The Secret Life of Transcribing

Transcribing – A Way With Words Operations managers recently interviewed a transcriber of ours in order to get a deeper insight in to exactly what it means to be a transcriber.

coffee break transcribing a Way With Words transcriber

Kelly-May: Good afternoon, Hayley! Lovely to have you with us in the studio today. Thank you so much for coming in! So tell us, Hayley, how long have you been working as a transcriber?

Hayley: For three years.

Kelly-May: How did you first get into transcribing?

Hayley: I worked in the wine industry for ten years. Due to restructuring I was retrenched and had to find something to do. As I live in a VERY small village, the options are pretty limited. An acquaintance told me about Way With Words, and I thought, “Why not?”. So that was that, and here I am.

Kelly-May: Did you have to go through a rigorous testing procedure, or can anyone become a transcriber?

Hayley: Yes, I had to go through some rigorous testing procedures. And no, definitely not… not everyone can be a transcriber! It’s not just “typing”, as people are so fond of responding when I tell them what I do. It requires tremendous discipline, an ability to actually “hear” what people are saying, and a good grasp of grammar and spelling. Also, it is quite pressurised, so you must be able to cope with that aspect of it. In my opinion, anyway.

Kelly-May: What would you say you enjoy the MOST about being a transcriber?

Hayley: That I can work from home and set my own schedule. Make no mistake, it’s not easy, but that’s what I like about it. Also, I learn a lot of interesting things. I think I probably have enough information “up there” to start my own private equity fund company, or be a midwife etc. etc.!

Kelly-May: Are there any negatives aspects to being a transcriber?

Hayley: There are, of course, as with anything. Long hours, stiff neck, and… focus groups.

Kelly-May: What is it about focus groups that makes them unpleasant?

Hayley: Usually, the audio is not so good. Trying to keep track of up to ten speakers, i.e. who is who and who is speaking when. It requires a lot more concentration.

Kelly-May: Wow! That must get very confusing. So, how do you manage to keep up with who’s who in the zoo when transcribing the speech of such a large group of people?

Hayley: Well, I make notes. For example: who is sitting closest to the microphone; what kind of accents they have; whether they are speaking quickly or slowly, softly or loudly; whether they are talking a lot (there is always at least one person who dominates the conversation). You have to listen for quirks as well; things like stuttering, a lisp etc. Notes, notes, notes!

Kelly-May: Hmm… that IS a clever trick! Now, what is your favourite go-to dinner party anecdote about your life as a transcriber?

Hayley: Umm, I had to transcribe an audio once that was quite rude in nature and had to confirm the spelling of some dodgy words with the Ops Manager! In fact, I had to listen a few times to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing!

Kelly-May: Does one need to buy any special equipment in order to become a transcriber?

Hayley: Yes, a good chair is VERY, VERY important. Invest in some good headphones, a soft touch or ergonomic keyboard to prevent strain injuries, and a foot pedal.

Kelly-May: Do you have any other useful tricks or tips for all the wannabe transcribers out there?

Hayley: Use the auto-correct function and a template when transcribing. These are both very useful ways to increase your speed. In your template, fill in the speaker keys so that you don’t have to type them over and over as you go. This is particularly useful for two-people interviews of course. For example, type “IE, IV, IE, IV” and so on, down the page before you start transcribing. You can also use the find and replace function to replace IE and IV with something else where necessary, for example, Speaker 1 and Speaker 2 or the speakers’ names. That saves a lot of time. It’s also very important to remember to take regular breaks!

Kelly-May: How quickly do you have to be able to return the transcripts to WWW once you have received a recording?

Hayley: Before the deadline, absolutely before the deadline!

Kelly-May: Well, Hayley, thank you so much for giving up your time to talk to us this afternoon, and for all the helpful tips! It’s been a pleasure hearing all about “The Secret Life of a Transcriber”.

One comment on “The Secret Life of Transcribing”

  1. Angie Phillips says:

    Hi Hayley!

    I would love to pick your brain, and would really appreciate it if you could drop me a line. I have just a few questions regarding specific software and foot pedal compatibility that you use.

    Many thanks for your time.

    angiedphillips@gmail.com

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