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You Might Be A Great Transcriptionist If …

by Joanna Norman

  1. You are a bit of a perfectionist.  Clients can and should expect their transcripts to have 95 percent accuracy or higher. Accuracy includes transcribing every single utterance in strict verbatim transcription or almost every word in standard transcription where the transcriptionist uses informed judgement about when to leave out a word or two. Accuracy also includes correct punctuation and spelling. While it is nearly impossible for a transcript to be 100 percent accurate, we strive to get as close to that as possible, so this is work where your perfectionist tendencies will serve you well.  
  2. You are a quick, accurate typist.  You can certainly do transcription if you are not a fast typist, but your earnings will be relatively lower. A good typing speed to aim for is  75 words per minute. There are good websites to improve your typing speed such as,,  
  3. You are good at research.  Yes, if you are a transcriptionist, the internet is one of your favorite tools. A great transcriptionist takes the time to look up names, places, medications, companies, products, etc. that are mentioned in the audio recording to make sure she gets everything right. If you are not skilled at internet research, this can take a lot of time, and time is money in this work.  
  4. You love grammar.  If it really bugs you when people mix up “their” with “they’re” or use a comma splice, if you have a strong opinion about the Oxford comma, then you might have what it takes to be a great transcriptionist. People don’t always speak in full sentences or with proper grammar. A great transcriptionist is able to use her judgement and standard rules of grammar, including punctuation, to type the words that are spoken and make them readable. It can be really challenging and really fun, if grammar is something you enjoy.
  5. You are self-motivated and disciplined.  Many transcriptionists are independent contractors. To be a successful independent contractor, you need the self-motivation and discipline to put yourself out there and put in a good day of work most days of the week. If you need other folks to tell you how to prioritize your time and tasks, this might not be a good fit for you. For me, I love being in control of my own time, and I have no problem being focused and disciplined with my work. 
  6. You are able to provide quality service to your customers.  A great transcriptionist probably isn’t motivated by money.  A great transcriptionist wants to provide outstanding transcripts and outstanding customer service to her clients.  
  7. You never met a deadline you didn’t meet.  I have always been the type of person who finishes things on time and usually early. Deadlines are real in transcription work, and you’ve got to be able to meet or beat deadlines to be great. 
  8. You love to learn new things. One of the things I find most rewarding about my work as a transcriptionist is that I am always learning about something new. Lately, I’ve learned about new medications for HIV prevention, COVID and mental health, private space flight, and gun safety. 
  9. You are an introvert.  Okay, I’m sure not all transcriptionists are introverts, but you certainly need to be able to enjoy working alone with your computer for several hours a day. For me, I am perfectly content to sit at my minimalist desk, with my dogs snoring all around, listening and typing away.
  10. You don’t want to get rich. I had to add this to the list. While you can want to get rich and be a great transcriptionist, you are likely to become discontent because, realistically, most people are not going to get rich doing transcription work. There are simply not enough hours in the day, and you can only go so fast. But, you can earn a decent living doing transcription work. I have deliberately chosen a simple lifestyle which doesn’t require a huge income to maintain. I can support myself doing transcription, and it is work I love.  
Photo of a very tidy desk with a laptop computer. The image says you might be a transcriptionist if ...

What do you think makes a great transcriptionist?  Tell me in your comments below. 

Three Examples of General Transcription

by Joanna Norman

When I decided to become a transcriptionist, the question I got the most was, and still is, “A what? Transcription? What is that?”

A transcriptionist listens to audio or video recordings and produces a written document or transcript of everything that was said. I think the easiest way to understand what a general transcriptionist does is by example. So here are three examples for you.

Close up black and white photo of a microphone

Example 1: You are producing a reality TV show about training cats. You have hours and hours of videotaped interviews with three of the best cat trainers in the world. Rather than watch those interviews over and over as you are deciding how to edit them into this week’s episode, you hire a transcriptionist to transcribe the interviews for you. The transcriptionist produces one or more text documents (transcripts) that type out everything that the cat trainers said during the videotaped interviews with time stamps to indicate where in the tape the words were spoken. Let’s say you want to find video clips about training cats to walk on a leash. You can search the transcript for the word “leash” and read what the interviewees said. Then you can easily review any clips you are interested in using the timestamp provided in the transcript, and now you have an idea of whether or not you can use that footage in your TV episode.

Example 2: Your company provides consultation to with other companies to help them identify problems with worker satisfaction and possible solutions to increase employee retention. Your staff has just finished running eight hour-long focus groups over Zoom with different groups of employees in the company, and you need to compile all this qualitative data into a report. Lucky for you, your staff recorded all the Zoom meeting focus groups. You can hire a transcriptionist to create a text document of everything that was said in the focus groups so that you can more easily review all the data and write your report.

Example 3: You have an awesome YouTube channel about the best hikes in your favorite national forest, but not many people are visiting your channel. It turns out search engines don’t “find” video content on the internet.  A transcriptionist can transcribe your videos so that all of the content in your video is in written text format. You can then include the transcript in the description of your video, and now your content is found by the search engines. 

There you go. That is what I do for a living. It is rewarding and fun.  Of the three examples above, my favorite type of work is transcription for qualitative research because I get to utilize my science and research training and I love learning new things. 

Transcriptionists – what is your favorite type of general transcription work? Reply in the comments below. I’d love to “meet” you and learn about your favorite work.