), and occasionally typing the wrong ones (really bad!). And that was with pretty decent audio. If the sea of red ink dominating my first transcripts was any indication, I needed to do a much better job.
Following my boss’s advice, I started proofreading my work before someone else edited it.
“Pre-proofing” felt like wearing training wheels, slowed me down, and the number of errors I caught was truly distressing! It was both humbling and saved me from a lot of embarrassment.
After many months of scrutinizing my own work and learning the industry lingo, the quality of my transcripts improved substantially. They were not perfect (few pre-edited transcripts are), but I gained a healthy sense of my strengths and weaknesses.
I dare say that that experience has made me a darn good transcriber today. The work isn’t any easier, but now I understand just how much effort is required to produce quality transcripts within tight deadlines.
Are you browsing transcription jobs and thinking about getting started?
My advice is to start slow and proofread your work, even if it seems unnecessary. If you typed a perfect transcript, at least you will know that for a fact. If you find mistakes, categorize them since you’ll probably make the same ones again (typos, dropped words, bad sentence structure, etc).
Once you’ve attained super-human transcription skills, congratulations! You can sit back and watch YouTube in the corner of your screen while you work!
Just kidding. Experience will hone your skills, but it can’t give you concentration. Be sure to check your work regularly and remember that complacency will always lead to errors!
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