A Behind the Scenes Look at Transcription

If you are planning on having your audio files transcribed, let me give you a tour behind the scenes of a transcription business. Transcription is no easy feat. There are a lot of barriers that could affect the quality of the transcribed work. Some transcription companies have in-house transcriptionists that are readily available anytime of the day. However, they could charge you an arm and a leg for every hour of their service.

If you want to get your audio files transcribed at a lower cost per hour, find a transcription center that uses home based transcriptionists. They tend to work more budget friendly because of lower overhead for them to operate. But before you just sign up for any transcription company, make sure that you know how to outsource transcription. This way, you know whether or not the company you are signing up for is actually capable of producing quality transcripts at a reasonable turnaround rate.
Hiring transcriptionists

The first step a transcription company should do is to find qualified transcriptionists. More often than not, these transcriptionists would be freelancers or homebased professionals. There is no specific degree to look for. A good transcriptionist listens well, types fast and accurately, and has excellent grasp of the English language. However the most important trait is following instructions! An unprepared company would try to hire freelancers for each job they contract. Yes, I have seen them do it over and over. The number one thing I learned from watching that kind of struggle is they go out of business within months.

There are also some audio files that need more consideration. Say for example a medical company wants to have a meeting between doctors transcribed and goes to a transcription company to do that. Transcription companies that will give you a good quality file will not just assign the job to any transcriptionist. The company will find someone with a medical background in their pool of talents. Building this pool is one of the hardest and most grueling jobs for any transcription company.

Getting the job done.

Audio files are typically large and won’t fit as an email attachment. A good company will offer you several options and help you send in your audio. Basecamp, FTP or a dropbox are easiest for the client. If you have issues getting your file to the company, you may want to reconsider your choice.

As soon as you give your audio file to the transcription company, you also need to give a deadline on when you need the transcribed files. Most transcription companies will jump through hoops to meet your deadlines. This is where scheduling becomes the biggest part of your transcription company’s day. They need to find a qualified transcriptionist and make sure they are available to commit to the timeframe. This may sound easy but transcriptionists are based worldwide. The time difference is one of the worst barriers in this industry because companies rarely get the chance to catch their transcriptionists. When using freelancers it may be 12 to 24 hours before the transcriptionists reads any message left by the company.

However, if you work with an established company that uses full time, regular employees, scheduling becomes more reliable. For example, in my company I have three shifts, that adjust as needed. I have a set that starts between 5 and 8 AM, so I assign their files before I go to bed at night. The second set usually works in the afternoon, starting after lunch. I could wait until late morning to assign those files. The third set works in the evening, such as after their children go to bed or after a day time job. Looking at that schedule, you could see how I could literally spend my entire day scheduling out files. Fortunately I scheduled 67 pharmacists in 31 pharmacies for 2 years and know some tricks. Typically I assign files for the next day late in the evening so the next day should be ready to go when I come into my office in the morning. On occasion, if I receive new files in during the day, I will work those in or assign them out during the day.

Proof It!

Do you remember your English teachers telling you to spell check, spell check spell check. This is where proofreaders come in to ensure the quality of your transcripts. Once the file comes back in from being transcribed, it has to be routed to a proofreader. I do my fair share of proofreading which takes out a few steps, especially if the file needs to go home quicker. Proof for accuracy can be tricky, because some words will be incorrect homophone. If the transcriber needs to type there and types their, spell check won’t pick it up. Other times a word will just be plain wrong. We call this typing faster than you can think. Like I would be more likely to type Erica than Eric, no matter which is correct.

There are other factors that the transcription company needs to go through before getting the job done. Internet downtimes, slow system, file incompatibility, the list is just endless. Now that you understand what goes on behind the scenes, imagine that you have 15-30 hours of audio that needs to be done in a single day. Then you can understand why I use lots of tools like Basecamp, Excel and a calendar to keep up with my day.

You may have heard me say in the past that I specialize in productivity. I’ve also heard it said to give a job to the busiest person you know. I’d love to have your questions, comments and suggestions.


Note: This post does not take into account additional services such as editing and writing from audio files which add more scheduling and coordination.

1 thought on “A Behind the Scenes Look at Transcription”

  1. You rock lady! The work you did for Katherine Kendall is first rate. I’m working on another client with suite of luggage and carryon products. Hopefully, she’ll come through as well.

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