Most people assume that transcribing is as easy as it looks, and they couldn't be more wrong about that. Indeed, anyone can type on a keyboard, but there are a few things that set apart your average transcriber from the pros, and that's knowledge, typing speed, and accuracy.
If this is your first time transcribing professionally, chances are that it's going to look like an ordeal to you. Questions like these are going to appear, "How am I supposed to transcribe hour-long audios in such a short amount of time?" Or, "How can people write such wordy sentences so quickly?" And perhaps my favorite, "Is this even profitable?" Oh, yes, it is.
Let's go over the basics first. What is transcription? To keep it short, the process of transcribing is when you turn audio files with any form of discernible speech into text. Easy enough, right? However, a good transcriptionist is much more than that. For starters, a transcriptionist needs to be able to multitask well to have the ability to research the topic at hand, to understand the context of the conversation they're listening to, and most importantly, to turn it into a document that makes sense. Believe it or not, there's research to be done when you hear words or terms from areas that are not common. In these situations, a transcriber's knowledge can save the day. If you know what the content is about, you're going to spend less time doing research.
There are, however, a series of accepted methods and ideas that will contribute towards improving your typing technique and listening skills. Alongside practice and dedication, certain tips will turn you into a pro in no time. Let's go over a few useful tips:
Use the Right Tools for the Job
It may sound obvious, but having the correct equipment can make a world of difference when it comes to transcribing. The first thing would be investing in a decent set of noise-canceling headphones. Not only are you going to be able to hear that thick-accented guy speaking behind a turbine much better, but you'll also appreciate how these headphones block any outside noise, allowing you to focus your attention more on the audio at hand.
Your keyboard is just as important. Most standard computer users probably work with an average membrane keyboard. These are pretty standard-issue and work well to a certain extent. Opting for a mechanical keyboard could certainly step up your game. Mechanical keyboards use mechanical switches to register your inputs, and these not only feel better than what membrane keyboards have but are a surefire way to improve your typing speed and accuracy.
Another piece of hardware that is usually recommended by transcription professionals is a foot pedal, a relic from the old days of transcribing. Pedals have evolved since then and can be used similarly to hotkeys with our computers when connected through a USB port. A pedal allows you to use your feet for navigation through audio files, control the volume, increase or decrease playback speed. A foot pedal can do anything you need it to, so your hands can focus exclusively on typing.
Great Software Always Saves the Day
There are audio files out there that you are bound to have to rewind multiple times, either because the quality is not great, people are talking over each other, or there's lots of background noise. When your task at hand entails such complications, a good transcribing tool can provide heaps of features that will help you transcribe faster. Sometimes using the mouse for going back on an audio file is too slow. A piece of software that allows shortcuts for navigation through the audio or changing the playback speed makes things a lot easier, so you don't waste any precious time.
In line with great pieces of software, sometimes our audio devices just can't cut it. You have amazing headphones, you have your volume set to the max, and the audio is still difficult to hear. It happens. In these circumstances, many professionals turn to software that can boost the volume of a recording. Exercise caution and make sure you don't get carried away with raising the audio volume too much.
Grammar and Autocorrect Tools are a Great Ally
Naturally, having proper grammar is fundamental, but extra help is always welcome. There are many autocorrect tools out there that you can use with your transcription software to pinpoint any small grammar mistakes. Sometimes our fingers slip, so having an autocorrect tool can come in handy. It's like having a second set of eyes go through your work. Be mindful not to rely too much on them as most of autocorrect tools are not 100% perfect.
Hone your Skills
As we all know, practice makes perfect, and no software and hardware can stand up to experience. Learning to touch type is the fastest and the most effective way to transcribe faster. Also, if you need to look at the keyboard while typing, you're just wasting time. Memorize hotkeys and shortcuts and utilize them whenever possible. Even having multiple monitors can make a huge difference when conducting research and having to multitask.
A Happy Worker Needs a Comfortable Environment
The ergonomics also play a crucial role in helping you transcribe faster. Having a correct and comfortable sitting position allows you to feel relaxed when typing, so you can avoid straining your muscles. Make sure your chair is ergonomic and configure it for a natural position of your back, shoulders, and hands. The idea here is for the worker to feel happy and comfortable while doing their work. Nothing impacts a transcriptionist's performance more than cramped fingers or back pain.
Working in an environment without distractions helps tremendously with focusing your attention on what matters. Make sure you're comfortable and take regular breaks to stretch will boost your productivity. Taking a few minutes to rest every once in a while is essential. Along with getting your circulation back to optimal, you're also resting your eyes, ears, and hands.
Finally, every seasoned transcriptionist has their own bag of tricks, but these are probably the tips you'd get from most, as they're guaranteed to raise your proficiency and provide the most benefits in the shortest amount of time.