When you first look into doing freelance transcription work, you may find that people usually ask for levels of experience and specialised equipment that you might not have. However, you can easily build a good reputation as a transcriptionist on job sites like Freelancer.com to gain experience. Once you've gained a reputation, you can take on more jobs. Fortunately, you don't really need to spend much to start working on these jobs.
What You Need to Have:
- A keyboard you’re comfortable typing on
- Good typing skills
- A quiet space to work in
- Free trial transcription software like Express Scribe
- Word processing software
People will often tell you that you need specialist equipment like noise-cancelling headphones and a transcription pedal. In fact, it may be best to wait and acquire these things if you’re sure that you’re going to continue this line of work to avoid wasting the investment. Software like Express Scribe works equally well using hotkeys, which you can set. By default, it uses the F-keys, and this works even if the program isn’t in the foreground.
Once you are sure that you’re interested in doing transcription long-term, if you’re going to invest in a pedal, make sure it’s compatible with the software you like to use! Not all programs support all pedals.
What You Need to Know:
When you know the length of the file, multiply it by three to get a best guess estimate of how long it will take you, assuming there are no major problems with the file. It may take you some practice to get up to this speed!
Even on Freelancer, people may ask you for prior experience in transcription, but it’s not always a requirement. Keep making reasonable bids, and adjust your rate to reflect your inexperience. Once you have had one or two successful projects, you’re likely to be hired again by the same people, and you should expect to receive offers from others who have seen the good feedback. You can negotiate for slightly higher fees over time to ensure that you’re actually making a profit, but for the first few jobs, it’s worth cultivating good will and good reviews instead.
What You Need to Do:
When you manage to land a job, you need to establish exactly what the client needs. Some clients may find a tidied-up version of their audio useful, while others need you to type out every word said in their meeting or event. It can be useful to ask if there are any notes or slides that were used to prompt or support the speakers, because then you can pick up specialised vocabulary and names, where relevant.
Sometimes, there will be words or phrases you just can’t make out. The best practice is to first check any supporting information you have, such as slides or a company website, then try doing a general search. If you still can't transcribe the part, timestamp the part of the file you can’t transcribe and clearly highlight it for your client so they can check it themselves.
Remember to communicate clearly to your clients about how long the work will take, and be honest if you are having difficulties. You are much more likely to get bad reviews for trying to do work that you find too difficult than for admitting to the client that you can’t help them any further in time for them to find someone else who can.