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How to be a good transcriptionist

Online Virtual Assistant and Transcription Careers

How to be a good transcriptionist? So you’re looking to ditch your nine-to-five and start a career online. You know where to find work and what the job entails; you have the qualifications and experience, but what else does it take to succeed online and what are virtual assistant and transcription companies really looking for? So here is a comprehensive list of the personal attributes you will need to have:


To make a successful career as a transcriptionist or online secretary, you need to be reliable. Online work is competitive and if you are reliable and get work back on time, you will ne rewarded with more work. Reputation is highly important – if a company considers you to be unreliable, there are countless other online contractors to take the job!

Fast Typing Speed

To make a decent wage out of online transcription services, you will need a reasonably fast typing speed. Many secretaries make the mistake of believing they can get away with having a slow typing speed or even not touch typing when working online as their employers cannot observe their speed but can only observe whether work is back on time. The truth is typing speed is not important to transcription companies (aside from returning audio dictations or interviews requiring quick turnarounds). Transcription service work is paid on a ‘per audio minute’ basis and if your typing speed is slow, you will quickly grow tired of feeling as if you are working hours on end for little reward! Type fast and the money is good!

Accurate Typing Skills

Once you find work typing audio or video, you need to make sure your standards of grammar and spelling, and the accuracy of what you type is high. Most transcription companies do proofreading spot checks on typists and if your work is found to be lacking in quality, you may not be offered more work. Proofreaders are expensive to transcription companies, and typists are expected to be of a standard that they check and ensure the accuracy of their own work.

The Right Work Ethic

The biggest mistake online secretaries and transcriptionists make is believing that they can pick and choose their work. All audio typists want the good quality audio files without accents, and very few (if any) want to take the low quality files. However, contracting work is give and take, and although your employer is online, you still need to build a relationship that demonstrates your work. If you are willing to take on poor quality work that is difficult to allocate, your transcription company is more likely to return the favour by allowing you to ‘pick and choose’ sometimes in order to keep you happy.

Transcriptionists: A Guide for Beginners

In a world where verbal communication is king, transcription has emerged as a silent guardian of the vast digital content universe. Transcriptionists play a crucial role in converting spoken words into a tangible, easily searchable text format. This guide is designed for those who aspire to join the ranks of professional transcriptionists or are just starting their journey in the language and freelancing spheres. We’ll dissect the art of transcription and provide you with the foundational knowledge and tools needed to become a proficient and sought-after transcriber.


The field of transcription is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. With the explosion of digital content, there is an ever-increasing need to convert audio and video files into text for a variety of purposes, from creating captions for online videos to translating research material. It’s a skill that is not only in high demand but also offers the flexibility many professionals crave.

However, mastering transcription is no small feat. It demands a unique set of skills and a commitment to accuracy and efficiency. As we progress through this article, we’ll uncover the crucial elements you’ll need to develop to tread the path from transcription enthusiast to a reliable professional.

Skills and Tools Required for Effective Transcription

Typing Speed and Accuracy: The Core Pillars of Transcription

Transcription, at its core, is a race against time. Your typing speed is the engine that dictates the pace at which you can transcribe content. Aim to hit a touch-typing velocity of at least 60 words per minute (WPM) to start efficiently. However, speed without accuracy is futile. As a transcriber, you’ll often come across technical jargon, unusual names, and colloquial phrases that spell-checkers won’t catch.

The Right Gear: Software and Hardware for Transcriptions

Reliable hardware and software are your best allies for a successful transcription career. Invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones for optimal audio clarity. As for software, there are several transcription-specific programs such as Express Scribe and oTranscribe that help manage audio files and text documents side by side.

Best Practices for Transcription

Deciphering Diction: The Importance of Clear Audio Quality

Quality audio is the bedrock of efficient transcription. Clear, noise-free recordings with good diction from speakers can significantly reduce the time you spend rewinding and re-listening. If you’re working with subpar audio, consider using equalizers and noise reduction software to enhance speech intelligibility.

Time Coding and Formatting Guidelines

Depending on the project, you may need to include time codes at regular intervals or adhere to specific formatting styles. Time codes are vital for video transcriptions or when precise citation is necessary. Familiarize yourself with common formats like APA, MLA, or Chicago style for academic and professional projects.

Proofreading and Editing: Polishing your Final Transcript

Transcription is just the first step. Proofreading is where you refine your work, ensuring it reads smoothly and is free from errors. Develop a systematic approach to proofreading; work in layers, first checking for accuracy, then grammar and punctuation, and finally, the overall coherence and readability.

Improving Transcription Efficiency

Mastering Your Tools: Keyboard Shortcuts and Tricks

Every second counts in the world of transcription. Learn the keyboard shortcuts of your chosen software to minimize the time spent on administrative tasks like pausing and rewinding. These shortcuts can often cut down your workload by seconds per command, leading to substantial time savings over the course of a long session.

Time Management Techniques for Longer Transcriptions

Large projects can be overwhelming, but breaking them down into manageable sections can make the job more approachable. Use timers and set specific targets for each session. The Pomodoro Technique, for instance, can help you maintain focus by working in short, timed intervals.

Continuous Learning and Practice: The Path to Mastery

Like any skill, transcription improves with practice. Regularly transcribe different types of content to expand your vocabulary and to exercise your knowledge of grammar and punctuation. There are also online platforms that offer drills to improve your typing speed and accuracy.

Building a Successful Transcription Career

Finding Opportunities: Platforms for Transcription Work

The gig economy has paved the way for numerous platforms that connect transcribers with clients. Some popular sites include include training. Register with these services, complete their entry tests, and start picking up jobs that match your skill level.

Networking and Client Relationships

Building a reputation as a competent and reliable transcriber is crucial to freelancing success. Communicate clearly with your clients, meet deadlines, and provide high-quality work. Word-of-mouth referrals can often lead to consistent work and lucrative opportunities.

Managing Workload and Balancing Priorities

It can be tempting to take on as much work as possible, but burnout is a very real risk. Learn to gauge the workload you can handle comfortably and don’t be afraid to turn down projects if your plate is already full. Use project management tools to keep track of deadlines and prioritize work.

Keys to Becoming a Competent Transcriptionist

Transcription is a blend of technical proficiency and linguistic finesse. As you venture into this career, remember that patience and practice are your allies. Start with small projects, gradually work your way up, and never stop learning. The tools and techniques we’ve explored here are the stepping stones to a successful career in transcription. Commit to honing your skills, and before you know it, you’ll be an indispensable part of the content creation landscape.

If you are appropriately experienced, qualified and fulfil all the above criteria, and are looking for work as an online secretary typist or transcriptionist, you can contact us via our website submission form, have an online chat or email us at
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Transcriptionist and Virtual Assistant. View all posts by Samantha