How to move into transcription

Moving into Transcription

First things first… Which software?

Under no circumstances attempt to transcribe from Windows Media Player into a MS Office document 😉 This is not a recipe for happiness! Chopping and changing between windows on your computer takes time, and you have little, if any, fine control of rewinding or selecting future points in the audio or of audio speed. Your total transcription time will be about double what it should be, you’ll end up with RSI, etc…

My favourite transcription software at the moment is Transcribe by Wreally. The audio or video is integrated into the transcription field, you can programme keyboard shortcuts, you can adjust audio speed, rewind or fast forward just 2 seconds at a time, set a loop playback or attach a pedal if you wish, insert time codes with a one-key shortcut, etc. The only thing I think it’s missing is to be able to ‘tab’ in your transcript (useful when inserting speaker names) as you would in Word. You have complete control over audio speed too, which really helps when deciphering tricky passages (by speeding up or down) and gives you the option to speed up a bit when revising your transcript so you can complete the revision more quickly.

How long should a transcription take me?

Transcription into the same language as the audio should take around 4 to 6 times longer than the duration of the audio file. Transcription into another language will take around 10 times longer or more.

The above numbers don’t necessarily include the time it takes to prepare the transcript in the format the client wants. I would add on about 1 to 2 hours of your time per long job for exporting and formatting your transcript into the client’s required presentation. Experience will tell how long the following popular client requirements also take you:

What to ask before quoting for a transcription job?

  • Listen to a sample of the audio. If it is not clear, transcribing will be slower and you will need to adjust your quote.
  • Is there a specific template to use?
  • Are time codes required?
  • Are speaker names or initials required?
  • What the client like done with inaudible sections, e.g. best guess, time coded, etc.
  • How does the client want dates, times or amounts of money presented?
  • Does the client need verbatim (every syllable uttered transcribed) or intelligent verbatim (unnecessary stutters, hesitations or repetitions removed)? This will depend much on the purpose of the transcription. For example, if it will be used as evidence, then verbatim is more likely.

Bear in mind that a 10-minute audio in some languages may yield 2000 words! If you were going to quote £5/audio minute for a translated transcription, you may find you ‘translate’ 2000 words for £50! When setting your rates, it is worth considering whether you consider this work translation proper or perhaps ‘written’ interpreting. Once you have factored your formatting time into your rate too, make sure you are happy with what you will be earning.

Auto-transcription software — should I try it?

If your end client’s requirements on formatting are light, and you think the audio is clear and the accents are well known, e.g. US English will be more accurately transcribed than accents heard less often or English spoken by non-native speakers, it may be worth experimenting with the result.

If, however, you need to be precise with who is speaking, how you present certain elements or your client wants verbatim transcriptions, auto-transcription may not save you the time you think.

When making edits to an auto-transcript, I have found searching, stopping and restarting the audio in several places in the transcript, repositioning the mouse and making the edits needed actually takes longer than transcribing manually with good transcription software. This even happens when the audio doesn’t include difficult to hear or technical terms because there will always be some company-specific words you need to edit, at least the first time before you can programme these specific words into its recognition.

If a transcript is just for internal use and doesn’t matter if it is not 100% accurate, especially as regards company technical terms, auto transcription may save lots of time. If accuracy is paramount or there are specific formatting requirements, it probably won’t.


As always with cloud-based products, consider your client’s confidentiality requirements and how well your chosen software meets these.

Happy Transcribing!

Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash

Find out how we can help

If you think we could be a good fit for your next project get in touch.

Find out how we can help

If you think we could be a good fit for your next project get in touch.