Once I’ve settled with my client, he/she would send me an e-mail that would contain where I could find the file that I would have to transcribe. It usually comes through my e-mail as an attachment or as a file or a link where I could download it from and save it into my computer. The audio file could have the filename extensions such as WAV, MP3, WMA or an MP4.

To play these files I had to download Express Scribe, a transcription tool. It was one of the requirements that a client would also ask of me.

Using Express Scribe (ES) made my life easier if I get those files mentioned above. I learned to transfer the file into ES and then start transcribing. I didn’t need to have a foot pedal since I was used to using the ‘hot keys’ faster since I am a touch typist.

Coming from Windows Media Player (WMP), which I used when I was just starting, that was a 360-degree turn for me. Imagine, if I didn’t use ES, I would have to press pause on WMP, move the slider then play the audio. That was time consuming, I tell you. The slider wouldn’t go right at the spot where you actually stopped the audio. It would but you’d have to try it many times, in my experience.


When I applied as a home-based legal transcriptionist, I was again introduced to another software. But this time, it played videos and it had a transcription pad where you could type in text. It’s called Inqscribe.

My client would send me big files of videos for me to transcribe. Sometimes, it’s one hour or one-and-a-half hours in length. I would download the video first and I would open it in Inqscribe. It already has a player, volume, and a typing pad. Additional features of Inqscribe are putting in time stamps, choosing hot keys for easier play/pause/rewind of the video, and a host of other things.

Tips for Working on Audios:

1.) For starters, use Express Scribe as your first choice for working on audios sent through your e-mail.

2.) For videos, I can suggest using Inqscribe, the free download, but as always, it’s for a limited time only. After two weeks or a month, Inqscribe would remind you to get a new license key for you to use it again.

3.) Ask your client how long the audio is so that when you download it, it’s the number of minutes that your client said it was. Just to make sure.

4.) Once you’ve downloaded the audio, check the audio out by listening to it by segments, if you are going to work on something longer than 15 minutes or so, just to check the quality of the audio.

5.) If the quality of the audio is really bad, you can tell your client that you can’t do it because of poor quality – lots of background noise, the speaker isn’t heard or what have you. That way, your client will know that the audio he/she sent isn’t workable and cancel having it transcribed or give you another audio to work on.

That’s it for THE AUDIO FILE(S). Next up will be using Express Scribe or Inqscribe. Just some tips you could use if you’re a beginner in transcription. Thanks for reading.


My First Client

I remember the first time I had a transcription job. This was when I posted that I could transcribe audios in a day so I could send the transcript to the client as soon as possible. Yes, I am a fast typist, or a touch typist that’s why I could type and listen to an audio at the same time. It’s kind of multitasking, don’t you think?

Let me stay on the topic at hand, which is my first client. After I was contacted by a client overseas, it was for her dissertation, she interviewed foreigners. Back in 2007, our Internet connection was just dial-up, not the wired broadband connections these days. The fastest was the 64 kilo bytes per second at that time. And when you’re using a telephone line, you would not be able to use the telephone or else you would lose the Internet connection.

Okay, my client and I had settled on the price and she sent me the link in my e-mail account so I could download the audio. At one point, the downloading stopped at 5 MB of the file. I thought that was it as I didn’t know I’d have to ask the client how long the file was. At that time, the Internet connection was really slow so it took like half an hour to download a 10-minute or so audio. The downloading just stopped and I didn’t bother checking if there was more to it than that.

So I started transcribing and after an hour or less, I sent in the file. What happened next was unbelievable.

My client reprimanded me for sending in an incomplete transcription of the interview. Yes, I downloaded a five-minute audio, thinking that was the whole thing and transcribed it. Boy, did I get so frustrated and mad at myself for not realizing that was a boo-boo. My client even blamed me for not passing her dissertation because of the error I’d committed. I apologized to her profusely. For that, I told her that I’d transcribe the audios for free.

So I downloaded it again, transcribed the whole 20-minute audio, and submitted the transcript, even if it was too late. I still got paid P1,500 for the job, for the effort.


The dial-up days are over so a transcriber’s Internet connection should be something like 2.1 Mbps now to comply with the client’s requirements in downloading audios, or else, no transcription job.

After that mistake I made, from that time on, I’d make sure that all the audios I’d download, I’d ask the client how long the file was and wait for it to completely download.


A Headphone Freak

When I was starting out as a general transcriptionist, I was using a pair of Sony ear buds, ear phones or whatever you can call them and they were perfect for my audios.  But then, if I use it for several hours, I have this pain under my right ear, I don’t know what it is so I decided to change my ear buds to a headphone.  The first brand that I used was A4 Tech, thinking that it would really be of use to my transcribing work.  

At first, it did.  But when there were loud audios and no matter how I tone it down, the sound from the headphone sounds terrible.  It either sounds muffled or way too loud.  So, when I had the money, I went out and bought another headphone. 

Believe me, when I was starting out, I really wanted to try out the best headphone there was in the market.  I would go out and buy a headset probably a week after another until I found what I was looking for.  I got one headset which was Genius, I used this for my DJ stint online and it worked well because the microphone was sharp enough.  But then, when I saw this Logitech headset with a microphone, I wanted to give it a shot too.  I got one and compared it with the Genius brand.  I liked Logitech in terms of its quality with the output of the microphone.  With Genius, I liked the audio quality I get from the ear pieces.  

As time went on, I was still searching for that headphone that would suit my transcribing needs.  When I got accepted as a business transcriptionist in a financial company, we were issued our own A4 Tech headphones.  These were the low-end type of headphones that was loud enough to hear the audios from the computer.  But when you use it for four hours, you’ll definitely feel pain in areas surrounding your ears.  Which meant that the headphones were too tight, they weren’t comfortable enough to use for long hours.  My output was also terrible.  I couldn’t get the words right.  

So when our bonus came, I thought of buying myself a better headphone brand that I could use for a long time.  I checked out a headphone from Sony.  It had this 70 Ohms or impedance.  I’m not really sure what that means but I checked out most of the headphones available in our music stores, computer stores, they all turned out to have just either 24 Ohms or 32 Ohms.  It could probably be the quality of the audio output or something, I’m just guessing so you can correct me if I’m wrong.  When I got my Sony, it had 70 Ohms and I tried it in the office. 

It worked wonders for my grades.  I kept getting grades of 93 + and was even promoted to a business transcription editor.  Cool, isn’t it?  Although there were some people who would stick to the headphones they were issued and still got good grades than I did.  Haha.  I wonder what’s their secret?  

But, anyway, most of my colleagues tell me that it’s not in the headphones that’s the problem.  It could be the audio itself or the speakers’ accent.  For me, if they had better headphones than the ones that were issued, they would probably be getting better grades too.  Because for me, I’ve had several headphones/headsets that I used over the years and I know if it’s a good kind of headphone to use for my work.

Right now, I’m using a new Audio Technica headphones or my old rusty but still good Sony headphones.   

Do you think having a pair of good headphones will help you do better in your transcriptions?  In my opinion, it helps a lot.  Now you know why I’m a headphone freak.  Of course, your hearing acuity is also a big factor in this profession. 

And that is another topic I will try to talk about in my next blog.  Thank you.  Hope that helped somehow.   



The Biggest Challenge: Accent

In transcription, there are hurdles in coming up with a good transcript.  Well, for one, if you’re not a fast typist, you’re definitely not going to make it to the deadline.  Two, if you can barely hear the audio properly, that will turn out to be a bad transcript with all the blank lines in place of correct words.  Actually, that isn’t really your problem, it’s the client’s problem.  That’s another topic altogether.  Three, if you’re not familiar with the speakers’ accents, you wouldn’t hear the words correctly either.  You’re going to have another transcript with misspelt and misheard words.  And that spells trouble for you.

You see, if you’re a transcriber, transcriptionist, audio transcriber/transcriptionist, listening to different types of accents is a good practice.  Like if you’re already used to American accents, why not try listening to someone speaking with a British accent and probably compare how they pronounce words compared to an American-accented speaker.

Not that there are just two types of accents that I know, there are definitely tons of them out there.  For instance, I get to hear people speaking in English with a Finnish, Norwegian, German, South African, French or Indonesian accent.  It will really be a great help in your transcription job especially if you were assigned to transcribe a foreign-sounding-accent audio that you have to finish in one day.  If there are so many words that you cannot decipher, you have to let your boss know about this and won’t be happy about it because you couldn’t get the words right in the transcript.

As a professional transcriber, you have to get used to the accents so that when someone asks you to transcribe an audio with, let’s say, an Indian accent, you’ll be able to do the job well and your boss will even love you for that and give you more foreign-sounding audios for you to work on and that equates to, yes, you guessed it, more income for you.

That’s why knowing and listening to different kinds of accents is a great help if you’re in this industry.  To do this, you can go to YouTube and watch a movie using your headset and try to listen to what people are saying.  If not, if you have cable TV, watch BBC or CNN or any movie with a French, Indian, British, South African or whatever accent that you can find and listen to.  That wouldn’t be so bad.  There’s no harm in trying and you’ve got nothing to lose, right?


How I Got Home-based General Transcription Clients

I am thankful to my mom, she bought me this laptop in 2007 when I was out of a job and our Internet connection was still dial-up back then.  I had to find a way to get a client for general transcriptions because I knew that this was the “in” thing back then.  In the Philippines, it was just a small market at that time.  There were not much clients to work for.

So, what I did was search the Net on how I could acquire good clients.  I first put an online ad in 88db.com, sulit.com.  I even posted my resume on bestjobs.ph.  I opened an account in Jobstreet.com.ph, Jobsdb.com.ph and other job portals out there.

And true enough, I got an email from someone in London from one of those ads that I posted.  I mean, at least, when you tell the whole world what you can do, I’m sure someone will turn up and check you out.

That’s how I got my first client.  The next client came from bestjobs.ph from the States and I wish I could do that again.  The client said they saw my resume from that job portal and would like to give me a try.  When I got things right, they hired me to transcribe their podcast for a year.  Imagine that?

But after a year, I was going back to the corporate world and sort of quit that job because I might not be able to deliver good transcripts.  I regret doing that, actually.

Oh, well, I’m sure things happen for a reason.  Then, I discovered LinkedIn, the site for professionals, where you can showcase your talents.  Just write in your profile that you can do such and such and people will contact you for the services that you do.  You will find those tag words very useful.  I did that and I got some clients from there too.

I must admit though that for some people, going to oDesk and Guru and Elance is probably the way to go.  In my experience, yes, I have accounts in those portals but I never bid on anything because I believe my talent lies within and I don’t want to price myself so low and that I’m worth more than what they’re paying for.  There are clients who would bid as low as $10 per audio hour, which really sucks big time.  Your time and effort for that price is not worth it, I’m telling you.

You can find better-paying clients and they will even appreciate the quality of work that you give them.

That’s the word for it – make your work worth every cent that your client pays you for.  Show them you’ve got the ‘It’ factor and they’ll definitely keep coming back.  And in a previous blog, I’ve written you should know how long it will take you to finish a certain number of audio minutes.  That way, you can tell your client if you can finish the task at hand.  That’s another blog – communication.

Aside from the ones that I’ve mentioned, you can check other sites as well like craigslist, peopleperhour, and some other job portals that contain the magic words, home-based general transcription jobs.

But one last word about job-hunting for transcriptions.  I’m sure there are scammers out there who will take advantage of those sites.  So, be careful in choosing the right job for you.  I don’t know how I do it but I’m lucky that the people I get to work for, pay me for what I do.  I’m sure you can too.

Good luck in finding your pot of gold!


Meet the TAT

Usually, clients would want a shorter TAT for a certain audio and that is a rush job.  We can talk about that in another blog.  That’s a whole ballgame altogether.

Remember this paragraph from The Transcription Job post?  Now, I’m talking about it in a new blog.  The turn-around time or the TAT, as we transcriptionists call it, yes, our jargon.  While I was starting out as a transcriptionist, I had no idea what that was all about.  Now, it’s my time to share it with you, in case you’re interested to be a transcriptionist one of these days.

It’s basically a deadline, in layman’s terms.  The time that you can deliver the transcript – clean, edited, reviewed – and you’re confident of what you’ve done.  Then, you’re ready to send it to the client.  Once you hit the send button, there’s no turning back though.  No regrets whatsoever.  Once it’s been sent, it’s already right at your client’s mailbox or inbox.

Now that you know what the TAT is, I can discuss the types of TAT that you need to work on.  Back then, I didn’t know what my TAT would be for a 40-minute audio.  I’ve done my assignment, don’t you worry.  I’ve calculated my TAT several years ago.  Haha, age shows?

Kidding aside, I present myself to clients as a fast typist or a touch typist (someone who doesn’t need to look at the keyboard when typing, thanks to our typing classes back in high school, another topic to write about), I can transcribe certain accents in a certain amount of time.

Okay, my batting average comes to about one hour of transcription for a 10-minute clear, one or two-speaker audio.  So, doing the math, that comes to about 4 hours of transcribing for a 40-minute audio.  That’s actually not that fast, but faster than a beginner.  Someone who has just gotten his/her first client would usually finish an hour of audio in eight hours or so, considering the typing speed and the audio quality.  That’s typical for a beginner.  But as you go along and get used to these, you’ll get faster.

There are people who could do an hour of audio in four hours, tops.  Yes, I know, they’re what we call “monsters.”  Haha.  But let’s just hope their quality isn’t sacrificed, right?

At this point, I not only have discussed the deadline, I’ve also covered typing speed and quality.  Two points to consider when the TAT is mentioned.  When doing a transcription job, speed is one factor that your client would love you for, especially if your client is someone who wants things in a jiffy.

Quality is more often than not one of those considerations of clients when they ask you to transcribe for them.  This is where those rates come in.  You can price yourself so low and yet the quality has been sacrificed.  Or you can price yourself just right with speed and quality are both present in your work.  Then, you can set a price for your work when other clients come in.

When your clients see that you’ve done a good job, they’ll praise you and they’ll keep you working for them, give you assignments to work on.  Those are the perks as long as you meet the TAT, speed and quality in mind.

Before I forget, there are different kinds of TATs to consider.  There’s the 12-hour TAT or the 24-hour TAT.  It could also go up to a 48-hour TAT or even a 6-hour TAT.  Usually, the client asks you how long would you be able to finish such a task.  You can tell your client you will check the audio quality and from there, you can judge if you can make the TAT or not.

Just be sure to inform your client if you can or cannot work on it or else, you’d lose that client.  You wouldn’t want to be just bumming around the whole day, would you?

Also, if a client wants a rush job, that’s a different rate, especially if the audio is quite tough to handle and yet you chose to work on it.  I would raise my rate higher than my normal rate to compensate for the difficulty of the audio and if the client wants it pronto.

For those of you who are new to this, finding clients that give long TATs are good finds.  Just remember to keep this in mind:  Longer TATs, not-too-high rates with speed and quality.  Shorter TATs, higher rates but still done with speed and quality.

Now, can you tell what your TAT is for an hour of audio?




The Transcription Job

In transcription, the things that you should be concerned about are:  audio, format, style guide and deadlines.  These are the things you should consider once you and your client have agreed to the rates you’ve given.   Remember not to price so low if you can send back quality transcripts.  $10 per audio hour is a big no-no.

Audio.  Once things have been settled between you and your client, you have to download the audio and check if it’s clear, doable and the exact length your client specified in an email.  You can listen to parts of the audio and see if you could still enhance it in Express Scribe, Audacity or in any software that you use for transcription that could help you make the audio clearer, if it’s not that clear or audible.  If there’s no way to enhance it, you can inform your client that it’s impossible to work on as soon as you can so that the client will know how bad it is.

That is, hoping that your client is online all the time to answer your queries.

Format.  This is also important.  It’s a guide for you how to type the transcript.  Always ask your client how he/she would like his transcript to look like.  More often than not, clients prefer a certain format for the transcriptionist to follow.  This has to be strictly followed or else you’d lose your client.  Or most of the time, the client has his/her own template and a sample and they will send it either with the audio link or in a separate email.

Be sure to check your emails carefully for these or you might start from scratch.  You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Style guide.  A style guide is the rules of how you will approach the audio and start transcribing.  Without it, you’re at a loss.  You’d have to contact your client again and again if he/she doesn’t have a clear guide as to how he/she wants the audio transcribed.  I always ask my client if I would have to include the uh’s, uhm’s, uh-huh’s, wanna, gonna, kinda, you know, I mean, like, so, et cetera.  I’m lucky if those are not needed.  Those are really a bunch of useless words to me.  Or ask if you could start the sentence with ‘And…’  as most speakers do that.

The style guide is just to make things clear about a lot of things that’s why it’s part and parcel of any transcription job.  There are clients that are meticulous when it comes to their transcript.  There are times they would require you to include the time stamp every 5 minutes or so, which is also tedious for me.

Deadlines.  Now, this is the crucial part of the job.  If the client says, “I need this by 12 noon tomorrow,” make sure you complete the task by 12 noon the next day.  You’re lucky the client gave you a long turn-around time or TAT, in transcription lingo.  Usually, clients would want a shorter TAT for a certain audio and that is a rush job.  We can talk about that in another blog.  That’s a whole ballgame altogether.

As long as you and your client agree on the terms, conditions and the things you have to do on an audio, that’s fine.  But always ask your client if you still have something to clarify.  That way, the client will know you want to make your work as perfect as you can.

Good luck and love your job!