If you have the skills and experience, transcribing is a great niche, or a great area to focus on while building your clientèle in other areas of virtual assisting.
Contrary to popular belief a transcriptionist is more than just a “typist.” We have to be excellent spellers, be patient, be able to decipher various accents and dialects. We have to have a great eye and be a good proofreader. We have to be able to listen to people speak, use a foot pedal, type at the same time, and be relatively quick about it. And a good transcriber should be an intermediate to advanced user of Microsoft Word.
There are a wide variety of areas where your transcription skills can be put to use; some requiring experience in the area, such as legal and medical transcription, and some not, such as transcribing meetings, focus groups, and interviews, author’s notes, et cetera.
As a transcriptionist that types projects frequently with a lot of scientific and medical jargon, one resource I have found has truly been a lifesaver. It’s Google Suggest http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en . As you type a word it “suggests” correct spellings. There hasn’t been a word yet that it hasn’t found for me (well maybe one or two doozies!). Clients often comment on how impressed they are with how well I do with spelling the difficult words. The cat’s out the bag–Google Suggest is my secret weapon.
How Fast Are You?
The question should be, “how fast do you need to be?” The answer depends on your client. I have some clients who require a fast turnaround of 24 to 48 hours on two to four hours of audio. How fast you can complete the job depends on a variety of factors. Is the audio clear? Do you have to start and stop to look up words a lot? Best case scenario, it takes me two and a half to three hours to transcribe one hour of audio…I said BEST case scenario and I type 85 wpm. Worst case scenario, it has taken me up to six hours to transcribe one hour of audio — it was horrible. Speakers weren’t speaking in the microphone; multiple speakers with very heavy accents, I had to keep going back to try and figure out what was being said. You get the picture. Some transcribers will simply put “inaudible” and continue moving forward, and sometimes so will I. but it absolutely drives me crazy to not be able to figure it out. So most times, if I feel I can do it and still meet the deadline, I will try to decipher the word(s), and clients appreciate the extra effort.
If you type less than 65 wpm accurately and can’t say honestly that all of the above attributes apply to you, transcribing is probably not a good area for you to focus on!
Before accepting an transcription assignment, you should ask the client these questions:
- Is the audio fairly clear?
- Do you have a sample format?
- Is there a lot of non-standard jargon (i.e., scientific, medical, et cetera?)
- Do you require a thorough proofing (i.e., reading the document while listening to the tape after you’ve finished the transcription)
Depending on the answers to those questions, I then determine how long it is going to take me to complete an assignment.
You can bill per hour, minute, per line, or per character. It’s important to note that generally, when you charge per hour, it is not how many hours you take to type the project, but the length of the audio. So you charge per audio hour. What you earn when charging per audio hour really depends on how fast you type and how fast you complete the job. I prefer to bill per page. I also subcontract my services out, and of course, what I receive when doing that is less than if I were servicing the client directly.
I want to shout out my 6th grade typing teacher, “Ms. Day.” It was in her class at Visitacion Valley Middle School that this seed was planted and my typing skills began to grow.” Ms. Day, if you’re out there, it was 28 years ago (I’m telling my age), but thanks a bunch. You and Mr. Celeste were my favorite middle school teachers. 🙂
I’d love to use my transcription skills in assisting you. If you’re in need of a quick, friendly, and efficient, transcriber, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also love to hear from other VA’s on their experiences with transcription.
Until next time,
”The Emackulate V.A.”
P.S. And please don’t call me a “typist.”