You don’t need formal training to do general transcription work.
To start providing general transcription services, you don’t need a degree, any formal transcription training or transcription experience. And you don’t need to know medical or legal terminology. Of course, you have to be able to do the work.
In this article I’m discussing the skills you need to become a successful general and business transcriptionist:
- Fast and accurate typing skills.
- Excellent English, spelling, grammar and listening skills.
- Understand accents.
- General knowledge and industry knowledge
- Basic computer skills.
1 – Fast and Accurate Typing skills.
A typing speed of 40 words per minute is often acceptable for new general transcriptionists. Some companies will let you get started with general transcription work when you type 40 wpm while other companies require a faster typing speed. Get your typing speed up to 55 or 65 wpm before looking for better paying transcription work. You must have a speed of 65-75 wpm if you want to take on deadline critical transcription work that requires fast turnaround.
You’ll need a good typing speed to make good money in transcription as you’re paid by production. The faster you can type, the more work you can do and the more money you’ll be able to make. Accuracy is a must.
You can increase your typing speed and transcription speed with practice. The more you type and transcribe, the faster you’ll get. Your transcription speed will keep increasing gradually until you reach your ideal speed.
You can start making money with transcription work while you’re practicing. You can get non-urgent, overflow transcription work from other transcriptionists if your typing speed is 40 wpm.
Typing and Transcription Practice Resources
If your typing skills needs work, use free online typing tutorials to help build your speed. Find free typing tutorials here.
To help you build your speed and practice your transcription skills, you can download and transcribe podcasts, talk radio shows or other audio online.
Of course, the best types of audio to practice transcription with is audio that is similar to the type of work you want to get. That’s why I’m providing practice audios to help you practice transcription and increase your speed and accuracy. They include finished transcripts so you can check your work and see how you’re doing.
2 – Excellent English, spelling, grammar and listening skills
It is essential to have a good grasp of English spelling, grammar and punctuation. You can’t depend solely on spelling checkers and grammar checkers. You need to determine the spelling of words that are pronounced the same way but spelled differently like there,” “their,” or “they’re”.
The transcriptionist must have superior listening skills to ensure every word in a recording is accurately transcribed even when working with challenges like poor quality recording and multiple speakers talking at once.
To transcribe it accurately, you need to be able to comprehend the material and use the context and your judgment to ensure that the transcript makes sense.
In general, clients will prefer transcriptionists with English as their native language. Native English speaking transcriptionists are familiar with idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms – which voice recognition software and non-native speakers won’t grasp. This is one of the reasons why general transcription work is not affected much by outsourcing to foreign countries.
3 – Understand accents
You must be able to understand accents as you will encounter North American, British, Australian and a variety of foreign accents.
4 – General knowledge and industry knowledge
General transcription covers an endless variety of topics. General transcriptionists need a good general knowledge as they may transcribe a large variety of topics that can range from academic to internet marketing, financial and scientific topics.
Some general transcription jobs such as transcribing voicemail messages cover general information and require no industry knowledge. But other transcription jobs require some knowledge of the industry, for example, media transcription. Medical industries will obviously want someone with medical transcription experience and legal professionals will want someone with experienced in the legal field.
Clients prefer someone who has some knowledge of their industry and is familiar with their industry terminology. You might have acquired knowledge of an industry through previous jobs. For example, if you have been a secretary at a real estate company or insurance office or have been a bank teller, you’ll have some knowledge of that industry and their terminology.
Reading about an industry and researching your client’s field can help you get familiar with industry-specific terminology. A transcriptionist must often conduct some research to check the meaning and spelling of unfamiliar words. Online research skills are valuable. You might also want to consult some reference books, dictionary and thesaurus.
5 – Basic computer skills
Moderate computer skills are needed but you don’t need to be a computer guru. You need working knowledge of email and Microsoft Word. You need to be able to install transcription software, upload and download files, and do online research. You have to be able to research words you’re not familiar with as general transcription covers a wide range of topics and industries.
And of course, you must be reliable, hard working, meet deadlines and provide timely, accurate transcripts.
If you have the required skills, you can provide general and business transcription services. If you need to brush up on typing or grammar skills, you can easily improve them by taking classes online or at your local community college. You will be happy you did when you start bringing in a paycheck!
Most transcriptionists will take on almost any transcription work they can get when getting started while others specialize in particular industries. Some industries are easier to start with and require less experience than others. Working for the same industry is easier since you’ll know the language used in that industry. One-person recording and are easier to transcribe than focus group recordings. Start with simple dictations and interviews and build up some experience before transcribing focus groups and seminars.
Improve any skills you need to work on before applying for transcription work and taking transcription tests. You’ll feel more confident and you’ll have a better chance to get work.
Resources to learn transcription