10 common transcription jobs questions

By Craig Hale for Tech Radar

Whether you’re a good listener or can type at exceptionally high speeds, a transcriber role comes with many perks. If there are a few things that you’re unsure of before delving into a potentially lucrative future, here are ten common transcription job questions answered.

1. What exactly does a transcriber do?

There are many types of transcription jobs that you could consider, but they all have one thing in common: the act of converting audio (this could be from a recording or a live scenario) to text (most commonly typed on a computer). A term synonymous with transcriptionist, a transcriber can be self-employed or part of a wider company.

2. Do I have to work in an office?

There are two routes into transcribing: self-employment and joining an existing company. Those working for a larger organization will likely be based from an office, although this type of job has traditionally been flexible offering opportunities to work in live scenarios and even from home where it has been possible.

With a rise in home working and other hybrid working routines as a result of the pandemic, employers that were already open to this style of working have embraced a new type of normal, and many employed transcribers are finding themselves able to work from home more regularly.

Self-employed transcribers will inevitably be able to work from home, though they are just as likely to find themselves transcribing live from an event as an employed transcriber.

3. What types of transcription can I do?

Work can range from generic and clerical tasks, including basic data entry, to more specialized topics. Legal transcription offers further opportunities for work with little additional training, though it is beneficial to be familiar with legal terminology and have a certain degree of training under your belt.

Medical transcription requires a higher level of training and will usually involve working alongside a practitioner to create and amend patient files.

Consider whether you are prepared to offer your services for real-time transcription. This is harder work, typically seen in courts and meetings, however it pays better.

4. How do I get paid?

There is no standard way to get paid as a transcriber. Employers will typically offer a salary, but individual jobs (particularly relevant to self-employed workers) will usually offer a calculated rate. This could be by word, by minute, or a combination of the two.

5. How much can I expect to earn?

A transcriber’s take-home pay can vary hugely depending on their experience and their specialized field. You can typically expect a full-time position to offer a starting salary of between £20,000 and £25,000.

6. Will I get regular work?

Relying on transcription as a sole form of income can be risky and is best combined with other similar work.

Many commissioners will work to deadlines, and as such expect you to work within set timeframes. Jobs could come in sporadically, and can often be subject to a degree of seasonality. A court, for example, may operate at its peak only on certain days.

7. Do I have to work regular hours?

Not at all; freelance and self-employed transcribers have the added benefit of being able to choose their own working hours. This makes freelancing great for part-time workers and parents to young children.

Because many companies need commissions turned around in a timely manner, even full-time employees are expected to be flexible.

8. Do I need any skills?

Many basic roles require little existing training, though there are some things that all prospective transcribers should have. A successful transcriber will be fluent in the relevant language(s), for example. This can be demonstrated with a relevant qualification that shows proficiency. A strong hold on spelling and grammar, then, is a must.

The role requires workers to have excellent listening skills and an ability to type to a high standard, maintaining a consistently high speed.

In order to command a higher pay, transcribers can seek additional qualifications and certifications, ranging from degrees in communications or the relevant language to more specific transcription courses. Those seeking employment in legal and medical transcription should demonstrate a certain level of knowledge and understanding.

9. What equipment will I need?

Although the role relies heavily on technology nowadays, you won’t need to invest a huge amount to get started. A computer is a must, and the most versatile setup will likely consist of a laptop, credited for its portability, with a dedicated display and external peripherals for home working.

Transcribers who are likely to work in live settings will benefit from a recording device – ideally a specialized dictaphone – which can help eliminate confusion and pick up missed words.

Easily overlooked but absolutely vital for people who are likely to be working extended periods from a desk is their office setup. Selecting a spacious desk and an ergonomic chair are the first steps to ensuring a comfortable and healthy day.

Homeworkers may want to set aside some extra money for a professional webcam in order to stay in touch with clients and teams that are based elsewhere.