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Seven Questions To Ask Your Transcription Client

by Joanna Norman

Great transcriptionists have happy clients. One of the best and easiest ways to have a happy client is to make sure expectations are clearly communicated up front. These seven questions will help you to set clear expectations so your client knows exactly what they are and are not getting in their transcript. Some of them will likely affect how much you charge for the transcript as well. In my experience, sometimes my clients will know exactly what they want and need, and in other cases, they want input from me.

  1. What format/style do you want for the transcription document?
    I suggest that you offer your standard format (whatever that is) and point out the key features, a header, page numbers, single-spaced, font, font size, etc. Then if your client needs something changed, you can easily accommodate their wishes. If they would like the transcript in a specific format, ask them if they can provide a template or sample.
  2. How do you want speakers identified?
    Some possibilities are by first name (Joanna) or title and last name (Dr. Hunter), Interviewer and Interviewee, Q and A (for question and answer), Q and M/F (male and female). If your client wants speakers identified by name, ask them if they can provide the names with correct spellings.
  3. How do you want me to transcribe false starts and filler words?
    Generally, I explain the difference between standard verbatim and strict verbatim. I suggest that the client allows me to use my judgement about omitting false starts and filler words. Another option is to have a guideline such as false starts of 3 or fewer words will be omitted, 4 words or more will be transcribed. Again, if you and your client both know ahead of time what is wanted and expected, then you can provide them with exactly what they want. If you charge a higher rate for strict verbatim, be sure to let your client know that up front.
  4. Do you want timestamps?
    For most of my general transcription work, timestamps are not needed. If your client is unfamiliar with them, you may need to explain what timestamps are and give an example or two of when they might opt to use them, for example, if they are using the transcript to edit a video/documentary. Again, be sure to let the client know if there is an additional charge for timestamps.
  5. In what file format would you like your transcript?
    I let my clients know that transcripts will be delivered in MS Word format unless they specify something different.
  6. In what file format is the audio/video file?
    This may seem obvious, but you’ll need to make sure you can open and use the type of file your client will be sending to you. 
  7. How will you deliver the audio/video file to me?
    This is one of those things I learned the hard way. Sometimes clients know how to share large files, and sometimes they don’t. My email cannot handle files above a certain size, so clients need know how to use some other file sharing system that we both can access.

I have a template that I use when I’m emailing a new client that helps me gather this information. If you’d like to see my template, let me know in a comment, and I will share it with you.

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36 Comments

  1. Hi, Joanna. This is so useful. Thank you for sharing. I love your clarity of explanation, and I would love to use your template.

  2. Your blog looks like it will be helpful. I’d like to get notifications of new posts and your template if you don’t mind. Thank you.

  3. I would love to have your template. I’m still working through the course but this will give me motivation for the future!

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